Cobra Journal – Day 1

Street Cobra recreation

Not too long after the Cobra was road worthy, Anna (daughter) and I decided we would take it to Buffalo on the occasion of one of the regular family gatherings. To commemorate the drive, we decided to keep a journal which we worked on each evening of the trip. It’s fair to say that neither the trip nor the journal were what we expected. They were so much more. We saw things at a level and in a way that we had not experienced before. We touched lives, put smiles on people’s faces, and saw the old become young again.

Shortly after we returned, I edited our entries into something more readable and shared the results with a few friends. After the initial excitement died down, the journal slid into my computer archives…until now.


Day 1 – Finally gathered everyone up and took off in on-again, off-again thunderstorms…top up, no side windows (they really don’t keep you that dry anyway), and Anna riding as navigator. First stop—fuel. She’s a thirsty girl and it would look oh, so gauche for me to get trapped in some public place with the fancy rig and a forlorn look. That would just never do! Paula’s following in the ‘safety’ car so I know I can’t get into too much trouble.

The first thing you notice on the highway is the deafening wind noise. But, what a blast! At 75-80 mph in fifth gear, the motor is just loafing – 2000 RPM. The second thing you notice is all of the stuff you notice that you know has been there all along but you don’t remember seeing. Barns that you know didn’t get moved, flowers that have been there all along, cliffs that you don’t remember being that tall – it’s all so much more present when you’re out in the wide-open and only a foot off the roadway.

Early 427 style interior

New York! This is the first time my baby has been out of state. I would have stopped to celebrate but I’m still nervously checking gauges, making sure everything is humming along – and (faux pas) no champagne handy. Ah, well…maybe a little late celebration on the return leg. It sure does track nice with new, taller tires, No more bump steer and it feels, well…more like a car than a train. Anna is content in the right seat to listen to her i-pod and check out the passing scenery. We’re having a ball. When I was a kid traveling around the country, I often wondered who lived in the houses I passed and what their lives were like. I asked Anna if she ever wondered the same and, behold, she did! A magic moment (one of many more today). We are so much alike in our sensibilities. It’s like seeing myself as a girl (now there’s a scary thought).

First pit stop. We lost Paula somewhere around Ft. Anne and figured we’d better gather up before we cut across from 87 South to Amsterdam. Directions aren’t Paula’s forte and getting her lost on the way over is probably not a recipe for a happy landing. Potty breaks all the way around! Baby is running sweet and we’re spending a good deal of time waving to admiring passers by, responding to the numerous thumbs’ up and generally enjoying everyone else enjoying us riding around in this magnificent beast. Speaking of which, I thought it would be a real handful on the extended highway driving but, while it’s not exactly like driving your basic Honda, it’s remarkably tame…goes where you point it and tracks extremely well. Oh yeah, we took the top down and stored it in the ‘boot’ (ah, those English) so we’re “au natural” now. Rockin’!

Off the Northway, through Balston Spa on our way to Amsterdam and the New York Thruway. Love going through these small towns with all of their industriousness. Anna and I continue to play the “I wonder” game with interesting buildings and houses. There’s a certain “Andrew Wyeth” quality to all of the scenery that really sticks in your head…mailboxes, old barns, kid’s playing in front yards. The first thing you notice when you have the occasion to stop, is that you’re damn near deaf from the road, wind, and exhaust noise. It’s wonderful! Visceral! Stopping at the toll- booth to get on the Thruway, the ticket guy eyed me pretty suspiciously. Wonder what he was thinking? Probably wondering what kind of nut-job would take a car like that on the Thruway. Easy answer…this kind of nut-job!

And we’re off! Just couldn’t resist mashing the accelerator to the floor as I exited the on-ramp. What a rush! It pins you back in the seat and the acceleration is nothing short of ballistic. Holy crap! Now I know what being shot out of a gun must feel like. Okay, we’ve had our brief moment of naughtiness and now it’s time to settle down and cruise. Paula’s back there somewhere. We’ve agreed to stop up around Utica – about 200 miles into the trip – and what I think is my fuel window. Gas mileage is not really a concern when you build these things, but it’s good to have some idea of you economy when you’re on the highway. We take so much for granted when we drive around in our modern machinery…like accurate gauges.

A very uneventful—thank goodness—cruise to our second stop, just outside of Utica. A little lunch, a little fuel, very little actually. I’m astounded at the apparent fuel economy. While not exactly hybrid territory, we’re getting around 22-23 mpg. What a pleasant surprise. Now I don’t have to deal with the massive amounts of guilt I might have had to feel for being such a blatant “dinosaur killer”. God, I long for a more tolerant world that isn’t so judgmental about simple indulgences. Especially my indulgences.

