Tuesday, September 20, 2011

World's fastest Winnebago

Lucy is the most entertaining addition to the Falling Downs managerie that you could possibly imagine. She's keeping the old dog young, and that's the ultimate challenge for a new dog.

Had a Winnebago many years ago. It was a vintage piece when I owned it. Mid '60's. A Chieftain if I remember correctly. Had the 413 four-barrel and the torque-flite transmission. 3:23's in the back end. It didn't come to me till the mid eighties or so.

By then it needed a bit of restoration. Not that it had a lot of miles on it. Under 50 thou if I remember. But 50 k on a motorhome is like a hundred and fifty on a car. That big-block Chrysler had to work hard every day pulling 6,000 pounds of steel and fibreglass up and down the highway.

So the heads came off and we did a back-yard valve job with the pencil grinders. Honed the cylinders. New piston rings and valve springs. A mild cam. New holding tanks for the black water and the grey water and the fresh water. Can't remember who talked me into the new blackwater tank. It was about three hundred bucks at the time. Just to clarify, when your blackwater tank springs a leak you're leaving a little trail of sewer water down the Interstate. Who's going to notice? Who's going to care? Nevertheless, I plunked down the better part of a week's pay to replace it.

Lucy can be running full tilt down the trail, which is funny enough because she remains one ungainly beast. But then, in mid-flight, she'll suddenly remember that there's a flea or a gnat nipping on her ass and she'll turn and take a big bit out of her hind-quarters, all at 30 miles an hour, and she's a-tumbling down the trail ass-over-tea-kettle in a cloud of dust.

Got the hot-rod Winnebago buttoned up in time for a visit to some inlaws in Thunder Bay. I'm putting that around '88 or so. Didn't mind the inlaws. Nice young couple. He was some minor cog in the Conrad Black empire at the time. She was a receptionist at a dentist's office. So we visit for a couple days, drink too much, eat even more... you know how it goes when you visit the inlaws.

We're heading home through some of the hilliest country in the east of North America. The north Ontario highways have hills that dwarf anything in the Appalachias. We're talking a 15% grade for ten miles at a time. Run-off roads all over the place. We're driving through the night to make up for time lost with the inlaws. Mama and junior are sound asleep in the back.

I crest one of these monster hills and start the descent. The folks in back are sound asleep. I press the pedal. 80 mph comes up like nothing. Keep pressing. Before I know it I'm past 100. There's a whole lot of downhill left in front of me, Mama's sound asleep, I figure, lets see what we can get out of the old Chieftain.

The speedometer tops out at 120 mph. I'm burying it, and then burying it way deeper. Eventually I'm seeing the speedo needle in the little space they have for the right turn signal. Then it goes out of sight beyond the turn signal window.

At 150 miles an hour things can happen fast. I've got a tach on the steering column and it's showing 6 thou. I know that would be about 150 in a car with the 323's, so I know we're somewhere around that. Maybe even more, since we've got a bigger diameter on the motorhome tires than you'd have on the car. The roof is doing a up-an-down flexing due to the wind-pressure. The windshield wipers are flapping like crazy, and the windshield itself is vibrating and groaning. I'm thinking, if something goes wrong here, we'll end up so far off the highway they won't find us for fifty years.

I hit the binders maybe a mile before the bottom of the hill, and well before the last run-off. She's slowing down. I momentarily think about the last run-off, but I think I'll be alright. Junior and the Missus just did 150 miles an hour in a Winnebago, and slept through it.

Had her down to 70 by the time we hit that curve. The Missus stirs. "Were we just going really fast?" she asks.

No. Just had to give it a little gas to pass a few cars coming up that last hill.

She went back to sleep.

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