Leaving the house at the end of April 2018. Funny how you never know what is ahead, no clue whatever. Part of the charm and delight of the open road. As Garrett says: “Bring it!”
Derek McNeil, the cameraman, proves his solidarity. Celts prefer actions over words. Words are too easy, too easily forgotten.
April 29th 2018, a Sunday
The road run begins in Ventura with a sad good-bye to QC, the gentle Visigoth. I know I was holding back the tears as best I could. Of course barely made it two blocks before I realized I’d not finished lowering the other three tires for pressure. Did not realize it was the off-the-computer-red-flashing severe alignment toe-in that was creating the jumpy handling problems. In 3k miles the outside half of the two expensive Dutch front tires were completely bald. Try getting two new tires to fit a 356 in Michigan on the fly. It cannot be done!
Will always remember our wonderful breakfasts as we were waited on by gorgeous green-eyed Mexican cousins—about ten or twelve different ones, each as raven-haired and round-ass lovely as the other. My breakfast: grilled chicken breast, hot sauce, one scrambled egg, fresh fruit, and 50/50 orange/apple juice. QC’s breakfast: a mountain of French toast, a golfball of butter, syrup slathered, hash browns, double side of crispy bacon, and a waterfall of coffee. Of course he is 70 and as healthy as a young Viking.
The cross winds across the Mojave were so severe—red signs flashing huge warnings—that the highway was closed about an hour after my passing. Not knowing what I was getting into, I had left the top down. Mistake. No hat would stay on my head, so a sunburn was inevitable. Way too windy to pull up top. What a god-forsaken section of America, but an improvement over Interstate 5 into Los Angeles which is simply ten lanes of rutted bumpy living HELL, with traffic beyond evil, everyone in a black tanks, texting. Delighted to see Lone Pine!
From my new unpublished novel GLANCE:
When they hit the Mohave Desert on the 14, there were red flashing signs. Loren had never imagined such a thing. The signs were a warning of extremely high winds gusting to 80 mph, and saying all campers and trucks were prohibited. It was also hotter than anything Loren had ever experienced. As if reading his mind, Hedge said:
“Buddy, we so should’ve put the top up. Now I fear this wind would blow the top to bits if we attempted it. On top of that, we are going to be wicked sunburned for our first movie shoot. On top of that, the gas gauge is not reading, so we need to find the next station immediately, and I don’t have a map, thus it’s a mystery where it might be. We sure are a couple road warriors, eh?” He couldn’t have sounded happier. “And if the damn wind brings out the sand, we are going to lose one million dollars worth of original factory paint. Striker would piss himself at the risk” He began to laugh. “I can’t believe he paid us that much up front. Do you know why?”
“No, not really,” Loren yelled over the wind and engine noise. He wondered if his new cell phone found gas stations. It was nice to think he could call Gina again.
“Perfect fucking storm. Striker knew that this situation can never be replicated again, and if he gets it on film, he will own something really special and cool among aficionados. The car-ad genius actor who looks better than any movie star since James Dean and one of the rarest Porsches ever, and me, the son of the man who bought it new, driving the thing across America to return his nephew to his oversized beloved Maine Coon. No one can resist cool and special and undiscovered together. Guys like Striker live to impress other guys just like Striker. And who can blame them. They are what they are, right?”
Set on the bleak seemingly endless expanse of desert, they saw a very plain cement block building with an incongruously ornate porte-cochere, a combination which turned out to be a casino. The wind was blowing so hard they could barely push the doors open against it. “Fuck me,” said Hedge. Then yelling at the sky. “Bring it, you bastard. I don’t give a shite no more! I’ve gone all Natural!”
Inside the bizarre maroon velvet interior, suddenly so quiet but for the chiming of slot machines, many dull-looking overly-tanned people settled around dozens of gaming tables or staring at horse racing on huge screens, Hedge leaned into Loren and said: “When you give yourself fully, one hundred percent, at full risk, to something truly good, Providence comes to your aid.”
