Hang on St. Christopher….or riding on the short bus

om always said a fast car was trouble and she’s right. The adrenaline rush of a torquey big block is addictive and the urge to use it doesn’t always rear it’s head at the best of times. When I bought my old yellow Satellite back in 1994 it was the fastest thing I had ever driven and I had just turned 30 years old. I didn’t use my teen years to get my fast car yaya’s out or get into trouble––nope, that all started at age 30. The following is a list of anectdotes from my stupidest moments behind the wheel. I will point out that the car has a certain magical luck it about that kept me and my passengers in one piece. Whenever these sort of things happened it was because I was showing off, pissed off, buzzed, or just plain being dumb…short bus.

Back in the spring of 1995 I was still happily married and very much into taking little cruises all over the peninsula, back and forth over the mountains then up and down the coast. A favorite road at the time was Alpine Road. Alpine is a twisty one and a half laner with poor pavement, steep grades, and amazing views. On a beautiful day with all the windows down, my wife, our dog Sullivan, and I were cruising Alpine from Skyline to Route 1. I had just put 14X6 Magnum 500’s on the car and she felt so sure with her new rubber and wider rims. I was going too fast but staying in control and really having fun when a nasty downhill S-curve showed up.

The bad pavement had the car yawing, and combined with our speed and the 4-wheel drum brakes I wound up momentarily locking a rear wheel, then fishtailing from one side of the narrow road to the other. The car was waaaayyy loose. Embankment on the left, pretty steep drop off on the right. We went right. With every ounce of my strength on the brakes we slid off the road and then abruptly stopped, pointed downward at approximately 60 degrees.

The dog was out of the car in a flash and sitting up by the road. I looked over at Krista, asked her if she was all right and had her go out the window very slowly and carefully. I set the e-brake, put the stalled car into park and then gingerly let my foot off the brake. The car didn’t move so I went out the window to join my frightened little family up on the road. The car was pointed so steeply downward that the rear bumper was nearly at eye level.

So, what kept us from taking the wild ride all the way down??? The k-frame hung up on a culvert sticking out of the hillside. About 20 minutes later a car went by and took Krista up to Skyline and over to 84 to use a pay phone and call in a tow truck. About two hours later we were driving home, scared but in one piece. Damage: Ego bruised and a bent k-frame.

Not too long after that incident I got a sure-grip for the car and promptly learned to spin donuts. My god! Who would have thought that such an idiotic manuever could be so fun! I loved it and back in those days the Mission district was still pretty industrial with an abandoned feel and I left black circles all over the place…I am sure cementing my reputation as a pure dumb-ass in the process. Anyway, I was cruising with my friend Thalo and I decided to show off my donut spinning skills. Yeeee-haw! We spun and spun like there was a giant stake in the middle of the car until I got the crazy notion that I was good enough at it to just flip the wheel and spin the other way. Nope. Car got violently out of shape and went straight for a fire hydrant. With all four locked up we smacked the curb inches away from the hydrant. Damage: mangled self esteem, bent strut rod.

One day, I was enjoying a new horsepower increase after installing a 750 Holley. As a sales pitch to my friend Bob, that he too, should install such a carburetor on his ride, I was punching the Satellite all over Soma like a hesher on PCP. Screeeeee, woooo hoooo! Nothing like a stoplight burnout to scare the brand new .com wunderkind that were beginning to flood the town. As we headed downtown the traffic thickened but I was on it, deftly (so I thought) steering the car at 40 plus through the thickets.