Roxanne Part II

by SteveHulse on October 1, 2018 · 4 comments







I should probably explain why it is I talk to cars and trucks. Actually, a lot of
guys talk to their vehicles. It probably comes from the idea that working on
them brings a familiarity after a time, and (at least in my mind) they become
more than simply a bucket of bolts. Think about it… when we work on a car
or truck, most of us end up talking to it at some point, usually starting out by
swearing at it, then softening a bit, something like, “There, you bastard, that
oughta hold you for awhile…” all the while slowly humanizing the thing in
our minds. When a bolt is stuck, we take it personally. “Come off there, you
rotten…” and when an installation is easy, it’s more like, “There now, that
wasn’t so bad, was it? See how easy it can be when you cooperate with me…”

Once, several years ago, I was working on a ’72 Ford pickup, replacing a
fuel pump. One of the bolts holding the pump to the block was close to
impossible to get to. I remember saying, “Henry Ford, if this was your idea
of where to put the fuel pump (which, of course it wasn’t…) then I hope
you rot in hell!” That truck, and perhaps old Henry himself never forgave me
for that comment, and a week later, as I was driving it home after dark,
the lights suddenly went out for no reason, and I was nearly off in the ditch
by the time I got stopped. As I opened the hood to look for the problem, they
came back on again. If it was a short in the electrical system, it was a weird
one, because I’d just come off a fairly rough dirt road, and the lights had
never even flickered. I got the truck home that night, poured myself a drink
and thought about what had happened. “You know, I think I need to sell that
truck before it kills me…” and I did, two days later. Never cared much for
Fords anyway.

But back to Roxanne. We left off last time where I had just let Iron Jack go
and Roxanne was treating me quite a bit better. As I was in Montana, cleaning
out my cabin last July, in preparation for selling it, I had the occasion to take
several large loads of trash and crap to the dump, and Roxanne became my
working truck for those two weeks. After unloading, I’d usually pat her on
the fender and say, “Good job, Roxy.” I sensed that she absolutely loved it.
She was slowly but surely becoming my truck.

On July 13th the movers rolled in, loaded all my belongings into their big truck
and headed off for the Washington coast. I celebrated the moment by opening
a cold beer, then walked out to the garage to chat with my inanimate bucket
of bolts..
“Well, old girl, I have news. I’m moving to Washington, and I’m taking you
with me. But it costs too much to tow you, so I’m going to drive you. It’s not
going to be easy… it’s hotter than hell over there right now. But you’re going
to like it there, I know. You’ll be right at sea level, lots more air for your carb
and the island speed limit is 55, which you can do in your sleep. Really, Roxy,
you’re gonna love it. But first we’ve got to get you there. I hope you’re ready!”







She sat quietly, processing this new development. The next day I took her
down to Sheridan one last time for an oil change, grease job and final check
over before our big trip. She felt ready, sounded ready. And two days later we
left for Washington State, and Whidbey Island, with Betty following us in the

I had a cold case with water and snacks on the floorboard, two bottles of
oil under the seat and a big carton of water, in case the radiator overheated
along the way. With all the windows down, shades on and cellphone at the
ready, we hit the open road.

The first day Roxanne was flawless. 52 miles into the trip we hit the I-90
interstate, and it was smooth sailing that day. I kept her at 65 for the first part
of the day, but she felt and sounded so good I bumped her up to 70. We
stopped for gas in Missoula, but it was more of a topping-off. We ate, then
headed for Idaho.

During that first day we crossed two major mountain passes – the
Continental Divide just East of Butte; and Lookout pass, (or Mullan Pass)
which is right at the Idaho border. Roxie took them both with ease… no
heating up, no difficulty whatsoever. And when we rolled into Wallace, Idaho
at 3:30 that afternoon and refueled, I was feeling pretty confident that
Roxanne was indeed up to this challenge. The fuel mileage was surprisingly
good, a little over 20 miles per gallon with Roxy’s small block 283 with a
four-barrel carb. The overdrive and a steady foot on the gas pedal probably
helped a bit.