They learned from a dark-suited Michelin doughboy where the nearest gas station was and also that the highway might be soon closed because a couple of semis had already been blown onto their sides. Loren had noticed the thirty-degree from straight angles of the semi-trailers that had been waving back and forth in front of them as they attempted to pass, Hedge making short work of it by hitting eighty miles an hour to the trucks’s fifty or forty. “Keeps our exposure to a minimum. Lucky old Komenda knew about lateral gust forces way before the invention of the wind tunnel. The three-fifty-six, designed by Komenda, built by Reutter, and Porsche gets all the credit. It’s a perfect world, Loren.”
They found gas, filled the tank, which really was just a tank with a large screw-cap under the front bonnet, Hedge now setting the trip meter for gas mileage although he explained that a clean stick stuck in the tank worked fine to read the level, as well as the reserve lever under the dash, which was worth about thirty extra miles. Loren realized the whole running-out-of-gas worry had likely been another Hedge fabrication. He seemed to love drama, or more correctly melodrama. To what purpose Loren had no idea.
As they closed on Lone Pine, having blended onto Route 395 at Indian Wells, the wind unwound and a slight coolness set in.
“How sunburned are we, buddy?”
“Frankly, you look maybe a bit redder but nothing extreme. Me?”
“We will procure you some of that Olio Vero gel as soon as we land!”
“Best not to wake up the sunburn Gods.”
“I guess eight years in a basement plus being pale-pale Celtic does not prepare one for the tortures of the Mojave Desert.”
“Bingo, brother Loren. Bingo, my friend!”
Out of the extreme gusts, the 356 seemed to cruise smoothly and happily at eighty. Loren supposed every car had its ideal speed, just as every creature had its ideal temperature. Loren knew he was severely overheated and wind-blasted, but Hedge’s mood was infectious, and beyond that, he was headed home. Home!
They passed by the leafy gateway into Death Valley, and soon enough the wonderful multi-colored neon signage of the Dow Villa Motel appeared on the right, with pool! They turned in under the overhang and went to see about rooms.
Had the first of many wonderful meals at the Mt. Whitney Diner served by my favorite waitress ever—Kristie. (Hope I spelled it correctly.) A sweet sexy angel that happens to serve delicious food by coincidence.
Bought Aloe Vera gel and finally got to slather something. The hotel was full of crazy aged women who were parked there until the casket. I enjoyed them greatly—Mary was the standout! Then after two days of much needed rest, car repairs, I headed to Death Valley to meet Erik and Amanda who were flying into Las Vegas that evening.
My photo from 1984 of the Death Valley Highway sign
In my eagerness, I left probably 6 hours too early. All was good until I almost murdered two geriatrics at two different times at gas stations. It was the loudness of my compressor-powered Maserati twin-bell airhorn that all but killed them. The horn began raging whenever, simply possessed. A priest? I rebuild the damn thing the next day. Has the world of supposed mechanics forgotten the concept of lubricants? Lubricants allow the next guy to remove things without undue force. They work well, trust me!
It was raining and reasonably cool in Death Valley where it is usually about 105 degrees during the day. But it was lovely and I was driving like a fiend from another planet, front wheels fighting each other or not. The Devil’s Golf Course was just as I remembered it.
But heading back to the junction, the rear of my seat collapsed completely. Out came the tool kit again. Two hours in now hot afternoon sun and the seat worked again. It would fail often until I got up at 4;30 a.m. in Pocatello, Idaho and spent three more hours truly fixing it this time. Until then, my old hobo pack held up the seat back to varying degrees of success.
Same spot in 1983 above.
Heading into the Valley in 1984:
In 1983, Death Valley, over 100 degrees
Had an amazing supper of fresh-caught striped bass under the bamboo awning at The Oasis as the rain fell through the cracks and dried on my overly hot skin. I called out to doves in their voice, or my attempt at their voice, and they filled the rafters as no humans were on the veranda. How blessed I felt!
As I waited at the Zabriskie Point parking lot way to0 early for my baby as evening drew down night’s blind, I met two guys who were photographing my 356, a common occurrence. “You’re not Germans, are you?” “No! We are Portuguese!” I had had enough Germans and Porsche idiots telling me my 356 should be in a museum or climate controlled garage. Fuck them for a few days. “Then you must know Miguel Olivera, I said.” “Why?” They were stunned. “Because I bet he will win the Moto2 World Championship.” Instant friends now, they met myself and Amanda at the Dow Villa in Lone Pine the next day. At the end of a lovely time, Amanda already speaking Portuguese, I casually asked: “What do you guys do for a living?” “Oh, kind of acting.” I googled. WOW! World famous! And very handsome. Both!
