Tuesday, June 25, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 16

Santa Maria Sun / Humor

The following article was posted on August 6th, 2008, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 9, Issue 21 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 9, Issue 21

Let's hear it for the boys

Krider takes on a Cordoba, some wild stories, and a metal grinder in search of family-free fun


Most of the summer I have been a good boy, and I’ve spent a lot of time with my kids and my wife, whom I love. We frequented the beach, the lake, amusement parks, museums, and even the La Brea Tar Pits. Essentially, most of my summer was spent driving around looking for the cleanest bathroom in Los Angeles, which, it turns out, is actually in Santa Barbara. And if I wasn’t searching for a sterile john every 15 miles, I was looking for a drive-thru fast food restaurant that has a vegetarian meal for my environmentally savvy son, red meat for my carnivore daughter, and salad for my diet-conscious wife. And I wanted this unrealistic fast food haven to be right next to the freeway with, of course, a clean bathroom. It would have been easier to find the Holy Grail.

So, after a few weekends in a row playing bathroom scavenger hunt alongside the picky-eating family with the small bladders, I was looking for a weekend with no kids and no wife. Dad needed a vacation from all of his family vacationing. I needed a weekend with the guys. My wish was to come true in the form of a car project in the Bay Area. The plan was simple: Kiss the wife and kids goodbye, drive up north, see some of my old buddies from high school, and spend two days transforming a 1976 Chrysler Cordoba into a demolition derby car under the gracious tutelage of the derby experts at Third Street Auto Repair. The trip would be just like the show Monster Garage, without Jessie James, the television cameras, or the $5,000 budget.

I got up before the sun on Saturday and drove northbound. I didn’t spend a week planning the trip, and I didn’t spend a day shopping for new clothes before I packed. In fact, I didn’t even really pack. I just wrapped my toothbrush in a pair of underwear, tossed them on my front seat, and hit the road. Without the family in tow, my travels were direct and quick. I never stopped to use the bathroom, and when I was hungry I chewed on my fingernails. The whole idea was to get where I was going, not tour every freeway exit and rate restroom cleanliness.

When I arrived (in record time, I might add), I found that our working conditions for transforming the Chrysler were not the best. The Cordoba was in a dirt lot with small rocks ready to puncture our backs while we tinkered underneath the car. There was no shade, and the sun had already heated up the metal body enough to cook cheeseburgers. Our tools consisted of a cracked 5-gallon bucket filled with random wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers, and, last but not least, a sledgehammer. Our bathroom was nothing but a half-dead berry bush (good thing my wife didn’t come).

My friends and I had a ton of work to do and not much time to get it done. The fair was coming up the following weekend, and we needed the car ready for the demolition derby, which is sometimes called the “smash up” derby or “guys who are dumb enough to climb into an old car and run into each other in front of a crowd” derby. We were required to strip the car of its interior, any plastic exterior pieces, and all window glass (hence the sledgehammer). We also had to re-wire the car, move the battery into the interior, and install a new gas tank. There would be no time for strategy sessions or lunch location debates, just hard, manual, knuckle-busting labor.

A good ol’ boy named John arrived around 10 a.m., dropped down a 12-pack of Coors Light, and announced, “I brought you guys a case of water.” For breakfast he was eating a 7-11 chilidog covered in nacho cheese. Another friend of mine, Jeremy, mysteriously showed up with a welder. When I asked him where he got it, he shrugged and said, “I borrowed the welder from work—they don’t exactly know about it, but it’s here, so let’s use it.” We got right to our project and within minutes we were each submerged in dirt, grease, and foul language.

As we thrashed on the Chrysler Cordoba (now called simply The ’Doba), we traded stories filled with exaggerations about romantic conquests, speeding tickets, and record tequila consumption. You could safely use the 50 percent rule with anything we said that weekend, all of it being 50 percent total B.S. with the other 50 percent the truth, but probably the truth for someone else, not the guy actually telling the story.

John was using a metal grinder that had a broken handle (don’t try this at home, kids) and he was telling us all a story about another demolition derby car he built and then crashed into a tree during a test drive, when the grinder jumped off of the car and hit him in the chest. For those of you not real familiar with metal grinders and their contact with human flesh, let me just tell you this: IT’S UGLY AND BAD! We all ran over to John and saw that his T-shirt was torn open over his breast pocket. He reached in pulled out a pack of Marlboro Reds and found that the outside of the cigarette pack was also cut from the grinder. His chest only received a minor scratch (minor in metal grinder terms, he was still bleeding a lot). He frantically opened up the pack of cigarettes and announced, “Oh, man that was close—if the grinder had cut my smokes in half, I would’ve had to go to the store.”

With that, he pulled out a fresh cig and lit up. Standing there, covered in dirt, leaning against The ’Doba and bleeding, he took a drag off his cigarette and then got right back to finishing his half true story.

At that moment, I realized John may have been the toughest guy I’d ever met and that we had just witnessed probably the first time in the history of the world where cigarettes actually saved a man’s life.

I also knew there wasn’t a vacation destination on the planet that I’d rather be at other than working on an old car with some old friends.

Rob and his buddies barely survived the completion of their demolition derby project. Now Rob has to find the courage to actually drive the thing.

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