Today is Opening Day for another season of major league baseball, the Wichita State University Wheatshockers basketball team is heading to the Big Apple for the semifinals of the National Invitational Tournament, except for the Kansas wind the weather’s lately been good, and there’s probably other news afoot we should paying attention to. Even so, the big story here at the home office on Wednesday was our bittersweet farewell to a beloved Mazda Miata.
We bought the thing brand new way back in ’96, shortly after a devastating divorce, and boy was it a sweet ride. It had the elegant lines and quick acceleration and easy-shifting and road-hugging handling of a classic British roadster, but it also started up every time we turned the key, which is more than we can say for that stunningly gorgeous ’64 Sunbeam Alpine that preceded it. For most of the year we could put the top down, which could be easily done during a stoplight, and even a daily drive to our nearby downtown office felt exactly like what we imagined driving would be like when we were pedaling around in a very cool toy car our Dad bought when we were in kindergarten.
The car took us on a memorable trip to Las Vegas with our pal Michael Carmody, brought our late pal Balleau home from Albuquerque after he’d recuperated from an injury there, and there was another memorable trip to Minnesota with our pal Lori Fletcher for the wedding of a couple of mutual friends. There were countless trips up I-35 to Kansas City and trips down I-35 to Oklahoma City and San Antonio to visit the folks, and on a hot sunny day it was the perfect car for the scenic and curvy drive up U.S. 77 through the gorgeous Flint Hills of Kansas, well as countless more drives around town for both business and pleasure, and for the first 20 years and 150,000 miles or so it was blissfully trouble-free.
Even the best of us eventually get old and dilapidated, though, and after 21 years and 160,000 miles or so our beloved Miata proved troublesome. The “check engine” light would occasionally remind us that the catalytic converter had died, even though that didn’t at all affect the car’s performance, and did very little to affect the climate, and apparently there’s some regulation that President Donald Trump hasn’t yet deregulated that prevents a mechanic from disconnecting that damned sensor. There was a slow oil leak, too, but after so many years and miles we figured it was more inexpensive to occasionally pour in some lubricant than to have that fixed. Some idiot put a gash in the front driver’s side and sped away while we were having a beer at The Vagabond over in Delano, and we idiotically put another smaller gash in the rear of the driver’s side and damaged a roller arm in the process, but by that point we’d downgraded our insurance policy and figured that the repairs would exceed the value of even the sweetest ride with 21 years and more than 160,000 miles on it.
Around that same time our beloved Dad serendipitously decided that he’d grown too old to drive, and he generously gave us his beloved Chrysler Sebring. It’s bigger and bulkier than what we’re used to, and it has four seats and one of those old folks’ automatic transmissions, but the top comes down at the push of a button on warm Kansas day, and it’s also a pretty sweet ride.
For the past two years the Miata had been sitting in our garage and gathering dust and dirt from the Kansas winds, but earlier this week our pal Phil Burress “messaged” us on the internet that he’d heard we had a Miata we wanted to get rid of. We duly warned him about him the years and miles and other problems with our once-sweet ride, but he wanted to take a look anyway, as his son is rapidly approaching driver’s age and shares our fetish for classic roadsters.
After a cursory look our old pal Phil agreed to take it off our hands, and we’re glad that he did, and we hope that even after so many years and miles it will work out for him. Phil’s a top-notch guy and a first-rate bass player for several folkie and bluegrass bands around town, and he’s happily married to our aforementioned pal Lori Fletcher, who’s a damned good country singer, and their son, hilariously named Fletcher, is a prodigiously talented bluegrass fiddler and a classic example of Kansas boyhood.
After re-charging the battery and airing up the tires and filing up the crankcase with oil Phil was able to take a drive to nearby Park City with the top down on a warm but windy Kansas day, and you should have seen the excited look on Fletcher’s face as they pulled out the driveway, so we hope they’ll be able to get that Miata back in fighting shape for a few more years and a few more miles. Fletcher is a handsome and charming young fellow, and when you combine that with his musical gifts and a classic and fully-restored roadster all the chicks will probably dig him in his high school years. If he derives even half the enjoyment we derived from that old Miata, and we get to park the Sebring in the garage during the coming hail storms, we’ll call it a darned good deal.
– Bud Norman