April 23, 2017

Timing is Everything

John F. Chisholm Photo | The dashboard of the Land Rover, which now actually runs.

John F. Chisholm Photo | The dashboard of the Land Rover, which now actually runs.

• By John F. Chisholm •

Timing is an issue for everyone. Some more than others. Mine has always been way off. Perhaps that’s because I’m tone deaf. I understand that musicians have perfect timing. You bet, as much as I love music, I’m no musician. In fact, even my stereo has mono.

But all that’s to one side. The point is that my sense of timing is terrible.

I have a recent example.

I finally persuaded my 1959 Land Rover to run. Whew! What a lot of work. Nonetheless, I’m reasonably confident that I could go out to the garage right now and start the truck if I chose. Amazing, isn’t it? I’m still getting used to it. It only took me 18 years to come this far. Perhaps that’s another instance of my timing being less than ideal, but it’s still not the example I had in mind.

That’s because a month ago, imagining that a running Land Rover was still immensely, unimaginably far in the perceivable future, I put the truck up on jack stands and removed the wheels. The rims were rusty, the paint scaling and the tires in serious need of buoyancy, air, life and, in truth, complete replacement.

I brought all five into Bangor. When the tires were dismounted, I ordered new. Then I dropped the rims off at another establishment for sandblasting and subsequent powder-coating.

Yeah. You’re right. Only when all that was done, did I try starting the Land Rover. It’s true. I try consoling myself that’s also the only reason I was successful. Given my experiences, that might well be true. Alas! How can I prove it to my own satisfaction?

I sat in the garage, mouth agape, listening to the engine. It ticks over beautifully.

The next day I insured and registered the truck. It looks strange with valid license plates but no wheels.

I imagine that it will be at least another week ― more likely two ― before I can reunite rims, tubes, tires and truck once again. You see what I mean about timing?

In the meantime, of course I’m free to go out to the garage, open the overhead doors, jump into the Land Rover and start it.

Believe me, I’ve done just that. Everything works. Horn, headlights, four-wheel-drive, brakes, clutch, you name it. Of course the truck can’t go anywhere without wheels. Still, the naked brake drums spin, a foot-and-a-half above traction, though all ten gears.

I close my eyes, grip the wheel and steer the truck down little-used tracks in distant Africa. I swerve around potholes, feeling the suspension jump as I drive over hillocks. I slow when migrating wildebeests block my progress. What’s that? A charging rhinoceros? I goose the accelerator, veering violently left then right between startled zebras and gazelles. Making certain to view only the speedometer, I bow my head, shade my eyes and peek. What! Only 30 miles-per-hour? Surely rhinos run faster than that?

Eyes safely clenched once again, I look up and speed through head-high elephant grass, startling a troop of baboons on my way. Hey! What are they looking at?

Varoom. Var-r-o-o-o-m! The exhaust echoes through my garage.

You know, my timing might be way off, but this is a terrific drive.