It's been about four years since my girlfriend and I have been able to line up our radically different daily schedules and be able to jump in one of my old trucks and head out on the highway for the weekend. It wasn't like we'd been planning on going together to the NHRA Hot Rod Reunion for a long time in advance; to the contrary, it was only a few days before the event that I asked her if she would like to go, and got a yes.
The Hot Rod Reunion was scheduled to open on Thursday with a media affair to take place in Bakersfield, but most of the people I knew would be heading up on Friday morning. Amongst these folks were my friends from Rod & Custom magazine. On Friday afternoon I called R&C's feature editor, Tim Bernsau, and asked him how the weather was holding out. Strange as it may seem, or maybe I should say par for the course, Southern California was experiencing rare unseasonal rainstorms up and down the state. Tim told me it had been raining and it might rain again some more on Saturday, but I finished our conversation stating that we were coming up no matter what. When Saturday morning arrived, I turned on the tube to see what the weather was like and find out if there were any traffic jams. The Weather Channel said there might be more rain, but not a word about any bad traffic conditions. A quick check of all the other news stations drew a complete blank as well.
After feeding the dogs and filling up a quart thermos of hot coffee for the road, we jumped into the trusty Americruise Big 10 and headed out for Bakersfield. It was fast and easy sailing at 65-80 mph all the way across the L.A. basin until we blew past a dinky little orange portable sign that flashed "Interstate 5 closed at the 14 for an accident" when almost instantly all the cars around us came to a complete screeching halt. Ordinarily I would have jumped off the freeway at the next off-ramp, but at 50 mph, equaling 90 feet per second, I missed the Mission off-ramp only seconds after we spotted the puny little warning sign. At first the cars stuck in traffic with us were well-mannered and we all inched along merrily at a snail's pace, but after spending almost an hour or so to barely make any progress, things were beginning to turn a little ugly. Not much longer after it was like a new lane had opened up on the shoulder, with a whole stream of cars flying down the right-hand side. That was enough for me; I invoked the California right-of-way law that states: An old hot rod pickup with tire smoke billowing out of the rear wheelwells has the right-of-way over any newer vehicles that might cross its accelerating path.
Once we had made it off the 5 to the side streets heading away from the interstate, it was completely calm, but I couldn't get out of my mind how little warning the population of California had about this major artery being closed. Scanning the FM radio stations while we were stuck on the 5, there was nothing about it, and the only AM radio station that had any informative news was on Los Angeles' KNX 1070. Not to give any evildoers any ideas, but the whole experience left me wondering if it would have been handled any different had this situation been one of those dreaded terrorist attacks we have all been concerned about for the last six or so years. Do the guys at Homeland Security take the weekends off, or did they already suspect that the accident was most likely caused by a lost tourist rather than by a terrorist, making it not a high-level terror alert orange concern?
Well, that was more than enough space wasted on utter nonsense. Since this is the first issue of the New Year, I would like to complete my editorial by making a few predictions about exciting new things that will happen in 2008.
Paris Hilton will team with Jane Fonda to open a theme resort hotel somewhere in Indochina featuring the Charles Manson Singers as the house band appearing nightly in the Agent Orange Lounge.
Wal-Mart will ban general-interest truck magazines from their shelves featuring classic trucks on the cover that leave duped buyers feeling undernourished and slightly abused.
A general-interest truck magazine will boast the claim "custom" and "classic" prominently displayed in the positioning line on every cover that will leave duped buyers feeling undernourished and slightly abused.
The state of California will receive a huge cash grant from Homeland Security to provide for permanent multilingual freeway signs that will illuminate when a major highway has been closed due to a tourist attack. -John Gilbert