Hunting for Sport

“Alfa Romeo is a particular way of living, of experiencing an automobile. The real essence of Alfa defies description. It can be compared to those irrational movements of the spirit that sometimes occur in man, and for which there is no logical explanation. We are in the realm of sensations, passions, things that have more to do with the heart than with the head.” –

Orazio Satta Puligaazio

With The United States of America, recently renamed The Peoples Republic of North America, as prime mover of Green Energy by using government grants and other subsidies with money confiscated by over taxation and loans without equity, a majority of countries fell in line and outlawed production of fossil fuel. Laws were enacted to provide minimum basic needs for citizens of our New Republic. These laws married owners to businesses with all profits going to the state. Assigned citizens to jobs with the threat of incarceration or death for anyone objecting. Rationed food and energy. Denied older individuals medical care except pain medication or euthanasia, among other controlling directives. Whatever was required to further the illusion that everything is free and guaranteed by the state.

We should have paid attention to gathering storm clouds in the twentieth century. A few did; they were laughed at, belittled, discredited, and destroyed. By the early twenty-first century the mold was cast. Despite a brief setback at the end of the second decade to the left’s meteoric climb to power, socialists cheated their way to the oval office, took control of congress, and set about replacing capitalism with communism.

According to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, “The goal of socialism is communism.”

Leading up to the twenty-first century, enemies inside the gates holding powerful positions within our country, organized small factions pushing diverse agendas. Their aggregate but undeclared plan to destroy America by whatever means necessary became the silent rallying cry of the left as they pulled these small groups into a single party. Socialists, masquerading as the democrat party of our grandparents, now known as Marxist, were well ensconced in the power structure by the middle of the third decade of the twenty-first century. These Marxists, having owned the media for the two previous generations, set about taking total control of personal wealth, medicinal services, food, education, and individual mobility. Their principal method of keeping the public from paying attention to laws passed behind the scenes designed to hasten the collapse of America, was to peddle falsehoods about manmade global warming—these laws passed in secret were never mentioned by the state-owned media. A carbon tax proved to be the vehicle used to overburden the production of petroleum to the point gasoline was priced well beyond most everyone’s ability to purchase.

This destroyed the use and production of internal combustion engines. Graveyards of rusted out traditional automobiles loved by everyone in the twentieth century could be seen along highways where they burned their last drop of fuel. Some of us, mostly seasoned citizens owned, one or more of these antiquated cars and belonged to clubs. I owned a classic car and was a member in good standing of a club. Our club gathered from time to time to show our cars, recall and discuss the “good old days.” Occasionally, we pooled our resources and bought enough black-market gasoline for a short parade. People gathered along our parade route; some cheered, others booed. Some of the boobirds belonged to Hunt Clubs.

Privately owned automobiles, shortly after motor wagons and horseless carriages were introduced toward the end of the nineteenth century, quickly became a symbol of freedom. Depending on your means, you could sit back in an automobile and travel anywhere your chosen road would take you—an advertisement, “See the USA in Your Chevrolet,” became a popular jingle in 1950. When groups gathered and reminisced about vehicles from ‘back then’, one subject always surfaced and took precedence over all others—the desire for speed. It still holds true with the battery powered cars of today.

When discussing ways of increasing speed in muscle cars of yesterday, exciting terms such as cubic inches, intake manifolds, four-barrel carburetors, fulltime compared to on demand fuel pumps for injection systems, torque, horsepower, tuned exhausts, shaved heads, and so on have been whittled down for cars of today to mundane terms like battery size, number of motor windings, parallel vs. series-wound motors and the like.

A few guys owned small sports cars popular in the mid to late twentieth century. I owned a seventy-six-year-old five speed 1969 Alfa Romeo Spider. I purchased it on my twentieth birthday from the daughter of the original owner. He had driven it until taxes on premium gasoline had made the Alfa too expensive to drive. He then parked it in a garage detached from his residence and left it there. When Charlette inherited the farm where her father lived and his father had lived, she left the Alfa where she had found it.

