Thursday, November 19, 2009

I usually rant about god & the church, but it gets boring because fewer people disagree and it's like preaching to the choir (if you will). So this post is a story my daughter told me to write down concerning an incident when my friend Joe was a feral hippy.

This is the famous story of how Joe came to be legend and completely bamfoogled the entire Phoenix Off Road Racing Club (I think that's who they were).

Around 1974-5 Joe drove down to the New Orelans Mardigras in his '59 vw bus. It was in fair condition when he started, but somewhat less on the way back. Somewhere in Arizona Joe decided to take a short cut up toward Las Vegas following his road map, which was unfortunately (or not) out of date, and the road submerged & disappeared into a lake which had developed since the map was printed. So Joe found himself on a dirt road in the wide wild desert, about 30 miles from the highway, & 50 miles from where he turned off. Joe was disinclined to drive all the way back to the turnoff by the way he came, though it appeared to be the only option since his map was useless.

To resolve the issue, Joe camped overnight in a ravine, had rabbit stew w/stroganoff sauce & listened to the wind & coyotes to help decide the only possible choice. The next morning he heard a car coming up the road but didn't go out to look, a little later another & another. So Joe ventured back up to the road & saw orange streamers hanging from the sagebrush & dune buggies roaring past. This was the very excuse he needed to not go back to the highway, because these guys were heading the direction he wanted & they had to know where they were going, so Joe followed them. If anyone ever tells you that ignorance is not bliss, direct them to this story.

The road was well marked & there were even trucks parked at side roads to point the way & keep people from getting lost, but by the time Joe passed, there had been maybe 15 or 20 buggies through ahead of him & the dirt road was so well rutted that it was easy to follow, so when the station guides came out and waived, Joe just waived back as he drove by.

Before now, it hadn't occurred to him that this might be a test of skill & endurance, but as the landscape became more lunar, and Joe began to notice expensive buggies parked off the road with drivers either working on their engines or setting in the shade drinking beer, he realized it was a contest of Man Against Nature!, & A Race To The Finish! Fortunately, (as a hippy) Joe was a veteran VW driver, and unlike many of those newer dune buggies, his ‘59 bus was stock w/ almost 12 inches of clearance, and a low gear that will climb trees. Also, Joe knew his busses' heart very well, so that even with a slipping clutch, bad compression and 200 lbs. overweight, he followed the ruts down sandy creek beds, across winding rocky slopes, & up a couple of short hills that would make sky divers swoon with bliss. The tops of some of those hills couldn't be seen from below, but by the time Joe got to them, he figured they couldn't be worse than what he'd already seen on the course, & he'd also driven through that much on & off for years anyway. Joe didn't pause to contemplate though because he would have become stuck in the sand & needed the momentum, so he persevered like a Republican w/ a hot stock tip. The whole course seemed about 1/2 hour from leaving the road, but it was late afternoon by the time it was over.

When Joe finally arrived at the rally camp in his painted hippy bus with the bubble on the roof, he got looks of disbelief from people with $10k chromed buggies. When Joe told them about the compression, clutch, & weight overload, the guy who set up the course was genuinely angry that Joe had finished & implied that Joe was lieing about his car’s condition. Joe told him he was welcome to check the engine if he was in doubt. The organizer stomped off in a fit. But others laughed and were genuinely good guys who gave Joe beer. Joe felt somewhat creeped out there though, because they were all upper middle class competition car enthusiasts, & neither they nor he could believe the other could survive whithout some kind of real life. Joe felt like a Dust Bowl refugee, and they acted like they'd discovered Sasquach, but all & all, it was a pretty good day.

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