Sunday, May 8, 2011

The End of the line, or how the 914 simply rusted away

College behind me, disappearing in the rearview mirror, it was time to head out of Austin to seek fame and fortune up in the Big D; or better known as a paying job and Dallas. I had to move back in with my Mom until I landed a job so the 914 was drafted into long distance service as I was still dating a gal in Austin, plus I was still working a few bartending shifts during the weekends for spending and gas money.

During the week, I was in full-on job search mode. I did the usual, sent out a lot of resumes, went on lots of interviews, talked to plenty of headhunters and come Friday afternoon, would head down to Austin. There was a weekly rhythm to it and this ritual went on for several months. Our country was in the grips of another short term recession and the job market was non-existent in Austin and pretty tough in Dallas too. Each trip down was a mini adventure as I was not sure how the 914 would fare. It was quickly getting to the end of its useful life. The rust had started to eat away at the suspension pickup points and the whole car was starting to get flexible. Not exactly the kind of thing that installed plenty of confidence driving a car 200 miles each way.

In late-April everything came to a head. The gal I had been dating did not like the long distance part of our relationship and she made it quite clear she was not going anyplace, so something had to give. I drove down one warm Thursday evening and was just outside of Austin near Georgetown, when I got a flat. It was the right rear tire. I went to the front trunk to get the spare and the jack and went about changing it. Now I-35 is not your safest patch of asphalt in the world (and today it is plenty worse), but I was safely off to the side on the shoulder, somewhat protected as cars and semis zoomed past. Problem was, it was dark, I did not have a flash light and had to kind of feel around for everything. That was where I ran into trouble.

Remember a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that the rust had even corroded the slots where the jack stands are inserted into the side of the car to raise it? Well they were corroded almost completely shut, rust having moved in on a permanent basis. Crap! I wedged the jack into the receptacle as far as it would go and tried to raise the car. I got it pretty high in the air, enough to take off the flat tire, which I did. But then suddenly the jack support gave out and car fell to the ground, the jack stand lying on its side, wedged below the car. Fortunately I was not under the car when it collapsed, but now I was completely screwed.

The options were limited; cell phones were not exactly common back in 1986. So I was resigned to walking to the exit I had just passed and trying to find a tow truck. But as luck would have it a Good Samaritan had seen the car fall, so he took the next exit and circled back around to see if he could help. He had a huge floor jack with him along with a flash light. We had the car raised, the spare on and the car lowered in less than 10 minutes. I thanked him profusely and he said it was no big deal; he was just helping a fellow motorist. Nice guy!

That weekend was pretty eventful. I bought four new tires (the other ones were in pretty bad shape, I kept the best one as the spare), got a call on Friday with a job offer, oh and on Monday morning as I was about to head back to Dallas, the gal I had been dating broke up with me. I was usually sad to see Austin fade in my rearview mirror as I headed back north on I-35. It held so many memories of good times and bad. For me it still holds a special feeling, a great city where there is so much to do, see and especially hear. But not that Monday; it was bittersweet heading north towards Dallas, where everything seemed new and hopeful, like a new chapter in my life was about to unfold and be written. Thinking back to everything that happened in the topsy-turvy weekend, there was one unintended side effect…I grew up.

I think the car slamming to the ground was probably the straw the broke the camel’s back. It made all sorts of scarping sounds and did not track straight at all. It was in its dying throws. I had to get rid of it fast. Calling around, nobody wanted to buy it, but I found this one wholesaler (I cannot for the life of me remember how I found this guy) and he liked the car, rust, flexing body and all and would trade me for this motorcycle he happened to have (and needed to get rid of). It was a Suzuki GS-550E and was like new. I gave him the keys to the 914, the title and $200 cash. The red 914 looked sad as he and a friend loaded it onto a car hauler, the rust having finally taken its toll. Maybe he wanted it for parts, because for sure he could not have wanted it to drive, it was too far gone. In return, I was now in the possession of reliable transportation. And for those rainy days, I had the use of a 1966 Mustang which my mom had ended up with (but that is another story). Here is a photo in case none of you have seen a GS-550E, a very nice mid-level bike. And exactly what I needed at that point of time in my life.

Started the new job May 1st, I was now firmly on the path that has sometimes quietly, sometimes not, has lead me to the place where I am today. Thank God that the fateful weekend in Austin had intervened, in all reality, that path was never going to be the right one. I would have never met and married the wonderful woman that has been my wife for 20+ years, had two great children (well most of the time…), would have never owned another seven Porsches. That old girlfriend would have never allowed me to enjoy something that much….

See you all next week.

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