It seems appropriate that I place this write up here under my travel section. Not a lot of people read this blog/site - and for that, I understand. But for one day, I think it safe to say - that my battered and beaten cab was the most famous car in the world. Okay, maybe not the most famous car, more like famous Crown Victoria - but of all the cars in this world - and I mean ALL the cars in this world, mine graced page A12 of the New York Times on November 28, 2014 - in full color. And not only that, it was summarized on Page 1. And I owe it all to one person: Corey Kilgannon.
The New York Times.
I don't speak or write *too* much about my cab or this website to my friends or family, because I know it doesn't speak to everyone. In fact, I think it suffice to say that on a more genuine level - they couldn't care less. Yes, I'm affable. Yes, I can take a few rights and lefts to my chin. Yes, I dish jokes and receive just as many in return ten fold. But an old cab? Yeah...please Mike Ruse...can you just shut up about it!? But it would be deficient of me to not lay thanks to anyone who can view my eclectic tomfoolery with a light heart.
First, let me say that I realize this was a blip in the world of media. A feel good story in a world full of feel shitty stories. But allow me some latitude with my feeling a little happy about it okay?
So....the New York Times. How did this even happen?
Back in July of 2011, when my cab was still beating down the pavement of NYC, New York Times reporter, Corey Kilgannon, awoke with an idea for a story about the conundrum of vehicular traffic in Central Park. During his information gathering, he spoke with a cabby in the park, which turned out to be what would be my retired taxi someday. He had no idea naturally, but funny how the universe connects dots, aligns stars, and how the obscure and haphazard un-directed movements and patterns of us little ants on earth come full circle. I found the story after googling the name of a former driver of my cab, and later wrote to Mr. Kilgannon thinking he might think it nifty how a taxi he interviewed, was now living a good life in Vermont - no more, no less - and no expectation of anything other than maybe a note back saying 'cool'. More on that here, if so inclined:
Anyways....he did write back - and he did think it nifty, enough so that perhaps there was a story hidden deep in the crevices - and for about 2 and a half years, we would correspond occasionally about doing a diddy on my car's retirement in the country. Each time he would make plans to arrive here in Vermont, the cab would die, much to my chagrin. No point in doing a story on a broken down cab no matter where it is.
Finally, in November of 2014, with the car running tip top with it's new intake manifold, the day arrived. He had written to me asking if the cab was running; and I told him it was. He made arrangements to travel to Vermont to start a story. He arrived in a blue Chevrolet Malibu - complete with New York Press license plates. Wow - a real live New York Times car in the driveway, piloted by a well known and respected journalist for the NY Times. Standing here. Talking to me.
Mr. Kilgannon arrived after his four and half hour journey much as I expected - tired from a long drive, and looking a bit stressed. Being a New York journalist, I surmised as he exited his car that he was struggling with deciphering how to juggle his duties in New York, while second guessing how this trip and this cab, could be anything but a story of any sort. As we greeted, he seemed to look around 360 degrees in an effort to get his bearings - looking for anything he might identify with in this wasteland of fresh air and silence. Unfortunately, there isn't anything. Much like when I go to NYC. Two worlds colliding really.
I won't bore anyone with details. Suffice to say, Mr. Kilgannon....wait....I hate calling him that, I'm going to call him Corey.... spent about four hours with me cruising around and interviewing people. He never said who he was to anyone except to say he was doing a story for the 'newspaper'. Many people seemed disinterested, completely ignorant to the fact they were not being approached by the local ragamuffin tribune or whogivesashit.blogspot.com.....this was the New York Times. Their loss. Truth be told, I was somewhat embarrassed by some of my local brethren at how they were treating him. Some people were just downright rude. It's not supposed to be that way. But some were enthusiastic - despite being slow out with reactions and I'm assuming simply because people were working or what not.
Long story short - when he was through with his work and about to depart southward, he took a deep breath and did a 360 degree turn - but this time, in a way that he was glad to see there was nothing in his usual world he could identify with. It was a great day - and I was honored to even let him drive 8D69; something I never do. I felt it important for him to experience the banana cream deliciousness of being wrapped in yellow from behind the wheel. Boy he drove like a New Yorker though....gas, coast, gas, coast, gas, coast. Just like my brother from Jersey. And with one last breath of silence and a connection with his youth in suburban Long Island, he entered his New York Times car and likely became awash with the daily reality of his life in NYC, and was off like a dash - pedal to the metal.
On day two - I spent a few hours with New York Times photographer Matthew Cavanaugh (www.matthewcavanaugh.com). He shot many many pictures of the car driving through villages, covered bridges, back roads etc. He was an excellent photographer - and the pictures printed online and in print were wonderful. Even the one of me where I look like I'm pondering why an overgrown gremlin is living in my chin and throat. LOL. Yeesh - look like Jabba the Hutt.
I think the reason I am writing this, now that I'm in minute 14 of my 10 minutes of no fame in terms of news of the hour, is two fold. First and foremost - to recognize Corey Kilgannon, who even though will never read this - I am eternally grateful for his time and effort in creating something out of literally nothing. He shared my life and car with the world. It was on NY1 Television News. Click and Clack aka CarTalk via NPR shared it. Even Gavin Mcleod, aka Captain Stubbing of the Love Boat shared it. NYPD shared it. I spoke with Comedian Pete Dominick from the Daily Show and Colbert Report via Skype on Talk America about it. I received many many emails from car enthusiasts and magazines as well as some people who just wanted to tell me they enjoyed the story and my blog. And yes, it made the front page of my local newspaper, the Rutland Herald, for which I am thankful for their sharing. I was surprised most of the comments I read here and there were mostly favorable. A few snarky ones - but that was to be expected....I'm quite used to it and used to people sort of not getting the point that there is no real point to my taxi ownership. But anyways, it is important for a nobody like me, to have something I feel is special - shared in such a medium. I am nothing but honored to have blipped a few computer screens and eyeballs. I never hope to sound narcissistic, I am just thankful for Corey Kilgannon giving my downtrodden car a chance at a renewal of sorts. Sort of like my car wrote a letter home so to speak lol. Another feather in it's cap, after a life of despair and disrespect. A lot of people put a lot of time, money and effort into their cars to improve them. I do too....but in an effort to just keep it the same as it ever was. And I'm thankful that of all the cars, in all the world, that my former New York City Taxi, was celebrated in it's hometown paper - that is read all over the world.
Lastly, I'm thankful for how life works - the lines we draw. The puzzle pieces of life that are put together when we are not even aware of it. .Stop to pick up a penny, and people go around you....altering their course - unaware that it may have saved their life....or made them come in contact with someone they may never have otherwise. Hopefully in good ways lol. Do a story on cars driving through Central Park.........and years later.........you get my drift. All lines in the sand. Waves direct the pebbles, while our feet carve out where they lay, if only temporary.
If only one person follows my travels and rants and gets a slight chuckle out of it, or appreciates my taxi - all this weebly website building will be worth it.
And for good measure......and a GOOD LAUGH.....I present to you.....the worst picture ever of me.
And last but not least, Mr. Corey Kilgannon striking a pose at my request with my lovely 8D69:
And a huge thank you to all my friends and family who put up with my taxi stuff. I try to keep it in check. But on a very deep and genuine level, I appreciate anyone who cares enough to even click on my site from time to time for a brief check in. I type too much - I'm too detailed, and realize in today's world - that reading is an inconvience and pictures/video are most appreciated. ANYWAYS.....thanks to you ALL.
