Automotive Ξ American Roadway (V8 on Blacktop)
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Before departing, I pondered what else to do with my time on the West Coast. Some of the cretins I correspond with had described the road between L.A. and San Francisco as "boring" and recommended I not bother heading south. I was toying with the idea of bumming around the San Francisco area and possibly trying to find some abandonments. However, it suddenly dawned on me that San Francisco was not the only place in California that had a played a role in my hero, writer Hunter S. Thompson's, life. Early in his career Thomson worked as a caretaker at the hot springs in Big Sur, now called the Esalen Institute. He was also writing some of the magazine articles which would launch his career during this time. Many other artists including Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac also lived and worked in Big Sur...how could I go wrong? Google maps quickly confirmed a very doable 2 hour drive into the heart of Big Sur, mostly along the legendary Highway 1. As a lover of all things which burn gas and go fast, the prospect of driving one of the best roads in the United States made my mouth water.


The moment I decided to drive Highway 1, the potential cost of my rental car went through the roof. No ordinary automobile would suffice for such a heady endeavor. I immediately rented a Nissan 350Z and prepared for the best drive of my life. When I arrived in California, however, the rental agency informed me that the Z had not come back to the lot. Instead, they gave me a Mustang, the keys to which I grudgingly accepted. Ordinarily, I would have been livid, but the inferior Ford product carried a lower per-day rate and therefore stood a fair chance of making it on to the final draft of my expense report. Already having invested significant amounts of my own money in the trip, the chance to find another item I could expense, at least partially, appealed to me enormously.


On my first night in California, on my way to San Francisco to do some night shooting, I discovered a slow leak in the rear tire and the ghastly glow of the check engine light appeared on the dash. Several profanity laced phone calls and a nearly lethal high speed rip on the spare tire later I was back at the rental agency. Hertz refused to give me the "special Mustang" that they offer, but apologetically agreed to let me have any other car in the fleet at no additional charge. I eyed the list skeptically, noting the lack of properly sporting vehicles. Intent on not accepting another Mustang, my desire to twist the knife on Hertz for nearly spoiling my trip burned in my heart. In the end it was the brain-dead-left-lane-blocking drivers that rule the Golden State's roads which made my choice clear. I needed a car that could bully people...an asshole mobile, if you will. Enter the glorious Cadillac STS. Three decades earlier Thomson wrote of another Cadillac, "The dashboard was full of esoteric lights and dials and meters that I would never understand." The schizophrenic STS would live up to these prophetic words. Nevertheless, the Northstar V8 and 340 total miles on the odometer was consolation enough for losing out on the Z. I had chosen, and chosen wisely.


I pondered as I drove away, pawing the traction control switch, what kind of person would turn over the keys to such a fine automobile to a irate East Coaster bent on hundreds of miles of some of the most grueling break-in time in automotive history? A maniacal grin appeared on my face as I licked my lips in anticipation of the many hard miles to come. Whatever kind of person it was, I was elated that they worked at Hertz.