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When I was a kid, there was this TV show called “Route 66” where two young, handsome guys drove along Route 66, the old road to Los Angeles from Chicago for people seeking to increase their lot in life during The Depression by moving to California. Route 66 doesn’t formally exist anymore, all of its section have been renamed to State highways, but the mystic of Route 66 is as big as it’s ever been: the gas stations, restaurants and motels have been restored to their mid-20th Century grandeur, and thousands of people every year go to Chicago just to relive times past.
Of course, I wanted to drive Route 66, but I wanted to go all out and drive a same Corvette they did in the show. To that end, with my imagination overwhelming my common sense, I went so far as to actually get my wife, Gwynne, to buy me a 1958 Corvette, the year I was born. I even bought a special jacket for the trip, a vintage 1990 In-N-Out Burger collector's item I had to have shipped from Australia, that had my car on it.
The age of the Corvette is important because I’m old enough to remember when cars were undependable and driving long distances in them was a feat, but over the years had forgotten this important fact. When Gwynne and I blithely took our first long ride, 20 miles maybe, it was clear that 2600 miles was going to be an issue because Gwynne was going to have to drive too; maybe she should practice? I waited for a sunny day, and polished the car up, even though it was already gleaming, and suggested we go to Walmart. Gwynne squinted her eyes at me even though she always likes to go to Walmart, but she was a good sport and came out to the car. First thing, she couldn't press hard enough on the door knob to get it to open so I had to come around and do it; next, the seat wouldn't go close enough to the pedals so she had to put a big pillow behind her; and without power steering, she couldn't get under the porte cochere without multiple forward-and-reverses, but this led to the issue that even though the car had an automatic transmission, it was Old School with Reverse between Park and Drive so the car lurched back each time she tried to go forward. Worse, there's no power brakes either so she had to use both feet on the brake pedal. There's another thing about old cars she didn't quite get; they have to be babied, and her test drive was horrendous. I wanted to be supportive so I kept my head to the side so she couldn't see the horror on my face, and I used all my willpower not to push my feet on the floor and keep my voice calm when I spoke. Obviously, we only got a couple miles before the car died.
“Pull over,” I said calmly since I totally expected this to happen.
I fiddled with the car, got it running, it was a babying thing, but she wouldn't get back in the driver's seat and wanted to go home. We didn't say anything on the way back.
“We'll try again tomorrow,” I said, hopefully.
Gwynne just went into the house without looking back. I knew in my heart she was never going to try again. With due regret, I gave up my Route 66 dream. It was a long night, and I didn't sleep well. Gwynne was gone early the next morning; I moped around the house, went out to polish the Corvette. Later that day, a car I didn't know pulled into the driveway. Gwynne had driven up to Kelso and bought herself a brand new AWD Prius, saying she'd drive Route 66, and pay for the thing from the savings in gas & repairs.
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