Leatherballs XXIII: Hits, misses, and connections

When tragedy and hilarity…uhhh, collide.

Taylor Sauer knew facebooking while driving was a bad idea.

   The 18-year-old college student said so in her last status update: “I can’t discuss this now. Driving and facebooking is not safe! Haha.”

At the time, Sauer was driving 80 mph from the Utah State University campus in Logan to visit her folks in Caldwell, Idaho, and was passing the time on the four-hour drive by messaging her friend about the Denver Broncos, according to

Moments after her last update, she crashed her car into a tanker truck that was going 15 mph up a hill and was killed instantly.

Investigators weren’t able to find signs that Sauer applied the brakes before her fatal crash, but, after checking cell phone records, they did discover she was posting about every 90 seconds during her drive, according to Idaho State Police Lt. Sheldon Kelley.

A lot of folks don’t believe that there’s a God. I’ve never been entirely sure myself one way or another, but one thing I do know for certain: who or whatever’s in charge of life on this here mudball has one hell of a sense of humor. Here’s where things take the inevitable ominous turn, though:

“I think she was probably (texting) to stay awake, she was probably tired,” Taylor’s dad, Clay Sauer, told Today Show host Ann Curry. “But that’s not a reason to do it, and the kids think they’re invincible. To them, (texting) is not distracting, they’re so proficient at texting, that they don’t feel it’s distracted driving.”

The Sauer family is now lobbying Idaho legislators to put a ban on texting while driving, according to the Daily Mail. Idaho is one of 13 states which hasn’t made texting while driving illegal, but Shauna Sauer believes Taylor would approve of the new law.

“This is what she would want us to do,” she told Curry.

No problem too stupid or petty that a new law won’t fix, eh? Here’s another thing I know for certain: no matter whether this kid “would want” a texting-while-driving ban or not, she would have ignored it either way. The core problem is the same as it ever was: it ain’t that we don’t have laws enough; it’s that Darwin was right.


You guys know by now that I ain’t above throwing out a paragraph or three here on classic cars now and then. Yeah, I know, I know, this is a rag about bikes and bikers, and we do generally try to keep to that as much as possible. But there’s always been fairly significant overlap between them that loves Harleys and them that loves good old American iron of the four-wheeled variety, and these days probably more so than ever. One of these days I’ll have to write something about old rockabilly, blues, and country music, thereby fully squaring the circle of lowbrow custom-culture life for y’all.

Meanwhile, I got to reminiscing the other day—thinkin’ and drinkin’, and not necessarily in that order of emphasis—and remembered something that I thought was pretty funny at the time, and made me feel pretty good.

My dad died in 1996. He was an unrelenting Ford man his whole life, from back in the days when such things really mattered; back when you could tell a Ford from a (shudder) Chevy from a (gack) Chrysler with a mere second’s glance. Nowadays it’s all anonymous plastic ellipsoid egg-mobiles or SUV’s, and the difference between a Ford and a Chevy amounts to nothing more than who you made the check out to. Just to illustrate the importance of the point, back in the early 70’s my grandfather (mom’s side) was interested in buying a car from my dad, which of course was a Ford. My dad strongly advised him against it, and when I asked why, he told me, “Your grandfather’s a Chevy man. He won’t be happy with the car.” Sure enough, my granddad eventually persuaded my dad to sell him the car, and he grumbled about it the whole 8 months he kept the thing before selling it—even though there was never anything quantifiably wrong with the car at all.

All this is by way of telling you I’m a Ford man myself. Anway, after my pop died I decided to take some of the insurance money I got and buy an old Fairlane, not only in honor of my dad’s memory but just because I wanted one and always had. So I scoured the Old Car Trader for a month or more and found one down in Georgia for what seemed a reasonable price. My girlfriend and I had just moved back to Charlotte from NYC and we jumped into my van and headed for Carrollton, Ga, off I-20 not far from Alabama.

The car was at a garage run by a nice young fella who had driven the ’56 for a while, then parked it for more than a year. When we got there and checked out the car, it was axle-deep in a field of weeds and something of a wreck: the back bumper was so rusty the guy had painted it flat black (“Mexican chrome,” an old-timer Ford guy later told me), and it drove like a tank with a busted track; it had about 20 degrees of slop in the steering and wandered all over the dirt road I test-drove it on. Because it had been sitting for a while, all the seals were dried out and ruined and the car leaked oil from every available orifice, including a good few the factory hadn’t built in on purpose. The guy had yanked the fuel tank and put a cell in the trunk because the stock tank leaked from a zillion tiny pinholes.

But it ran really good, smooth and sweet-sounding, since it was equipped with a fairly new set of Cherry Bomb glass packs and dual exhaust with those cool little thru-the-bumper outlets the ‘56 Club Sedans with the Thunderbird package had. It just felt right, so I haggled the dude down some, shook his hand, and jumped in for the 5-hour ride back to NC. Completely idiotic, I know; anybody with any sense would have brought a truck or at least a towbar and hauled it back. But now and then I have been known to do stupid shit, and to have it pay off against all odds—it purred like a newborn kitten all the way home.

I drove that car just about every day for about ten years, except for just a couple of hiatuses which were no fault of the car’s. I drove it on the highway, in the city, and through the countryside. The only major repair I had to do was replacing the front crossmember, which is not unexpected on those models—due to a design flaw, the 54-55-56 model years come in two flavors: those whose crossmembers have rusted completely out, and those whose crossmembers are about to rust completely out. Other than that, it was routine maintenance, tuneups, regular oil changes, and whatever customization or hot-rodding or general fiddling around I did just because I wanted to. That’s it.

So, to the part about the ’57 Nomad. I did mention the ‘57 Nomad, right? No? Well.

A few of us were heading off for dinner one Saturday evening and saw this amazing Nomad going down the highway in the opposite direction. Talk about a rod—this thing was tricked out to the absolute max. A big blower peeking out of the middle of the hood, tires in the back so fat they almost touched, and wheelie bars. Wheelie bars, on a street car! No way was that thing legal; it was a moving violation in every state in the Union, no doubt about it. I’d never seen this guy before and didn’t expect to see him again. But then, on the way home from work the next Friday, there the guy is again. He leaned all the way out the window and gave me a wave, and I did the same—greetings, from right in the middle of the Chevy-Ford DMZ—while the pasty yuppie geeks in their egg-mobiles whizzed by, no doubt annoyed by all those fossil fuels we were wasting and the pollution we were befouling their precious air with. But the old-timers all know how we felt, and I’ll guarantee you there were at least a few out on the road that day that saw us and smiled a little in their underpowered plastic cocoons.

And in the end, that’s what it’s all about, and why so many bikers and so many old-car guys can come out of their own lifestyle cocoons now and then, shake hands, and get along just fine. It’s that feeling we all get when we’re blowing down the road, guilty as hell and free as a bird, as a certain America-hating terrorist sumbitch put it once. We understand that feeling, and we understand each other, at least to some extent, because of it. I don’t know how many of us are left out there these days, but thank God—or Darwin, or Whomever—that there are still a few.

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