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Figbuck Chronicles...


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I lived in San Mateo California about 1977 or so. I was a broke starving musician and was working a day job as an apprentice carpenter for $5 an hour. I lived in an old house that my girl friend and I rented for $150 a month. The pipes were rusty and the water in the house was terrible, so once a week we would throw a bunch of containers in the '73 620 and drive out near Half Moon Bay where there was a natural spring by the side of the highway. The spring had been there forever and there were always people waiting in line to get water during the day, so we would go out there late at night.


One night we were blasting over the Santa Cruz Mountians out to the coast, when all of a sudden something went bang and then a loud rapping sound. I pulled right over and shut it down. I got out my flashligh and looked at everything in the engine bay. Everything looked OK. I fired it up and could tell that the knocking sound was from the cam/valve train area.


The sound would speed up and slow down with the engine RPMs. I didn't seem like it was going to blow up and so I got out my tool box and pulled the valve cover. I couldn't see anything in the dark and so I closed it back up and we drove over the mountain got water and came back. About a thirty mile trip with the engine knocking big time but running fine.


The next morning I called the contractor I worked for and said that I had to fix the truck. I pulled the vlave cover and in the light could see that the number three intake rocker arm had lost the little round piece that sits on top of the intake vlave. It's smaller than a dime and has a slot on top for the rocker arm. It is called a rocker arm pivot guide. I went to the Datsun dealer and bought a new one for ninty three cents. I put it back in and adjusted all the valves.


I started to get worried about where this little piece went and what might happen if it got into the wrong place. I pulled the oil pan and looked all over the place. No rocker arm pivot guide.



Fast forward to 1995, a couple hundred thousand miles more and I needed to do a rebuild. I had forgotten all about that incedent. I pulled the engine and bolted it to a stand. When I removed the timing cover, there was the little pivot guide sitting on a ledge in the block right behind the timing chain, sort of stuck in a puddle of sludgy oil, kinda glued there.

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i had something like that happen the first time i rebuilt the 302 in my 67 mustang.

i forgot to tighten down the rockers on 1 side.

took it for a test drive at it hauled ass.

bout 45min later it started running like crap, died and that was that.

tow it back, take the covers off and it was painfully obvious what happened :blink:

no harm - no foul :cool:


its a good reason to carry a good flash light with ya.

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Guest 510kamikazifreak

Hahahhha the tales of the auto mishaps are the thing that make the auto great:lol:

Had more than my share:blink:

One time was on a ralley here on the rock,in a lowered 510,All is good (off road ralley) ripping it up,litterally,bounch bounch bang bang,pooof goes a tire ,no biggie change it,about 3 hrs later(6 am) bamm goes the hood(wtf) cant see oh my,pull over ,all the bouncing must of rattled the Ratsun hood latch loose,no worries we have a bungy,tie the hood down,on the gravel we roll again,oopps band,hmm what was that ,hmm i forgot to torque the crank pully (hmm out it goes through the rad(oh no)well hmm good thing I have a spare rad) you know off road needs lotsa spares, rads in lets roll, well about 600 am rolling along bamm goes the bungy on a hair pin,bang goes the car into a bank,pss goes the rad

AHHH all in FUN:lol::mellow:

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This is from the 'if it ain't fixed ... don't break it' files.


Back around '76, wow 30 years ago, I got my first Datsun. A 510. I got a new 210 that year probably because of the neat little 510. Anyway I got it off a doper I worked with for $50. Told you he was a dope. He put a starter in it and just wanted his money back out of it. He never got the ownership in his name and told me he got it of some old guy who was the original owner.


Now back in the late '60s in Ontario (it was a '68) it was common to have your car rust proofed against the incredibly salty winters. Ziebart was the big name for this and the little 510 had one of their stickers. They drill holes in the body and spray a black waxy stuff on anything and everything that will rust. Everything under the hood was black including about 1/4 of the rad. Over spray had plugged the fins, it ran fine but I felt that with my spirited driving is needed more cooling. I got a Pop-cicle stick and carefully cleaned out the crap all over the fins and this took the better part of an hour. Then took it for a drive.


Of course it overheated! Rad is now wet where it was fine (and dry) before. Spent the next Sat. in j/y pulling a similar Datsun rad and paid $20 for it!!! That's a lot 30 years ago. By Sat. night I'm back where I was two days earlier and short $20 and some anti freeze.

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  • 1 month later...

'if it ain't fixed ... don't break it' file. Aint that how we learned anything?


This is from the I can't believe I survived my misspent youth file.


I was looking through a big box of old photographs and I found a ticket stub from 1974. It reminded me of an incident that I had completely forgotten.




