Saturday, June 16, 2007

Don't Bug BritBox

The insects are bad this year. They've become a nuisance much sooner in the season than they have in the past. Sure, there's chemicals and bug zappers and martins and bats and whatnot, but the best way to swat a bug is to use the windshield of a speedy little roadster. Think of the crusty insect-remains as being like notches in your motoring gun—the greenish-yellow badge of courage, if you will.

A formidable warrior is what you are. You can be found by following the trail of your enemies' dead bodies—except the little bitty corpses are stuck to your glass and grille.

It doesn't do any good to complain. After all, it was only a couple of months ago that the weather was too bitter for BritBox to even consider going out for a top-down scoot in a Sporty Red Car. Too cold, too hot, too buggy. Maybe BritBox should shut up and move Out West where the bugs are mostly on the ground or in your boots.

The Sporty Red Car got a long-overdue soak-scrub-and-rinse two nights ago. That was one skanky classic British sports car, BritBox assures you. A stucco of various insect species had formed a protective coating over the front-facing surfaces of the car. Dust from the recent (and current) drought clung to the Triumph like that shabby gray sweater your aunt wore, although hers probably lacked the bird poop accents. Does a clean car really go faster? It certainly feels like it does. BritBox thinks so. Something to do with reduced wind resistance, or more likely, the recovery of smooth and shiny dignity.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Where My Car Sleeps

My car dozes in the garage,
talks in its sleep—
the tailpipe ticks, expanded metals
contract towards entropy,
displaced fluids find new levels
defined by the tiebreaker, gravity.

I die a little in bed each night
like my car.
Hands crossed over breast,
I unscrew the fine-threaded bolts
that connect reality to desire.
If time ran faster
my rust would hiss.

The sleeping car dreams
about driving me: it pushes me
to the limit of adhesion.
We drift through sudden apexes.
As I beetle down narrow roads,
my car opens me up all the way.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Spring Bling

The end of March is the gateway to Spring. It's a time of transition: the Northern Hemisphere peels off sensible layers, exposing its dark and sweaty mushroom-world of undergarments once again. The outdoors smell like something spoiled that's been taken out of the freezer to thaw on the kitchen counter and spoil some more. This is transient—all soon to be replaced by the fresh scent of fast-growing grasses and optimistic flowers.

Who are we kidding here? This is Ohio, and BritBox can count on frost up until Mother's Day in May. It would be a good idea to wait a few more weeks before getting all excited and putting expensive annuals into the ground. Relax. By August you'll be so sick of lawn and garden maintenance you'll be wishing everything was all dead and gone. You will find yourself idly flipping through the Yellow Pages, perusing asphalt and concrete contractors.

Go outside. Drive your sporty car if you can. Fix it if you must. These are the happy times, the habitable times, the hospitable times to own a classic British car. Even a Fiat, what the heck. BritBox ran into one of those guys last week at the Englewood Reserve (no, not literally) and he had just completed the restoration of his rear-engined 850 Spider. The powerplant is about the size of your grandma's Singer sewing machine, and probably has as much torque. Thank goodness for favorable power-to-weight ratios. The Fiat guy made nice comments about The Favorite TR250 and took pictures with his camera phone. A Triumph owner could begin to believe their car is big and powerful after hanging out with the Fiat crowd for a while.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Salt and Battery

What a harsh winter it's been. Not just the sub-frigid arctic temperatures, or the alternating blizzards and ice storms, or even the snot freezing inside one's nose. The worst part has been the sequence and frequency of these events. BritBox loves to brag about the number of miles The Sporty Red Car gets driven during the winter. Not necessarily with the top down—BritBox is boastful but not insane, this is OHIO, man!—but circumstances have conspired against BritBox and The Favorite TR250.

What's lacking here is the usual pattern of Snow, Salt, Thaw, Rain, Dry that creates a window of opportunity to keep car and driver's fluids stirred up from the bottom of the pot. Recharge the batteries and all that. This year's cycle has been more like Rain, Rain, Snow, Snow, Salt, Ice, Snow, Salt, Ice, Rain, Snow. The few clear days that even begin to suggest a quick blast down the gray lanes between canyons of snow are spoiled by the amazing skid marks of salt excreted by ODOT trucks at each and every intersection. They could probably get another day's ice control out of these deposits if they would scoop them up for redistribution.

BritBox has nothing against salt, not really. Well, maybe a little. Sure, in moderate amounts it is a necessary nutritional component, as well as the previously mentioned ice management compound of choice. Some people cannot eat a potato without it. It is great for rubbing into wounds when you want to, for example, add insult to injury or whatever. In BritBox's case, salt has kind of assumed the role of boogeyman—it is tough on the seasoned remains of forty-year-old British steel that forms the physical shell of The Sporty Red Car. It turns out that it is also tough on the seasoned remains that form the physical shell of BritBox's forty-year-old-plus ticker.

Note to self: lay off the salt while gazing through the back window at the garage where The Favorite TR250 slumbers in chilly hibernation. A relaxing little scoot down to the nature reserve would do wonders for blood pressure reduction, but it's not going to happen today. The salt on the roadways of Ohio wants to kill one of us, and the sodium in a can of soup will surely take out the other.

Monday, January 08, 2007

S'no Event

Well, now. Winter in North America is an exciting time, you bet. The roads are saltier than Chinese take-out food—too much salt for low-sodium classic British cars—and the next time the driveway needs to be shoveled could be the one that punches your cardiac ticket. What to do?