Yes! Ol' 8D69 really is still rolling. On the back of a flat bed. But wait! This is a good thing, honestly. My old buddy has been waiting ever so patiently in the barn for this day. Quite some time ago, the car started to develop quite a shudder and skip when driving. Hit 45 mph and it felt like we were re-entering the atmosphere from space. Since I've been driving Crown Victoria's since forever, I know this particular style suffers from frequent intake manifold cracks. I pulled a spark plug out of the left side of the engine, and yes indeed - the whole thing was filled with antifreeze. Aw, Snap.
Now, maybe you're asking....what is an intake manifold? For those less inclined to want specifics, I'll tell you....it sits on top of the engine, but in order to get to this 'top', you need to take 50,000 things apart. Here's my new one:
Just what I wanted to spend almost 300 bucks on! A piece of plastic! Anyhow, I've done intake manifolds before, on old cars, but not these things. Trust me, just checking the oil on this car you need two bars of Lava soap. I wasn't about to deal with this, so.....my car's Doctor, Dr. Barry at B&B Auto, squeezed me in for it's expected three hour surgery.
So, with yellow strobe lights flashing, 8D69 was whisked away for the necessary treatments. So grave was this emergency, even a fire truck on it's way to it's own emergency pulled to the right to make way. That's respect.
Dr. Barry was prepped and ready to go upon arrival. After the surgery, he called - and I'll just fast forward here and say at present, it runs SUPER. Better than ever. Initially, it didn't - antifreeze had crystallized on top of the pistons and it ran as smooth as Oscar Pistorus in jail. But after idling literally ALL DAY, it worked itself out - kind of like it had to break a fever:
So.....after a few other kinks were worked out, it was back on the road, and it's next stop, TIRES:
Funny thing, it took all of three minutes for a snide remark to be made. This other customer guy came out and looks at the car and says "New York City Taxi eh?" with a distorted face of disapproval. I could tell he had more to say, but I simply answered in the affirmative. And then....like the first page of my website says - he replies with his full ignorance - "WHY?". Ughhhh. I answered and said I liked it, it was a good car and saved it from the clutches of the crusher and it was a piece of New York City history (or...will be - maybe, one day). He's looking at the decals and up and down and all around it, smoking, and states "I'm all for saving cars but not a taxi". I didn't feel like defending it, and simply answered...'huh". Sometimes more is less I guess; I just really didn't feel like arguing about it. Anyways - I have found I encounter such a mix of reactions with this thing. It's nice if you like to examine human behavior I suppose. Bottom line though, is this: I bought this car because I like it. If no one else does, that's fine - I couldn't possibly care less, but dang, what is with people's desire to always TELL me?! LOL. It's an insult. I mean really, who walks up to someone and insults their car? I've written about this before, in my rant section:
Okay, enough of that, I got what I needed by my trusty trusted tire professionals (whom I really like) - and then it was go time - a nice long cruise....feeling that whip of the wind roll over it's body and the freedom of the open road. Plus, gas was $2.99. Perfect.
Well, that's its. I just wanted to let all the bots and other various spams that hit this site nearly 300 times a day, that my amazing and lovely former taxi is alive, and doing well - as it always will. I will never, give up on this car. New trips, coming up! Thanks for reading my drivel!
Greetings - this little diddy isn't taxi travel related at all - just taking a moment to share my affection and appreciation to the one who is always there for me - it's not who you think.
Funny, how in this day and age people still hold judgment towards online matchmaking. If it wasn't for the internet, this blog would not exist, as there would be no anniversary in which for me to proclaim my undying affection. But it's true, I met "the one" on the internet. I used to look online quite often for what it was I seeked, more often than not, my emails would go unanswered, until - that fateful October day.
The first time I saw her picture, I was hooked. It was a basic shot, not a professional job, and she seemed to be posing for the picture in a genuine 'take it or leave it' stance. She didn't have much to say, but sometimes, anything more than a little is fodder. From the bit that I did read, I could see she was kind, faithful and in need of love. But despite the limited about me's....I did write - and finally, after a few emails, a couple of phone calls, a time and place was arranged for us to meet for the first time. I admit, I was flustered with anticipation, excitement and nervousness.
The first time I saw her, I couldn't believe it; I was stunned by her beauty. She was dressed for the occasion and our first date went without a hitch. So many things were stacked up against us; she from the city, me a country boy. I knew she came from abusive prior relationships with men that never showed her affection or care. Since then though, she has dropped her guard and placed great trust in me - and we've been besties since, and we compliment each other in so many fabulous ways. She never nags me...not once. I am free to do at will what I want, and she never complains. Nothing bothers her, not even excessive burping and farting. If I want to head out at 3 AM, there is no need to explain, I just do it, and she happily does as well without any fuss or primping. She keeps me warm when it's cold, and cold when it's hot and in return she too has a roof over head. She has given me many opportunities to shine and opened many doors for me in terms of making new friends in this world. Likewise, I do the same. I don't gripe over her habits to glutton herself with her hunger for food, or some of her physical impairments at times. I'm there for her when needed, and will stick up for her until the ends of the earth. Together we have seen many places and we both love to travel. She has endured the typical country stare downs simply because she is a woman of color. She has endured the often aggressive hatred that local hillbillies have for her, and the inevitable rumor mill of what she is and where she came from.
So....Happy Anniversary to my buddy 8D69 - you're never worse for the wear, and I don't care how much my 'other' love disdains your existence; you'll always be the best car that nobody wanted in my twinkling eye.
Well - it has been awhile since I've updated anything on here. BUT - it has been a busy couple of weeks for my old buddy 8D69 - having recently made a showing at a lovely wedding as the 'get away' car, and then *drum roll* - the family vacation mobile. Yes - much to the chagrin of my familial occupants, I took the old NYC Taxi on it's first ever family vacation trip to the seacoast of Maine. But first - before I get into that - I would like to congratulate Mr. and Mrs. David Eccles on their wedding celebration.
David and I, as it turns out, are cut from the same cloth. He too, if you can believe it, bought a retired NYC Taxi a few years ago and left it as is - I remember seeing it once in Keene, NH. The couple's wedding was NYC themed - so, David - a Fed Ex Driver approached me one day in a parking lot and asked if I could make the trek to Windham, NH to their wedding, to which I was nothing but delighted and honored. I washed the hell out of the car, even tried waxing the black wheels - but damn, in full sun and up close - nothing can hide the scars of Brooklyn! What a great day for their wedding - I wish them the best.
SO...Maine. Again. I loaded the car up to bear - between my Devious Dominican Diva, my son, and later two nephews and enough luggage to outfit a small army, the car was a bit sagging. It drove fine though - no issues at all and the AC blew ice cold the entire trip. Made it to Atlantic Avenue in about three hours and backed the cab in the driveway so it could watch all the happy vacationing people walk and drive by:
So, during my off beach times, I would go for a cruise and hit the same spots I had in my previous blog entry about Maine, so nothing new to report there. The only difference between this trip and that one (during the off season), there was a TON of people....and there was nary a place where curious people would inevitably take a picture of the car, do a double/triple take of "WTF?". I must have heard a thousand times the mutterings on sidewalks in slow traffic of 'hey a New York City Taxi' - either monotone, or, with great awe. The usual unclever "Taxi!" would be shouted out here and there. BTW, for those who don't really know, no one, and I mean no one, yells out "Taxi!" when they want a taxi. Anyhow, in Kennebunk Beach, a man was quite thrilled to see the car, as he followed me to a side street and told me he wanted to take it's picture. The man told me he was on the Kennebunk selectboard and we chatted briefly ending with his taking a picture of the car. The next day I open up the Sea Coast newspaper and well well well....look who made the paper:
You know, sometimes I have to chuckle to myself - that of all the cars that no one wants, in a town that is laden with the best of the best rolling around, including the President Bush entourage, that a 300,000 plus mile taxi gets it's picture in the paper. Kind of amazing if you think about it. On the day I saw it in the paper, I was a little embarrassed by it, because several people when I would stop at a red light or what not, would tell me the car was in the paper. Then I would think to myself, geez....I hope people don't think I drive this around because I am some attention monger, because, that is certainly far from the truth. I mean yeah, sure - I write this silly blog about it, but the main reason I do so, is simply because I like the car and what it is, and what it was, and that it is still kicking, and it's like the Little Engine That Could - no one thought it was any good anymore, but uh, clearly that notion has been proven wrong. But then again, as long as people aren't acting silly stupid like in my hometown thinking it is an 'undercover cop car', I'm happy.