My Mom had this ('69 I think?) Datsun 510 that she bought in 1970 from a family friend who owned Datsun and Ford dealerships. He sold it to her for cheap because they had used it as a "demonstrator". It had fifteen hundred miles on it and was clean as a whistle. A four door, it was yellow and had cool black graphics on the hood and chrome wheels. It had these after market chrome wraparound bumpers with fog lamps and every dealer option or cool thing that you could get, including suspension upgrades. It had dual cigarette lighters that had to be a factory thing. It would look cheesy now, but it was very cool back in the day, right? That little sucker was a rocket ship for the time.




I was about 22 yeas old and had been drafted into the Army. To keep from going to Viet Nam, I enlisted for a extra year to get a deal where I could pick the duty station of my choice and my military occupation. I worked it out where I was a woodwind player in the 6th Army band at the Presidio in San Francisco. I pretty much had taken a lemon and made lemonade.


I had to keep a room with a bunk and locker at the band barracks, but they would let you have a little off post housing allowance. I had a very cool, cheap apartment with a garage in the Mission District that I rented from my Grandmother. Except that I couldn't grow my hair long, I was pretty much kickin' it, or gettin' over... "skating" as they would say at that time.


My parents had moved "down the Peninsula" to the suburbs in San Mateo, California. When my Dad retired, they went on a trip to Europe. I was to drive them to the airport. I had bought my '73 620 and so I needed to use one of their cars.




My dad would not let me drive his Mustang and my Mom made me promise to wash and wax the 510 and put it in the garage.




You have to understand that this was a long time ago. It was during the period of Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n Roll. At least it was in California. I was a musician and lived and breathed music. I was jamming and playing with all kinds of rock and jazz groups as well as professional gigs in pit orchestras. My day gig was as an Army Bandsman. That situation was so lax, that we only had to show up in the morning for roll call, maybe an hour rehearsal, and then we had the rest of the day off. We only had to play official ceremonies a few times a month. It gave me lots of time to practice and rehearse my own stuff. Never was issued a weapon, just two sets of Class A Blue uniforms for parades and ceremony. It also gave me lot's of free time to get in trouble.


There was so much music happening at that time in the Bay Area and every night I was either giging, rehearsing, or going to hang in some club to check out my friends bands or sit in. In the world of jazz music, the artist that was changing the musical landscape like nobody else was Miles Davis. Miles was the first "jazz" group that I ever saw live. I went to see the Grateful Dead at the Fillmore West and Miles was on the bill with his Bitches Brew fusion band that won Grammies for the double album of the same name. That performance changed my whole perspective on music and what being a musician was about.


The more I played in rock bands, the more bored with pop and rock music I became. I started to hang out in the mostly black jazz clubs around town. My favorite place was the legendary Keystone Korner in North Beach. I used to go see guys like George Benson and Grover Washington Jr., Art Blakey, McCoy Tyner, etc. for like three and a half or four buck cover charge and a one drink minimum. When Miles electric band got booked, the tickets were seven bucks a set. Damn, that was the most I ever spent for a ticket, but it was the hippest event and hottest ticket in town. I remember getting two tickets for Tuesday night and four tickets for Friday night, so I could take a hot little singer chick that I wanted to impress, and see both shows.


Because I grew up in San Francisco, I was well connected. Some of my buddies in the Army Band were far from home and living in the barracks, so I always got ask if I knew where to get drugs. I didn't want to be a little ounce bag for ten buck dealer or middleman at all, but I wanted to help the troops out... know what I'm sayin'? I knew a drummer who was junkie and moved hundreds of pounds of weed a month. He lived in the City not too far from where I did, but his band had a house way down in the Santa Cruz Mountains. They used it as a studio/drug warehouse, because it was so remote. I thought to my self, if I can buy some bulk, I can make my ticket money back and then these guys won't bug me all the time for dime bags.


OK, so I take my parents to the Airport and go back to their house, I called the drummer to see if he is down south too. He says come on up, I got pounds for $150. I disconnected the spedo cable in the 510, because I knew that my parents would have noted the milage. I took the 510 up into the mountains, cop the guys a nice looking pound. Of course I was wringing the 510 out through the twisty mountain roads. On the way back down I was just flying. I had that thing sideways. I go back to my parents house and wash the car, raid the icebox and fall asleep on the couch.


When I finally woke up, I realized that it was getting really late and I would have to get going fast. I thought that driving the 620 would be too slow and the spedo cable was still discoed in the 510... I'll take it to the City! I jump in the car and blast up the freeway at 85mph. In those years, there was a fraction of the traffic there is today and people that commuted up and down the highway 101 corridor from San Jose to San Francisco cruised at seventy five all the time.


