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Mark LaFlamme: Flat tires and busted mufflers. Those were the days

Mark LaFlamme: Flat tires and busted mufflers. Those were the days #Mark #LaFlamme #Flat #tires #busted #mufflers #days Welcome to Lopoid

I was about to take off on a long drive north, so I did the usual pretrip checks. 

Fully charged phone? Got it.  

Google Map directions? All loaded and ready to guide me. 

AAA card in case things go sideways?  

Oh yeah, bruh. It’s all there. One wouldn’t want to encounter something unexpected for which he’s not prepared, would one? 

One wouldn’t. Because one has become a hypervigilant weenie about these things. One has lost the boldness and the unshakeable optimism of his youth. 

Seriously, what happened to me? Did I just grow older and wiser or have I succumbed unwillingly to the overly protective arms of the nanny culture? 

In this world of GPS, roadside service and speed dial, does anybody do anything with careless abandon anymore? 

I once drove from Waterville to the deep woods of Moosehead Lake all alone in a sagging Ford Escort wagon that couldn’t be started without a jump. It had balding tires and a gas gauge that didn’t work right. It was the middle of the night and freezing cold by the time I started out, but did I worry a single time that I might break down and die shivering somewhere north of Greenville? 

No sir, I did not. I just made sure to never shut off the engine and I drove with a song on my lips and visions of high times dancing in my thick head. 

My friends and I used to set off for St. Georges, Canada, as an afterthought well after sundown. We usually went in my decrepit Chevy Vega, which was still rolling a spare tire from a recent flat and which had a pretty serious front end shake when you got up over 45 mph, which you could only manage when going downhill.  

We got to Jackman late and found the gas stations closed, but what the hell, right? We still had a good quarter of a tank and that seemed like plenty. Roll the dice and ride on, I say. 

When you’re 17 or 18 or 19, you don’t fret about what it might be like to run out of petrol in the wee hours on a dark and lonely stretch of Route 201. You throw caution to the wind and just imagine how sweet it’s going to be when the lights of the St. Georges bars are twinkling just over the next hill. 

When you and the boys set off on a jaunt to the Fiddler’s Convention in East Benton, you spent zero time calculating the odds of getting there, in spite of the fact that you’d be going in a rust bucket of a car that overheated every two miles and which leaked oil as fast as you could dump it in. 

You went with blind optimism, an overjoyed heart and a brand of careless enthusiasm that wouldn’t be beaten out of you for another five or six years. 

I could write a fat book about all the dumb and reckless things we did when we were young and I’ll bet most of you could, as well. In those halcyon days, one didn’t sit around thinking about what might go wrong, one went forth and dealt with problems as they came. 

If you ran out of gas on a winding black ribbon of road, you didn’t send a text to summon roadside assistance. What’s a text? What’s roadside assistance? 

No, when that Pinto engine finally puttered and died, you played rock, paper, scissors to decided which of your chump friends had to walk two miles to find a house with a gas can. 

If your radiator hose burst on some Godforsaken road on the other side of Kokadjo, you wrapped that sucker with electrical tape and used whatever liquids you could  come up with to top off the radiator. And I mean WHATEVER LIQUIDS you could come up with. 

If your muffler fell off during a back roads trek to Bar Harbor (the mufflers fell off ALL of my cars at one time or another) you didn’t call for a tow, you crawled under that oil-dripping car and secured that rusty muffler with a coat hanger, or whatever you could scrounge up from the trunk. 

It’s amazing to me that when something goes awry on the road in these modern times, our first impulse is to call or text someone else to come and fix it. That is, if your smart car doesn’t call or text someone on your behalf. 

With the internet and smartphones in hand, we may be more prepared for emergencies than we’ve ever been, but it feels like all of those conveniences cost us something, too; mainly the ability to adapt, adjust and fix things on our own so we can get to the high times of hunting camp in Lily Bay sooner rather than later. 

I mean, when’s the last time you actually changed a flat tire on your own? When’s the last time you got down and dirty, cutting a Busch beer can in half to bridge the jagged gap on your busted tail pipe? 

For that matter, when’s the last time you set off for the middle of nowhere without punching your destination into Google Maps first? 

It’s not that we have all of these preparations and conveniences that causes me such rue, it’s that relying on them becomes a way of life. 

Getting roadside help through a handy 800 number is great when you’ve broken down, but the adventure of walking three miles to a farmhouse and then braving the farmer’s mean dog just to barter for a gallon of gas had its charms, too. 

That’s probably why I like riding the dual sport so much. When I ride out into the deep woods, my phone almost always loses its signal, so if I get stuck in giant mud hole, I either figure a way out of it on my own or I die right there in the swamp being eaten alive by deer flies. 

A grisly way to go, sure, but that kind of thing builds character and, man, did we have a lot of character back in the day.

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