Drew my father’s signature with a Sharpie until the rising sun in Lone Pine made it far too hot for a New Englander to concentrate.
Variations of signature. Top right is actual. The bottom right is how it was presented to me in California after much argument over the telephone. Why do people always “know” when they don’t know? Left is is my two day fix in the hot sun, working 600 sandpaper bent around a Pink Pearl dipped in water to remove the overly thick lines that, of course, had to be applied with unremovable Porsche enamel paint. I was told the signature could not be removed no matter what. I have long stopped listening to “experts.”
Erik and Amanda arrived in total darkness in the Zabriskie Point empty parking lot at about 10 p.m. in a rented new Dodge Challenger Hemi; Erik, of course, doing burnout donuts. He hit a hoe at over 100 mph in the rain on our run back to Lone Pine, which blew a hole in the bottom of the rental. Maine urchin divers? What are you gonna do? He took a photo of the speedometer at 149 mph.
Next day just before Erik went on a massive bender (even for him!) and missed being in the movie. In the morning he fled back to Maine with only one speeding ticket. I had bet two.
Ben Taylor arrives in rental. Garrett Randolph, my novice-to-Porsches but certainly not the road or wilderness wingman, arrives in his new-to-him immaculate 1998 Boxter, German silver over sienna red leather.
My buddy Ben who I met in Lewiston, Maine mid-1980s. He was going to Bates; I was a townie. I’ve always worried I ruined his life, but God, She is the only one to determine such things.
We hit the road north with a film crew following after shooting amazing scene with Rod from Lloyd’s of Lone Pine. He tells the cameraman Derek how Slim Pickens got his name. They (Rod and Slim) were rodeo clowns together for many years. Lone Pine and Rod, a good friend of Ridley Scott is Rod, are simply the best! Ben and I bought matching hats from Rod. I found out in talking to Rod yesterday (June12th) that he got himself one as well, so we three have matching hats. Love mine! I ended up buying a bunch more of these great hats—one for Sam Ladd, one for Ben’s daughter, and another for myself since I thought I’d lost mine. Our Maine Coon found it under the porch, pushing it out with his nose. I knew once I bought the second, the first would appear, which is now kept pristine in the library of our house.
From the novel GLANCE:
Lloyd’s of Lone Pine had an ivory plaster horse named Frosty leaping towards heaven above the doorway of the squat yellow brick building. Frosty had been Rod’s horse when he was a young rodeo star and had been a stunt double for many famous horses in films.
A short rugged-looking guy with a large white mustache walked forward from the end of the long store. “You Hedge’s saddle mate?”
“Have you seen his pony?”
“I heard it first, then I seen. That is some ride.”
“He give you spin?”
“I’m too old to get into a horse like that. Even ifn I got in, I’d never get out. Ready to look like a cowboy?”
Loren could tell that Rod was one of those guys that everyone liked. As Rod told it, even Ridley Scott was a good friend and telephoned every few months. Thousands of movies had been filmed in Lone Pine, and it seemed from the stories that Rod had been involved in many. Loren was also shocked to see himself as Rod dressed him, quietly without pushing anything, but thanks to Striker’s money, Loren simply went for it. He stayed true to hard-working cowboy form minus a few extravagances, just to drive Hedge up a tree. The pale yellow ostrich boots surprised him by being incredibly comfortable.
Loren’s favorite of Rod’s stories was how Slim Pickens got his name. “We was both rodeo clowns back then when we were young, fearless, and stupid. Slim, whose real name was Louis, went home for Christmas, and when all the family was at the table for Christmas supper, his dad asked him what he’d been doing. He told, and his dad, who was dead-set against rodeoing, said, ‘Boy, those are gonna be some slim pickings,’ and the name just stuck, I guess. Better than Louis Lindley.”
