I have a clean driver’s slate. I mention this because it shows that most people, no matter how many goofy things they do when they were young, will finally straighten themselves out. I really try to never speed anymore and I am usually in somebody’s way on the road. What a difference from the 1970s! About the only thing I can take credit for is that, at 18 years old, I made a promise to myself to never drink. In some ways, that made my actions on the highways in the 1970s even worse because I couldn’t use the excuse that I was drunk. The affliction I had was almost as bad, being young and dumb! It seemed like every month in the 70s, there was another movie coming out about somebody in a muscle car. The only movie I kind of remember is one with Goldie Hawn. I think it was called Vanishing Point. This showed a good deal of the population was into speed, it was completely normal.
The story I am going to tell is one of many that almost matches any muscle car movie. We were lucky to make it through these adventures unscathed, as a lot of people didn’t. That’s why I call this story, “We Should Be Dead.”
In the summer of 1973 I purchased a new Ford Torino in Brandon, Manitoba. Since I was living in the Northwest Territories, I could not get license plates for the car. The salesman gave me a transit sticker for Manitoba. With my friend Weiner (Wayne), we headed west to Saskatchewan to get a transit permit for that province. The RCMP in Moosomin informed me that I needed an insurance slip to get the permit. Well that wasn’t going to happen, so the Manitoba permit just had to do.
For the next few days, we drove around with the Torino’s bumpers as bare as a baby’s bum. We crossed into Alberta at Lloydminister and, again, were told we needed an insurance slip. So off we went on the Yellowhead towards Edmonton, with Weiner driving. At that time, the Yellowhead was a single lane highway until about 30 miles east of Edmonton. My normal speed was around 85 miles an hour, which is around 140 kilometres, so that’s the speed Weiner drove too. When you travel at that speed, there aren’t many vehicles catching you.
When we got a little past Vermillion, we saw a car catching up to us. It was a blue car. I can’t remember what kind, but I think it was a Buick. He kept gaining on us and finally Weiner asked me,”Should I try to stay ahead of him?”
“Boot her,” I replied.
Well that 302 was no shot out of Hell. We got her up to 112 miles per hour. The Buick was closing in, but we gave it our best. And then, when it did catch us, it couldn’t get by. There was traffic coming from the other direction and a bit of a knoll coming up. So we went over the knoll and, what a surprise, with less than half a mile ahead of us there was a police roadblock.
Why didn’t we let that Buick pass? As we got closer, we saw an officer standing on the centre line, with his arm up motioning for us to stop. Real close now, Weiner was almost ready to stop by the officer, but the officer took a step back and waved us through. We drove on, stunned, and I looked back to make sure the officer hadn’t changed his mind. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the officer pull the Buick over. A few minutes later, we went through Vegreville and were travelling at our regular speed of 85 miles per hour when we noticed a set of headlights a short distance behind us. A vehicle with its headlights on in the daytime in the 70s really stood out because nobody used headlights during the day back then. We slowed down a bit, thinking it was police, but, as the vehicle got closer, we realized it was an orange Chevy Nova. You’d think that after the recent close call with the police, we would slow down to 60 miles per hour and let the Nova pass. Think again.
Weiner pushed the Torino back up to around 110 miles, with no protest from me. In a few minutes, the Nova had managed to get by us. Another few minutes passed when the Nova caught up to another car. This gave us a similar opportunity we’d had in my old car. Weiner whipped onto the right shoulder and passed both cars, and we were gone in a flash. In the past, when we passed on the right, the other vehicle did not want any part of that. The Nova didn’t hesitate though, and came barrelling after us. We did the same routine two more times. On the third time, the Nova didn’t pass on the right. We had noticed when he had passed us, his girlfriend was reading and had not noticed what he was doing, but it looked like she finally noticed and put a stop to it. The Nova finally got around the car in front of him and was gaining on us again.
We travelled a few more minutes and started to catch up to five cars that were slowing down, because the front one was trying to turn left onto another highway, but had to wait for oncoming traffic. That’s should have put an end to our racing nonsense. Did I mention that we were young and dumb? If you had tried to count the live brain cells in both of our noggins, you would obviously not be able to fill an egg carton. Weiner never slacked off and whipped onto the right shoulder and swish, we were by the lot of them. I can imagine what some people were wondering in the vehicles we passed. “What the hell was that?” It’s us, dumb-ass! We’re number one! A few minutes later we realized we were not going to be number one for long because the Nova had gotten by the last batch of vehicles.
“He’s going to dust us now, double lane up ahead,” I said. We were on the double lane about a minute when we noticed flashing lights. Another roadblock. As we got closer, we could see a big officer standing in our lane, I felt numb and stunned and was in a daze. Two police road blocks in such a short distance. We rolled up to the officer, and he started backing to the centre line and then he waved us through. Now my thoughts were really scrambled. How did we pull this off? Were we invisible? Nevermind, let’s get out of here! Then my thoughts were interrupted by Wiener’s laugh. “Hahahahaha! They just pulled over the Chevy Nova!”