It was a lovely, sunny day in early spring of 1976. I gazed out my window with a smile, glad that the air was a balmy 50 degrees, the vast expanse of the west Nebraska sky was blue, the wind was blowing, the snow had melted. Perfect day for a drive!
The Christmas break of 1975 had been pretty grim and gloomy, sporting the worst blizzard in nearly a century. We laughingly called it Bi-Centennial Blizzard and teased one another that we were reenacting Valley Forge as we tromped around town. Cars were iced in, roads impassible, people were going to work on cross country skis. I couldn’t remember a time I had been so cold!
But today it was officially over. The weather man said it was supposed to be warm and sunny all week. Since it was Saturday morning, my friends and I decided to go for a drive. Jeff had a convertible and could be persuaded to go for a long drive given the right incentive of gas money and a Pepsi. Ever the instigator, I gave him a call.
“Hi! What’s up?”
“Not a lot. I was thinking it’s such a pretty day, why don’t we get some people and go for a ride.”
“I don’t have any gas.”
“We’ll take a collection and buy some.”
He wiffled and waffled a moment, then agreed. It helped that he liked me. I could usually get what I wanted with very little effort. What I wanted was to go for a ride in his rattletrap old convertible with the top down. The car would now be considered a classic. Back then, it was a dented up old piece of crap Pontiac with faded paint and no air conditioning.
Fifteen minutes later, Jeff pulled up at my house. I said goodbye to my mother and dashed out the door with my jacket, scarf, warm hat and mittens. It might be warm standing in the sun, but riding in a convertible in 50 degree weather got cold!
Jeff’s best friend, Danny, was sitting up front. He got out and gallantly let me slide in the middle. That was another condition. I had to sit next to Jeff. We made three more stops picking up other people to go for a ride. We pooled our money, filled Jeff’s gas tank, bought him a can of Pepsi and took off to the lake about 30 miles away.
Part of the fun of driving with the top down was how many people we managed to fit into that crummy old tank of a car. Three of us up front, four in the back and three who sat on back of the back seat. Once the top was down, it formed sort of a semi-circle of metal and heavy fabric, or maybe it was vinyl. Only the very brave sat there because going sixty down a back country highway in a convertible isn’t the safest thing in the world. If our mothers had only seen us!
Once we got out of the city limits, Jeff shoved his Black Sabbath “Paranoid” tape in the tape deck. He cranked up “Iron Man” and took off. We made the drive to the lake, looped around it and headed back to town. Our celebration of spring was almost complete. The last stop was the Dairy Queen where we all sat down and had a tall, frosty glass of limeade. Nothing like freezing yourself inside and out!
I never will know why the cops didn’t stop us for doing something so dangerous and so incredibly dumb! I guess it was the luck of the insane. That may have been quite a few years ago, but I will never forget driving with the top down.
© Dellani Oakes 2015
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