The town was like a dream of 1950s America—friendly, old-school, relaxed, with clean air and those great Western skies one sees in movies, not to mention snow-glazed mountains as vertical as a child’s drawing. Loren stopped at the hardware store and bought two Case knives with pale-yellow plastic handles. It almost made him cry, remembering his father doing the same thing for him when he was eight or nine. The Case company still existed, along with Zippo lighters, and their pocket knives were still made in America.
The movie crew only asked me to do this six times I think!
I love this photograph: Three amazing beauties in one rectangle!:
Ben and I, although exhausted, filming street shots in Reno at 11 p.m. Then we were kept up until 3:30 a.m. expected to tell brilliant stories about the road. People who run movies basically want to kill their protagonists. I suppose that makes for gritty footage.
Here is the wonderful letter I received from James, manager at the equally wonderful Reno Hotel where we filmed in the lobby:
May 10th 2018
356 plugs cleared in the morning. Ran great! Wheel vibration is about half what it was. Exhaust pipe color slightly rich but brownish. I am beginning to get that feeling of the engine oil and my blood running together as one fluid. Feel and hear every nuance of the car continually. When Patches is delighted, so am I. Only a 356 does this to me.
Speedometer is dead accurate! Hit an actual 100 mph a few times yesterday, but insane cross winds prevent anything more. The wind blows ALL the time out here. Hit 85 in third gear easily. Beginning to use 5k rpm at 2500 miles on odometer as engine breaks in more fully.
The old hobo calls himself Bill. I tell him my name is Cody. Everyone on the road probably uses a made-up name. We’re sitting in a rail yard in Minot, North Dakota, trying to cook some green tomatoes over a fire we made.
“Amazing the things people’ll leave lying around,” Bill says.
“Well, these tomatoes for instance. Perfectly good.”
There was a pile of them in the gravel as we walked up the stopped freight. (When a train blows its air, you know it’s not going anywhere for a while.) Bill immediately gathered them up, which I never would have thought of since I’ve never eaten them. We’re frying them in bacon grease on a piece of metal we found. Bill had a peanut butter jar of it in his suitcase.
“Cold!” he says, rubbing his hands near the flames. “You got anymore fixings?” Bill calls my tobacco that.
“You keep smoking it, there’s not going to be any.” Still I toss him the pouch.
“Watch that one!” Bill points at a tomato slice that’s getting burned. I flip it over with my knife. He watches the food intently, even telling me how thick to slice the tomatoes. “Little thinner,” he kept saying. “They crisp better that way.” He had a few stale crackers we crushed up, or I crushed up based on his instructions, and I pressed the slices in them. After Bill rolls one up, he loosens a stick from the fire and lights the cigarette with it. I’ve never seen a guy enjoy a smoke more. Seems he loves pipe tobacco, but he’ll probably smoke anything as long as it has nicotine in it. I only smoke a few bowls a day, and if I’m honest with myself, I know part of doing it is just for the idea of it, the style of it, and I don’t inhale. But Bill just wants to be a chimney like my stepfather, though my stepfather never seemed to enjoy anything.
“I’m givin’ her up.” He gives a big exhale of smoke. He smokes cigarettes like a pothead.
“Giving what up?”
“What’re you gonna do?”
“I’m goin’ home, son, back to Billings, find a fleabag, see if I can get on the dole.”
“Too old. Winter comin’. This cold just kills my bones, she gets right in me, and I never could stan’ the heat. Tried it down south, but it weren’t for me. I just sweat like a pig. Hey!” He points at another burning slice. The food is cooked and I slide some on a tin plate I carry in my gear. I pass it to Bill. My half I slide onto a flat board I rubbed clean. Bill uses a stick and I use my knife. I’m not going to let him use my knife.
“Hey, these are good.”
“Told ya,” he says, though he hadn’t.
The tomatoes are so good we slice up the rest of them though we’re out of crackers, and I get my last can of beans out of my pack. I hate to use them up. B&M baked beans from Maine. Bill’s eyes light right up when he sees the can. After the beans bubble I serve them with more fried tomatoes.
“Damn, son, this here is one fine meal. Wish we had some whiskey or wine to wash her down.”