We stayed over night in Wallace and got an early start the next morning,
trying to beat a little bit of the midday heat that would surely be cooking
all of eastern and central Washington. We refueled in Spokane then headed
west into the heat of the day. Sure enough, it was hotter than blazes all
across Washington, between 92 and 94 degrees, clear up to the top of
Snoqualmie Pass, which is only about 60 miles east of Seattle. But trouble
was brewing by the time we started up the eastern slope of the pass.

It was a clear day, bright sun bearing down, and it heated up the driver’s
side door to the point where I burned the back of my arm, trying to rest
it on the inside door handle.







I’d been watching the temp gauge all day, which had stayed comfortably
between 180 and 190 degrees. But now, just West of Ellensburg, the temp
needle began to rise slowly… first up to 200, then up to 210. Traffic was
fairly light so I slowed to 60, then 55, but still the needle climbed, rolling
past 220 up to 230 as we neared the top of Snoqualmie Pass. I found a
good wide spot and pulled over, shut her off to let her cool down. I popped
the hood and checked the radiator, it was hot, a little steam coming out
of the overflow, but not severely boiling. We let it cool down for about
20 minutes and when I started her up, her temp was down to 190 again.






Where I like it to be…

So we rolled over the pass and down the western slope toward Seattle.
But Roxy was overheating again, all the way back up to 220, then
230, no matter how slow I went. We managed to coast into North Bend,
just 30 miles East of Seattle. We pulled into a nearby gas station, where
I shut her down and refueled. When Roxy had cooled down we pulled
her into the shade beneath a big tree next to a McDonald’s and called
for a tow company to tow her on to the island. I lifted the hood to see if the
radiator was still okay, and it was then that I noticed it… the generator
was lying down on the exhaust manifold, and the belt had come loose
and was no longer turning the fan. No wonder Roxy was overheating
so badly!

There was no way to tell exactly when the fan belt had come loose, but I
suspect it happened while coming up the East slope of Snoqualmie Pass,
when she first began really overheating. But there was no “clunk’ or strange
sound of any kind that might have indicated when it happened. As i
stood there looking at the generator, still connected to the broken mount,
I realized that Roxanne had brought me the last 60-80 difficult miles on
an extremely hot day, without a fan, and still didn’t miss a beat! She got
me safely down to North Bend and didn’t complain once… didn’t cough,
choke, stutter, hesitate or boil completely over! I felt at that moment that
Roxanne had decided she was going to get me to Seattle, and to our
island, even if it killed her! I patted her fender and whispered, “Thank you,
Roxy. Thank you for this.”







Later that evening the tow truck dropped her off at our house on the
island and I drove her up into the driveway. She looked great, sitting there
in the evening light, checking out her new surroundings, surely being
proud of herself for delivering me safely through the scorching heat of
Central Washington in mid-July, back to our island!







I’m aware that any thinking outside the logic box of reality vs. perception
can raise eyebrows and lower respectability. But as long as we each get to
choose what is real and what is imagined we will hold a certain creative
freedom for how we get through our days. And our nights. And while much
of our creative freedom might be frowned upon to one degree or another,
it shouldn’t matter if our “unusual” perceptions of life fly in the face of conformity,
as long as no one is hurt or offended in the process. If you haven’t yet had a
chat with your truck or car, you might try it sometime. I urge you to not miss
a chance at a meaningful relationship with an inanimate object, and, perhaps,
with yourself.

Steve Hulse


The Saga Of Roxanne

by SteveHulse on September 21, 2018 · 2 comments

With apologies, I must warn you that this post and the following one
are for truck lovers only.

I have always had a weakness for people who show patience, strength,
endurance, loyalty, consistency and reliability. I have instant respect (and
perhaps a touch of jealousy) when I see those qualities in someone. I have
tried all my life to embody those qualities and know from experience how hard
it is to be that person. My mom had all those qualities, except for patience. My
dad did have all those qualities, and I’d long hoped to inherit them from him.
But it doesn’t work that way… they have to be earned, each and every one.