We’re practically deaf now. Stepped out of the Cobra and we still hear the roar in our ears. It’s pretty comical. Anna and I are trying to hear each other. Oh boy, did Anna and I step in it! Paula is really steamed! “You’re going too fast!” We were. “You don’t have any air bags!” True. “You’re going to get stopped and I’m just going to wave as I go by!” Harsh! “Are you crazy!? No, Anna can’t drive!” Major buzz kill. “The car’s so small, other drivers can’t see you!” She’s right, of course but it makes you drive defensively…something we should be doing anyway—Cobra or Honda. A little lunch and we agreed to make our third stop at the Ontario Thruway island.

Sweetest butt in autodom

And, we’re off…again. Anna is still content to sit and plug into her tunes. It didn’t make sense to get into about her driving the Cobra but I really wanted her to have some fun on the way over. I know she’d rather be with her friends. The trip between the two stops was particularly uneventful. More waves from interested drivers, a few toots on the horn from semi drivers and the usual array of highway jerks bent on seeing how annoying they can truly be. I’m happy to be cruising along. It’s kind of funny. When you have a car that you know could rip the doors off anything else on the highway, you don’t feel the need to drive like a maniac. Some sort of penile compensation thing going on?

Reached Ontario under sunny skies. More fuel taken on although we didn’t really need it. It’s only another hour into Buffalo and I still have a half-tank to spare. Put in about 6 gallons, about a 200-mile haul. You’ll have to do the calculation. Anna’s going to ride the last miles with Paula. One thing we’ve noticed…we’re both incredibly dehydrated. Threw down two bottles each of water and grabbed another one for the road. Second thing we noticed…we should have put on some kind of sunscreen. Our arms and faces are toast! Ah well, too late now. We’re outta here!

A few miles out of the rest stop and the dark clouds are looking pretty ominous. If it’s a few drops, I’ll just gut it out and wipe down later but, if it opens up, I’m going to need to stop and erect the ‘hood’ again (the English strike once more). Here it comes! Geez, this isn’t going to go away. I scooted into an underpass and broke out the top. I’m off the roadway but it feels like I’m going to get sucked into the wheels every time a semi goes by. Fit the passenger side curtain but didn’t bother with driver’s side. One thing about driving with the top on…no visibility. The rear view mirror is practically useless and your side vision is very restricted. To get myself a measure a comfort, I resort to looking around the cockpit like some fighter pilot scanning for the enemy.

Man oh man! Am I glad I have some cover. It’s raining so hard that traffic has slowed down to a crawl and forward visibility is nil. My left leg and arm are getting a good soaking but everything else is dry. Pretty amazing when you consider the thin membrane between me and the rain. Traffic is moving at 30mph and things are still very sketchy. Baby is tracking extremely well in the standing water and feels more stable than I would have thought given the width of the treads I’m riding on. Up ahead, I can see clearing skies and I’m thinking about taking the top down for a more grand entrance into Buffalo but I’m anxious to get there (and get out of here) so I opt to leave it up. Through the tollbooth and another very suspicious toll taker. Ah, the last 20 miles!

Paula calls to find out where I’m at…just around the corner. A couple of more turns and I’m there! A successful passage! Big smiles all the way around. Paula has adopted the role of tour guide for the car and is displaying a good deal more knowledge of it than I imagined she had. I detect a real sense of pride and accomplishment on her part. Me, it’s interesting that I built the car, but it’s more fun to drive. Time for a cold beer!

All in all, I have to declare the first day a smashing success. Baby performed flawlessly…I stopped nervously checking the gauges somewhere around Utica and settled in to enjoy the ride. Learned a few things though. Wear sunscreen. Drink tons of fluids. Get the radio fixed.

Anna’s Comments—Day 1 – A thing you should know about this car, is how amazing it is! Not that I have to tell anyone this but, honestly it feels so great to just ride in it, I feel so giddy. As Dad said, the whole trip was pretty uneventful, I even managed to fall asleep after all three stops. Dad’s pretty amazed that I could do that through all the noise, but that’s what teens do best, eat and sleep. We’re going to Target to buy something so I can reach the pedals better, Mom said that’s the only reason I couldn’t drive. Look who’s driving now? I’m pretty excited…and nervous; I just don’t want anything to happen! Dad tells me in the car that before driving it I have to know a few key things, since he fixed the horn the blinker has to be held up for right, if I want to pass and, as I assume, scare the crap outta some people, to put it in 4th, keep certain gauges between certain numbers, other than that I’ll be fine. It’s amazing how much we think alike, as he said before about the whole “ I wonder” game, what he didn’t tell you is what I didn’t tell him, when he first asked that question, I was actually wondering who lived in this one particular house. Anyways, I’m off to Canada today, beaches, sun, and a Cobra comfortable! What more could a 17-year old ask for?

On to Day 2.