Road and Track

Cobra scenery static

Cross-Country Cobra (continued)
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In the morning mountain sun, we twisted our way down Highways 9 and 24 to Pikes Peak, passed through a brief snow shower, and drove almost to the top of the mountain—the last 1000 ft. were closed because of snow and mud. I climbed up on a ridge to take a picture of the car and my heart pounded so hard I wondered if I might be having a heart attack in the thin 13,000-ft. air.

I sat down for a minute and looked around at the snow-capped Rockies and out upon the Great Plains. You could do worse, I concluded, than die of a heart attack on Pikes Peak, delivered by Cobra.

We bought some suitcase stickers (“Real Men Don’t Need Guardrails”) in a gift shop and burbled down the mountain. At a gas station near Colorado Springs, the cashier asked, “Is that a Turner?”

“No,” Tom said, “it’s a Cobra.”

He stared at Tom blankly. “Is that made by Chevy?”

When we got in the car, Tom said, “How can a guy know about Turners, but not Cobras?”

“He’s a rare bird,” I said. “There can’t be 49 people in all of America who have ever seen a Turner.”

“And we’re two of ’em. That leaves 47.”

A few miles later our car stopped running. Right on a busy four-lane feeding into Colorado Springs. Hood up on the narrow shoulder, with semis skimming our fender paint.

We had spark, but no gas to the carburetor. We emptied out the trunk and checked the fuel pump. It looked like an American-made pump, but I smacked it with a wrench anyway, just in case it was English. Nothing. The fuses were okay too. We finally realized the mystery toggle switch on the dash was a fuel-pump switch. We’d bumped it while wiping some Pikes Peak dust off the dash.

I flicked the switch on and the fuel pump clicked like a set of castanets. “I love simple repairs,” I said.

Speaking of accumulated dust, Tom had decided by this point in the trip that we would not wash the car on the way home, but let the grunge accumulate and wear the dirt as a badge of honor, an idea I also favored. He wanted to arrive in North Carolina with Pikes Peak mud on the fenders. “It’s kind of fun to know you have the dirtiest Cobra in America,” he said.

We blasted down onto the Great Plains, stopping for the night at Dodge City, Kansas. Home of Matt Dillon, Kitty, Doc and Chester. A nest of folklore close to my heart. Gunsmoke was a religion in our house. At least for my dad and me.

Crossing Kansas on Highway 160, we rolled down into the green hills of Oklahoma and into Arkansas, finally stopping for the night in Bentonville, world headquarters of Wal-Mart. Presumably a town with no Main Street merchants left, but very inexpensive soap and deodorant. Always a plus for two dusty guys in a hot Cobra.

Threading through the Ozarks on Highways 62, 9 and 14, we suddenly found ourselves descending out of the lush, twisting roads and hillbilly culture of the Ozarks onto the flat and fertile northern edge of the Mississippi Delta, that hot expanse of cotton and rice country that is the cradle
of Blues and Rock ’n’ Roll. From fiddles to slide guitar in just a few miles of travel.

Crossing the Mississippi at sunset, we found rooms at the famous old Peabody Hotel, then headed out on the legendary Beale Street for the evening. The place was jumping. We had some great gumbo at a small café and then heard Little Jimmy King (Albert King’s grandson) at BB King’s Club. Little Jimmy King, incidentally, is about 6 ft. 4 in., but I suppose he was little at some point in his life. In any case, he’s a superb guitarist.

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