Friday, May 14, 2021

Royal Enfield speed: It's all relative

Young man in front seat of automobile.
My dad in a car, probably around 1950, the year of my birth.

My old Royal Enfield and I expect to be passed in traffic. Speed and acceleration that feels exciting to us generally won't outrun anything with a motor on a busy U.S. street.

Not even a scooter.

I saw this one particular scooter in my rearview mirror, when he was well back. No helmet, no jacket, flip flops. Yep. Here he comes.

He passed me at full song, and then, at the big intersection up ahead, he did a right-turn-on-red without slowing.

Was he in a hurry to get somewhere or just always in a hurry to get anywhere?

Then an ATV with a rider and passenger aboard gave me no warning at all. They passed me on the left at an intersection, going the wrong way in the center lane reserved for left turns.

Going twice my speed, the ATV was far ahead when it darted back into my lane. It then kept jinking from side to side, violently changing lanes, seemingly at random.

I would guess that this was the effect of the driver not having a rear view mirror and needing to turn his head fully to look back and enjoy my reaction at being blitzed.

I didn't react. Why should I? It ain't racin' if I'm not trying. Here's a parable that describes my attitude about speed on public roads:

One time, back in 1957, I was sitting in the center of the bench seat of my dad's new '57 Chevrolet. We were on the highway, making time, on our way to visit family four states over.

I watched the twin "gun sights" on the Chevy's hood take aim at one car after another as my dad slid around them. The Midwest highway was flat and straight and the pickings were easy.

There was only one car he wasn't catching: a new Ford, maybe 50 yards ahead. That driver and my dad were doing about the same speed, faster than the speed limit, obviously, but hopefully not so much as to attract attention.

My younger siblings must have been asleep in the back seat because they were unusually quiet.

My mom, next to me, was trying not to notice the speed we were going. My dad never spoke when he drove.

I was silently counting the number of cars we passed, and was getting up near three figures. But that one guy in the Ford remained ahead.

It wasn't a race, since neither my dad nor the other guy would do anything so crass as to just floor it to get by. It was more like chess; planning every move well ahead so as to keep up the pace without getting stuck behind a slow poke.

Gradually we found ourselves on the rear bumper of the Ford. That's where we stayed, for awhile. Then the guy must have made a wrong move because we sailed by. He got really skunked, because almost immediately we were around a lot of slower cars and the Ford was lost to sight, far behind us.

No one mentioned it. There was silence in the front seat.

Then my mom said words I still remember perfectly, 55 years later:

"Oh, there's a farm stand. Let's stop and see what they have."

Without a word my dad eased off, and pulled smoothly into the parking lot of the farm stand.

I got out of our car, standing hatless in the summer sun, and looked toward the road.

As I watched, the Ford shot by, and was quickly out of sight.


  1. As was said in "Forrest Gump, " You can't fix stupid.

  2. I've waited all week for someone to chime in about this. I'm sure John didn't mean to call your father stupid. We've all gotten into those unacknowledged "races," silly as they are. John would be embarrassed if he thought he'd implied that your dad was stupid.

    1. Thanks, but I'm sure John was referring to the scooter and ATV pilots I mentioned at the beginning. Those individuals truly were reckless, and I meant to contrast them to drivers who carry on with concentration and skill. However, it is true that, while my dad's speeding no doubt reduced our overall travel time somewhat, any notion of "competition" (which existed in my then seven-year-old head) was rendered meaningless. Bottom line, public roads are not race tracks.

  3. Ooops...sorry for the faux pas as I didn't mean it in that regard. What I was referring to are individuals who appear to have been emasculated by someone passing them on the road while driving a vehicle that the individual feels is "beneath" them.... a real world version of the 1950s song "Beep Beep." Yes sir, they are out there.


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