Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Road Trip Day 3 - Part 2

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We had the truck back in our hands at about 2pm. Quickly we ran over to the Foreign Car Enterprise to meet Craig the car guy. His shop was in a neighbourhood. We expected an industrial park but not so much – it was a shotgun garage with overhead doors on both ends. There seemed to be about 4 cars in varying stages of repair in the shop. Only the green Spitfire and the black and white Morris Miner stick out in my memory now.

After a quick tour Craig had us follow him to another part of town where our 6 was being stored. I didn’t think it was possible but Craig seemed to be taking to a worse part of town then where his shop was located.

Our Six was in a storage building which was inside a chain link and barbwire fence. Surrounding the building were the carcasses of British sports cars most of which were sixes. It looked as if some giant beast inside the building fed on Triumphs and tossed away parts that were hard to digest : subframes, chassis.

Just inside the overhead the door was the focus of this misguided mission. The little red 1974 TR6 was as described and Craig quickly reached inside and started without choke or pedal. It had a throaty rumble. It was a special moment for me as the orange one had been silent as long as I remember. I was two years old when Dad’s last was in motion so I had not heard one run or could recall hearing one run. It was cool to hear that motor for the first time.

Craig pulled it out of the garage and offered me to take it for a spin but I couldn’t. I haven’t revealed this yet but I am missing most of my right leg below my knee. I get around by the use of a prosthetic leg. I can drive most standard transmissions even with this condition but with each new vehicle there is a learning curve to get the movement and feel right (the feel is in my knee). Craig took me for a quick ride and it was fun. I think there was more man then car as we were pouring out of the cockpit of the little car – one word: perma-smile.

We arrived back at the shop and Craig showed me through his MG, Triumphs and Lotuses. He had a really cool TR4A that belonged to his dad that was on his own resto list. See the pictures it was a pretty cool place.

We had Craig drive the car up onto the trailer and as he went back to handle some things around his garage. Bryan and I took to tying the car down. I had both 6” nylon flat straps and chains but as the TR6 is more refined then a bobcat or lawn tractor I decided to go with the straps.

I was untangling the straps standing between the truck and trailer on the driver’s side of the truck, slightly out in traffic on a relatively sleepy industrial/residential street (KC might not have zoning laws). Bryan was across the trailer hitch from me exactly between the truck and trailer on the passenger side trying to find a strapping point on the front of the car.

It was just at that moment I heard a bang sound from in front of a truck. Before I could even look up I heard a zip noise going past my head. I instinctively jumped over the trailer hitch away from the road and crouched behind Craig’s car which was between our truck and the fenced yard. Bryan took a beat and followed me as we laid there behind this car we heard a truck squeal by seemingly coming from where the bang originated

Basically what I am labouring to say is that we were shot at! Someone shot at us! Someone freaking shot at us!!

After a minute we got back up bewildered and decided that no one seemed to be around other than us. I quickly assisted Bryan in getting the straps on. We were now in shock and just wanted to get out of there. Craig came wandering over unaware of what just happened. I asked him if he had a problem with guns down here.
His reply was less then reassuring, “Not if you’re carrying one. Didn’t you boys bring one?”

“No.” I said realizing we were at one of those nuances that separate Canadians from Americans. “I’m not saying this is a bad neighbourhood...”
“Ha –ha, I’m not saying it isn’t.” he replied.

Craig left us shaking hands and we quickly got into the truck ready to get anywhere that wasn’t here. The car was strapped the best we could figure as it was fairly uncooperative in yielding strapping points. We had agreed to shakedown the rigging at our first stop.

We got on the freeway and set the GPS to make sure we were going in the right direction. The GPS, continuing its disappointing misdirection, dragged us right back off the freeway and through a real sketchy neighbourhood. Finally we got back on the freeway and headed north – out of town.

Soon I noticed that the rear strapped had loosened up and was flapping in the breeze. I started to look for an off ramp. I soon found one and was stopped at the light at the top of the ramp. As I pulled away from the light the car rolled off the trailer backwards. It rolled off the trailer backwards into traffic. For the first time in my life a car rolled off a trailer backwards into traffic.

I couldn’t believe the day I was having… what the hell else could go wrong?
I instructed Bryan to drive and I ran back to rescue the car. The parking brake wasn’t strong enough to keep the car on the trailer but it was strong enough to keep it from rolling down the ramp. It just sat there defiantly sitting in the middle of the road.

I jump in the TR and this moment was the first time I drove a Triumph TR6 – on an off ramp in Kansas City. It was a tight fit, uncomfortable and awkward. I pushed in the clutch and turned the key – also awkward. She started right up as advertised and I was able to get the car out of harm’s way.

We got the car back up on the trailer but not without destroying the exhaust system – it wasn’t in that great of shape to begin with. I then chained the car down like it was King Kong on a road trip. I boomed it so tight that it looked like it was a low rider.

We were finally on our way. For the next hour all I could think about how the car could come off the trailer. Other then the exhaust and a small dent on the top of the fender it came out rather unscathed.
Believe it or not we made it through the next 541 miles (871 KMs) unscathed. The path home led north to Lincoln, Nebraska and from there west to Oshkosh, Nebraska. We arrived in Oshkosh at 11:20PM, check into a motel and to bed. I was glad to see this day end.

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