With Charlette’s health failing, she was moved into a state-owned nursing home—by estimates of the local medical board, she had six months, perhaps a year to live. Also, according to the board, with surgery she would live another ten to twenty years. But since the operation would leave her unable to contribute to the state, surgery was denied. I worked for the lady responsible for the court-ordered estate sale—families no longer had the right to inherit, so proceeds would end up in state coffers. Charlette was worth more to the state dead than alive.

I was helping with the inventory when I spotted the Alfa Romeo through the window in a man-door opening into the garage. I asked Tayanna, the lady I worked for, what price she would put on the old car. She said, “No one will want it. If you offer me ten credits and agree to remove it from the property no later than three days after the auction ends, it is yours.” New laws prohibit the use of tangible currency, only computer-generated money is legal, your earnings are deposited in a government-maintained account, you can spend it and pay bills by using a metallic fob. The plastic bank card, a product of petroleum had been phased out of existence. At years end or death, all unused credits revert to the state—suggested by John Maynard Keynes in the early twentieth century.

As earnings permitted, I worked on my little car for ten years. The Pininfarina designed body was still perfect, not a scratch in the paint and no rust on the frame. However, all rubber and fabric parts had dry rotted and had to be replaced. Some parts, although none had been manufactured for years, were still available from Alfa’s factory in San Germano, Italy. Alfa, like all others, had been forced into producing electric cars. A few after-market factories could fabricate whatever I needed.

While I worked at restoring the Alfa to showroom condition, Hunt Club members were redesigning their electric cars with larger motors and higher and higher, and higher capacity batteries to provide the heavier current demand by extra windings of the larger motors—there seemed to be no limit. This required larger compartments to accommodate the larger batteries and motors be part of the overall redesign of their electric cars. At some point they discovered factory frames would not withstand the stress added by larger motors and high-capacity batteries. So, frames were beefed up to handle the extra load. This cycle continued until they were driving tanks, albeit very-fast tanks. Owners of these vehicles had power and speed but were seriously lacking in braking and handling. Since the only driving excitement with their bulky electric cars was drag racing, they began considering other car events. They theorized chasing down small lightweight sports cars like mine, ramming, and running them off the road would be fun. Thus, Hunting Clubs were born.

Since rebuilding the Alfa Romeo, except for driving to and from shows and in parades, my driving thrills had been limited. I had spent more than a hundred hours sitting behind the steering wheel working the gears and hydraulic clutch, pretending I was a Grand Prix racer on the streets of Monaco. Fifty or more times I had backed the Alfa down the driveway and then pulled it back inside the garage. A dozen or so times I drove it to the end of the street and back, the distance was not enough to allow me to shift into third gear. It was time to take my car on the road for an Italian tune-up—open it up and let run.

I asked the communication gadget attached to my wrist for a weekend weather report. A pleasant female voice promised blue skies with temperatures in the mid-seventies, perfect driving weather. On Friday evening I lowered the top into the boot and snapped the tonneau cover into place, checked my tire pressure, and topped off all fluids. I emptied the gasoline from my spare gas can into the tank. This moved the needle on my gas gauge to a shade past half full—I was ready.

Saturday morning came down as promised by the friendly voice on my communication apparatus. I was too excited for a morning meal. A cup of chicory coffee and a protein bar served as breakfast. I filled a flask used for biking with fresh water and stowed it in the glove box. I had picked up an old pair of Ray-Bans at an antique store, I thought would set off my outfit, cargo shorts, a polo shirt, and a Greek fisherman’s hat, and a pair of Rockport walking shoes—I cruised antique stores regularly, old stuff called out to me.

I sat behind the wheel for a minute or so before inserting the ignition key and turning it to the on position. I sat listening to the whine of the fuel pump for a few seconds, I loved the sound. The engine caught on the first revolution of the crankshaft, adding harmony of a tuned exhaust to the music.

