This month’s issue has all sorts of supercar and superstar stuff in it, most notably another sentimental and fascinating piece on Alois Ruf and his work by Sam Smith, but the dedicated reader will eventually work his way back to page 56 where you can read my investigation of a thoroughly diverse luxury trio. Each of them is impressive in its own right but it was the Navigator Black Label that made the strongest argument for a space in my driveway. It could replace the Silverado and a luxury car to be named later. Of course, for the $100,315 sticker price, you could get my Silverado plus a gently used Lexus LS460 or Mercedes S550.
Life is full of tough choices when you’re rich! Since I’m not rich, I’m going to keep the fleet just the way it is. My days of running a pair of brand-new full-sized Germans at any given time are long gone. On the other hand, one of my readers just alerted me to a couple of leftover 2017 Accord V6 6MT coupes in California. Surely there’s no harm in having three of those, right?
There’s just something about those old luxury cars-Cadillac, Lincoln and Chrysler. Those of you who’ve been reading my old car posts for a while can generally predict that I’ll probably be going on about some 1960s-1980s U.S. luxury sedan or coupe that most people under 30 will not recognize, nor care about. “Like, that’s old, I love my Prius/Altima/silversilvermist combover! Who cares about that ancient gas guzzling car dude?” Well, I do.
I didn’t know it was going to be the last ride of my ill-advised, midlife return to motocross, but that’s the thing about last rides – they don’t care about your plans. I had a long second over the finish line jump to ponder the fact that no part of my body was connected to my KTM, and that my children are likely to still need me around for a while longer. Why the hell am I doing this? My body survived the landing, but my hobby did not. I’d been riding beyond my diminishing abilities, and the risk was no longer acceptable.
The bike was gone after a quick wash and Craigslist ad, but the void that only speed and competition could fill remained. I’d been wanting to try autocross and track driving, but my Ford Flex wasn’t welcome at either. My girlfriend graciously offered to drive my dad-mobile so I could get a suitable sports car; it should come as no surprise she is now my wife. But I needed more than a track car, this was going to be my daily driver and kid hauler. I needed something that could do it all, and for about $20,000 used.
It’s been a pretty good two weeks for my kid. He made his BMX main and took second despite the fact that he was the youngest kid on the gate by almost two years. He set fast time of the week at our local indoor kart track. His flag football team completed an undefeated season in which he made a major percentage of the points and plays. We took our first “long” road ride together on our mountain bikes, covering 13 miles in about an hour and ten minutes.
Compared to what’s going on with this blog, however, John’s accomplishments are, like, totally boring, man!
It’s time again for another visit to the Chicago Auto Show, thanks to my friend Jim Smith. You see, he’s been attending the event for fifty years. And took quite a few pictures in that time. Lucky for us! So let’s dive into a world of Broughamage and wood-sided wagons, and see what kind of new rolling stock is on display!
It is widely acknowledged that creativity and inventiveness wane greatly in the face of youth. Einstein made his breakthroughs before thirty then famously stated that a scientist who had not made a great contribution before thirty would never do so. Writers tend to lose steam as they leave middle age, if not before. Then, of course, you have musicians, who often do their best work before they turn twenty-one and whose later efforts are often shambolic at best.
No surprise, however, that Bob Dylan is the exception to that rule. Love And Theft, recorded after his fifty-ninth birthday and slightly overlooked on its release date of September 11, 2001, stands easily among his most famous work. Most of the songs are musically simple, but that’s always been the case for the man who was born as Robert Zimmerman but whose reinvention as “Bob Dylan” was but the first of many such transformations. With Love And Theft it’s the odd rhythms of the storytelling, the wild swings between sentimentality and hard-nosed realism, the sly way in which the lyrics work their way into your ear.
Not all of the lyrics are his.
As the rain starts to fall, I take a moment to chide myself. I’m not pushing the bike hard enough. I know this because I have all these thoughts in my head: concerns about my son, some agenda items for a writing project to which I agreed a few months back but which is only now starting to eclipse all other worries as the deadline looms, the vague outline for a piece I’d like to write about Joni Mitchell’s song “Carey” and the Saturnine (as opposed to merely saturnine) pull of nostalgia for days spent in vain with a worthless lover. Were I truly pushing, there would only be the ball bearing.