So - here are just a couple of shots of my beat up buddy 8D69 wheeling around enjoying it's time in the sun - checking out all the happy people and just being a plain old regular car:
Whew - glad this blog post is over? No? Really? Yearning for MORE? Okay, well, here is one thing that is interesting to note. If any of you have kept up with this blog, you would know my significant other, Orianna, dislikes with great passion - this car. The ONLY reason she was okay with taking it on the trip was because the air conditioner broke in my other car. But - she knows I love the car, so basically is 'okay' with it *sort of winces my eyes/mouth and tilts my head back and forth slowly*. So, we come out of a Rite-Aid, and this young hip couple with NY plates is looking at my car, like full on head and hands against the windows checking it out. No big deal right? Well, all of a sudden the girl, another young latina, simply says "That's hilarious." Now, to me, I felt she was just simply conveying in less complex words 'huh...kind of neat, weird, unusual, different etc'. But oh no...not to Orianna. Orianna took it to mean she was offending my car and got right up in the woman's face and said "No it isn't", to which the latina backed away looking a little scared. Two latina females from NY scrapping over my wheels...love it! We get in the car and the boyfriend looks a little pissed at us. Ori gets on my case and says, "you need to get a little bit of NY attitude if you're going to drive around in this thing, that bitch just made fun of your car fool, and only I can do that." Anyhow - I still disagreed with her assessment of the other girl's meaning, BUT - it was nice to see, in Orianna's words...'defending your car's honor." LOL.
Other weird moment: In Ogunquit, two teenaged girls from, judging by their accents, wanted me to give them a ride to their hotel while waiting in traffic. I explained to them I was on vacation and the cab really was no longer a cab, but they said they didn't care and gave me sad puppy eyes still wanting a ride in it, which - naturally, I declined. I doubt their parents would have appreciated their young daughters being given a ride from a total stranger.
All in all, a nice family vacation - glad I got to take the cab along for the ride.
1.) Mileage at the moment - almost 339,000 miles
2.) My car made the paper and yours didn't
I shuffled my feet nervously while seated in the waiting room, restlessly looking at my watch. I was irritated a nurse at the nurse’s station was smoking so close to an operating room, but I had other things on my mind. Poor 8D69, my little old beat up NYC Taxi was undergoing the torch as skilled surgeons desperately tried to diagnose a critical pain on my car’s rear axle; and hoping a hip replacement would not be needed. I knew it would come to this, my poor car had been withering in pain the past week as we would roll along the countryside – its right rear wheel shrieking to me that something was wrong in its joint. This after having already had surgery on it's left side a month or so ago.
Unable to contain my nerves any longer and stricken with worry, I walked to the surgeon’s table and gazed upon the innards of 8D69’s hip – it’s blood in the form of gear lube oil dripping senselessly upon the ground, with bits of its bone particles in the form of shaved metal glittered. I tried to be strong, but the sight and smell was too much; I had to loook away. I affectionately touched my car's rear bumper to let it know I was nearby and not to worry. The Doctor showed me the damage. “I don’t know Mike, I think she’s going to need a new rear end”, said Dr. Barry of B&B Auto. His head sank waiting for my reaction, as he knows my affinity towards a vehicle’s originality. “No saving it?” said I. “Well, I can put another offset bearing in it, but, it won’t last long, you’re going to have to replace the entire housing” as he pointed to the sheered metal flakes on my axle shaft and housing. The only sound in the room was the idle hissing of the air drill……as these brave surgeons gave me the bad news.
After a pause, Dr. Barry asked me “What do you want me to do?” Shocked at the insensitivity of the question and without even thinking - I told him to make it feel better and spare no expense….patch it up with an offset bearing until I could find a total hip replacement for the car. So, with the precision and skill of Ron Jeremy’s willy in the 1980's, he set out to work and patched my car up. After a brief transfusion of new gear lube oil, I drove 8D69 home and I no longer could hear it groan with each mile it rolled. I pulled into the garage and tapped 8D69 on the fender and told it I would never give up on it – to enjoy it’s temporary reprieve from pain, and that I would find a new part so it could once again feel the brush of wind over its yellow skin on the open roads of America.
And so it goes…..poor 8D69’s former travels as a NYC Taxi in the City of Broken Dreams has also become the City of Broken Auto Parts. The hundreds of thousands of quick starts and turns has thus created a battle scar that will never heal on its own; the onset of vehicular arthritis was inevitable. Unlike most soldiers, a NYC Taxi once retired does not have medical insurance. There is no deductible or co-pay – it is all out of pocket. So….anyone happen to have a rear axle for a Crown Victoria in their garage? If not, I would encourage a get well soon note for me to read to it – so as to keep the car’s spirits up. Or not.
I’ll never give up on my old taxi. No matter how much Orianna would like me to.
And I don’t love dirty water. AND....I really hate that song too. But seriously, Boston is not 8D69‘s home - it fits in about as much as a goldfish in a tank full of piranha. Well, maybe I am exaggerating just a little. What a day…I convinced my darling Dominican diva, Orianna, to make the trek with me into Boston and then onward to Cape Cod and Rhode Island, thus completing 8D69’s roll through all of New England. Ordinarily not a very big deal, but…in a car pushing 350,000 pounding miles, trust me….sometimes your knuckles hurt and your ears bleed from constantly surveying sounds and squeaks that might turn to something that sounds more like an ER flatline. Nothing worse than the sound of silence when the key is turned in the on position and it wouldn’t be much fun having old 8D69 seeing the countryside on the back of a flat bed. I was a bit nervous on this trip, because while I fixed the left rear wheel bearing a few weeks ago, the right side started failing earlier in the week…with it’s slight grind that you can hear and feel, coupled with the nasty smell of dripping gear lube oil. Gear lube oil smells like death with a tricky sprinkling of sugar; it smells kind of sickly sweet, not unlike a dirtbag’s sweaty armpits yet it permeates your senses and skin pores. But…I said the hell with it - we’re going into the lion’s den of Fenway Park…or at least as close I can, especially since it was an actual home game day. The weather was perfect and I hadn’t really taken the car anywhere lengthy since Montreal and I really wanted to get a prime rib at a restaurant there called the Chart House.
The day started out a bit rough….Orianna was not a happy camper about riding in the taxi (as my previous blog outlines), but, eh…she finally just gave in, well,…once I told her about the Chart House anyways; I knew that would work. We bombed our way first into New Hampshire and I made a pit stop to drain MY gear lube oil and to check on the cab’s. No doubt about it…my axle shaft seal was leaking but good, but not enough to alarm me just yet. Always strikes me so funny in a day and age of combating DUI, that the State of New Hampshire has the wisdom to actually have a FULL liquor store next door to a “Safety Rest Stop” on the side of an interstate.