When engine temperature began to rise, I depressed the clutch, slipped the transmission into reverse, eased the clutch out, and backed down the driveway onto the street.

My experience driving the Alfa Romeo had been limited to parades, trips to and from shows, and once when several classic sports car owners got together and rented an old dirt track for a show and a day of racing. Most of the guys feared wrecking their cars, so racing was not as competitive as it could have been but driving on a road course offered a series of adrenalin-pumping moments.

During the month leading up to race day I watched two archived Formula One movies on a viewing monitor at a downtown library. I credited these movies with helping me win a couple of heats and qualifying for the featured race—I finished third. Today, I would not be racing; it would be a fun drive, just me, my car, and the road.

Fortunately, I lived in outer suburbia adjacent to farmland with a maze of roads running past and connecting to farmhouses; little had changed in the last hundred years, or so I was told. I often rode my solar-charged-battery-assisted bicycle in this thirty by sixty-mile valley on weekends and knew most of the intersections and blind curves well enough to negotiate them in my sleep. For my first outing in the Alfa, I planned to drive the main road until hills began closing in near the head of the valley and then return home. This would give me a chance to determine the top speed of my sleek little machine and check its road handling capabilities. The dirt track had only one straightaway where I was able to shift into fourth gear for two to three seconds before shifting back into third, and then downshifting to second as a right-hand chicane lay ahead.

A mile out of town I put the Alfa through a set of curves before a straight section of three and a half miles would open before me. I came out of the last turn in third gear. As the needle on the tachometer passed sixty-five hundred turns, I was at peak torque for the next gear and shifted into fourth. At ninety miles an hour I shifted to fifth gear intending to watch the city skyline disappear in my rearview mirror.

It did not happen. What was in my rearview mirror? A hunter. I was a mile down the straightaway when I spotted him coming out of the last curve; the paint job sporting his club’s colors was unmistakable. I referred to them as gang colors—he was hunting. This changed my plans for a fun day to one of escape and evade.

He had been unable to catch or keep up as I pushed my car through curves at the beginning or the road leading into the valley. Now, on the straightaway he had the advantage. His EC’s maximum speed would be more than 200 MPH. The pointer on my speedometer had just passed 100. The Alfa would top out somewhere around 140 MPH which meant he would be on top of me in less than a minute.

I had one chance; a half mile further down the road, a bridge crossed over a small stream. Just before the bridge a road intersected on the left. As a sign warning me of an intersection a quarter mile away flashed by on my right, I spotted another hunter flying the same colors as the guy behind me. We would meet head on. Were they hunting in pairs? It didn’t matter, we were all going to reach the intersection at the same time. I stayed as far right as I could to set up for as wide a turn as possible and waited until the last moment before stepping hard on the brake pedal. I held it down and downshifted twice. The antilocking, four-wheel disk brakes worked flawlessly. I released the brake, slammed the accelerator to the floor and powered through the 90 degree turn at sixty miles per hour. The Alfa’s tires stuck to the pavement like glue, leaving the two hunters facing each other trying to avoid a head-on collision. One ended right-side up in the creek. I guessed the other hunter had traveled a mile further down the road before he was able to slow down enough to turn around. By the time he could reach the intersection I would be nowhere in sight.

I was safe for the time being, but figured the first hunter, now in the creek and out of the game had, while in the curves at the beginning of the chase, transmitted my position and movements by a satellite datalink to every hunter’s GPS in the area, and probably why the second hunter showed up. One encounter was enough for me on my first outing, it was time to go home. Getting home unscathed was not likely to be easy. The second hunter was still out there, and I suspected others had joined the hunt. Supposedly, everyone needs competition (a challenge), passed off as entertainment. I will not say the encounter had been fun, although I must admit it was exciting.

The road I had turned onto, meandered past houses and farms before intersecting the valley’s perimeter road. A turn to the right would take me past several intersections with similar roads looping back to the main throughfare. To the left, a single loop would take me back to the main road within a half mile of the curves leading back into the city. This route being the quickest way home, I took it.

