David B Axelrod


When I was little I wondered why
my father didn’t speed. We’d go
on errands and he’d let so many
cars go past him. Weren’t we
supposed to win the race?

Then there was that silver
door handle and something
told me to pull on it. When
the rear car door swung open,
it took half a block for my
dad to stop after I fell out.

Ever since I can remember I
wanted to drive. I’d sit on
dad’s lap and steer while he
worked the pedals. I knew
you didn’t have to pull on
the wheel—just hold it
steady— but I sure liked
those loops we made
in the parking lot.

When we visited the farm
at least I got to start
the tractor—even roll it
into the field. But what
good is a big engine if
you don’t get up speed?

Going to driving school
was required to get a license.
I guess hearing all those
safety things was okay,
but all I wanted was to get
behind the wheel—not
talk about it.

14. Florida still gave a kid
a license at 14. How cool
was that? But mostly I still
drove with a parent in the car
so no chance to wind out
or see what the numbers at
the top of the dial felt like.

16 and I got the keys to solo.
Even took it on the highway
but I was more scared of tickets
than crashing. My father would
have killed me if I got caught
speeding. So, just 55.

18 and the new interstate let
us go 65. That meant 70 or
even 75 except that new radar
detector thing made it easier
for troupers so my first long
trip was pretty tame. Besides,
the Studebaker Lark showed
120 for a top speed but it
felt like it would come apart
if I tried to hit 90.

Oh but my new Cutlass could
really fly, and there I was
alone, out in the passing lane
in Georgia, when a local cop
got me: “Doing 92 son.
You’re under arrest so
just follow me up the road
to the court house.” It didn’t
matter to me that his brother
was the judge. He had me
dead to rights so I didn’t argue.
I just paid the fine and limped
off in my yellow, targa-top
Olds with the Yankee plate
And I wonder why he
picked me to ticket.

After I solved some wiring
problems, re-worked and tuned
the engine, I took my 442 out
for a test drive. Finally! Triple
digits. I’m going to guess 135,
though its speedometer
topped off at 120. You figure—
a 451 engine in a light-weight
car. I guess I got the jones for
speed then—or maybe it was
just sitting in the back seat
while my daddy drove and I
thought every time we went
somewhere it was a race
not just driving to get there.

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