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Pop Up Headlights

by Gray Beard Nerd about a year ago in travel
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An anniversary to remember...

2004 C5 Corvette Le Mans Special Edition

The year was 2014 and it was our tenth wedding anniversary. To celebrate we sent the kids on ahead to Disney with my parents and took two days just the two of us to drive down and have our own little adventure. This left me with an important decision to make, what care were we going to take. A convertible cruiser seemed to be a likely pick. Now my uncle was generous enough to offer us one of his cars to take and choosing between his fleet at first seemed to be difficult. Eventually though I realized that one of the cars was the same age as our marriage and the decision was made. Of course, the fact that it was a 2004 special edition Chevrolet Corvette probably helped it to be picked as well.

So, we set off, in a ten-year-old car celebrating our ten-year-old marriage. Kids behind us and the unknown before us we pointed the long blue hood south cruising in the American dream car. If the Mustang is the car, we all want as young boys, the Corvette is the one we crave as adults. Having driven many different versions of the iconic car, I have to say that this 2004 C5 is my favorite Corvette. This was the last year the C5 was produced and the introduction of the C6 would see the end of one of the coolest things about the Corvette, the pop-up headlights. Driving through the tunnel in Mobile Alabama, I turned on the lights and watched as a boy, maybe 9 or 10 squealed with glee as the lights popped up out of the front of the car. Through the rest of the tunnel, I turned them off and on again letting him enjoy a rare site by today's standards.

Sitting Pretty on the Beach

Other great things about this car include the special edition blue Le Mans paint. In 2001 Chevrolet had taken first place at the Daytona 24-hour race and first and second at the Le Mans. Both with the C5 Vette, so this car being the last ho-rah before the C6 got a commemorative package. Hence the paint, special interior, top and badges. Looking over the blue paint at the blue sky is a great feeling especially when one is setting out on an adventure with someone very special. Probably thought I was just going to talk about the car, didn't you?

Well as great as a car are they can never replace my baby. Jay Leno once said that his wife enjoyed his passion for cars, because she never had to worry about him coming home smelling of another woman’s perfume, he just always smelled like old cars. Driving down the road in Alabama I saw the fiberglass body of an old racing car. Quickly I shouted aloud, “look at that body!” my wife, without missing a beat, immediately knew I was talking about a car. This is the wonderful relationship that I have with her, one of trust, though it has been hard earned. Trust is not something lightly thrown upon others without a great deal of risk. It takes time to temper your fears of loneliness and the unknown. Love is worth the struggle; indeed, it is a struggle but less with your partner and more with yourself. One thing about marriage that I think can be equated to driving a fast car is that when you drive a normal car there is never more power than you can control, so it is a very safe, boring feeling. But a fast car is sometimes too much and the moment where the tires break loose, I think, is exciting. Marriage is a big deal, but it is also never boring. It is very exciting, the thrill of two people sharing their lives is much like the one of a fast car at the limit. In ten years, we have had two children and lived in 4 different houses. We have lost friends and we have made some, but we have never been bored.

Driving down the road on the second day of our trip (we had stopped in Tallahassee for the night), we went to an old Spanish Fort, which I found educational, and my wife found “creepy.” Could have been the narrators mention of the restless souls of soldiers that un-nerved her but either way she was eager to get on the road again. Trying to reset the androids sat-nav as I drove, I missed the local sheriff truck parked at the side of the road. Next thing I know blue lights come on and I am wondering what is going on. The officer comes to my window and asks me if I knew how fast I was going. “Nope,” I respond with a bit of trembling in my voice. “73 in a 35,” he responds. Well, the last sign I saw said 60 mph and I guess while I was looking down my foot got a little heavier. Naturally my voice became even squeakier as he asked if the car was mine. “No sir,” I said sounding like Mickey Mouse. Do you have the registration? “No sir,” as my breath escaped me, sounding like air escaping from a slowly deflating tire. As he walked back to the patrol vehicle with my license, I knew that I was in big trouble. Trying to imagine what bail might be at the local jail, he returned and exclaimed that against his better judgment he was going to let me go with a warning. So many “thank you's” were expressed that I probably began to frighten him when, just then another patrol car pulled up. He left me to speak with the others and to stoke the fires of my fears once again. Just before I pulled away, I heard a loud yell. I froze and listened as he said, “stretch it out!” “Are you sure?” I asked confused.