It was a twenty five mile trip and I was thinking that I wasn't going to make it before the doors opened and would probably have to sit in the back. There used to be a double decker freeway that went from the Bay Bridge Anchorage along the Embarcadero ending at the foot of North Beach and was the main way to get to Fisherman's Wharf and the tourist spots. It was damaged in the '89 Loma Preita earthquake and was demolished.


Once you exited off 101 onto the Embarcadero Freeway, the north bound lanes were on the bottom deck and south bound on the top deck. There were no other on ramps or off ramps between for three or so miles. I was going pretty fast and there was no traffic. I looked in my rear view mirror and didn't see any cars, so I just rolled the throttle on nice and hard. I had that L16 at redline for quite a few seconds. At way over a hundred you cover ground quickly. I was looking ahead as hard as I could so I could stop at the stop light at the end of the freeway. The light turned yellow just as I got to the end of the off ramp. My heart is pounding and I decide not to risk blowing the red light. I stomp on the brakes and slide to a stop.


A couple seconds later, I'm drumming my fingers on the steering wheel looking at my watch and the dashboard clock. I glance in the rear view and there is a California Highway Patrolman coming to an abrupt stop in the lane right behind me. ohmy.gif

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:w00t: :w00t: :w00t:


My little brain starts spinning. I wonder where he came from. There are no on ramps or exits, no maintenance turn outs to hide in. Did he see me? I never saw anything behind me the whole way along this elevated race track. If he took the off ramp from highway 101 like me, then he had to have been going as fast as I was to get here this quick.


The light turns green and I don't react immediately. When I take off, He doesn't turn his lights on me,but follows me for a couple of blocks. I'm freaking and I panic. He is about four or five car lengths behind me. I put on my right turn signal and turn onto Sansome Street. In the rear view he keeps going straight up Columbus. Great, I lost him!. I grab second gear and launch down to the next street, hang a right, then sprint back up the next one way street at 5200rpm.


I turn back onto the bottom of Columbus Avenue and get stopped at the next light. I look in the mirror and there he is! When the light turns green, he lights me up with that one red side spot light that they used to have before the light bars. It just strikes terror in you heart. I pull over and it's a middle aged patrolman that asks me for my license and reg. Nowadays they would routinely go back and call in for wants. He just stood there looking at me. I told him that it was registered to my parents and I just took them to the airport. He said that the reason he stopped me was for going 35 in a 25 on Sansome Street.


I was having a hard time processing that because, when I turned the corner to loose him, I went purposely slow until I saw him go by. I didn't have a reaction. I had no idea how he got back behind me. It was like he appeared out of thin air.


He asks me where I was going in such a hurry. I said that I was going to see Miles at Keystone. He looks at me with raised eyebrows. I go, "You know Miles Davis... uh, jazz music? Well man, he is like one of the most famous artists in the world, and shoot man, uh, I got to get going, you know how bad it is finding a parking place on Vallejo Street."


He says,"OK, OK, I see. If you get into an accident and get killed you are going to miss that performance." He is already writing me a ticket. I sign it, he gives me a copy and walks back to his patrol car trying to avoid traffic. I roll up the window, read that it's a two point situation because it's a moving violation. I signal and pull out into traffic, leaving the Hypo parked at the curb.


I throw the ticket onto the passenger floor and it lands on the crumpled brown shopping bag I put the pound of weed in.


:w00t: :w00t: :w00t:


Oh yeah, Miles was unbelievable.

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  • 1 month later...

The rest of the story is, that I played music professionaly for 11 years and pretty much burned out on the whole scene. Lost the desire to play for a long time too. My parents were so Donna Reed, Ward Clever that they were in terminal suburban middle class denial.


Thanks, I like to write. I have friends that write for a living. I'm sticking to my day job.


In this new year of 2008, I'm giving my 'ol 620 some TLC. This afternoon I was taking out the old windshield as I got a nice one to replace it. I got caught in a sand storm in Arizona around '75 or so. It was pitted and never really the same again. It could be really dangerous if I didn't keep it really clean and lately Rainex. If the sun hit it at the right angle and it had even a little road grime, I was blinded. :eek:


The rubber gasket was hard as a rock and I had a hell of a time getting this sucker out with out breaking it. Here is me prying and pulling on it. I was surprised when it popped off. Yikes, now what am I going to do with it?




Wow! What's this? Oh Yeah, I remember. It's a match book cover.




