Roxanne Part II







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

4 Replies to “Roxanne Part II”

  1. Hoorah for Roxy! I don’t want to know what you had to pay for the tow bill…but so glad the ol’ girl made it home to Washington. I’m sure she will treat you well for MANY more years.

    1. Hey Karen – we have AAA and it only cost $12 to have it towed to the island. Great service, Roxy arrived at our home the same time we did! She loves the island, is having some carburetor issues but we’ll get all that worked out. Quite a difference in running at 5000 ft in Montana and sea level here!

  2. Man, I loved following this story, thinking about my old friends Iron Jack and Roxy. I never actually got behind the wheel of Iron Jack (too intimidating for an east coast flatlander), but did give Roxanne a spin in Bozeman once. She was a bear on those tight turns without power steering but a blast to drive. Nice to see the pics of her in her happy new home

    1. Hey Darren – yes, I remember you cruised Roxy once. Remember the day we cruised Bozeman in Iron Jack with our cowboy hats on? I loved that day!

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