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  • Writer's pictureChuck Johnson

The first real drive

Updated: Aug 14, 2022

So as aforementioned in the last blog, I finally got back to the states, and one of the first items on the agenda was going to get the Saleen.

At the time that I bought 3 years ago, my debt was paid off, my business was stable, I had plenty of savings, I was returning to the states a few times a year, and I had just turned 40. I thought if it was time to get the dream car, that was it. Coming from a ford family, I knew I wanted a mustang and a Saleen was the ultimate dream. I spent a year looking for it, and when I found it, I got it before I even knew how to drive a stick.

Then COVID. All of a sudden, Quiet Flame's castings all ran dry, (as well as my own acting/stunt career), 2 out of my 3 Taekwondo programs were shutting down, the main one was cut in half, and my savings were suddenly bleeding. Getting back to the states was near impossible (both logistically, and financially) for 2 years. When I did finally make it back last year, Id had little-to-no practice driving a stick, my wife was in the hospital and my personal life was a mess. Consequently, so was the inside of my head. I thought that if I tried to get behind the wheel of it I would have ended up wrapping it around a tree. So I opted not to. I pushed it out of the garage, checked up on it and gave it a walk-around and then went back to Japan without ever so much as taking it out of the driveway.

In contrast to the past two years, this year has been one of recovery and rebuilding; mentally, physically and financially. I also spent as much time as I could learning how to drive manual. In Tokyo, you have to have a seperate license in order to drive a manual, (which meant I couldn't practice on the streets) so I had to go to an English-language manual driving school (at $100 a lesson) to work the skill. When funds got too tight for that, I went outside of Tokyo to a friend’s used car lot to keep working the skill on his old lemons. Even got my bike manual license as a way to increase my general sense of it.

While in Japan, I’d been storing her in a small countryside town north of Lansing, and after getting back to the states, I found out that there was a greyhound bus that went directly there from Detroit. Decided to take the bus out there and drive the car back home myself.

The prospect of having to do that drive back on my own, not knowing if the navigation on my Japanese phone would even work, (and never really having driven a stick outside of a parking lot) with a lot of construction around Detroit and something that was wildly precious to me was scary.

Got to the town at about 4pm and waited until 6:30pm so that hopefully the rush hour traffic would have passed and I would still have 2.5 hours of sunlight to get home with. As soon as I started driving however, I realized that with the top down, the setting sun was reflecting off of my phone’s screen and it was damn-near impossible to see.

Thankfully however, the Gods of Google Maps were kind enough to route me in such a way that the first hour of the journey was all backroads. After 30 min or so, the sun had gone down just enough that I could see the screen well enough to follow it; and from then on, it was glorious. The roads were all perfectly smooth and curvy, almost empty, and surrounded by nothing but farms and woods. This particular Saleen came with a custom short throw shifter, and an unlabeled shift knob that made learning on it even more challenging, but I still loved every second. Didn’t even turn on music cuz all I wanted to hear was the roar of the V8 when shifting gears and whine of the supercharger. Managed to get her home to the D without a single stall right as the last rays of Sunlight faded.

If I had known that the pandemic was coming, I probably never would have gotten this car. Furthermore, for the past 3 years, I’d been debating with myself about whether or not I’d made the right choice in not just getting it, but in refusing offers to sell it during the pandemic. The experience of that single drive however, made it all totally worth it.

It was 2 hours of not just intense focus, but intense joy and the challenges it presented, (including the 3 year wait for it) made every minute of it sweet. It’s a memory I will never forget in my lifetime… and this was just the first drive in a machine I plan to drive till the wheels fall off.

My Moms also used to say “Go out and get exactly what you want, so you are always perfectly satisfied with what you have.” And she was right. Get out there and fight for what you want. Struggle for it. Suffer for it. Bleed for it. And when people try to talk you out of it, take their reasoning into account, but press forward. Trust me, the finish line is so so worth the wait. #mustang #saleen #fordmustang #saleenmustang #sn95mustang #americanmuscle #mustangowner

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