Once we left, a couple of Harley Davidsons’ pulled up to my left and they were gawking at the car and one of them slowed staring at me and then pointed right at me. Not sure if this was an ubiquitous salutation or some sort of casual bird. Ori has not really experienced any degree of overbearing attention in this car as of yet, and took offense to the long stare and weird point, and started getting all hood about it. As they both throttled the gas and lurched onward I noticed they were displaying their colors; Hells Angels (NH has a big contingency of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs believe it or not). As we approached the I-93 toll booths, I couldn’t believe it…they just gunned it right through….didn’t even slow down - were just like…eh..we’re Hells Angels…so FU. I thought some of doing the same thing in my taxi and just yelling out the window -”I’m with them, so FU!”, but, thought it best to pay the buck and do the whole polite back and forth ‘thank you…no thank YOU’ bit.
So…Boston on the horizon - we rolled in past the Boston Garden and we seemingly cruised like the wind unnoticed, save for passengers in vehicles passing us.
Boston’s Taxis are all white - a few yellow ones here and there, but generally, are white. Boston was hopping busy with the nice weather, and the only times we stuck out like fresh meat at Shawshank, was at stop lights. As is normal and customary, people would stare at the car, a few here and there taking a snap shot of it, and cabbies next to us and their passengers would crank their heads in perplexed wonderment. I don’t know if people are more perplexed that a NYC Taxi is so far from home, or the fact a Vermont license plate is attached to it. Ori, of course, was trying her best to just go along with it. Actually, Orianna is like an owl when in a car; she only looks forward. And not only do her eyes fail to dart left or right, she is like an owl with a spinal injury - her head rarely turns as well. Good thing too….the people taking pics would send her into ORBIT; so, I just kept my mouth shut.
After bebopping around trying to find Fenway, I came within an inch of knocking some asian guy in a little smart car out of the rhetorical ballpark, after he pulled right out in front of me and I was busy looking at a map. I stopped in one of the most odd places to park a car to check the map.
Getting my bearings, I motored on and found Fenway. Now, I am going to carefully broach this subject, by first stating I am not *completely* into the whole Boston vs. New York rivalry thing. Since I am from Vermont, it is considered “Red Sox Nation”. Everything up here is Boston oriented as far as sports go; my immediate family is nutso about them. I have always liked the Red Sox - but, for the past few years, I have looked past the arrogance and high salaries of NY, and quietly grew fond of them. Funny really….you would think I would be the type of guy to be rooting for the Kansas City Royals, who are akin to being the retired NYC Taxi’s of MLB; poor guys can‘t catch a break or a ball.
But for today only, I went in as a Yankees man….I brought a Yankees hat with me and placed it on the back window sill, and thought I would park my car right at the edge of Yawkey Way and time how long it would take for someone to snub me. Ori, to my surprise was all for it, but didn’t want anything to actually do with it, so I dropped her off down the street (God forbid someone see her get out of it) and she walked up to where I said I would park to snap a photo for me
Within about a minute of my pulling into the Yawkey Way entrance, a woman walked up to me with a scowled looking face….I thought this would be the big one and braced myself for a potentially heated beratement. However, she walked up to my window and asked if I was available (for a fare). I shook my head and didn’t say a word, to which she walked away. I was going to write about a number of observations and small talk that I experienced with a few passersbys, but - eh....it doesn't matter. In the spirit of good sportsmanship, I'll just let it go. There was no Paul Revere moments of warning others of my impending arrival, nor were their any attempts to actually KILL me, so....yes NY fans, I dedicate my parking job to you - you’re welcome.
So, perhaps you’re asking yourself out loud…what was the point of this? I mean, it’s not like I pulled up waving Yankees flags and inciting riots. I’m kind of an odd duck when it comes to examining the human spirit, so I just liked the idea of pulling up to the guard door of all things Boston in something that is very clearly New York - just to see how long it would take for someone to get all wacko crazy about it. Besides, what else was I going to do…go to the aquarium? Go to the Museum of Science for the 100th time, buy a messy sausage grinder at Quincy Market and fail to find an available seat? Re-Read my own blog? No.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Boston - it’s a great place, super friendly and easy to get around with lots of things to do in a fairly condensed area. My brother gave up on NYC after 20 years of growing gray hair, and moved to Boston. New York too is a great place, super NOT friendly, but also easy to get around. Once Orianna and I left the area of Fenway, we went back downtown where I could reward her for doing something completely outside her comfort zone by being a good egg and driving with me coupled with the whole taking pics thing. I think it was worth it, and so did she. Although, at $32.99, who WOULDN'T think it worth it.
Once we were done, we went back to the parking garage at post office square. It is the cleanest parking garage on EARTH, plus…it’s only 9 bucks all day on a weekend…try THAT in New York. Plus, there isn’t some scrub ala Ferris Bueller that hops in your car and takes it away three blocks down the street One nice thing about parking a NYC Taxi in a parking garage is you can’t ever lose your car.
Okay, so….having had enough of Boston - we cruise one more time to find the highway, and drove past the Massachusett's statehouse just up the street from the famous bar, Cheers, which is really just a room the size of my bathroom stuffed with people expecting to find Norm. For those who do not know, it is small. VERY small. And nothing at all as depicted on the television show.
Finding the highway, we stopped near Fanueil Hall, where, as I sort of feared, many many people took photos of us. Ori just muttered with her mouth not moving like a ventriloquist "Get. Me. Out. Of. Here." So....once the light turned green, we submerged ourselves into the greatest construction debacle in the history of mankind, the Big Dig.
Heading south out of Boston, I steered the taxi to the southeast to hit Cape Cod. Unfortunately, the battery on the camera was dying (and it is the rechargeable kind, it won‘t take regular batteries), so….not much to show in terms of pics there. We cruised around a short time and since the sun was starting to set, I decided to head south west to Providence, Rhode Island, since a roll into there would be the last state in New England my cab had not yet rattled into. The camera had enough juice for one pic left - and, of course, it came out blurry.
Since I was getting nervous about my axle, I thought it best to not push things as much as I already had, and wheel the car back home. So....after a rather long day on the road, I marveled at just how boring the day actually was. Sort of like this entire blog post. So, with that....I bid New England adieu, and thus start my plans to head much much further south. Thanks for reading! People are reading this, right? RIGHT?
Interesting Fact: Today, I had a total of five Porsche Carrera’s pass me. Each person driving those cars looked like they felt they were just FABulous. I also saw three times as many other similarly high end cars. But guess how many retired NYC Taxi‘s I saw..? That‘s right - none. None at all. BOOM!
There is a traitor in my house. And not just your run of the mill cookie cutter traitor either, this one is also a racist. Yes, dear friends, my poor old taxi 8D69 is the victim of a hate crime. Well, not really a crime, but it has been spoken ill of, and all because of it's color. Shameful. Let me explain. You see, this past weekend, I was planning on driving the taxi on a road trip through Boston and then to the southern tip of Rhode Island to complete Stage 1 of 8D69's travels, by rolling through all of New England. My plans were initially foiled by an alarming pop pop popping noise emanating from my left rear wheel, which always followed with a nasty black puddle of fluid wherever the car parked. A closer examination revealed my axle shaft, after having made over 800 zillion revolutions decided to say enough is enough. In a nutshell, my rear wheel bearing and seal failed. BUT - I was able to purchase an offset bearing, and after re-filling the rear end with 3 quarts of fresh smelly gear lube oil (at $24 a quart), my trusty friend was back on the streets. So - good to go, right? Wrong *que in reality show shocked sound while focusing on picture of an evil looking woman*.....that is to say - my darling fiance.
