Sticks and Stones My Break My Bones But they Also Can Fix My Chevy

I've posted a couple serious and deeply personal posts lately so I'm going to balance it back out with goofy car stories. This one is actually a "humble brag" post about my mechanical ability and ability to work a situation that isn't necessarily going my way.

In 1992 while driving in my neighborhood, I passed a car with a for sale sign in it and it immediately drilled into my psyche. It was a gunmetal grey 1962 Chevrolet Biscayne 2-Door Post. The "post" referred to the B-billar of the car. Oddly, to me a the time, it was also known as a "sedan" even though it was a two door.


Like this but grey
It had huge front and back bench seats and the seats were sprung, not of foam like modern cars are. The body was straight and it was a 283 V8 with a 3-speed and automatic overdrive, essentially making it a 6-speed. A great drag car!

The $1600 asking price was within reach - if I sold my 1968 Chevrolet 3/4-ton truck. I didn't need a truck, I'm not even sure why I ever bought it. 

I sold it.


Like this but grey.
The Biscayne I purchased the next day was just a joy. It was a 2-owner car, I was the third. The previous owner had installed cruise control, delay wipers, water injection and a 2nd oil filter under the hood. It purred like a kitten. It had the original hub caps on 14" bias-ply tires.

This is my 2nd favorite car I've ever owned. It never broke and I daily drove it for years to work and all over the Northwest.

Well, honestly, one day it broke. I had driven a good friend over to his not unattractive girlfriends home on the other side of the city. We listened to Queensrÿche: "Empire" on the CD player and 7 speaker system I had installed myself - and damn it was great!

The "breakdown" happened, appropriately for a Chevrolet, only after it delivered me to my destination. The clutch pedal went dead - to the floor - and for a few minutes my heart sank to the same place.

I had often bragged that I could fix a Chevrolet with sticks and rocks if necessary. I never had a wish to try it, it was bravado, but this day, this day I swear my only options were sticks and rocks.

I diagnosed the problem while my friend was in his girlfriends house doing who knows what. I found that the clutch pivot spring that mounts from the engine block to the fame, about 8 inches long, had broken the weld at the frame. This essential part was what let the spring "rock" when you engaged the clutch. No weld, no brace, no engaging the clutch.

As I eyed this problem, two factors immediately came to light. 1. I had not brought my tool box. 2. I did not know how to weld and even if I did, I'd need to fabricate a new part. The cherry on top of the shit sundae being that I was not a CNC operator.

The last thing I noticed was that forward of where the weld broke on the frame was the top of the suspension shock absorber. This was a stout mounting and here was where my mind went to work. Eyeballing the distance between where the broken weld was and this literal stud

Without even thinking of my past boasts about sticks and rocks, I began looking for... sticks and rocks. What I finally came up with was a nice piece of granite, a nicely dried 3"x½" stick of maple and the wonder of compressibility, a nice piece of bark off a giant Douglas Fir.

These three simple, natural items placed in the right order allowed the spring of the clutch to press into them. I hopped in the car and gave the clutch a press. I kid you not, it felt exactly as it did when everything was factory. Good pressure, the pedal returned to its normal height off the floor... groovy!

When my friend came out to check on me I had given it who knows how many pumps to see if anything was moving about under the hood - nope! In fact, the bark had already worn in a nice groove for it to rock in. I wasn't exactly 100% sure this would get us home but I had, as Astronauts say, "a high degree of confidence". I didn't ask how his girlfriend was.

My confidence was well placed. We got in the "Biscuit" as many of my friend called the Biscayne (they must not have been familiar with the bay but I'm a geography nut) and we sailed her home. Nary a hitch as Jet City Woman played on the CD player, an odd mix of 1962 and digital audio rolling through King County in style. Men in bland Honda Accords looked at me with our windows down, all smiles and I could read their minds: I wish I had never sold that car.

The most impressive part of my humble brag is that I drove my car like that for a good six or more months before finding someone who could take on the job of fabricating and welding in a new bracket at the great price of $50!

So if you wonder why the only tattoo I have is "1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2" and I bleed Chevy Orange, this is one of the many reasons. I've had many things let me down or not work as advertised or had small prayers not answered but Chevrolet has never stranded me, whether a 30 year old one with hundreds of thousands of miles on the odometer or a modern 2008 or 2013 model.

I still have those sticks and rocks packed away somewhere. So I implore you:

See the U.S.A. in your Jet-Smooth Chevrolet.

The Low Odds, High Desirability Event (Cars & Girls)

Hello, lovers. It is time to get back on the horse, or should I say horseshittery?

This story comes to us from the great state of Washington in the summer of 1990. If you've followed this blog so far you know that this is basically a blog revolving around funny or stupid things I did as a kid. So here we go.

I was 17 years old in 1990. In that year people in cars actually drove them rather than pretending to not look down at their own crotches while looking at their cell phones. By the way people, we CAN see you looking down at your phone even when you're tiring to make it look like your head is looking out the window - but that is another rant for another day.

