By Craig Hastings
The countdown has begun. Youngest son Lukas will get his driver’s license in May provided all goes well in the remaining days of his seat time with the Driver’s Education instructor. Lukas is the son I’ve told you about in this column that had never showed any interest in cars or driving…up until four months ago! Four months ago the dam burst, and Lukas went car bonkers. I had asked him for a year what car he thought might be the best fit for him. His answer was always the same: “I don’t care dad; whatever you think.” Driver’s Education classroom studies came and went and still he didn’t show any enthusiasm to drive, not even with me. I prodded him now and then to come drive with me. “Remember Lukas you have to get at least 50 hours of seat time behind the wheel before you can get your license so let’s go,” I’d say to him.
Then one evening without a word of encouragement from me he came into my room around 8 p.m. and told me he would like to start his 50 hours. I was thrilled, and Lukas has always shared a similar music to my own. I was hopeful that driving with Lukas I wouldn’t have to endure the no sense, loud and crazy, and annoying music like I did with Payton. No, no, not disco! Lukas likes to listen to music that tells a story about people going through hard times in their lives with hope and promise possible, but the songs don’t finish the story. It’s up to the listeners to draw their own conclusions. Of course, the presentation of the lyrics and the instrumentals are of a different arrangement; more his generation than mine, but I am able to enjoy most of these new songs I’ve never heard. However, like his older brother he wants to play these songs and any other song much too loud for my liking. I’ll remind him of the 70 foot law in the Illinois Vehicle Code as it pertains to audio output from motor vehicles. That works until the next drive.
The next drive has now become the next day! Lukas wants to drive every day he stays with me which will be at least three days and sometimes four days every week. Remember how we were all taught the ten o’clock and two o’clock position of our hands on the steering wheel? Well newbie Lukas practiced this for about the first month and now it’s one hand on the wheel wherever he happens to feel looks the coolest. He no longer leans forward at times to peer over the dash to make sure he’s where he wants to be on the road. Nope, now he sits way down in the seat all spread out, maybe singing a lyric or four, one hand on the bottom of the steering wheel, and looking all around hoping one of his posse will see him driving! Both of my boys bee lined to Ervin Park so they could drive a couple miles per hour through the crowds at the Little League and soccer fields just to be seen driving. Geez! Who does that!? Myself and every one of my gear head buddies back in the day, that’s who! If we still had a drive by window at the old Dairy Queen, Payton and Lukas would have done just like us old timers.
What’s that you ask? Turn your head 45 degrees to the left, slip your clutch or auto trans in neutral, bounce up and down a little bit in your seat, and rev your engine hoping to shake the window glass of the Dairy Queen. Bounce up and down in your seat you wonder? Absolutely! This was your best way to convince the onlookers sitting inside watching that your engine was spinning a high lift and long duration camshaft! Yep, nerds were us back in the late 60’s and all through the 70’s. But what cool nerds we were! Remember me telling you before about this same drive by window? It was the one that if you were the third person sitting in the front seat of your best friend’s car you would slump down in the seat just as the three of you drove through. Of course your two friends to your left had their heads cocked to their extreme left in order to look back at the people inside looking out at you right? So they were clueless as to what you were up to. So with yourself slumped down and out of sight the appearance was to the people inside The Dairy Queen was that maybe your friends in the front seat next to unseen you might be on a romantic cruise together.
As the driver you always had to be ready for anything if one of your buddies was sitting to your right as you drove through The Queen. My favorite was to reach over and shut the ignition off just as my gear headed buddy’s car passed the first window pane. An embarrassing moment for sure because we were all so proud of our rides we didn’t want anyone thinking our cars were not at their finest tune. I remind my sons frequently how much they missed by not experiencing cruising back in the day in Tuscola. Payton is admittedly jealous, and I hope Lukas is soon to be also. Most of us didn’t care how loud we played our music because mostly we wanted to listen to our engines rev and our exhaust roar.
So Lukas is currently car crazy and just can’t wait to shed dad and go it alone with music of his own choice blaring from his speakers. For now his music is mostly more satisfying than Payton’s was when I was driving with him. Payton’s music is hard and fast with little emotion attached. Not for me. Lukas plays a satisfying split of low, slow, and mellow (which I like). Unlike his brother’s get out of my way, bad words, hard to understand any meaning, and more bad words (which I dislike a lot). But I’m going to miss doing the ride a longs with Lukas. How do I know? Because I miss my ride a longs with Payton. However, Payton and I will still occasionally go for a cruise together with him driving just like I remember when he was 14. Oops, I mean 15! Maybe. My dad and I never one time just sat down in the same car and drove around town and talked. I’m still doing it and hope it never ends. What better way to spend quality time between a father and son than to drive together when you both enjoy hot rods and the culture that surrounds them.