As I sped away foot buried into the loud pedal, sweat pouring from my nose, my wife turned to me and said, “well we set out to have an adventure.” The Corvette was singing its song that day. From the loud pipes you could hear the 350-horsepower churning away at the wheels. It put on a good show for the Sheriff’s department that day and for us the whole week. I know that for many newer is better. You already know that I miss the pop-up headlights, but more than this I think that Chevrolet is getting further and further away from what the Corvette to my mind is supposed to be. It is not meant to be a Ferrari contender. It is meant to be the car we dream about but can actually have. Most of us will never touch a Ferrari but a Corvette, it is the working-class hero. To think that you could own one, or at least drive one is not impossible for most people who put in a decent days’ work. I just feel like the Corvette is getting too serious and too far away from reality. All this is being done without actually improving the car very much. The C7 may have had a 100 more horses than the C5, but if you account weight, it gains less than 50 horsepower per ton. All the aggressive lines make the car harder to look at and enjoy. A great sports car should be aggressive but also easy on the eyes. The C5 is the one I would prefer any day, but maybe I am strange.

Cruising down the road with the top down on a beautiful arrow straight stretch of road is a special feeling one should always share. Luckily my copilot was beaming as she always does. The only frustration being that after the last police stop, I was still too nervous to let the car really stretch its legs. Driving along we see a sign for a turn off to “Turkey town” (not kidding). Immediately the tune to funky town comes into my head and the original song “Turkey Town” is born. It is an immediate smash hit with the audience of one sitting next to me. So much so many more encores were requested. One of them is even recorded, however I would prefer that it is not made public. Gobbling and singing as we ride along laughing at how silly I can be and how we can always make each other laugh. With anyone else a journey like this, even in this car, would be unbearable. But with her it is an adventure. The week passes quickly with Disney characters and kids all running together. We had a great time as a family, but that is another story all together.

Daytona Beach, Forgive the van photobomb.

Being this is a 24-hour endurance winner commemorative car, on the way back it seemed fitting to take a detour through Daytona. Daytona beach Florida is a place where many pilgrimage for many reasons. Many go for NASCAR, many others for Bike Week. For us though we had two reasons. The first is that my Dad spent many of his prime years as a young man racing and cutting his teeth along the beaches and streets of the city. Going to many of the big races during his youth was just further cementing the love of cars he would pass on to me. The other reason is seashells. I am not a beach person, but my wife and daughter love seashells. As for my son he is content to play in any substance that has the potential to make a big mess. Driving on to the beach in a low powerful car is a bit of a nervous undertaking. But it puts to mind the races they used to have here before there was a track. Driving hard down the closed road before swinging their cars on to the beach. They were probably having more fun on the sand than I was in the Vette.

Getting off the beach would be even worse thanks to a large four-wheel drive coming through and tearing up the sand. All that aside, it felt very right to begin our journey home in this place and the car felt like it belonged there. It is a place of speed and the Vette an instrument of speed. Although the car is surprisingly easy to just cruise in. Driving it at normal speed you would not be overly aware that a monster lurks a bit deeper in the pedal under your foot. After dinner that night my wife took the wheel and pointed out the car seemed made for people with longer arms than hers. I did not think I would get to drive it again, but she relinquished the left seat after her arms got tired. Both of us were surprised at how easy the car is to drive and ride in. You really could drive it 24 hours without it wearing you out. I mean if you were an endurance racer, which we are not, so we checked into the hotel close to Tallahassee.

As we got closer to home the next day I began to worry if we would ever really have a chance to open the taps up completely. The rain came and I will say that the top after ten years had developed one leak. While waiting for the rain to subside Liz handed me a pad to stick to the window to stop the stream of water slowly drowning me. Don't judge us we have been married for ten years and pads don't scare me. It was not long before the car needed a change though, so we decided to brave the storm. Amazingly the car only leaked when sitting still, go figure right. Driving along I got to do something few can say they have ever done. I passed two Ferrari formula one cars! Granted they were in their trailers being towed, but still the mighty American Corvette once again was triumphant over Ferrari. Just after the tunnel in Alabama the Sat Nav recommended an alternate route to avoid traffic. Tired of the stop and go I heeded its advice. The detour delivered one bonus in addition to freeing us from the traffic. An empty, straight stretch of road. To my shame I must say I could not resist the temptation. As we gathered pace at last under the full fury of the cars released power. I smiled and looked at my wife whom I had the privilege of sharing this moment with. She was less pleased about the moment than I had hoped she would be.

Of Course the Ferrari caught back up with us while we were stopped due to the rain.

The rest of our adventure was without much incident. My last comments on the car are this. It rides well, drives well, goes well and is as much fun as you could imagine for way less the price of a new one. But what makes it the bargain of the century are the pop-up headlights. When I reflect on the first ten years of my marriage, I can honestly say they have been the absolute best. Just like our road trip adventure there have been fast times and slow ones, funny times and scary times. Much has been accomplished but there is still a lot to do. No matter how you want to label them though they all fall under the heading of good times. Even the moments when we have been angry brought us closer not further apart. So, if those reading this would spare me a moment, I would like to thank my wife for making this possible by putting up with me so far. I look forward to many more adventures down the road we call life if she will share the journey with me.


About the author

Gray Beard Nerd

A nerd who is into cars, video games, movies, book and more. I love to write and hope to share what I have written with others. Please enjoy!!

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