Under a furiously beaming mid-day sun, I was busy wandering the closed streets of downtown Somerset, Kentucky. The heat was sweltering and my body was growing uncomfortably saturated with perspiration. The fragrance of combusted petroleum lingered in the air. Somewhere in the distance, a giant American engine of many cylinders was proudly shouting at God.
Shuffling onlookers armed with camera phones and cheap fried food littered the faded grey aisles, moving around and in between the torrent of parked cars that lined them. While mostly every vehicle here was of a distinguished age or status, a few questionable late model automobiles had managed to slip their way in. A late ’70s Chevy LUV pickup fitted with a corrugated metal camper shell and a set of garish looking wheels sat next to an unremarkable white Dodge Magnum station wagon with tinted windows. The sight of the Magnum here amongst these elderly motor cars seemed blasphemous; it stuck out from the crowd like a plus-sized topless dancer in satin lace prancing about in a convent. Perhaps, I mused, that was the point of it being here.
Across the way, a few cars down from a weathered and bruised OPEC-era Chevy pickup on racing slicks, sat a faded gold Plymouth Barracuda fastback that although its sheet metal was still arrow-straight, was clearly never a candidate for restoration. I didn’t feel sorry for the old Mopar, however. It proudly wore its age on its sleeve, and surprisingly appeared to be well maintained. Out of all the cars I had seen so far, I immediately held a deep appreciation for this Barracuda not only because I still think it’s one of the best-styled American cars of all time, but because it was an honest driver’s car. It would probably keep its wheels turning long after its current owner passed on.
I briskly treaded away from the lovely ten-footer ‘Cuda and the heathen Dodge wagon down the nearby sidewalk, brushed a few beads of sweat away from my brow and then paused for a moment behind an ancient GMC pickup truck to check the status of my camera. I had been furiously snapping photographs for at least half an hour now. This, I discovered, had seemed to take its toll on the camera’s battery.
Pictured: Don’t let the shiny Mag 500s fool you. This amazing old Barracuda was also a bit of a crusty old barnacle.
The battery meter in the right hand corner of the camera’s near sun-washed display had changed from its normal unassuming white to a furious blinking red. That flashing icon demanded that I immediately stop whatever it was I was up to here and feed the battery fresh electricity, stat. The low-hanging grey storm clouds of vexation were beginning to gather over me. Before I had cast off on today’s venture, I made sure the battery had full health and here it had let me down considerably. But I wasn’t just disappointed in my camera’s short lifespan. I was also annoyed that I had been witless enough not to buy a backup.
“Alright. So my battery is officially just about trashed,” I announced to a friend of mine who had decided to tag along on my outing today. “I don’t know how much longer it has left, so I suppose from here on out that means I can only snap photographs of interesting cars. I can’t keep wasting time on Chevelles, Camaros and stupid General Lee clones.”
“So what about Mustangs?” my comrade jokingly inquired. At this point, we had spotted enough of the damn things to start a glue factory big enough to put Elmer’s out of business and still keep preschoolers the world over constipated for a million fortnights.
Still glowering at my dying camera, I sharply responded, “That especially goes for Mustangs.”
With time and my own equipment now working against me, I picked my pace back up again and moved quickly past a heavy set fellow seated in a canvas lawn chair — who seemed to be only another fully-trimmed Double McCheeseburger away from spilling out of his seat and onto the concrete underneath him — toward the middle of the city’s center. There was still at least a third of a car-strewn downtown Somerset left to explore, so who knew what sort of unusual and unearthly iron still lay ahead here at the Somernites Cruise.
To be continued…
Photo credits: Blake Noble (Hey, that’s me!)