Buckhead Tales: The Road

Come now Gentle Reader, for it is time to speak of noble steeds and chariots of gold. Time to speak of freedom and wind through our hair. Time now to speak of the automobile, and the quest for the Open Road.

First came the day I had dreamed of for so long; getting my driver’s license. That was a milestone. My life can be divided into two parts, before and after the license. I had achieved the Golden Ticket and as soon as possible I rounded up my crew and we began our first joy ride out on Roswell Road. 

We cruised the streets of Buckhead like royalty with the windows down and our heads held high.

A wave of freedom rippled through Dykes High School over by Chastain Park as one after another of us got those precious licenses. Next came the cars. Some of the guys painted their cars in candy colors. They were always waxing their rides and talking about the engines and tires and stuff like that. While I admired those mighty vehicles I was more fascinated by the barely legal machines. 

Three of my friends pooled their money and bought a partially drivable wreck for $200. The tires were bald, there were no headlights, and all the seats had been ripped out. That’s right, no seats. It was not insured and displayed no tag. I think they kept it hidden in the woods off Statewood Road. 

Being totally illegal it could only come out and cruise the streets of Buckhead in what was called “stealth mode.” It rarely emerged from its sanctuary in the woods but when it did it was usually on a night when the moon was full so the driver could at least see a few yards down the road. Some claimed that this was an advantage because “if we can’t see the police, they can’t see us.” With no seats the driver had to perch on a bar stool which tended to topple over whenever we went around a curve. The passengers set on wooden crates that were so low they couldn’t see out the windows. None of this mattered as we were cruising, and we were kings.

The highest and best use of a car is not to take you to the shopping mall or to the supermarket. It is not to help you with menial daily chores or to transport you back and forth from the buildings where you work for legal tender. That is all just day tripping around Babylon. 

The best use, and the real reason for a car, is for a Road Trip. 

Now believe me in this, you who have never road tripped must know that it is never too late to enjoy one of life’s few pure pleasures. 

The recipe is simple: car, friends, no agenda. Repeat as necessary.

These days I don’t ask for much. It is too late for the false promise of riches or fame to do me any good. But there is one thing I ask for, and one thing only. Give me one more road trip. Let me receive a call from Marvin telling me that he and Davy will be swinging by to pick me up. David Silver was the greatest wheel man I ever knew and with Marvin Jackson riding shotgun I know that the road commentary would be expansive and poetic. Just give me enough time to stuff my backpack with a few necessities and a Jack Kerouac book, maybe Desolation Angels.

I need to hear the horn at the curb. The blessed horn, the clarion call announcing that adventure awaits. I’m out the door, across the lawn, diving into the back seat and we are off. Off into the night with the 8-track stereo blasting Quicksilver Messenger Service. Destination unknown but protected by the shield of youth. I think we have room for one or two more in the back seat. Will there be any takers?

O God of the Asphalt, grant us an open highway and a steady hand on the wheel. Let the sky be clear and our way be known. Clear the obstacles from our path. Let the winds blow our troubles away. Deliver us from the evil of not being ourselves. May our journey bring redemption. Let the road never end. Blessed are the one-way trips.

Jim Tate
Author, Buckhead Tales

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