My F-body Chevrolet (That is a Camaro to you) was never going to be complete without a CB radio in it. So, as a 17 year old in high school, working 40 hours a week and pulling 3.7GPAs I figured dropping $50 on a Uniden 510XL CB from Costco was more than a fair weekend joy. It turns out radio would be a life love of mine - and that I'd find out that looking for love on a CB radio was "all the wrong places."


The "Yellojacket" as my friends called my car.
My 1975 Camaro Rally Sport was one of 1500 Chevrolet made that year. Of course, I wrecked it because it was my first car and I was a boy. I didn't find out that the car was limited numbers until 20 years later when the Internet allowed looking up such banal facts.

Anyway, I think I prepared my whole life just for the day I could drive. I kept close attention to every single place we drove from childhood until that day Washington State handed me my permit.

I could attention seek and post pictures of all these treasured artifacts but you're here to READ so you only get one photo, kid.


Oh, the girl?

Yes, I was driving home from my grandparents place in on the Skagit River up in (heh) Skagit County back home to Renton. The South Skagit Highway is a Washington State best drive. (I almost hate to divulge this because I'm starting to not give up all my "best drives in Washington" for fear they will no longer be "best drives" but full of Subaru Drivers driving 5MPH below on the twisties, causing me to pull over for 20 minutes in order to hope they either drive over the bank into the river or give them time to get off the highway so I may do it properly).

The "low odds" event mentioned in my title is that on this day another Camaro was on South Skagit. It was not driving slow, it was the same generation as mine and it was RED. South Skagit is a two lane road with one in each direction. There are only a few passing points no matter how fast your car is or how masterful a wheel person you are. So, when doing 70MPH and I came up on the tail of this red Camaro, I was more intrigued than frustrated. A fellow petrol head!


This is not the car, you illiterate fool, we didn't have camera phones back then.
As Def Leppard played on my stereo, I slid into 4th gear and kept a "safe and sane" distance from this car and started to take it all in. The red looked original, less masculine (or asinine) than mine did. The person driving it had longish hair... and I kid you not, it had a CB antenna on the trunk. The spirited driving I had been doing up until now was nothing compared the way my heartbeat picked up. I'm not sure if it was just the hope I had to engage in some fun or if I truly expected anyone to actually engage in any fun with me.

I had been driving and riding the South Skagit for ALL of my 17 years and I knew every twist and turn. Which straight away could handle 140MPH and which ones you just motor on through at 35. I knew a left hander was coming up that rolled out into at least a one mile or more straight away that crossed one creek with a small bridge. As the corner loomed, I blipped the throttle of the V8, matching revs and downshifted into 3rd. When she had completed the turn and I was at the apex and could see no oncoming cars, I put the spurs to her. The M-22 transmission whined and the ker-chunk of the four barrel carburetor happened in quick succession. 

My Camaro not so much passed her, but leapt aside her where I peddled the car at 4,000RPM in 3rd to hold station. She looked over and all I did was hold up the microphone of my CB and dangle it so she could "get the message".. and all of this in the blink of an eye, she held up 7 fingers, not just the one finger I was expecting. I finished off 3rd and the pass and banged home 4th gear. The Coconut Little Tree™ hanging from my rear view mirror, heretofore rocking back and forth like a metronome during the maneuver, returned to its normal place. 

With my heart pounding, I dialed in channel 7 on the CB and then.... there she was! We were almost in the same car! For the next 45 minutes from the South Skagit Highway to down Interstate 5 we chatted as if we were having coffee except we were talking about cars, our favorite bands and whether we should stop and meet.

Before the exit was coming up I was already having separation anxiety. I was wary of stopping and she definitely had to be more wary, even as two Camaro owners - of the kid with the mullet and deadly good looks. I was just naive enough to think that "this has happened once now, it shall happen again".

At the exit we waved and laughed and I merged off onto Interstate 405. We kept talking until we were out of range - which was another 10 or more minutes and then our disembodied voices faded off into the ether. 

I never saw that Camaro or person again - and I still wonder where the heck she was driving from and where the heck she was going.

Here's to you, missy! You had reinforced a hopeful young mans belief in romanticism in the most perfect way it could have possibly been conveyed that day.

Spring, 1993, Stone Temple Pilots Show

If you haven't heard of Stone Temple Pilots, that's fine. Just substitute STP for one of the hottest, sweatiest most packed live shows you have ever gone to and it'll all make sense, kids.

I'm not going to get into a debate about STP. I think there are two people: One who dig them and others who think they just aped Seattle Sound. Let's not argue that. Let's just say that if you're GenX you definitely rocked to Plush, Interstate Love Song, Sex Type thing... and many more tunes that are near and dear to my heart.

So, when STP came to the Mercer Arena in 1993, you bet your sweet ass I was gonna be at that Rawk Show! I'm a music snob but I couldn't wait to see frat boys who only knew two songs packed in and getting their lame asses rocked off just to hear Plush while they were high.

Well, turns out, it did't matter who you were that night. We all got our lame asses rocked. 

I had bought a brand new pair of Chuck Taylor high tops, the only size 13s in the city, just for the show. Chubby and Tubby on Rainier (like Sir-Mix-Alot but a rocker) for $24. I was ready to rock. The usual "Goddamned Rockers" piled into my 1979 Sleeper Camaro and cruised downtown to the Mercer Arena for just another night.

