Mark and I grabbed the Challenger and drove through the town's neighborhoods, a collection of dusty windblown houses separated by dirt streets, complete with tumbleweeds on the move. We stopped at an old-style service garage, where Mark asked a crusty old man chewing a cigar if we could take a picture of the Challenger in front of his building. The man got out of his green Willys pick up and begrudgingly mumbled consent as he walked to the front door of the building, never taking his eyes off us. After watching us through the window for two minutes, he opened the door and yelled around the cigar "Awright, you godd-n camera pimps, that's enough-get going!" He shut the door and watched us drive up the street, still grumbling from behind the glass.
On the edge of town was a building with a handful of parts cars out back, and we ducked in to ask if we could take a look at the Valiant and Duster we spotted from the road. He gave us permission, and struck up a short conversation about the cars, explaining that he was planning to fence them in because too many people passing through town sneak in at night and steal parts off of them.
"Then I have to shoot them," he said, turning and walking back into the building. Mark and I just stood there for a few seconds, not saying anything because we believed him. We took his parting comment for what it was and gingerly looked at the A-Bodies, left, collected the rest of our crew, and hit the road for Tonapah, Nevada, hoping to beat the forecast of snow through the mountains.
Over the next eight hours, the trans leak got steadily worse. We hit the mountains at the same time as the snow, and between the AWOL brakes, the headlights still wearing their "movie dirt" brown spray paint and no high beams, the trip through the near-blizzard conditions was an adventure in itself. We found out the next day that most of the roads over the mountains were closed by the storm.
Late in the evening we pulled into Tonapah, found a mom-n-pop diner and enjoyed a well-deserved supper. Will ate meat loaf.
Tonapah, Nevada, and the endKowalski's run ended before reaching The City By The Bay, coming to an abrupt halt courtesy of John Law and a pair of Caterpillars. Thirty years later: Saturday, 10:32 p.m., Tonopah, Nevada, less than 50 miles from the California border...
Our not-really-legal '70 Colorado license plate number OA-5599 went over the police-band airwaves as not registered. Headed up Tonapah's main drag with the California border within our grasp, a set of red and blues appeared behind us. Our train of vehicles pulled to the shoulder at the edge of town, and a second cruiser drove past and assumed a sentinel position just down the road. We don't think it's coincidence that the white car with out-of-state plates just happened to have a sheriff's car close behind as it left town, and we're reasonably sure the plates were run when the car was parked across the street during dinner.
Sheriff Pappy (that is his real name) told us we could either put it on the trailer or he'll start writing tickets. And he was pretty sure the sheriff in the next county would do the same. He didn't mention his deputy down the road. We got the message and made arrangements with a local to store our junkyard booty and loaded the white Dodge on the trailer for the rest of the trip. In the end, there was no girl on a motorcycle, no spectacular explosion, and no crowds of onlookers, but our adventure was over just as surely, leaving us as far from our goal as Kowalski was from his.
Rough And TumbleNo, It Doesn't Need A BathVanishing Point 2001
Pig. Beater. Piece of Junk. Turd. All names hurled at this '70 Challenger during a week on the road with it. Harsh, perhaps, but uttered with the deepest affection-these epithets were always followed by the words, "I love this car!"