My best friend Paul and I were driving from Virginia to Los Angeles in 1973 about a month after I bought the truck. ( epic journey and a whole 'nother story) The dash board had a vibration. Somewhere after crossing the Mississippi River, droning across the plains, It was making me crazy. I said, Paul, fix that buzzing noise. I thought he reached into the glove box and got a match book, folded it up and stuck it in between the windshield and the dash.


It's not a match book cover is it?




Funny thang bubba, them French folks have a different word for everythin'!




Take notes boy and girls, this is important stuff!





I never took it out because I couldn't get it out. Many times I cleaned the truck and wiped the dashboard, but it was shoved too far down to ever get it out. I wonder if it will start to buzz again?



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Too funny about the buzz.


make sure you have it running for Canby June 14-15!! You don't have to show, but at least bring it and park in the $5 section!!! I want as many trucks as possible this year!! Of course.....a datsun show truck is simply a truck that you can get there....one way or another!! :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I don't remember how I first met Ron Marcucci. Trying to remember way back to my sophomore year in high school. Everybody had to take a Driver Education class. The teacher was a stern disciplinarian named Mr. Pitkin. I remember, I sat down in front of the class with my three friends, Paul, Rob and Ronnie. Pitkin like to show those old 16 mm movies of bloody car crashes and state troopers with Smokey the Bear hats, admonishing us that speed kills.


I remember at one point in a real heavy tone Pitkin said, "Look around the class. Out of every person sitting in this room today, 25% of you will be involved in a fatal car accident in your life time". Oh yeah, cheery stuff. I looked at my three friends and thought maybe one of us?


Ron's grand parents lived in San Francisco not to far from where my grandparents did. My grandparents came to the City right after the '06 earthquake from Germany. Ron's immigrated from Italy and never really learned to speak english, where my grandparent's spoke english. My grandparents never taught my Dad German, they wanted him to speak English. Ron grew up around his parent's and grand parents speaking Italian.


When we were juniors in high school, Ron's dad got a job working for Bill Harrah in Reno as the head liquor buyer for Harrah's Casino. They didn't want to pull Ron out of school and move him to Reno, so he stayed with a family that had three kids, and continued to do well in school.


My three friends were all accepted to California Universities. Ron was accepted to UC Berkley and UC Davis, and couldn't decide. At the last minute there was a snag in getting paperwork from his parents in Reno. When he finally decided to go to Berkley, he missed the deadline.


In the previous summers Ron had gone to Reno and worked at Harrah's Auto Museum cleaning up and as a gopher. I think I was about eleven when my family was on vacation and my Dad thought my brother and I would dig going there. In those days, Reno was still the Biggest Little City in the World. The Museum was over in Sparks, Nevada, out across the river. It was a little drive out into the desert to find the huge, rambling old dilapidated wood buildings. Now it's continuos motels and strip malls all the way out there and beyond.


Harrah had maybe 600 old cars in every state of condition. There was a shop where a small group of guys were in the process of restoring some '30s Cadillac or Ford Phaeton. It was so big that you couldn't even make it through the whole building. We were there in the morning and as the day got hot, the desert heat made it uncomfortable to even walk through the packed rows of old cars.


I went back there a couple times later on my own when I was older. It had a certain old car smell that was intoxicating and I wondered how they would ever get to working on all these cars. Ron met a young mechanic named Jack the first summer that he worked there. Jack was a little older, but was from the Bay Area and they became friends. I think that two things united them. Cars and marijuana.


Jack would use the shop after work to fix his own cars. He would buy sports cars like Alfa Romeos, MGs and Triumphs. Then he would sell them and get better cars. Jack smoked dope and so did Ron. If you got caught in Nevada at this time with a joint you could get twenty years in prison. It was no joke in 1969. Jack had no connection in Reno and Ron could easily get a stash from the Bay Area and so they became friends and worked endless hours on cars. Ron bought a Volkswagen bus and they put a Porsche engine in it. It was a very cool vehicle.


When Ron couldn't start school, he began working full time. I was busy starting JR. College and working, so I don't remember how all this came about. This is my recollection. There was the Ferrari dealer, Modern Classic Motors. It was owned by a couple of young Italian brothers that Ron got connected with, either through Harrah's shop or Jack. Somehow, possibly because Ron either could speak the language or he was just a smart, young energetic guy, he was sent to the Ferrari Factory for training. Ron's specialty was fuel injection and carburation.