My respect and admiration for those qualities extends to animals and even
inanimate objects… strange as that might seem. But qualities are qualities,
whether displayed by humans or by airplanes, and over the years I’ve come to
recognize the above qualities in many forms.


I bought Roxanne from my good buddy, Tiny Oliver, in 2011. A ’59 Chevy
Apache long bed, she wasn’t yet Roxanne, just an old pickup sitting out in
Tiny’s field next to his shop, with about 10 other junkers surrounding it. She
stuck out like a sore thumb to me, proud and elegant, even out there in
the field. I browbeat my friend with sad tales of woe of the truck simply
rusting out there, when it should be garaged, repainted and given lots of TLC.
He probably sold it to me to shut me up. Whatever… it worked.







New tires, new battery, oil change, tune up and a grease job later she was
running well but continuing to give me problems. A few of the gauges didn’t
work right; I smelled gasoline for two days every time I filled her up. The
overdrive kept going out on me and occasionally she wouldn’t go into reverse.
As I worked on her through the late summer afternoons in my garage, her
personality was slowly being revealed to me… and I didn’t like it much.

One day I had crawled under her to work on the overdrive switch and was
looking up at her floorboard when a drop of oil dripped right into my eye. I
raised up instinctively and hit my head on the frame. I crawled out from
under, found a rag and was wiping my eye when the song “Roxanne” came
on the radio. It was The Police, aka Sting, whom I love. As I wiped at my
burning eye, it occurred to me that I had just received a vindictive hit, a
warning shot, as it were, by this damn truck. I mean, there was no leaking
oil anywhere else… not on the floor, not on me, just a mean little single shot
to my eye. I looked at her as the song rolled across the garage.

“Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light
Those days are over
You don’t have to sell your body to the night

Roxanne, you don’t have to wear that dress tonight
Walk the streets for money
You don’t care if it’s wrong or if it’s right

Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light
Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light

I loved you since I knew you
I wouldn’t talk down to you
I have to tell you just how I feel
I won’t share you with another boy

I know my mind is made up
So put away your make-up
Told you once, I won’t tell you again
It’s a bad way

Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light
Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light”

Here it & see it here –

It hit me… she was Roxanne! A proud, classic lady, standing tall in a
crowd, hiding an unkempt, naughty little street urchin somewhere deep inside.
She was Roxanne when she was regal, and Roxy when she was bad.

A Reluctant Roxanne








I felt right away that she didn’t like me. I was fixing a stuck lock on the tailgate
when it pinched my finger, breaking the fingernail and drawing blood. And that
wasn’t the only blood-letting. I drove her down to the Bale Of Hay for a cool
brew after a hot day under the hood. As I parked and stepped out of Roxy,
the corner of the door caught the back of my leg and sliced a small chunk
out of my calf. I limped across the street to the bar, my calf bleeding, while
Roxy looked straight ahead, as if nothing had happened. “Goddamn, Roxy,
you can be one mean little bitch!” I muttered.

Over my beer, I wondered what I had done to draw the wrath of a pickup
truck that I was trying to stabilize and restore to its original condition. what
could possibly be the problem, unless “she” simply didn’t like me?! Hell, I
could always put her back in Tiny’s field to rot and rust, but that can’t be
what she wants either, can it?

Next day I was changing the fuel filter on the gas line when the hood
suddenly let loose and came down hard on my neck and my arm. With a
fresh bump on the head and a bleeding arm, I went back to the cabin, got
the bleeding stopped and grabbed a beer. Back in the garage, I turned off
the radio and stood in front of Roxy. “I have no idea what the hell’s going on
here. I’m trying to restore you, fix you up, and you’re fighting me every step
of the way. I don’t get it… don’t you want to get back to your original self?
Don’t you want to be driven again, cruised down the highway again, looked
at and admired by people on the street again? Look, I want to take care of
you, I only want the best for you. Let me know if you don’t want to be my
truck, if you want me to sell you or take you back to Tiny. Once I know what
your deal is, we’ll go from there.”