Logic had not been my ally these last few minutes, or it would have occurred to me the second hunter might not have turned around but stood waiting for me at the intersection I was speeding toward. Rationality returned too late. Only when I saw number two heading toward me did I realized he had reached the intersection within minutes of our first encounter and turned onto my intended escape route. I was in trouble.

For no specific reason, while rebuilding my Alfa I removed the device designed to lock the parking brake. You lifted a stalk located in the center console to set the brake. You released the brake by pushing a button at the end of the stalk—it was no longer necessary to push the button, because the locking device no longer engaged. This bit of surgery turned the parking brake into a racing brake used in other models of European sportscars.

The hunter and I popped out of sharp curves at opposite ends of a short straightaway roughly two hundred yards long. Although his speed was down due to a lack of his car’s handling when negotiating curves, we would still meet head on in a matter of seconds. There was no time to think, I acted out of instinct and moved toward the right edge of the pavement as far as possible. Then by turning the steering wheel left and engaging the racing brake at the same time, I sent the rear end of the Alfa sliding right. In a split second my car was sliding down the road sideways toward hunter number two. I let go the racing brake handle, downshifted through third to second gear, and popped the clutch with the gas pedal against the metal as I executed a perfect bootlegger’s 180-degree turn sending the Alfa in the opposite direction with the hunter behind me rather than in front.

My rear tires smoked for a moment or two trying to bite the pavement. I needed to reach the series of curves I had just driven through before the hunter caught up with me—it was going to be close, too close.

My engine screamed as the needle on my tachometer passed 8500. I wanted to make sure the engine had developed more than enough torque to maintain straight line acceleration when I speed-shifted to third—it worked perfectly. A heartbeat later I was set up to take the first curve at maximum speed possible and stay on the road. I went into the curve on the extreme outside, cut to the center and drifted back to the outside. If too fast you risk spinning out or drifting off the road as you come out of the curve. The only other hazard is meeting another vehicle.

It was a thing of beauty. For a moment I was Mario Andretti at Watkins Glen. The hunter, with all the weight added to his car’s original design, had no chance of matching my performance. He spun out and slid off the road into a tree. After a quick analysis of the situation, I concluded the shortest route home was the one I had chosen before meeting up with hunter number two a second time.

I turned around and headed toward the intersection. I slowed as I neared the hunter’s wrecked car. The driver was climbing onto the road. Figuring he wanted to destroy my car but intended me no harm, I slowed to a stop and asked, “You okay, need any help?”

Imagine my surprise when long blonde hair tumbled from underneath the crash helmet she removed.

“Yes, I’m okay, but I could do with a ride home.”

“Well, climb in.” she dropped her helmet behind the passenger’s seat, positioned her bottom on top of the door, lifted her legs, spun into the cockpit, and dropped into the passenger’s seat. She looked at me, smiled, and asked,

“Are those clothes your Sunday best?”

I glance scanned her silky form-fitting racing suit, she was easy to look at, laughed and replied, “Like my car, old is a thing with me.”

She gave me a mischievous grin and said, “Not everything . . . I hope.”

“Well,” I hesitated and made sure she knew I was visually slow scanning her body, matched her grin, and continued, “No . . . not everything.”

She smiled again, “Cute car.”

“Thanks. So, why were you trying to destroy it?”

She flashed her mischievous grin again, arched an eyebrow and said,

“Well . . . we gotta do something . . . don’t we?”

The end

Having been involved with secret organizations on either side of the law, Mr. Grant is experienced in a wide array of clandestine operations. Some he can’t talk about. Some he dares not mention. He knows more about DEA gray-room operations than he should; ditto for the highly competitive world of industrial espionage. Bribes and favors are solicited and paid in all segments of society; from Main Street to Wall Street, from the ballot box to the highest levels of government. Don’t ask him how he knows–he won’t tell you.