We finish and Bill licks my plate clean which sickens me. Fuck, I figure I might as well give him the damn plate now. But he seems so happy I don’t say nothing. I know he wants tobacco and though I’m almost out, I fill my pipe and toss him the pouch again. We light up from the fire and I toss on some more scraps of wood.
“If it wasn’t so cold, she’d be perfect,” he says. “Son, I been thinkin’. You’ve been mighty nice to me these last two days. I know yer pissed I smoked up all your fixings. Way I am now, I take what I can get. Never know when she’s gonna end. You get as old as me, you might think the same way. But I’m gonna give you something in return. Bill always pays his way. Just the way I am.” He has another big toke. “I’m gonna give ya something I’ve carried with me for many years waitin’ for the right time. I was hopin’ to use her myself, but now I see I ain’t goin’ to make her. Maybe you will. That’s why I’m given et to ya.”
Just as the harvest moon rode into the eastern sky and iced the barren yard out on the plain with an eerie greenish light. Just as the haunting stillness wrapped around them both, touched only by an occasional snap from their fire, Bill’s face now excited in the glow of the flames—
There was a loud noise.
It vaporized everything.
Doris was banging her dinner gong.
“God damn it,” muttered Jimmy. The ringing rose through the house like a fire alarm. Time to face another Callahan culinary horror show. He jumped for the fridge and downed a B pounder. Since the arm-binding night, Doris was adamant against alcohol. But sober, her food was an impossibility. He had to get the cast off—soon, no matter how his arm suffered.
From my novel GLANCE:
It was in Canada on 401 that Garnet and the Boxter had their big moment. 401 through Ontario within an hour of Toronto must be the worst highway in the world, thought Loren. To begin with, anyone who lives in this area can only care about money, or at least the earning of money. Could there be any other reason for living in such a flat crowded ugly polluted place? Loren saw literally acres upon acres of identical tract houses for miles and miles in any direction with the added touch of monstrous electrical towers and wires scarring the drab spoiled cake of sky above them. It was like being one of ten million wasps in a giant squashed nest.
Gina reported, after research, that the highway carried half a million vehicles a day and was likely the busiest highway in the world depending on season. Loren just thought it was hell. Among other issues, all the trucks were forced to carry an engine limiter set to the speed limit, so no truck could go faster than any other. That known, the truck drivers still insisted on trying to pass each other, four abreast, which bottled up the road completely. All the other drivers, many with giant SUVs with blacked-out windows, also insisted on attempting to jerk into tiny openings in the sea of traffic all moving at nearly the exact same speed. After Hedge had had his fender nearly removed a few times, his volatile nature swung into dangerous red. But what could he do in that tiny million-dollar vintage gem? Loren just attempted to breathe as shallowly as passible, the air poisonous, the noise deafening even at 65 mph, the heat stifling. He tried not to think of Kristan . . .
It was in the middle of all this that Garnet lost it.
Garnet had not been a New England wrestling champion for nothing. Following behind Hedge, he suddenly punched the Porsche Boxster’s loud shrill horn and began to weave back and forth insanely missing other cars by mere inches. Loren heard the crazy squealing of other brakes, other horns, as motorists, terrified, cleared a path for the silver caroming missile. Then, once he had created an open space of around ten car lengths, the Boxter shape-shifted into a border collie herding bad sheep, and any vehicle that even stuck its nose into the fresh quadrant of vacancy behind the Continental was chased and bitten. Garnet ran one courageous yet obnoxious Range Cruiser into the ditch where it nearly upended, then he swerved back across the path of any others attempting to close. The blind stupidity and arrogance of the other drivers surprised Loren. They would achieve nothing, but were still willing to risk their lives; any accident would be terminal for so many.
“Fuck me!” yelled Hedge. “God love such a madman. Look at him go!” He was laughing so hard tears were spilling down his cheeks.
Loren watched nervously, stunned Garnet would actually fully risk such a pristine and beautiful object, not to mention hundreds of lives, and wondered if he would ever have such courage and willingness to take on so much responsibility. The moment was the moment for Garnet. That was all too obvious. He thought of Kristan again, and then he thought of Gina.