Cobra Journal – Day 2

Day 2 – Off to Canada today, eh. Crystal Beach and a little time trying to see if I can lose my glow-in-the dark legs (although they are handy for finding my way at night). Before I go soak up some sun…and some suds…off on a little exercise jaunt through the neighborhood. Kenmore is one of those peculiar kind of places then seems timeless. Families have come and gone, small changes have been made to facades, gardens or yards, but the neighborhood is eerily the same as when I first came here 30 years ago. It is quintessential America neighborhood. Substantial houses (supported, no doubt, by substantial incomes), the ubiquitous tree-lined boulevard abutted by manicured, ‘just so’ lawns. Everything perfect…or nearly perfect. It’s pretty amazing really because a scant few blocks away is the bustle of downtown Kenmore and nearby Buffalo.

No pipes, no roll bar, no scoop

A few more observations about yesterday or, more properly, last night. Never go to a hospital if you’re looking for rest and never go on a vacation if you’re looking for some sleep. After getting up at an impossibly early hour of the morning (I can never escape that interminable sense of duty) to polish off a few work details before departing for New York, getting beaten by the wind and noise for 400 miles, I dutifully went along to Paula’s best friend’s home to be regaled with stories about…”yes, I’m paying attention dear”. My fatigue finally got the better of my civility and I excused myself for the inviting and luxurious prospect of an early bedtime. Alas, the bedtime came but the upstairs sleeping accommodations were so hot you could have slow roasted beef in the bedroom. I foresee a significant number of catnaps and siestas ahead for the afternoon. What I couldn’t make up in one sitting (laying?) I will endeavor to compensate for in quantity. Hope springs eternal!

Well, I’m off to check the vital fluids in Baby and run a soft cloth over the curves to get the road dust off. Gotta look good for our northern neighbors.

“Over the river and across the bridge to Canada we go…” Well, not quite yet. First there’s a stop to Shirley’s to pick up relatives who are visiting from Arizona—Steve and Gloria Maggio. Then it’s off to the beach. The trip through town to retrieve the Maggio’s underscored the remarkable effect that Baby seems to have wherever we go…either big smiles and outright admiration or variously unsuccessful attempts to ignore the beast…something hard to do when your as loud and good looking as Baby. Once to Shirley’s there was the obligatory admiration session. I don’t care how many times I’ve done this; I still love to talk about the car. An observation—nearly everyone thinks I should have some sort of sign that says “I built this car” or something similar. Building it was fun, but that’s not really the thrill of thing…it’s the driving.

Oh boy, this is going to be a real caravan. Paula’s in the Odyssey with her mom, Rosemary, Then Anna and I in Baby. Then the Maggio’s in the Malibu rental—all trying to stay together through small neighborhood streets with multiple stop signs, then a stretch of highway and finally across the Peace Bridge and into Canada. Should be a real ‘trip’. The wait at the Bridge wasn’t too bad and the customs guy cracked a smile when I paid the toll. Leaving the bridge you’re immediately on the QEW and everything is in Kph. The Canadian government has kindly posted a sign giving us English the conversion from Mph and I got busy trying to figure the calculation while I was driving. In the end, I gave it up and just went with the flow of traffic. One of the first things you notice when you hit the Canadian side is the absence of roadside advertising and how open everything is…providing great sight lines for the local gendarmes to spy offenders.

The trip to Crystal Beach is pretty straightforward—take the QEW to Gorham, Gorham to Ridge, Ridge to Crystal Beach Cottages—a sort of American enclave on the lake. Anna has become the unofficial responder to the numerous waves and thumb’s up, never seeming to tire of acknowledging the attentions of passersby. She was born to wave. Our only glitch so far has been navigating the rather steep and unpaved road up to the cottages. We’re not exactly equipped for off-road adventuring but manage to get to the top without incident and park Baby out of the way.

Early style dash and shifter

The cottage is really a terrific spot, overlooking the lake with a set of stairs straight to the beach. Immediately there’s a clamor to go down to the water but I’m more interested in “washing down the trail dust” with a nice cold one. First things first. It’s a grand day with the sun shining, the water looking brilliant and enough smiles going around to light up the world. One of the first things I notice is that I haven’t thought about work since I got going this morning and, other than this brief note, I don’t notice it the remainder of the day. The rest of the day is spent lazing in the sun and fending off the ridicule of the “beached white whale” when I throw on my trunks and head for the water. God, has been that long since I’ve been in the sun? Guess so. Funny though. As a kid growing up in Southern California, I practically lived at the beach every spare moment now…

Well, there’s only so much relaxing a guy can take and I make some moves to “get going” but am met with considerable resistance from Paula. Steve M., on the other hand, is also eager to hit the road so the two boys get ready to head back to the States. Anna’s going to stay at the cottage—go figure, another day at the beach—so I’m solo in Baby on the way home. It’s a fantastic early evening with a nice breeze and slight overcast although it seems strange without Anna riding the navigator seat. As we head back to the Bridge, Steve’ driving like a maniac on the QEW and I’ve given up looking at the speedo knowing full well we’re so far past the legal limit that, if we get stopped, we’ll be calling from a prison cell somewhere. Just how’s I like to top off my brief jaunt to our northern neighbor but I’m without much choice; I’ve only been up here a few times and have trouble remembering how to get back. So follow the “Speedy Steve” I must.

We arrive together at the Canadian side of the Bridge only to be met with completely stopped traffic. Nothing is moving and it doesn’t look like it’s going to move anytime soon so I shut the motor down and get out of the car to wait. Nearly everybody else does the same and within a few minutes, a crowd has gathered around Baby with lots of questions and comments including the “my cousin/father/uncle/grandfather owned a real one” line. Then there’s the “is it a real one” question as if having built from a “kit” diminishes the fun of the thing. Some people just don’t get it. Nobody seems to care we’ve been stuck here for the last twenty minutes and the time goes by quickly as I answer as many questions as I can about the motor, the power, driving it, building it, “how much did it cost” (a state secret), and what motivated me to build a car (if you ever stopped to answer that question, you’d never build the thing).

Well, whatever has delayed us is gone and everyone gets back in their cars for the trip across the Bridge and through Canadian customs. Maybe it’s all of the terror concerns, but the Canadian officers seem a humorless lot, asking me where I was born, where I lived, what I was doing in Canada, etc. When he asked me what I was bringing back from Crystal Beach I told him “Nothing but a sunburn”. He wasn’t amused. Hey, I thought I’d just lighten up the attitude a bit. Guess it wasn’t welcome.

The last stretch of highway back into Buffalo is really pretty—following the river and the canal for several miles. It’s an old road with just two lanes and not much obstructing your view of the water. Like nearly everywhere I go, people slow down to gawk at Baby, give you a big smile or, the ever ubiquitous, thumbs up sign. How much fun it is to provide so much pleasure to other folks. And all I have to do is drive. Tough job but someone has to do it. Just driving through the city streets, back to the house on Leicester, is such a simple pleasure. Going fast or slow, open highway or local boulevards driving baby is big fun. Who could have known?

Well, it’s been quite a day. Not much driving but what there was, was quality. The day at the beach was fun and deliciously uneventful…exactly how it should be. That said, I’m exhausted. All of this relaxing is hard stuff and I’m anxious to hit the sack. Hey, tomorrow’s the big golf “Shootout” and I’m going to need my strength…not for the golf clubs. It’s all that beer drinking that goes on afterward. One and two and…

On to Day 3, Back to Day 1