Paul and I visited Ron at his apartment in Los Angeles in 1973. We had just driven the Datsun 620 from Norfolk Virginia on our epic journey. Ron was working at the Ferrari Dealer in Hollywood. The brothers ran it too, as Reno was the North American distributor. He had spent a lot of time in Italy and showed us a 3" thick stack of photographs of his exploits. After schooling, he traveled with the brothers through Europe working on their race team. They campaigned a Ferrari sports car and ran Le Mans and the whole Sports Car/Endurance circuit. One weekend they were guests of the factory at the Grand Prix in Monaco. Ron had a photo of himself looking back over his shoulder as he is walking into the pit garage. He is cracking a big smile, like, do you believe this? He had the factory race team coveralls on!



Ron was a good friend and a good guy. He deserved to have good luck and success. Paul and I went down to the shop the next day to check it out. It was a busy place on Olympic Blvd., I think. Maybe a dozen stalls with nice Porches, Mercedes and of course Ferraris. It had a small show room with half a dozen cars. Ron wanted the three of us to each chip in $3000 so we could get a '72 365GTB that was nine grand. I borrowed a grand to buy the Datsun and my $434 a month salary, I thought it would take me the rest of my life to pay that back. He said , "Ok, then, lets get a Dino for like sixty five!"


What idiots! We should have done it. Bought all we could afford. Who knew? Not us. These cars were so insane. I loved the Dino with the transverse V6, half a twelve. They had a Yellow California Spyder, I think it was called, that they were pulling maintenance on. It was just so beautiful. To this day the only cars I ever lusted after are the little Dino and Spyder maybe. They look fast just sitting there.


The reason that Ron wanted us to come to the shop was that a special car had been delivered for them to prep for a vintage race, I think. Maybe it was only for Pebble Beach Concourse, but maybe Laguna Seca. This was a Ferrari 166 Spyder Corsa Gran Prix car. My memory is vague about the year, 1947? It was a 60 degree V12, front engine, single seat, open wheel race car, with a little oval wind screen sticking up in front of a huge wooden steering wheel. It was a pretty small car, and so, so red.


We were trying to watch all the activity and not get in the way. There were lots of others watching them get this car ready to fire after having sat for many years. It fired on first crank and that V12 sounded better than anything I have ever heard. There were smiles all around.


Paul and I had to get on the road and we went up to Surf City. Goleta California, the student ghetto for UC Santa Barbara where my brother was going to school. On the weekend Ron came up to hang out. The Datsun was still new and I needed to change the oil and adjust the valves. I ask my brother about finding the local Datsun dealer to have the work done.


Ron laughed so hard. He said, " The freaking dealer! You mean Stealer! They are going to rip you off and probably wont even adjust them, just check 'em.

We went out and popped the hood. Ronnie exclaimed, what a cool little engine! Over head cam, simple layout, lots of room to work. He goes to me, "Man, this is so easy, you can DO this." My brother rode a beat Bultaco as transportation and had some basic wrenches and sockets.


There was some tune up info on the smog stickers on the hood, so Ronnie started to pop the valve cover off and explained the whole process to me. In an hour it was back together and I had learned that it wasn't magic, it was just a hunk of metal.

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Time flew by and Ron went back up to Reno to work at Modern Classic Motors. He never went back to college. Those guys worked six days a week for crazy long hours. I was living in San Francisco and Paul was floating between Davis and Chico. He called me up and said that we should run up to Reno to visit Cucci. That is what Paul called him short for Marcucci. I said that I would leave the City Friday afternoon and drive the Datsun to pick him up in Davis. I was literally walking out the door when Paul called from Davis. He said that he had just received a call from Ron's mother. She said, that Ron had been in an automobile accident and had been in a coma for two days. She didn't know that we were going to come. Paul told her that we were on our way, but she stopped him and said that we should wait and not come. There were no details and she hung up.


I said, well I'm on my way, we can figure it out when I get there. Paul had gotten ahold of Ron's older brother and got part of the story. This was a long time ago and one of the first really tragic experiences in my life. My grandparents passing away was not happy, but I watched them fade away and was prepared, even though stuff like that still hurts. When I got to Davis we were still talking about going up so we could at least be there. We decided not to and spent a dismal weekend. I don't remember much more.


Much later, Paul heard from Jack and got more of the story. It seemed like Ron was working on a customer car. It was getting late in the day and Ron had promised to give Jack a ride to class at the community college. Ron had said something like, it's a shame to see how some of these Ferrari owners abuse their cars, they drive them into the ground and by the time they bring them in, they need a rebuild more than a tune up. Ron had struggled to get this car back together all day.


One of the things that all the mechanics did, was to road test the cars before they signed off on them. I remember Ron telling me about the cat and mouse games that the mechanics played with the cops in Los Angeles. A road test included running the engine to redline in the first three gears. The only place they could do that was the onramp to Highway 101 and down the freeway. You could do a hundred in second gear, easy.


