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Prose

Night Race

pontiac_bonneville_1969_1
It was a late night in early spring 1977. I was working in Indianapolis at a newly-opened Radio Shack, after having graduated from Butler University in December 1976. I had been at Butler visiting some friends who were still students, one of whom would become my wife later that year.

The hour wasn’t quite midnight, but it was close to it when I turned left from Clarendon Drive onto 38th Street. I was headed east to the other side of town where I shared an apartment with another former student. 38th Street is two lanes in each direction at that point and did not drop back to a single lane until close to my apartment.

I was in the left lane as I stopped at the next traffic signal; another car was already stopped in the right lane. I can’t tell you anything about the other car; to be honest, I paid little attention to either car or driver.

My car was a 1969 Pontiac Executive Hardtop. Pontiac had three models with the same basic body type; Bonneville, Catalina, and Executive. The Executive was the top model of the three, having the most “extras”; I had purchased it used the summer before for $800 from the former owner. Its color was a metallic shade of “dead leaf green”, and “455” appeared after the word “Executive” on the front fender. It was a prime hunk of “Detroit Iron”.

I heard the engine of the other car “rev up” as the other driver pulsed his (or her) gas pedal. On a whim, I did the same. When the light went green, we both “floored it”. I got a slight lead, but I couldn’t hold it. My engine had a “cough” in one cylinder – from what cause I was not sure – and I was essentially driving a “V7” that night. By the time I got up to speed, my front bumper was roughly even with his rear tire. I could not catch him, and he could not shake me.

We remained in “formation” like that as we flew across Indianapolis. My speedometer was stuck just above 95 MPH, and nothing I tried could urge it any higher. At that hour, 38th Street was deserted; there were no other vehicles in either direction, and no police. Although it didn’t strike me until later we also did not encounter a single red light, or even a yellow. If we had, I would have stopped; driving over twice the speed limit was bad enough, I would not have added running red lights to a possible citation.

Even so, we were nearing the intersection where 38th Street became a single lane again. I was just about to let off the gas and drop in behind the other driver when three things happened in very rapid succession. First, my transmission shifted into a second passing gear; one I wasn’t even aware existed. Second, the “cough” in my engine disappeared and it ran smooth for the first time in about three months. Finally, as a result of those two events, my speed shot over 105 MPH and I almost literally lunged past the other car.

As I pulled up at that intersection, at the first red light we encountered, I saw in my rearview mirror that the other car was turning off a couple of streets back. I drove the rest of the way to my apartment and a much more sedate speed.

Although I cannot recommend driving like an idiot across a major city as a cure for a rough running engine, I must say it certainly cured the problem with mine for quite some time after that.

Some years later, when I got up the nerve to tell my father about this, I got another surprise. I had expected at least a reprimand for speeding and reckless driving; instead he nodded and smiled. I still marvel at that.

– – – – – – – –

I managed to find a photo of a 1969 Bonneville. Even though the car in the photo is a convertible and in the wrong color, the body styling is correct.

9 replies on “Night Race”

Thank you Yassy. Driving at that speed has a strange kind of peace. Although I knew if anything happened I would have almost no time to react, it did not feel that way. I can see why racecar drivers do it, but I was not tempted to repeat the experience.

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Hahaha. I suspect your Dad had done the same at some time in his life. That’s awesome! You stayed at it and then found a way to win. That’s very impressive. I wonder how disappointed the other driver must have been since I’m sure they thought they had you beat. That’s one for the ages there, my friend. Thank you for sharing!

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Thank you Parker. I do wonder about the other driver. I doubt whether he could have been any more surprised than I was.

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Hi Michael

Very much enjoyed the story and can imagine why your Dad smiled. He, too, probably had a similar experience. Funny how the speed seemed to fix your car. There is a thrill to driving fast but it is also dangerous. Thanks for sharing. This was very entertaining and told with the perfect pitch and pace.

Thanks for sharing,
my best
Wendy

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MIchael,

The picture issue is going to be the death of me…

583 is too large… Can you use the Paint program?

Here are the steps using paint:

With the picture on the Paint screen
Click selection

then click rectangular. Use your cursor to draw a square
in the center of the picture.

then click crop.

now you have the correct shape

then click resize

using pixels, set the top number at 500.
The bottom number will adjust in ratio.

If, when you are done the picture is not within 15 to 20 pixels

of 500 X 500, you need to readjust it until it falls within that range.

If this is not something you are able to do, then just make a

500 X 500 white square with your avatar in it. and use that for all posts.

Thanks,

Sarah

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Sarah, you are not the only one this picture issue will be the death of… I have been using Microsoft Paint for decades. It takes on an entirely new dimension of challenge when you could only use voice commands to control the cursor. What I had been seeing, I thought vertical dimension was the critical one, so I have been resizing to 500 vertically and cropping horizontally. In this case, I was preserving the image of the car, will I will see about clipping off some of the rear of the vehicle. When you said a little larger was okay, I didn’t know the tolerance was that tight. Please specify what the maximum size can be on the horizontal if the vertical is 500. Thank you.

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Sarah, the image is now 513 X 500, with 500 being the vertical. However, this may not solve the alignment issue if you are using Internet Explorer on Windows 7 as I am. The other two images currently on the same row are shorter and on my browser, it is still throwing off the next row.

Windows Explorer is outdated, having been replaced on Windows 10 by Microsoft Edge. A version of Edge is currently in beta for Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 but I am in no hurry to experience the joyous possibility of crashing my entire system just to try it.

I do also have Opera, Firefox, and Chrome. The Peaceful Pub home page renders correctly on all three, easily compensating for differences in the image sizes. I am also inclined to believe that this is a new issue for Windows Explorer, as I have scrolled down the homepage using IE in the past and have not seen any misalignment until very recently.

As near as I can see, and I hasten to add this is just my observation, the issue appears to be one of vertical measurement; the horizontal does not appear to have an impact. Just as one example, your featured post with your “Thank You” image is too short. When the post to the right of it is also short, your “Trim and Tidy” image throws off the alignment of the next line, even though it is correct and the other two are wrong.

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