Pooh & Roxy on a Montana back road

Well, slowly, between us, things started to change. Sure, I became more
careful while working on her. I made a wedge to slip under the hood to keep
it from falling on me again. Little things. I finally got the overdrive fixed for
good, with the help of Allhands Auto Clinic in Sheridan, and we put a new
exhaust system in her soon after. At this point Roxanne was running smooth
and quiet, most of her problems now solved. She would cruise all day at 70,
turning 2400 rpm. I could live with that.







As Roxanne became more human-like, I began to see part of her problem
with me… only it wasn’t really me, it was my other truck, Iron Jack.
Parked side by side in the driveway, I could almost feel the negative vibes
slamming between them. I observed this phenomenon for a few weeks and
figured out that Roxanne was jealous of Iron Jack. See, I used Jack for all
the tough jobs, the gritty stuff, and saved Roxanne for Sunday drives, if you
will. Turned out she didn’t like that worth a damn. She wanted to be the truck,
the only truck, my only truck. So it was no surprise that, right after i gave iron
Jack to my good friend Roger, Roxanne began behaving considerably better!
Imagine that!

To be continued…

Steve Hulse


The End Of An Era

by SteveHulse July 11, 2018

B and I are in Montana this week, moving my lifelong possessions from my cabin in Virginia City to Whidbey Island, Washington. I contracted Ray Taylor to build this cabin for me back in 1979. He did a fantastic job on it and it was my home base, and my heart, for 38 years. Much […]

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Big Memories Of Small Times

by SteveHulse July 8, 2018

Being back in Montana for the 4th of July week has brought back some delicious memories of my childhood here. I’m sure you all have these, and I hope mine can stir a few of yours. It’s the 2nd of July, 2018, and we just got to my cabin this afternoon. Betty Ann unpacked us […]

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An Empty Bucket

by SteveHulse June 28, 2018

We’ve all got a bucket list, right? Maybe not written down, maybe not in order of importance… but if someone asked you, at a cocktail party, what’s on your bucket list, you’d quickly be able to think of a few things. Don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “Oh, I don’t have a bucket list, […]

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A Forced Perspective

by SteveHulse June 19, 2018

Last year my B and I built a small model railroad together. it was a great winter’s project that turned out well, and we had a ball doing it. In the process I discovered that B built and painted small ( HO scale) buildings very well. Her crowning achievement was a sliver mine with an […]

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Way Back When In The Here And Now

by SteveHulse June 4, 2018

Try as I might to pretend life is still as good as it was in the 60’s and ’70’s, it simply isn’t, and won’t be. The comparable simplicity of that time, the almost naive sincerity of that time faded into oblivion somewhere in the mid-’80’s. Funny that it took me twenty years to notice it […]

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Sweet Inspirations

by SteveHulse April 24, 2018

Jazz Appreciation Month is inspiring me to get out all my pent-up thoughts and feelings about jazz while it’s semi-legal to do so. These days my memory continues to serve up some of the jazz piano giants that I struggled all my life to emulate. Oh, I finally settled in and played “who I was” […]

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Requiem For A Genre

by SteveHulse April 17, 2018

April is Jazz Appreciation month. A month for Jazz Appreciation? Really?? Sigh. I guess I should be miffed about the designation of a single month for a style of music that has defined most of my life. But the truth is, Jazz is fairly lucky to get its month at all, considering it is far […]

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Bitter Sweet

by SteveHulse March 22, 2018

          Today I sat down and signed away my old friend, Iron Jack. How do you sign away an old friend? Well, the “old friend” is a truck. That’s right, Iron Jack is a ’66 International pickup. And so, you might ask, why do I call a truck an old friend? […]

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