So....car is fixed - and it is off to Boston I say - and inform my darling and dear wife to be, Orianna, that the taxi would be the transportation of choice. Now, you know the noise a balloon makes when you blow it up and then let it go as it zig zags, straddles and strafes imaginary walls in a room until it runs out of air? Well - that is what one would have heard if they were around when I informed Orianna of my plan. Orianna is not a fan of my cab. Nope. Not at all. In fact, I think it is safe to say she absolutely despises it. Orianna is Dominican. She was born in Santo Domingo but moved to Harlem in NYC when she was seven. She came here not knowing a lick of English and had a tough time integrating into school when she was young. Now that she lives in Vermont, which is statistically the "whitest" state in the U.S., the odds of running into another individual of Dominican descent is, well, low. Because of this, we have discussed that the cab's life shares many similar hardships with her own.
For instance, since my cab's owner and list of drivers were from Pakistan, it stands to reason it has been cursed at in Punjabi and Urdu it's whole life - so when I say 'come on baby start', I mind as well as be talking in Klingon; so if you're into the whole talking to your car bit, well, 8D69's first language is not English, just like Orianna, whose first language is Spanish. Other similarities to Orianna:...it emigrated here from another country (Canada) to live in New York; it moved to a new town with no friends; as a minority it is always stared at and judged because of it's color, AND....when people are up close they are nice and politically correct to it's grille, but stab it in the taillights when not around. So knowing this....you would think Orianna would have a little more in depth feeling of identity for my cab. But alas, she doesn't. Since she grew up in New York, a yellow cab means nothing to her. Well, wait. Actually that isn't true, it does mean something - but it isn't positive. To her, a yellow cab is just some random meaningless blob of metal that doesn't stop for her unless she is wearing high heels. These stories of hers trying to get home from work in mid-town Manhattan have always perplexed me, as I never seem to have a problem hailing a cab. Plus, in my blog links, my NYC cabbie friend, Noah, who also is the author of a great blog - www.nyctaxiphoto.com, recently shared the other day that after working a 12 hour shift, and paying for his daily lease rate for the cab plus gas, he made a profit of $34. $34 in 12 hours. And people expect these guys/gals to kiss our ass when we demand rides in New York?! Ha! Anyways, despite the abysmal pay he received that day, his love of his job, the few interesting people he might meet or things he might see plus pride in his chosen profession keeps him doing what he does. But back to Orianna. I know she will be reading this, and the last thing I want is for her to think for one minute I am going to segue this blog post from her to something else. Oh no no no my sweet Orianna. It is time to pay the piper and let the world know of your traitorous ways.
Now, the day I bought this cab and made the trek home, I stopped at her work with it. She knew I was beyond elated, so she was happy for me; a little surprised to see a NYC Taxi in front of her, but all in all - totally embarrassed. Within the first week of my having the old cab, Orianna announced at 5 pm one evening that she needed a ride to a conference in Burlington, VT, which is well over 2 hours away. My personal car was having issues, so 8D69 swept her off her feet and drove her there without a hitch. One week later, she needed a ride to another conference in Lake Morey. Same situation applied with same successful results. Now, when Orianna NEEDS a ride, it would seem my old cab is good enough for the Obsecrating Obsequious Orianna. But if there are other modes of transportation available, well, lets just say the balloon hissing noises can sometimes turn to POPS and BANGS. Each time I have ever dropped Orianna off someplace in the taxi, it has to be someplace no one can see her get out of it; she is that embarrassed by it.
So anyways, when it came to a trip to Boston, she just wasn't going to have any part of it, at least if I felt like having a functioning agreeable human being to accompany me with for the day that is. I say this half wittingly, but I have been around Orianna enough to know the volatile volcano that can erupt in her Dominican head. It is sort of like Mount St. Helens. Peace, calm and blue skies one minute, and the next....sizzle, crack, KaaaaBOOM - as curious repetitive sounds erupt from her mouth like "Cono Diablo" and "Ay Dios Mio". I choose my battles carefully with her. It's tricky really; unlike my European roots, you can see my face turn red when angry; not so with Orianna - its just rainbows, sprinkles and unicorns one second, and Poltergeist the next. Gotta be on your toes around here. Could I have gotten her into the taxi for a trip to Boston? Sure - I am a master of manipulation. But when I go into battle, it is for life or death, and this battle did not meet that criteria. In this particular Boston scenario, it would have been a battle that could only result in wounds. The kind of wounds you WANT to die from, but in the end, it's prognosis would be a full and complete recovery. I initially told her Boston had plenty of cabs roaming around, so in reality, not many people would even bother to look. People are not driving into Boston to look at cabs (not even me) so since she wasn't a celebrity, no one would bother or care. I told her even if someone did notice, and looked her square in the eyes, she would be forgotten about in roughly 15 seconds. But, I could see the face frown developing, where not just the mouth turns upside down, but the whole face including the jet black hairline. And like a see saw on the playground of death, while the face starts to frown down, the shoulders start to go up.....there is no fight OR flight....it is fight (her) AND flight (me). So, I said bag it and we took my other car. She may have won the battle, but I will win the war.
But there is GOOD news! Once we were there, we drove by Fenway Park. Seeing it for the first time for her up close, she decided indeed it would be a good opportunity to take a photograph of a NYC Taxi in front of Fenway. Sort of stir the chowder pot so to speak, or to tickle the lion's whiskers and then escape before the sneeze turns into a roar. I'm no dummy though. I know why she would agree to this - and it isn't to fuel or otherwise partake in some baseball rivalry. And it isn't to appease her Marvelously Mabsoot Michael either. I think she *likes* the idea of a city rivalry, but has trouble deciding if she is too smart for that, or if it somehow keeps her connected to her "beloved" city of New York. Orianna loves loves loves New York, that is, right up to the minute we get off the 2 miles in 2 hours Cross Bronx "Expressway" into Harlem - then...like Sylvester Stallone in that arm wrestling movie where a switch of the hat equates with the switch of personality; she turns HOOD. It takes approximately 5 seconds at the first stop light to transform this new found sweet country gal into this hard nosed TMZ video. From the banged up gypsy cabs cutting us off, to the guy selling his stolen oranges and Dominican flags in the middle of the road to the chimmichurri trucks slowly sinking into the pavement on Amsterdam Avenue; it just sort of turns the key for a face frown to the "on" position.
Bottom line is this - after having been a prisoner of war this weekend, having poor 8D69 locked in the garage and grounded by the traitorous Orianna, I vow I will no longer back down from her aggressions. This I PROMISE. Read my lips. NO. NEW. TAXES! Seriously though - 8D69 will be hitting Boston and Rhode Island on my next day off. After that, I am rolling south to the land of the sun, where coconuts fall. There is nothing more inspiring to me then to take something that is an underdog, and make it shine like a diamond in the end. Come hell or highwater, after New England is through, I will be starting on Stage 2, which is the entire east coast. I think a good first leg to this end will be a leisurely stroll to Washington D.C. and let it enjoy the green grass of the National Mall for the day while I jet about the Smithsonian. Gas prices are nuts; they are really really really irritating me, as are all the parts I have to buy for this car, so my east coast goal will be in bits and pieces, but I'm not going to stop. Just not going to happen. Unless the engine blows up, that.....might actually make me stop. But not for long. And it will never be the end.
Not so interesting facts:
* Mileage at the moment: 332,000 miles.