“On a bike your consciousness is small. The harder you work, the smaller it gets.” That’s what Tim Krabbe says in The Rider, an absurdly perfect 148-page story of a meaningless cycling club race from 1977. Krabbe said in this book what all of us had been trying to say about road cycling for a long time. I read it on a friend’s recommendation in 2011 and immediately I thought: yes, this is it, there’s no need for any more books about bicycles, you can let that long-simmering idea go. “During the race,” Krabbe writes, “what goes round in the rider’s mind is a monolithic ball bearing, so smooth, so uniform, that you can’t even see it spin. Its almost perfect lack of surface structure ensures that it strikes nothing that might end up in the white circulation of thought.” The harder you push, the less you think. In 1999 I rode 107 miles in five hours and change as part of a two-day tour. I rode a Klein Pulse mountain bike in a long paceline of roadies. I spent the entire time attempting to not vomit. When I arrived at the finish I realized I did not remember a single thing about the ride, nor did I recall having a single useful thought for the whole time.
Krabbe is 75 years old now and still covers a weekly 45-mile ride around Amsterdam, riding at the same pace as the young Dutch hotshot roadies. I am 46 and I am struggling to get 26.2 miles done in under one hour and 48 minutes. In 2014, a Kenyan ran this same distance in 2:02. Barefoot, I think. Whereas I am on a brand-new titanium road bike of exceptional specification and unjustifiable expense. On flat ground, a domestique in the Tour de France averages 27mph. I’m averaging an unimpressive 16.7 on the move, which drops to 15.1 average for my trip because I have to wait several minutes for stoplights and crossings.
It’s time to think a little less and pedal a little harder. So that’s the trick about road cycling: it has to be mindless.
Back in 2013, I saw perhaps the finest Brougham in the wild as I have ever seen (excluding car shows): A 1977 Cutlass Supreme Brougham coupe. It was, quite simply, gorgeous. And I have a history with the Colonnade Cutlasses! That’s right folks, it’s another ’70s Brougham post. Buckle up!
Twenty-five years ago, I happened to find the complete tablature for Dire Straits’ “Sultans Of Swing” during a late-night session browsing USENET on the university VAX. I printed the whole thing out, for free, because back then my school let VAX users print whatever they wanted for free. Amazing, right? When I think of all the things I printed out at school just because I wasn’t sure if I’d ever find them again. We had no way of knowing that Google would end up buying most of the USENET archives. We had no way of knowing there would be a Google. We still thought that the Internet would end up taking us to the Singularity. What fools we were. Anyway, after printing the tab out I tossed it in a 3-ring binder. Then I forgot about it.
About five years ago, I found that binder, pulled out the tab, and fussed around until I was more or less able to play “Sultans Of Swing”. I was reasonably proud of myself for having done so. It’s a brilliant tune and there are parts where the timing is more than a little tricky. I never shared this accomplishment with anyone, so I’m not sure why YouTube thought I’d want to see the above video. Maybe the almighty algorithm knows me better than I know myself.
There are two talented musicians at work in this song, and it’s a pleasure to watch, but what impresses me the most is how well it’s been monetized. After the jump, I’ll explain all the ways that this “Sultans Of Swing” cover is making cash. Less clear than the how, unfortunately, is the who. Who’s actually getting paid? It’s not as simple as you might think.
After more than a decade of driving other people’s race cars, I’ve learned that it’s important to have The Talk as early as possible in the negotiation process. I’m not referring to “the talk” that black parents are supposed to have with their children about the police, or Derbyshire’s “the talk” that white parents are supposed to have with their children; I think both of those “talks” verge on the ridiculous. Rather, I’m referring to “the talk” about whether or not I’m going to fit in their race car.
Sometimes, as with the vast majority of GT4 racers and other customer cars, it’s not an issue. Other times, as with the majority of vintage open-wheel racers, it’s a complete impossibility. For the ones in the middle, such as the McLaren MP4-GT3 or a Caterham 300.R, it’s a matter of making it work. My fitment issues usually center around my exceptionally long torso and wider-than-normal shoulders — but there are also times that I’m just too fucking fat to fit into the seat.
Being too fat to fit into a race car does not make me a victim. It’s a reflection of my choices. Being too tall to fit into a race car does not make me a victim. It’s a natural consequence of being six-foot-two with short legs. There are writers out there, such as Chris Harris or Sam Smith or my own brother, who are literally a better fit for those opportunities. I don’t feel victimized by that. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I felt victimized by anything.
Apparently, I’m really missing out.