There are few things in modern life as simple and thrilling as a two seat sports car on a winding faded highway. Guys of all ages love this stuff. Women think it is a sign of a mid-life crisis. I remember such a trip that also involved some youthful stupidity.

The car was an MGA, worn out even in 1966. The trip took us from Tuscaloosa to Guin, fifty miles of meandering, mostly forgotten blacktop. The reason was the same as it always was at sixteen. Come to think of it, that reason doesn’t change much as one gets older.

There were five of us and not one was smart enough to give up their spot. For any sensible person, it might seem dangerous. We weren’t sensible, we were teenagers. As long as we didn’t run into a representative of the law, or responsible adults we’d be okay.

If our parents had found out, we’d still be grounded. If they had known why we went, we would have been neutered. The trip gave us a mission and provided a story to tell. In retrospect it was damn well worth it.

Randy spent a few weeks each summer visiting his grandparents in Guin, a sleepy, stagnant community in northwest Alabama. The family next door included a teenage girl. She and Randy decided there were enough babes in Guin for several big city boys. That was how the whole scheme materialized.

Like a lot of really stupid ideas, no one was willing to suffer the abuse associated with pointing out obvious problems. Since no one said no, the plan gained momentum. Corporate staff meetings operate on the same principle.

When we left that Saturday afternoon, the sun was out, hopes were high, and we all expected an evening to remember. A cramped ride in a two-seater sports car was nothing when free spirited country girls were waiting to be charmed.

I was in the trunk going up. Road trips take on a whole other dimension when you are wedged against a spare tire smelling exhaust fumes. When we arrived, Randy’s grandparents’ amazement grew as more and more teenage boys climbed from the car.

The girl next door was as surprised as Randy’s grandparents. I guess she didn’t know teenage boys very well. We called her bluff and she folded, and then snuck back home.

Guin didn’t offer much excitement to the locals, so it offered nothing at all to young visitors. We put off the return trip mainly because no one was mentally ready to re-assemble for the ride back to Tuscaloosa.

By the time we did start home, night had arrived and the air was much cooler. We couldn’t all fit inside with the roof up so we cranked up the heat and drove south, cramped and topless.

I was curled up in the floor of the passenger seat with Randy’s feet resting on me. Every joint in my ancient body quivers at the thought of two hours in the same cramped position but I was warmer than any of my co-conspirators.

The return trip was long but uneventful. My granddaddy used to say, “God takes care of drunks, fools, and babies.” We were two thirds qualified only because we looked too young to buy beer.

As soon as we limbered up and thawed out, we started to enjoy the trip more and began speaking to Randy again. Within a year it was one of our folk tales; shared with newcomers around the council fire.

Seen through the softening power of many years recollection, this adventure is now one of our highlights. Given the opportunity, every one of us would probably do it again.

Mike Cox

Mike Cox

Mike Cox currently writes a weekly column in South Carolina for the Columbia Star called "It's Not a Criticism, It's an Observation." He is trying to grow old as gracefully as possible without condemning the current generation in charge to doom. Each day this task gets harder as the overwhelming evidence mounts. He currently has two published books; Finding Daddy Cox, and October Saturdays. His columns have won three South Carolina Press Association awards since 2003. Mike has three sons and two grandchildren and lives in Irmo, Sc, just outside of Columbia.

One Comment
  1. Frank Povah

    This brings back memories, Mike. A mate and I once crossed the Nullarbor Plain in his MG A. Back then it was more than 1000 miles of potholed dirt between Perth and Adelaide and with no spare (we didn’t realize it’d fallen off the back till we had gone too far to turn around and get a new one) we were forced to travel mostly in second gear – some of the bulldust holes were almost as big as the car. This meant that every couple of hours or so we had to stop and turn the car into the wind to cool it down. It took us nearly a week! By the time we got to the tar again the car had a couple of inches of red dust inside it and we weren’t much better. Your granddad, like mine, was right grandparents always are), but I never heard the babies bit.

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