* In 94,000 miles, if there was a road to the moon, 8D69 would be arriving back from a round trip.
* If the equator of the earth was paved, 8D69 would have circumvented the globe a few miles shy of 13 times.
* With an average MPG of 14 mpg, my car has burned approximately 23,700 gallons of gas, which equates to
approximately 4.5 tanker trucks of gas.
* With oil change intervals at 3,000 miles, 8D69 has undergone 107 oil changes, which at 5 quarts each is 536 quarts
of oil, which equals 134 gallons. Medium price for a quart of oil is $5.00, which equals $2,683 paid for motor oil.
* If the medium price for gas during it's five years of use was $3.50 a gallon, then roughly $83,000 has been spent on fuel.
* States 8D69 has grazed thus far:
New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut,
Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and Canada. 1/5 of the country. Baby steps......baby steps.
Stay Tuned for more exciting travels ---------
This blog is not one of my travel ones as found below - I’m planning on another trip in a couple of weeks to Cape Cod and Rhode Island, but in the meantime, I thought I would write a top 5 list of FAQ/Considerations as applied to owning a former NYC Taxi.
Now, IF….and I am sure that is a very BIG IF, for some reason my little website inspires you to take that leap of faith into the waiting clutches of a retired NYC Taxi, there are a few things you should know, based on my experience. And....if you do - welcome to the club….a greasy thumb club for gentlemen and gentlewomen. It is an exclusive club reserved for only those with astute tastes and a love of being comfortable with themselves, as ownership comes with certain perils. In this club, when we roll up to a stoplight and ask people for mustard, we ask for French‘s, not Grey Poupon. In this club, we drink tap water from lead pipes and eat goldfish instead of haddock. So, without further ado, here are the perils. You ready for them? Okay:
1.) People think you’re weird as hell if you own one. Like out of your mind weird. And even more weird if you have a website about it. People love to mock and express some pseudo humor about it; unfortunately, it is the kind of humor that isn't very clever. For such individuals, they either think the cars are nasty disgusting germ pits, or that they are simply a symbol of the downtrodden and poor. People who do not understand modern day NYC likely conjure up images of 1970’s/80’s burned out Harlem, which simply doesn’t exist anymore. Personally, I don’t really care what anyone thinks, but if you’re the ilk that does, this ‘issue’ of ownership takes spot #1 in the ‘things to consider’. I’ve had people say right to my face they wouldn’t even want to sit in it, which is weird, because they would be the first ones to hail a NYC Taxi if they were in NYC. Just because it is retired doesn’t mean they shovel human feces into it or have hot dog burping contests in it before kicking it out of service. But…be prepared for snootiness. I get it’s not for everyone, I really do, but, well….what to do. Even the fact I have a website about it some people sort of scoff at. I don’t know why - it’s just a minor blip in my day as a form of expression in which I spend some spare time on - creating websites in 2012 is really not an unusual thing. Maybe people think I should watch football instead? I don’t know.
2.) Like I’ve mentioned above with people thinking they are nasty, disgusting germ pits, well.....actually......they ARE! There is filth, grime, scrapes and discarded fingernails in every crevice of it’s interior (I jest….I did not find any fingernails in my car…but it WAS as dirty as a beggar‘s teeth). I thought at one point I would need a belt sander to scrape the cemented sinus excretions off the partition. Sure, they get a weekly application of armor all when in service, but - well, I think you know what I mean. Thousands of people ride in these things and not everyone who uses cabs works on Wall Street or live in the Dakota on Central Park West. The average fare in NYC is roughly 2.7 miles. At 310,000 miles (the mileage of my car at retirement), you can do the mental math to understand how many people sat in my car. Underneath the back seat of my car were numerous candy wrappers, notes, receipts, plane tickets, a jack knife, two cell phones, personal items and enough spare change to buy a tank of gas. If you end up buying one, expect to spend a considerable amount of time with some elbow grease in cleaning. As an aside, inside of the cab was a ton of old fare receipts. One of the nice things about the old fare receipts, is the driver's hack license number, which is searchable on the NYC TL&C site, Naturally, I did so, got a name....and after a little internet sleuthing, learned he was interviewed by Corey Kilgannon of the NY Times in July of 2011 about driving through Central Park, in which an attached video was included (I'll respect the driver's privacy by keeping his name out of it). I watched the video -
(http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/14/the-guilty-pleasure-of-a-drive-through-central-park/?scp=1&sq=driving%20a%20car%20in%20central%20park&st=cse) and well well well.....what do you know, there is 8D69. The same four "sunny citrus" trees positioned on the partition, the wire to the license holder behind the head and the wrinkles on the seat belt. Out of ALL the cabs in NYC....I actually got a video of mine from the NY Times. Here is the short clip of 8D69 at second .33 :
A comparison pic of my cockpit
3.) They are high and hard miles. Yes, they are inspected every three months. But, by the time they are retired, they are TIRED. Mechanical issues become chronic at times and without much warning. One day, you might hear a squeak or rattle. By the next day, it will be a shriek and a gallon of gear lube pouring out of it. Little things go on this car....like for instance, I’ve never had to replace a body bushing on a car….I mean really….who does that? Well, NYC Taxi’s suffer from this requirement at times…lots of bouncing and jouncing on those streets create a lot of metal fatigue and stress. These are vehicles that for the most part, have never really had an ‘owner’ per se. They are money makers - no more, no less; they mean nothing to the owners of them. Once their careers are over in the Big Apple, they go from money makers, to money wasters - unless of course the vehicle is bought by a nutcase like me. I've had to do a lot of work to this car - and there is no doubt in my mind given the mileage and history, I am very likely the ONLY one who would invest the time and money into it. From bushings, to seals, to rear axle bearings....you name it, my hands have touched it. And if they haven't touched it, my checkbook has. Gotta be dedicated and certifiable to be in this club - seriously.
4.) If you live in a place anything like where I live, you probably know there are some people out there who are uh….how do I say…..?….not too bright. I have heard NUMEROUS times, and have even been asked once, that/if my car is an ‘undercover’ police car. Obviously, anyone who thinks driving a bright yellow NYC Taxi around in Vermont or any other place other than NYC is an effective ‘go like the wind’ undercover car, is an idiot. But alas, it is true, you may experience such paranoia and dum dummery in your particular locale. However, if you’re an attention whore, this kind of car might be for you. Staring, waves, picture taking, parking lot conversations and the occasional road raged person who hates that you are driving an old cab, are all things you will experience if you choose to drive an old NYC Taxi. I’ve also had the local taxi guy in my town giving me prying evil eyes as we pass each other. He called our local police chief and complained a NYC Taxi company was illegally taking fares and taking food out of his mouth. I did end up speaking with the local taxi owner at one point, and made peace with him with the assurance that I was not taking fares at anytime.
5.) Besides “Why” being the number one asked question of ownership, the second most asked question is “Why don’t you paint it?”. Maybe if you join this exclusive club and end up owning one you will - and that is okay. But me? I won’t. I like it the way it is - that is what makes it unique. It is a NYC Taxi, why on earth would I change it’s entire personality and make it look like one of the other 50 old police cruisers roaming around my town. No thanks. I’ll stick to yellow, but of course, I always appreciate the rude remarks from others. It is important to note, that the design on this cab, is not the design that is used any longer - from the checkering to the door decal. No different than an antique Checker that still retains it's original design. Another segue regarding paint color, is….”isn’t it illegal to have those markings on it?”. Quick answer is “No”. There are no regulations in the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission codes that requires decal removal upon sale, at least that I could find in the 800,000 pages of rules and regs. And even if there were, as stated, this design is no longer even used. It’s not an emergency vehicle (like a police car). It’s just an old cab. In fact, I met someone who said he was one of the deputy commissioners of the NYC TL & C here in Vermont a month or so ago. He followed me into the parking lot of the VT Country Store Outlet on his way home from leaving a ski resort, and was thrilled to death to see the car. Even had his wife take his picture next to the car with a covered bridge in the background. She didn't seem as impressed or enthusiastic as he was. Nice guy though.
