Sunday, March 20, 2005


A recent post at Gut Rumbles about driving fast set me to reminiscing.

As a regular on the Atlanta-Savannah run, the idea of getting from the Atlanta airport to Savannah in 2 hours 30 minutes just plain freaks me out.

I don’t drive fast-fast any more - at least, not by Atlanta standards. That means that I will go 70 on the freeway where the speed limit is 55, but mainly because to drive slower than that will result in your being flattened like a puppy under a steamroller.

But I have, in the past, driven fast.

My personal record is probably the 120 I did somewhere in South Texas, driving between San Antonio and Laredo on I-35 in a friend’s Datsun 260-Z back in 1975. (Yes, Datsun. These were the old days, friends.)

Back then, I was driving a Mazda RX-2, a semi-dowdy sedan with a hot little rotary engine. This was before Mazda figured that that zippy rotary engine belonged in a sports cars (the RX-7). On the way home from work, there was an unpatrolled stretch of I-610 on the northeast side of Houston where I could open ’er up - and often did. You could kick that little Mazda from 75 to 105 MPH in just a few seconds, it had that much juice...and that’s what I’d do, cruising at 105 until the traffic thickened up to where that kind of speed was no longer a good idea.

The one time I got nailed in Houston was after I got off the freeway. A shamus on the feeder road pointed me (and quite a few others) into a parking lot. Seems I had been doing 50 on the feeder where the limit was 35. I resisted the urge to say “You shoulda seen me five minutes ago” as not being helpful.

All this, however, was kid’s stuff compared to my Belgian Adventure.

It was 1990 and I was visiting my European sales manager. For the sake of convenience, I was staying at his house in northern Belgium, hard by the border with the Netherlands north of Antwerp. (Convenience, and the fact that it made sleeping off all that Belgian beer and Scotch whisky a lot easier.) We had a flight at 7:30 the next morning out of Brussels to Geneva, Switzerland, which meant getting up at the Butt-Crack of Dawn and driving a good 90 minutes or more.

It was not a good sign when we were rousted out of our beds by Mrs. Manager at 6:00.

We were totally screwed. There was no way we could get to Brussels on time to check in, go through security, etc., etc., and get on the morning flight to Geneva. And that would mean rescheduling appointments and a whole lot of aggravation.

But my manager had a BMW 740-series turbo-diesel, and what’s more, he knew how to drive it. Fast.

We managed to clean up, pack, and get out the door by - what, 6:20? And we were at the Brussels airport at 7:10. By the thinnest of margins, we made our flight.

We cruised all the way to Brussels at 230 Km/H. That’s more than 140 MPH, folks. Didn’t slow down once. Good thing European drivers are trained from birth to stay the hell out of the left lane unless they’re passing, or we would have been a grease spot. Good thing Interpol, or the Belgian traffic cops, were all still in bed, or eating the Belgian equivalent of donuts. (Waffles, most likely.)

Gawd, was that stupid. And more fun than it should’ve been.

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