Out in Reno you could get to some long straight, flat, deserted stretch of road quickly. Ron told Jack that the radio had static like a plug wire that wasn't shielded and was having a heck of a time trouble shooting it. He thought he got it sorted out and told Jack he would be back in a flash.


Ron didn't come back. The State Troopers that had looked at the scene, thought that he had been going in excess of a hundred miles per hour and lost control. He swerved onto the other side of the road and onto the shoulder, but gathered it back up and drove back across the highway, where he lost control on the shoulder and flipped the car. It caught fire and by the time he was rescued he was burned badly. The doctor that attended to Ron told his family that it was probably a good thing that he was in a coma and that he passed away. His burns were very bad and that he had inhaled much toxic smoke from the car. That fact alone would have made recovery a long shot.


Every time I pop the hood of the Datsun I think about Ron Marcucci. It's one of the reasons that I have kept it for so long. Ron is one of the reasons that I have an interest in cars and racing. Now, thirty five years later, part of why I'm restoring the truck is that he would have.


About five years ago, I was working for a client that owned rental property in the town we attended High School. I went into a liquor store in a strip mall to get something to drink. Mr. Pitkin our Driver Education teacher is behind the counter. The stern demeanor was all gone and here was a jovial clerk. I thought I knew him, but it didn't hit until he gave me my change.


The tone of his voice brought it back to me like a ton of bricks. I stopped and said, "Damn, I know who you are!" He ask, did you go to the high school, a lot of people remember me from science classes? I told him that he had made us look all around the driver ed class and said that 25%, or one in four of us would be involved in a traffic fatality in our life times. I said, "You were right man, and it has haunted me for years." He looked shocked, and in a genuinely apologetic voice, he said, "I vaguely remember teaching that class. I doesn't seem that I would say something like that. I'm very sorry."


I turned and walked out. I didn't want him to see me cry.

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Keep up the chronicles, even the sad chapter is great storytelling.


It's always amazing to how much someone can affect our lives and not even know it.

I for one am glad you have a friend like Ron, his friendship helped lead to you keeping the truck which in turn lead you here :D

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  • 2 weeks later...

Wow, I just finished reading your story on Ron and it brought a tear to my eye. I recently lost a friend to a drive-by. He was a car guy too and I used to help him work on his car when I was living in Fresno.


Enough with the sadness, more stories!

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  • 1 month later...

Thanks for the encouragement guys. hang_510, yeah Isla Vista, how could I ever forget?


I guess I should have tried to write these stories in chronological order, but I only remember some of this stuff when I come across old photos, or somebody asks if I remember something that happened. This story happened about 1977 or so.


I lived with a girl named Susan. We grew up on the same block and were friends but never hooked up until we were in our early twenties. In the spring, we decided to drive to Phoenix, from the San Francisco Bay Area. We left in the evening and drove all night so we wouldn't have to go through the heat of Mojave Desert during the day. On Interstate 40 east of Kingman we turned southeast on Highway 93 and pulled over into a rest stop out in the middle of the desert. It was still dark and we climbed into the camper and took a nap. Just as the sun was coming up we got up and made breakfast and dripped some coffee for the road.


The desert scenery was just spectacular in the early morning light and there weren't any vehicles on the road at all. I had driven all night, so Susan took the wheel of the Datsun and we put on some music and sipped our coffee. She knew that the truck would just hum along at about 73 MPH and get good gas milage, so she was in the groove. I did this thing when I rode shotgun, where I adjusted the mirror on the passenger door, so I could look back. She still had the driver's side mirror and the rear view through the camper.


We are just cruzin' across the desert all by ourselves, digging the scenery in the changing morning light. The music, coffee, the road straight, flat and eventually vanishing in the distance. I look back and see some headlights way, way back. I look a couple seconds later and they are gaining on us. A few seconds later, I notice Susan glancing on the mirror and she says, "That guy is hauling butt". A few seconds later and I can make out a tractor trailer. The truck starts to pull out to pass about a half a mile behind us. He blows by us at probably a hundred. Susan gripped the wheel a little harder as the truck passed and the Datsun moved over in the lane a little bit as it went by.


It was a flatbed trailer with what looked like six huge steel dinner plates chained down on edge, in two rows of three. They were what I think are called "Dished Heads" and were about ten feet high and an inch thick. They would be welded onto ten foot in diameter steel tubes to make storage tanks for propane or something.


As the trucker pulls back into the lane in front of us, it looked like he hit a chuck hole or something, because the trailer shook violently. The last pair of disks snapped the chains, then rolled off the end of the flatbed in slow motion.