So - while I realize most people I personally know locally would not consider EVER having one of these exquisite automobiles, I do know of many others who DO actually like the idea of it. And for those that do, well, thus concludes the five to things to consider if you have ever thought of buying and driving an old NYC Taxi.
Trip #3. There exists a real irony in big American cars that are made in Canada. However, be that as it may, Crown Victoria's are, or rather were - since production ended in 2011, made in Canada at Ford's St. Thomas Factory not too far from Toronto. I was able to visit this plant a few years ago through work, and for a sedan junkie like me, it was nothing short of PHENOMENAL. It was amazing - Crown Victoria's, 980 a day, spawning from what looks like just the shell of a car roof to metamorphosing into an actual brand new car within a few short hours. In the parking lot, as far as the eye could see was a sea of color of various Crown Victoria's and Mercury Grand Marquis' awaiting their picks in life. I admit, my usual sappy self took great emotional stock in knowing that every Crown Victoria I've ever driven - from police cars to my old 89 station wagon, rolled down this same line that has not changed for the better part since the 50's when Crown Victoria's first started getting made. Anyhow - when a car is made, it is already sold, it's not like Ford Motor Company owns the cars at the factory. Actually, the car is sold before the metal is even poured to make what will become a car. A dealership orders cars - either through a customers desires, or, at the whim of the dealership. A VIN is assigned by Ford and stamped on paper, and once that future car's turn is called, that piece of paper with the list of options follows the car down the line until the factory poops out the final product.
So, now that you know this riveting fact, you have likely surmised that the grand high exalted mystic traveler known as 8D69 was born in Canada. It's American parents, Best Ford in the Bronx were the ones responsible for it's life - at least sort of kind of. Now, just because it was born there, doesn't mean it really ever got to *see* Canada, so on February 20, 2012, I had a vacation day and decided to take the 500 mile round mile trip to Montreal in my old cab. A homecoming of sorts. Well, not really, but you get the gist of what I mean. Of course, the car ran well, and prior to crossing the border I filled up as I didn't want to bother to change my U.S. currency into Canadian as the exchange rate sucks, and I was only going for the day. When I wheeled up to the stop sign at the border to wait my turn to speak with the border officer, I noticed other Canadian border agents in the building to my left opening the shades and looking at my car and smiling and talking amongst themselves. Well, I admit I assume that the car was the root cause, unless Canadian Border Officers spend all day lifting shades, pointing and giggling at *every* car that rolls through there.
When it was my turn, I rolled up to the border officer in the booth, who was very pleasant. I gave him my passport and he asked me where I was going and for what reason. I didn't tell him the real reason, which is that I am a complete nutcase and I was treating my car like it was my date. Instead, I just told him I wanted to wheel into Montreal for the day for fun and then head home. He handed me back my passport and told me to have an enjoyable day. It's funny, every time I have crossed into Canada as an "alien", officials there have been nothing but friendly. But whenever I come back HOME, the U.S. guys start in with the inquisition as to why I traveled to a city in a friendly non warring country only an hour from the border. More on that later.
Driving in Canada is always pleasant. In Quebec, the language difference from English to French is immediate - from road signs to the radio station. There is no easing into it. Quebec is French, and is in fact the second most French speaking place in the world. Also immediate is the text message your cell phone gets stating you are out of coverage unless you want the international plan. All I was thinking at that moment was PUHLEEZ don't die on me 8D69, or I am royally SCREWED! No money and no means to communicate in a foreign country is probably not the brightest decision I have ever made. Anyways, not even 500 feet into the country you are transported from mph to the metric system. So, "100" doesn't really mean ONE HUNDRED. In a car made for the USA, one now has to rely on those teeny tiny kilometers on the speedo. For being so far up north, the area in which I traveled was as flat as Kansas with large farms everywhere. People tend to drive pretty fast in Quebec, but there are plenty of passing zones so one doesn't have to feel stressed out when you just want to cruise. One thing I do not do in 8D69, is drive fast in it. It has far too many miles on the clock to be driven like a madman. I will spin it up to 75 or so on an interstate if it gets away from me by accident, but that is about it. People are all very friendly as well, in fact, whenever one roams about North America in rural areas, one should feel fairly self assured that if you ran into trouble, someone will aid you. Sort of a pay it forward system without actually knowing that expression even exists. I'm not naive, it's just simply my experience.
While cruising for about an hour, and trying to decipher how on earth their exit sign numbers work, I was able to find the major highway to Montreal. Getting in was easy, the road signs for finding places in Canada are all well marked. Finding how to get BACK to the U.S. though...? Well, let's just say it does not appear to be a high priority for the transportation department of Canada. I crossed the Pont Champlain Bridge and took the exit to Old Montreal, which is the old seaport section of Montreal. It has a very definite Euro feel to it, with it's cobbled streets and narrow passageways. Many of the buildings look absolutely ancient, as if they belonged in Rome.
Naturally, being the taxi geek I am, I noticed the cab system there also must be regulated. I noticed all the cabs were unmarked regular cars, from Impala's to Camry's with one tiny little sign on the roof. They are also everywhere. They did not look to be very busy, and the few I saw with passengers, the driver's drove slow and respectful like. Quite a few gave me a hat tip so to speak and at a stoplight to my right, a driver motioned for me to roll my window down. As I did so, he was smiling and reading the fare amounts on my rear door and then jokingly asked me for directions to the Empire State Building. At this point, wherever I was, I was lost, and I told him that for the first time in my life, I really didn't know. He smiled and the light turned green and off he went down another street. I noticed most of the cars in Montreal were small to medium sized. Finding a parking space became a challenge for me, but I was finally able to find one that the big Ford could fit in.
I walked around a bit and noticed later that my car was parked near the famous chapel Notre Dame.
It was a bit windy and cold, so I thought I would head back to the car and just cruise around instead. When I got back I was a little embarrassed to go near the car as it appeared that 8D69 was stealing all the attention of tourists away from Notre Dame. People were posing next to it, a dozen cameras and cell phones trained on it as it sat slowly ticking away it's heat from the drive up. I waited a bit for the scene to clear out so I could slip back into the car without any question, but - well, the scene never did clear out. I couldn't believe it - here was this car that went from total absolute obscurity and disdain, to what appears to be a traveling roadshow. I was off in the distant as to not be a third wheel and spoil their fun, but after getting a little too nippy, I finally walked toward the car, and I noticed everyone was speaking french. Nobody asked me anything about it, which made me happy - and I just nodded and smiled to be polite and then got in and drove away. Not even two blocks away I rolled up to a stoplight. To my right was about 40 people on the sidewalk, some of whom appeared to be young adults on a class trip of some sort. I saw one older guy nod his head my way - clearly announcing a NYC Taxi was over yonder, to which the remaining 39 heads locked eyes with the cab. Next thing I see, is everyone holding up cameras, yelling "New York City Taxi" in their heavy french accents and smiling and waving. It was really something - I felt as though old 8D69 took a breath and pushed it's chest out as if to say "Hell Yeah I am" (or was - lol). Quite literally, most every street I went down that was populated or at least had groups of people that were not walking, it was similar situations, so - at that, I thought it time to move on back home. Montreal is a beautiful, clean and progressive city and I highly recommend it to anyone. I would just recommend it in warmer months!
