From about age 5 I wanted to drive. I sat behind my father on Sunday afternoon drives and pretended I was driving the car. I knew when to brake and hit the gas, I maneuvered winding country roads, and zigged and zagged through traffic right along with him from the back seat. I was first in line at the DMV on the day I could get my learner’s permit, so by the time I was 16 and went in for my license, I was a pro.
Obtaining the driver’s license was easy. Finding wheels to call my own was the challenge. I really wanted a muscle car, but anything with a seat, a steering wheel, four tires, brakes and an accelerator pedal would do, so when the little old Mazda Rotary Engine beast pulled into my driveway, I was halfway horrified to see it, but thrilled to have my own set of wheels nonetheless.
It was the color of dirt; some kind of icky brown, oxidized beyond restoration, slightly rusting in spots. The engine sounded like a sewing machine – was that the rotary thing at work? Who knew? Who cared! It was instantly named Bullet – faster than the speed of light – not really, but it got me from point A to B with a little gas and constant oil injections so it didn’t burn up. With just this much maintenance, (car washing was out of the question – why bother), Bullet and I went all over Southern California. It was a really safe car because nobody in their right mind would get anywhere near me for fear I’d hit them with this wreck-on-wheels. Bullet was perfect.
Bullet was so much fun in fact, that we started playing a game. Each Wednesday I’d drive a distance of approximately 50 miles to my parents’ house in Ojai from the San Fernando Valley. Used to take about an hour to get there on the back roads. Could I top that speed? The following week, I bettered my time by 5 minutes – a 55 minute trip. Repeated and broke the record the following week – 50 minutes. We were almost flying. But could I do it in 45 minutes?
The next week Bullet and I took off from my house. The weather was clear and dry, the commuter traffic was already gone. Nothing could stand in the way of us breaking the land speed record. Faster, faster, we took the turns and hunkered down on the straight-aways. Bullet and I were flying! It was going to happen. The fastest time yet! 70 mph, 75, 80, then 85 – Bullet was clanking and groaning, but there was no stopping us! Then…..
Oh yes there was. Glancing back in my mirror there was a looming CHP officer, lights and sirens flashing. Rats! The officer stepped out of his car and came around to my door. “Do you know that you were going faster than 65?” he asked. “Really?” I said. “Wow, I didn’t think this car could even go 65.” He decided to write me up for going faster than the posted speed limit of 65 and as I signed the ticket I smiled (knowing how fast we were really going) and thanked him.
I don’t know who owns Bullet now, but I’m sure they’re as delighted with that bucket of nuts and bolts and fire and I was. Good times.