Really this happened so fast that we didn't even say anything. I was trying so hard to process what was going on, that I was speechless. I couldn't even get a word out. In a split second, Susan never flinched, she drove right between these two huge steel disks.


I looked into the mirror to see the disks continue to roll for a while, and then start to wobble, finally falling over in the middle of the road. I look at Susan and she looks at me. It happened so fast that all we could saw was WOW!!


The trucker kept on going, obviously not aware that he lost his load. I tell Susan to catch him. She puts her foot to the floor and pretty soon the speedo is buried. We run like that for many minutes not really catching him up very fast. She starts to flash the headlights and after a while the trucker must have slowed, because we caught him and pulled up along side. I'm frantically making hand gestures and pointing to his trailer. The instant he got that something was wrong, he hit the brakes so hard that we just flew past.


I wish I knew what happened after that, but we just kept on truckin'... so to speak. Were we ever lucky.

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I've witnessed this phenomenon, as most have,... the slowing down of time in stressful circumstances. Or perhaps the mind speeds up in response, but plays it back at regular speed. Either way, more 'time' for a fateful decision. Do I lock the brakes and try to avoid, or the harder choice, be cool and do nothing?


Great story! I'll bet the colors were brighter and the coffee tastier after that.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Forgive me if I ramble, I know there is a point to make, sometimes it's hard to narrow it down. The view throught the datsun windhield has been constantly changing through time.


There is an enigmatic little community called La Honda, California. It appears to be not more than a 25MPH speed zone on Highway 84. La Honda Road is pretzel, tied in knots. It is a snake through the Santa Cruz Mountians in San Mateo County that will bite you if you don't pay attention. I believe that this place is an unlikely vortrex of energy that has changed our society and the world we know.


For a number of years, I knew every inch of every corner on Highway 84. Many trips up Woodside road from the mud flats of the San Francisco Bay and the working class barrio of Redwood City, through the pass at Skylonda, winding down the ocean side of La Honda Road, to the abandoned stage coach stop of San Gregorio on the Pacific. I wore out at least one set of kingpin bushings navigating this 30 mile ribbon of asphalt patches. La Honda sits in what is left of the primeval Redwood rain forest that once carpeted this land. There are still towering examples of these ancient trees around but they are barely representative of what was.


I was a City kid. I grew up on concrete sidewalks with cars and telephone poles, bus and streetcar traffic. I thought that the whole world was covered in streets, buildings, noise and people. When I was about ten, I belonged to the Downtown YMCA. The "Y" owned a summer camp down in La Honda at a place called Jones Gulch. So in 1962, I got my first glimpse of the rolling Santa Cruz Mountians and the Redwoods.


My initial impressions were of a real life fantasia fairyland. Bright rays of filtered sunlight pierced the enormous green canopy of gingantic trees that created their own ecosystem. A sticky sweet smell of decaying plant material, fed by pristine creeks and dense coastal fog, synthesized into an oxygen rich elixer of new growth that made you high. Instant uncontrollable addiction to air. How can you not breath? The strangest impact on my sensory awareness was the relatively deafening quality of the ambiant sound. No fire engines, cable car bells, fog horns or screaming schoolyards, just a lush tapestry of quiet.


In the Carlos Casteneda books, the sorcerer Don Juan talked about places of power. Big Sur, Yosemite, Death Valley and the Golden Gate are local examples of places with extraordinagy energy. La Honda draws people somehow too, but there is a different vibe that doesn't make this apparent right away.


It is deceptively beautifull drive and I never fail to wonder if the native inhabitants knew they were living in paradise. I wonder what the Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola thought when he first stumbled through this area after missing his target of Monterey. My second memories were my family driving down Skyline Drive from the City to stay at a friends rustic cabin on a duck pond in La Honda proper. There were no freeways in Northern California yet and this little vacation enclave was one step above camping out. It was a hard place to get to, "Away from it all", as my Dad used to say.


Later as teenager, I remember seeing the Hell's Angles rumbling in outlaw formation down the 101 Bayshore Highway and up over Woodside Road to hang with Ken Keasey's Merry Pranksters and the Greatful Dead Family. Keasey's A-frame house is still visable from highway 84 and the trees are still painted day-glo as chronicled in Tom Wolfe's classic Electric Cool-Aid Acid Test.


I believe that whole scene was the genesis for more social and political change in this country than anyone remembers or will admit. 1968 was a pivotal time for our country and the Bay Area was a hot bed for revolution. Adults were thinking the country was going to hell in a hand basket and we kids were united behind the anti-war, free speech, tune in, turn on and drop out that was the Woodstock generations mantras. I could talk at length about our pure intentions and naivete', but Peter Fonda's Captain America said it best in Easy Rider, "We blew it."