On my way back, I took a different route home to end up in upstate New York. It was a nice ride with plenty of neat views of rural living once you head out of the city limits. I've never seen farm fields as large as the ones I saw in Canada. As we approached the border of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, as the sign says in impressively large block letters as you approach the border, I took my camera out to snap a photo. Quite a bit of a different welcome as opposed to Canada. The first thing you see are cameras. Everywhere. Different sizes, planted here planted there - it makes you feel worried that someone will smell Cuban Cigar on your breath. I'm not whining about it, I get it and all, but it's like wow. I imagined I was on the red carpet of the Oscars - a flash here, a flash there. As I waited my turn behind a silver Impala (who was earlier taking pictures of me while on the road), I rolled up to the booth.
Like the language change is immediate when you enter Canada, so is the immediacy of a change from pleasantries to one of suspicion. So this border inspector....lol - I can't complain as I appreciate his astuteness, but woo hoo!. He starts in with this flat, blase 'I've Done This a Thousand Times Before' attitude. He asked me at least a dozen questions, each time looking at me in disbelief as I would answer. It felt like an interrogation and he would ask me questions verbalized in such a way that he *really* already knew the answer. Of course, when you're at the border, you're pretty much the most powerless and vulnerable person on earth - it's best just to smile and nod and answer lest you wish to have your time wasted by someone searching your car. It wouldn't have bothered me at all if it was, but, I don't imagine it is a whole lot of fun and good conversation. At one point while he was typing my info into the computer, his phone rang. He answered the phone and he said "I know, I'm running it now". Not sure what all that meant, but, when the guy was done asking questions, he was looking at his computer screen. He handed my passport back to me without looking, of which I took. I didn't know if he was completely done, so I sat there. After a moment of silent awkwardness, I asked him if I was all set; he said NOTHING - he just looked straight ahead at the next car that would roll through once I left. I mean this literally. He appeared to be disgusted with me, it was very confusing. So, after a few more seconds, I assumed he was indeed done, so I thanked him and wished him a good day, put the car in drive and drove away....slowly...just in case he wasn't..?... I was very confused as to just what he was doing! So, since no sirens or alarms went off, I pulled away a little faster and got the speedometer up to oh......3 mph. Just prior to leaving I had to drive through a series of cones and twists and turns. While I am the ilk of person to encourage border scrutiny, I have to admit I was a little perplexed. But oh well - life goes on and the road calls. Anyhow, enough of that.
On my way back through New York State, I cut back into Vermont and rolled 8D69 through the islands of Lake Champlain which is a very nice route. I've never been on Route 2 before and it was nice rolling and smooth ride. I was tempted to be the first person in known history to drive a NYC Taxi on the frozen surface of Lake Champlain, as many others were driving their trucks out on the ice, but decided against it. Heading south, I thought I would keep heading southeast and be the first person to drive a NYC Taxi across the oldest and longest covered bridge in the world which connects Vermont to New Hampshire before steering my way home.
After a nearly 600 mile day, I made it back to home base, got out - affectionately tapped 8D69 on the fender and thanked her for another great ride.
Other than the trip home from New York City, the first "real" trip I decided to take in the cab was a jaunt to the Atlantic Ocean along the seacoast of Maine. The trip was not new to me, as I had been going to the seacoast since I was an infant, but it was just long enough and far enough away, that it most definitely would classify as a trip, since the total mileage after cruising around would be roughly 500 miles or so. I also thought that it would be nice to cruise up the coastal route and give a little dash of color to old Gray Maine with my cab. Maine is one of the finest states one could ever visit - first of all it is huge in area, and I mean really big. Most of it is rural if not state forest. It is clean, diverse in it's topography and just a great place to visit. Whether it is the Appalachian Trail, a tall mountain, a farm, small towns, large cities or the quintessential port towns - it has everything. However, since I already live in the sticks, such things did not interest me, but rather - it was the ocean I needed to see.
Prior to the trip, it had dawned on me that 8D69 had already sniffed sea air before. Coney Island in Brooklyn is the beach community for NYC. From my perspective, Coney Island is not what I imagine it once was. The beach is disgusting - and so aren't most of the individuals who choose to go there. But the Atlantic Ocean in Maine? Just beautiful. And so aren't the beaches and the homes and the stores and the restaurants. I rolled into Maine via Interstate 95 after crossing the Piscataqua Bridge in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
From there, I cruised around the towns of Wells, Ogunquit and York, making a stop at the famous Nubble Light House.
The homes in this area are unbelievable; seriously, I mean they are really something else. What always strikes me the most unusual about so many of these homes, is that no one lives in them. Clearly, the homes are summer homes and owned by people whose bank accounts are not for the faint of heart. Kind of sad really - the homes and the grounds and the views are top notch. The southern Maine coastal towns in the late fall and early winter months are GHOST towns by the way. When I cruised through York, everything was boarded up. Roads that are usually one way traffic are now opened up to two way traffic. Speed limit signs that usually say 35 are now covered over with bolt on signs that say 50. It is rather surreal, and it is such that I often cannot decide if I like the loneliness of it, or if I miss the summer laughter, or the family cars with bikes tied to the roof, or the people walking in flip flops unshaven and relaxed. I suppose I am reading to much into it, because despite the relative low population of people in the off season months, there are still many a person who clearly enjoy the occasional day trip to Maine if only to wet the appetite for warmer months and summer vacations.
After a short rumble north on Route 1, I cruised into the Town of Kennebunkport. Kennebunkport is also a town that is predominately wealthy - or at least it seems that way. It's most famous resident is former President George W. Bush, who has a home that arrogantly sets on a large natural stone jetty. Secret Service is stationed there for obvious reasons, but there is a pull off for knuckleheads like me to pull over, take out the binoculars and see what George and Barbara are up to.
I have read before that George does not like his privacy compromised and has expressed disdain towards the reality that his home is a tourist trap. Unfortunately, there isn't a thing he can really do about it. I parked my cab in the little pull off and sat on a bench for awhile just to watch the waves crash against the rocks, only occasionally looking up with a hopeful stare that George might walk the dog or something; I've never seen him in all my years of going to Maine. I got back in the cab and took a tour of the homes in this area, cruising into neighborhoods that have probably never even SEEN a Crown Victoria, much less a yellow one. I even pulled into Bush's driveway to turn around just so I could say 8D69 has been to Geroge Bush's house. The Secret Service Agent in the booth just waved to me. The homes and neighborhoods I cruised through were unbelievable - and I mean jaw dropping butt clenching beautiful. What a great cruise through these neighborhoods. Before I left, I drove to the docks and sat for awhile listening to the boats in the harbor rock away - their ropes and buckles clanging against masts while there crusted keels lapped the cold blue-green water. As the sun started to make it's voyage from high in the sky to the west, I decided to make the roll home. As is becoming standard fare in this car, many people whether on the road or at occasional stops, would smile and wave at me. This is especially true for New Yorkers. I have noticed that no matter where I am, when a New Yorker sees the car, they get all bubbly about it. The thought occurred to me one day as ski traffic in Vermont was heading home and while trying to break into traffic, I waited and watched so many New York cars wave, take pictures or do double takes as they sped by. It is amazing how New Yorkers love a New York cab when it is far away from New York. Kind of strange.
Anyhow - the cab ran great with no troubles at all and doing the trip after I had made some repairs made me feel more confident with it. Many more trips to come with this awesome car.