Sunday, April 11, 2010

Three vehicles I desire

This is a blog about the Ohio River, but this particular post is about cars. There is a connection and you'll see it if you hang around long enough.

In the past two or three weeks, I've seen three cars in  my home territory, and I want them all. As far as I know, none are for sale. Even if they were, I can't afford them, I can't take care of them, and I'd probably run them into the ground prematurely, but I want them, if only for a day. And I know the specific roads I would drive them on.

First was a late 1970s-era Chevrolet Monza hatchback. It was on the back of a flatbed truck driving along a country ridge near Huntington. The car may have been a Monza clone such as a Buick Skyhawk, but for now I'm calling it a Monza. It was silver gray -- the color that Detroit just couldn't get to stick on cars in the '70s and '80s. Every silver car that I saw from that era suffered from extreme paint failure.

Second was a Chevy flatbed truck of the Advance Design series from 1947-55. It was dark blue with clearance lights on the roof and other orange lights. It was behind me on a country road early one morning, and it turned off onto a road where I didn't have time to follow.

The third one is a 1980s-era Honda Civic CRX, the two-seater hatchback that got a gazillion miles per gallon if it had a manual transmission. It's parked every day outside a mobile home outside of Huntington. If I could buy an older car for a me-only vehicle, this is the kind I would want. Or perhaps a first-generation Toyota MR2. Or a Fiat X1/9 or a Pontiac Fiero. You get the idea -- a small two-seater.

If I could have a vehicle like one of these for a day, where would I drive them?

The old flatbed truck would go up the Ohio River by way of West Virginia Route 2 to Point Pleasant WV, then cross the river to Gallipolis OH and back down to Huntington via Ohio State Route 7. Both roads are farm country. Route 2 in Mason County has to have the most barns per capita of any state highway in West Virginia. I would stop at every store to buy a bottle of pop or some M&Ms and take my time enjoying them while standing beside the truck. The looks of passersby would be worth it.

The Honda would come with me down U.S. 52 from Huntington to the Capt. Anthony Meldahl Locks and Dam near Cincinnati. From Huntington to Portsmouth OH, Route 52 is four lanes, but once you get out of Portsmouth, it's two lanes through beautiful countryside. The road itself must have two dozen different textures of pavement. A small car like that without power steering would give a year's worth of driver feedback that you just don't get from the dressed-up, power-everything cars that come out nowadays. I could roll down the window and smell the area, too.  You can't beat the smell of farm country. Even cow manure smells good to me sometimes.

The Monza? Well, it would have to take me to Gallipolis and back on the Ohio side. That's where I did most of the driving with my first car, a silver (!) 1976 Ford Mustang II. The Mustang II and the Monza were aimed at the same market, and you don't see many of either nowadays.

Those are my dream drives in three vehicles that I've seen in the past two or three weeks. It's not the vehicles I crave so much as wanting to relive my experiences in others like them. Today's cars are so much better, but I'd still like to have fresh reminders of what driving along the river road was like not that long ago.


Here's something that's no surprise to people living along the Ohio River in West Virginia: The whitetail deer population is growing faster than hunters (or car drivers) can control given the current game management plan. This fact was in this story by The Charleston Gazette.