It's hard to ignore the smothering irony of steep food and oil prices versus cheap and available technological doodads. The cost of gasoline rides a crazy roller coaster between $2.00 and $3.00 per gallon—this depends on complex factors like one of ten thousand Saudi princes getting a paper cut while counting his money, or a mother duck leading her ducklings across the truck entrance of a Texas oil refinery, effectively blocking shipments at their source.

Meanwhile, in sunny, cheerful, and decadent Las Vegas you can forget about your nutrition and transportation worries by attending the CES—the annual Consumer Electronics Show. This show is a rowdy, circus-like marketing extravaganza designed to introduce new gizmos and whatchamacallits to an eager and adoring public. If you can't find something shiny and expensive at the CES, you are already dead and have just not yet figured it out.

One of BritBox's favorite new toys is the amazing little nugget called the Apple iPod Shuffle. It looks like a refrigerator magnet but is packed with 1Gb of memory—about 240 songs worth. Sweet. The little guy sells for only $79.00 and it's hard to believe that this kind of technology is available to the boys and girls on the street. What fun they'll have!

Don't tell them that replacement batteries are $59.00.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Life In The Slow Lane

Move over.

The left-hand lane is for passing—why are you just loafing along at two MPH below the posted speed limit? Yes, that conversation with your beloved is quite distracting: No, really, I don’t care if it’s Pizza Hut or Domino’s. Yes. No. Anything—let’s just make one a deluxe and the other half-onion and half-mushroom.

Okay, so now you’re vaguely aware that other motorists are right on your rear bumper, and that traffic to your right is passing you. This would be a good time for you to move the heck over, but instead you accelerate to two MPH over the speed limit and glare defiantly into your rearview mirror while thumbing your way to Pizza Hut’s number on your cell phone.

Lucky for you, this is not Germany, a country interconnected by many stretches of roadway without a maximum speed limit. They take high-speed motoring pretty seriously over there—beer vending machines at Autobahn rest stops notwithstanding—and the Polizei will cheerfully pop a cap in your ass for dawdling in the Go Fast lane. That’s what BritBox heard somebody say once at a party or somewhere.

Lane ownership is ugly, evil, and stupid. Huge-normous, wide, congested interstate highways are the common means by which Getting From Point A to Point B is achieved, but the individual approaches to using them can be divided into two main groups.

Some motorists, and this group includes BritBox, see highway travel as a vaguely depressing but ultimately efficient means of semi-convenient destination fulfillment. True motoring satisfaction is found in the exploration of sudden negative camber curves that precede narrow covered bridges—the thump of a sporty British car’s Yokohama tires on cracked and patched two-lane blacktop.

The other group includes the casual motorists, the consumers of transportation resources, the living dead who clog the highways in their insulated, isolated, Nissan Maxima coffins. It’s easy to identify the champions of lane ownership even when they are separated from their vehicles. They are the ones who eat the last pork chop without asking, who don’t thank you when you hold a door for them, who push a cart loaded with thirty items into the ten-item-or-less lane at the supermarket—oblivious the whole time because they are yapping on a cell phone: No, I don’t care—what do you want to do? No. Nope. Boring. What else? Maybe just pizza, that sounds fine.

Move over.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Oh, Deer

Yes, it's that time of the year again—time for deer to traverse woods and farmlands while playing their instinctive game of Frogger. Despite dedicated efforts by mankind to thin their herds, wild deer populations appear to be on the increase. BritBox wishes no harm to these gentle creatures, and venison is low on BritBox's list of protein sources; it would just be great if these roaming ruminants would simply look both ways before crossing the street. Please.

BritBox likes to commute with The Sporty Red Car on almost any clear, salt-less day, and will probably average about three or four hundred miles per month until Spring, when the top goes down and the road mileage goes up. The twenty-eight mile trek to The Day Gig is best enjoyed by taking the wandering, rolling rural roads found here in southwestern Ohio. Meadowlarks, red-winged blackbirds, hawks, quail, squirrels, cats, and dogs seem to possess the requisite road savvy. But deer? BritBox has witnessed a depressing number of deer hits and near-misses over the past few years.

Here's a recent example: BritBox was busting ass down Lutheran Church Road earlier this week, late as usual. The little round lady who walks her four small dogs (each one a different breed) every morning was walking opposite BritBox's direction on the left-hand shoulder—she should know better than to use that side of the road! BritBox lifted slightly on the accelerator and waved to her, a jaunty little wave, glancing in the door mirror while passing by to see if she waved back. She did not. BritBox looked straight ahead again, just in time to nearly clip the tail of a full grown doe crossing from the right at a very high rate of speed. No time for brakes or avoidance: it was that quick. The doe had sprung out from the tree line that crowded this road, and she was trying to catch up with the rest of her small herd that could now be seen far off in the field to the left.

It's not hard to imagine the kind of damage that a two hundred pound animal could do in a collision with a twenty-two hundred pound car at over fifty miles per hour. If The Favorite TR250 had not slowed for the Dog-Walking Lady, the doe would have likely run full speed into the passenger-side door. If BritBox had gone slightly faster, the roadster would have hit the deer full-on instead of just grazing the white of its tail.

British sports car were made to drive, and deer were made to run. It is an unfortunate reality that geometry, physics, time, and fate will conspire to occasionally kill innocent herbivores and destroy recently restored sheet metal. This conspiracy is a reminder that there is more to motoring than wind in the hair, bump-oversteer, heel-and-toeing, and the sweet smell of incomplete combustion.

The MG guys say it best:

"Safety, Fast"