This is not the one shoe I had left. It is a representation.

It wasn't just another night. I'm not even sure who opened for STP because everyone was jockeying for front row to see the DeLeon Brothers and Scott Weiland. I was about 2 or 3 people deep and the lights went dark. At first it was quiet and then the crowd started to press. Scott steps to the mic with a megaphone in hand, into the microphone, with his inimitable voice says, "I aaaaaaaaam smelling like a rose......."


I aaaaaaaaaaam!


The lights pop on at the exact same time with red shining down on his red bleached hair and the place feels as if someone just vacuumed packed us all in this place and time to have wallets stolen, asses grabbed, nuts kicked, sweat swapped, and smiles and singing above all.

I am not a small guy, even at age 18. I swear to you, ½ way through the first song someone stepped (I'm sure purely on accident) on my right heel, removing my brand new right Chuck T. I immediately tried to go to ground but the pit was so packed, I was able to raise my knees to my chest! There I was suspended - lifted as if I were a 2 year old... an odd feeling for a "grown man".

Before I can even try to shimmy down the sweaty arms to my beloved, new Chuck T, I see what can only be MY Chuck T being thrown over our heads at the drummer. The person missed, and it sailed over his him. There goes $12! But it isn't just $12 because nobody is selling me one size 13 Chuck T high top. The meter is still running kids - I have my brother's Eddie Bauer watch to lose still - absolutely no idea where that one went... no idea which song, whether the first or last one.

Also, to win the Big Rock Show Trifecta, and only after the show was over and my beer soaked right sock (It was a Nike mid-cut with blue Swoosh™) and badly bruised heel, arch, toes and top of foot.... as I hopped out of Mercer Arena on my left foot - Seattle blessed us with its famed gentle downpour. 


Adam the Goddamned Rocker with my cold friend Mat

Picture Frogger but instead someone who still had to drive all his friends home in his $400 Camaro - which for some reason everyone envied but they never had to get their hands dirty. Denon pull out cranked the tunes, I added up my losses and our ears ringed all the way home. 

I did try to ask politely to get my shoe back after the encore... you can guess what the stage crew said to me.

And I was happy.

Seattle Summer, 1990, The Airport

Nothing good ever happens after 1 AM.

Well, that's a credo, if you can have a credo, I live by and is mostly true. At least by my measure. But this night, I recollect from age 17 in Renton, our clocks were probably pushed more to the two or three AM time line. So, I won't name whose idea this was, but we all agreed it had to be done so we are all culpable.

So we hit the road. At that time, driving from Renton to SeaTac Airport may as well have been Mexico. A few of us drove V8s, but regardless, from an "Iron Duke" 2.5L, to a minivan, to a V8 “Pony Car” lets say, gas, as always equaled money.

When you're 17, at least on Benson Hill, you stop playing hide and seek. Even at this age, the dawning of the Internet, better communications, and some boundaries that we could not see, didn't matter a hoot. We had CB radios that could reach out 5 miles, 50 miles 500 miles, 5000 miles. Communication between myself and my friends was not a problem in 1990.

So we decide the airport has to be played. I can't remember which people, how many cars, or the exact date but I do remember we paid for parking.

There's not much traffic after midnight even today. So, say, you were to hop in your car, drive to SeaTac Airport, park and walk inside and have free reign of the whole place you might make that drive today, just for fun!

Back then whether anyone harbored any ill will for my country or not, the airport was a safe place to be. Or so we felt.

Since 17-year-olds don't play hide and seek, we played "manhunt.”

Manhunt was “hide and seek". When you're 17 jacked up on energy, running with friends, and at a giant airport in Seattle, you go all out. Just a few memories are: Being exhausted, hysterical laughter, not being seen by any of the airport employees whether physically or on camera… and while running down one office space going into a giant board room and plucking an ice cold Coca-Cola out of the biggest iced container I've ever seen for pop. As far as I know taking a few cold Cokes from a meeting that was either done or soon to be happening was the only thing we did that could have been of consequence. Let’s call it 1:30AM.

We were just thirsty and it was there. I do recall being chased and chasing friends with so much space in between us, even with youthful speed, that when someone cut down another aisle, you were too far away to really tell whether it was the next one or the second from the next one.

I am serious: not even an "hey kids!” Nothing! For an hour, maybe two we took trams, we ran down concourses, went through offices (because we were either running away from or chasing someone), until we had all given up we're drinking down Coca-Cola's for free.

Well, they weren't exactly free. I think we may have paid 10 bucks each car to park there. I say we got the better end of the deal looking back. Hell, the parking may have even been free. In that case, karmically, I’m still ahead.

This is not a challenge to 17 year olds today, had there've been a TSA back then it's quite likely I’d have a minor Federal record. I've been caught speeding before, nobody is immune to the immutable laws of average. It's just that at that day, at that time and at that place, we owned it.

I'm pretty sure we raced our cars (and the "Speed Tax") all the way through the valley back to Benson Hill.

*Apologies for the typos, they're fixed. I imported this memory off a Commodore 64 and wanted the raw text at first. It is now... proper. - acs