The original hippies in the Haight-Ashbury were already migrating north to Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino counties and Oregon. They could see the handwriting on the wall. The dopes that were left, were what the media had to sensationalize and exploit. The Acid-Tests of '66 and the Summer of Love in '67 were replaced by heroin, coke, speed and those idiots the Rolling Stones of Altamont!! By 1969. Every disafected, snot nosed, runaway kid that bailed out of their uptight Judeo-Christian homes across America, was looking for nirvana on their pilgrimage into the sunset on the western edge of the continent. FREE Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n Roll!


My class were those kids too, except that we were already here... but we wanted to leave too! Quite a few of my high school friends ended up moving to the relative isolation of La Honda. It was artificial at best, but the thinking was that we had the best of it all. Two bucks worth of gas would get you from La Honda to the City and back. A bunch of them still live in the ramshackle farm houses and vacation cabins today, that they started out renting in the early '70s.


Like the Beat and the Hippie generations before us, the Class of '70 made the trek from the City or the South Bay 'flats' over 84 to La Honda. One of our friends had a very old house just up from the duck pond. Henry was a guitar whacker and carpenter apprentice. We could go up there and make all the noise we wanted any time. There were guys that played in five or six different bands who all hung out up there partying and jamming. I'm sure much like the scene a couple of canyons over at Neil Young's Broken Arrow Ranch property. OG hippies, just a little older that we were.


The old timers in La Honda were loggers, truckers, farmers, fisherman, millwrights and tradesman. Probably descendants of the pioneers that maintained the stage coach stop and the road from the harbor at Half Moon Bay, to the County seat of Redwood City. Most of these guys were rednecks and had seen it all already with Keasey's pranksters and the hordes of Angels. There wasn't much to do in La Honda. There was a cafe, volunteer fire department, general store and three bars.


Because we were all young, drinking in bars was cool. It made us feel like we had grown up. Henry used to spend a lot of time drinking in these dives and got to know all of the locals. There was The Boots and Saddles Lodge, Applejacks and Venturi's. Venturi's used to be a little resturaunt/cafe that was attached to a quaint 50s style motel. It was right in the middle of 'town', and had been converted into apartments and the cafe into a bar.


Venturi's was classic road house tavern and a real hot spot on the weekends. It sported a landmark Dutch windmill, covered with half lit neon lights on it's broken propeller. At night, it was a goofy looking place to roll up on, after driving through the mountians in the in the pitch dark. Henry began playing his acoustic guitar down there at night. Not for money or anything, but just to get a buzz and hang. At some point this grew into us going down there and jamming. It got to be a Wednesday night thing and I remember the first time I played there, it was Henry and another guitar player, a Fender bass player, a guy on Fender Rhodes Piano and me on sax, no drums or PA.


They bought us free drinks and we closed the place. We didn't have a drummer for a long time and then a series of drummers with the rest of the lineup changing all the time. The place was packed and so the 'band' got drinks on the house. It was never really a band, but a big loose group of friends having too much fun. I remember making the long dark drive back from La Honda seeing triple many nights.


La Honda Road had a long reputation for horrific fatalities. I had the road dialed from so many commutes but the Datsun lacked any kind of power with band equipment in the back. Maybe that kept me alive. One night I got passed like I was painted on the guardrail, by a local that drove like he owned the road. He still does. A few corners later he went off into a steep ravine and died. I vaguely remember seeing a cloud of dust on the shoulder as I passed the spot, heard about it much later. I can tell so many horror stories about all the bizzare accidents I have seen throught the years up there, but that is a subject for another time. Let's just say that we are all very lucky... young, stupid, foolish and LUCKY.


We started to get some songs together and bartender ask if we would play on Saturday nights for $50 a man. One evening we went down there to set up our drums and PA about five 0' clock. Right in front, were parked three ratty looking Harley knuckel heads dripping oil. Henry and I went inside to move chairs and tables in the back so the musicians would face the front of the bar and be clear of the pool table. There were three Hell's Angels sitting at the bar drinking fifty five cent Budwisers. Do you remember those brown glass 12oz barrels they had for a while? I think they were the first twist off bottles.


We went back up to Henry's place to eat and when we came just before nine, the parking lot was packed and the joint was jumping. The three Angels were still there drinking Bud barrels and were pretty loud and obnoxious, making the atmosphere a little uneasy. The piano player starts to play a boogie woogie blues figure a little self consciously and a jam starts, that eases the tension. We play for a long time and take a break.

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