Disclaimer: Kids, don’t try this at home!
My family has always revolved around cars. My dad did a little drag racing in Texas while in the service and has always loved fast cars. Many of my early childhood memories revolve around working on cars, going for cruises or admiring and learning about cars from my dad. I have early memories of my dad letting me steer our family car when I was 7 or 8 years old while we in a parking lot. When my brother got his license and his first car, he would occasionally take to a nearby office park and let me drive his car.
I developed a love of speed very early on in my childhood. I can remember my dad doing burnouts and gunning the throttle in some of our early family cars. I remember riding along in our Ford Maverick as my dad briefly raced a Corvette. We didn’t win but we gave him a run for his money and the rush of speed was planted deep in my brain.
My favorite show in elementary school was The Dukes of Hazzard. Like many other young boys, I dreamed of driving the General Lee and launching it over bridges while chasing the bad guys. I even had the Dukes of Hazzard bedroom set!
My brother further fed my habit when he got his license and he and I would get the keys to the family wagon and go out for a cruise. It was a 70’s Malibu wagon with a 307 V8 in it. We would spend hours just cruising around. He would floor it when ever he got the chance and we would occasionally find someone to race on Route 9.
One day, he took me and our neighbor to the store to get ice cream. We were in the back seat happily eating our ice cream when he got the idea to jump over one of the local railroad bridges. As we sailed into the air, my neighbor and I were grinning from ear to ear. Until we landed!!! We both ended up with ice cream all over our faces and up our noses! We laughed all the way home.
The day I turned 16 1/2 and got my license, my dad handed me the keys to his 73 Ford Maverick and told me to go pick up a gallon of milk at the store. Of course, I drove to the convenience store that was the furthest from the house. I picked up the milk and proceeded to take the long way home again.
When I came to one of the main roads in town from one of the side streets, I decided I was going to spin the tires and peel out when I pulled out. His car was not stock and spun the tires pretty good. As I started to move out onto the road, the car started fish tailing from right to left. Being inexperienced, I held the throttle down and held on for dear life. Thankfully, I managed not to hit anything and made it home without further incident. My heart was beating through my chest and the adrenaline rush was intoxicating. I was further hooked! Over the course of the next 5-10 times I was granted the keys to his car, I would have two further near misses.
On the first one, I went to visit a friend in the next town over. As I got t his house, he was coming down his driveway and he told me that he and some friends were heading over to another friends house. The took off and I had to turn around and catch up. As I pulled back onto the street, the disappeared around the corner. Not knowing where I was going, I sped off to catch up. As I rounded the corner going much too fast, I realized that there was a line of cars stopped at the stop sign. I panicked and slammed on the brakes, locking them up. I started to skid and the car began to rotate on me. Luckily, the car slowed just enough and stopped spinning as I gently nudged the curb on the center island. I had managed to stop about 3 inches from the car in front of me.
The next incident was probably less than a month later. I was granted the keys so that I could take my friends to the nearby movie theater. As we entered the large parking lot, I decided I was going to impress my friends with how fast the car was. I floored the accelerator and held on for dear life. There was a small rise in the parking lot and the car got airborne. Once again, being a new driver, I panicked and hit the brakes. As we landed, the car started skidding and heading for the guardrail. I though, “This is it! I’ve pushed my luck one too many times. I will never be allowed to drive again!” Once again, luck was on my side and the wheel nudged the outer curb and pushed us away from the guardrail.
I would love to tell you that I learned my lesson and drove more conservatively there after but alas, I was a teenage boy and it would take several more near misses and 1 big crash before I finally stopped trying to be one of the Duke brothers. I still have a bit of a lead foot and sometimes push my driving skills but I keep the dangerous to video games and the go kart track. If you are smart, you will too!