Yes, the road.

Yes, the road.
Eagle Nest, New Mexico. “People like to drive because driving is actually and symbolically an almost perfect mechanism for escape…there is probably no human being who does not have troubles, real or imagined, from which he at times feels the need to flee.” George R. Stewart.


My photo
Brooklin, Maine, United States
We own a 1975 GMC Sierra Grande 15 in Maine and a 1986 Chevrolet Custom Deluxe 10 in West Texas. Also a pair of 1997 Volvo 850 wagons. Average age in the fleet is 28 years--we're recycling. I've published 3 novels: THE LAW OF DREAMS (2006), THE O'BRIENS (2012), and CARRY ME (2016). Also 2 short story collections: NIGHT DRIVING(1987) and TRAVELLING LIGHT (2013). More of my literary life is at I was a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study for 2012-13. I'm an adjunct professor at Colorado College and in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. In 2015-16 I was a Fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The Autoliterate office is in Car Talk Plaza in Harvard Square, 2 floors above Dewey Cheatem & Howe. SUBSCRIBE TO THE AUTOLITERATE DAILY EMAIL by hitting the button to the right.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Land Rover trapped in Wassenaar!

Our neighbors here in civilized little Wassenaar work for the Dutch foreign service, and keep their Land Rover, and their memories of Africa, squeezed into the hedged garden beside their house while they endure a home posting. They'll have to bust out eventually. The machine has certainly seen wilder days--their last posting was Namibia, before that Kazakstan and Sri Lanka. Expensive Dutch road tax keeps the LR in cold storage here, though Wassenaar is such a prosperous town that you see a lot of LR's cruising the handsome little streets. Conspicuous vehicular consumption, I guess. Reminds me of the Range Rover moment in Montecito, twenty years ago.

Dodge Job-Rated & New Mexico Roadtrip

"from Michael S Moore on the road in Colorado and New Mexico:
"We took a trip across the valley yesterday and up into the mountains on the other side to see Patsy before we leave; saw this little opportunity in downtown Gardner, Colorado on the way through...

"Chama,  [upper Huerfano Valley], Colorado...from high above Manzaneros Creek looking north along the Sangre de Cristo range...gateway to the Manzaneros, whose roads are the equal of most any I've driven..."--MSM

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Daf 55 daft?

Thinking about buying wheels in The Netherlands. Back in Maine,  buying local matters. So here in Wassenaar, why not a DAF, the only Dutch automobile company I'm aware of? DAF was swallowed by Volvo sometime in the 1970s, but before that had a successful run with a narrow line of little cars. Like this Daf 55, from 1969. DAF's claim to fame was its Variomatic transmission, which was standard on all its cars: you could not get a manual. Automatic transmissons were rare in Europe in those days manual transmissions are still standard issue in rental cars and taxis. I've always liked shifting, so the Variomatic doesn't spin my wheels, but otherwise the Daf  looks like my kind of machine: a plain-jane, is-what-it-is, sturdily clean-and-simple car that has survived four decades and maybe has some stories to tell. And I like the rally lamps, too.
Would it be daft to buy a 43-year-old DAF?

Mercedes Hanomag Henschel

It had lost its Mercedes star but we still id'd this frontwheel drive M-B Hanomag Henschel in the harbor at Scheveningen, NL. These were certainly an upgrade from the VW bus, and roomier too. Scheveningen is a beach town with a surfing scene. Can you say "Scheveningen"? 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Citroën Traction Avant et Film Noir

I am going very euro after 4 days in The Netherlands. This is a bicycle nation, and I will certainly be writing about the local bikes on Autoliterate: the basic Dutch bicycle is a handsome, well-thought-out, and extraordinarily useful machine. We 3 are riding clunkers, however. BB's bike is in the repair shop today; H's bike has an appointment for Monday.
           The Autoliterate Dutch Bike Report & Photo Essay will wait another day. Meanwhile I have been watching a flock of low-slung Citroën Traction Avants tool around Wassenaar. If you enjoy French film noir, ca, c'est le char. I'm thinking Rififi (dir. Jules Dessin); aussi, Shoot the Piano Player (dir. Francois Truffault). This was the great French gangster car. I believe they started making 'em in 1937, and production continued into the 1950s.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Advanced Design Chevrolet, and tomatoes

This just in from Michael S. Moore, traveling in New Mexico:

"...the scuzzy air was depressing [dust and smoke all the way down and back]; we saw a promising junkyard in San Luis but didn't stop; there used to be an outrageous body shop with a whole yard full of vintage iron as well but it was completely gone; replaced by a Family Dollar store with asphalt parking lot.  Espanola isn't what it once was; franchises, fast food joints, used car lots...what was once lowrider heaven yielded only one custom pickup [coincidentally another '50 chev, lowered and glossy black].  Didn't stop for that one, either. Saturday morning at the Albuquerque Growers' Market there was this '50 Chev--

"--and a whole lot of tomatoes."--MSM

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Citroën HY van, puis un Peugeot

Citroën made these vans in France and Belgium from the late 1940s until 1981.  Saw this one at the farmers' market in Wassenaar, NL.

I always admired the elegant je ne sais quoi simplicity of these Peugeot wagons. They were popular in Montrèal quand j'etais jeune. Owning a French car made a political statement in Quebec in those days, though attitudes were complex, and a bit twisted: adulation of anything francais de France--even the tinny little Renault Cinq--was becoming popular amongst the Quebecois chattering class just as us thoroughly colon anglos were finally ditching our fawning relationship to Mother England, her shoddy Austins, and her nonstarting Rovers.

Monday, August 20, 2012

1960 Chevrolet Apache

from Michael S, Moore, on the road in southern Colorado:
             "Meanwhile, here in the increasingly hazy hinterlands of the southern Rockies, I espied a few curiosities on my own...first off his little collection of Fords 'n' Chevys (and maybe a fourdoor Dodge [?] on the trailer) by the railroad tracks in Walsenburg.
"The same outfit had this collection, in what seems more like running condition...
"A few miles west, at the foot of the nearly invisible Huajatollas [due to a persistent haze of dust from the drought on the plains] this '57 Fleetside and au natural 1928 Ford on a La Veta side street...
"The view from the alley revealed another treasure, a 1960 Apache under the shed...very like my first pickup; custom rims, but otherwise original...
"Off to New Mexico friday; maybe there'll be something worthy along the road."-MSM

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Citroen 2CV and Land Rovers

Arrived 10 am at our house in Wassenaar, which will be our home in The Netherlands for the next five months. By 2pm we were on our bikes heading to the beach. I know this is the Low Countries, and we actually had to ride uphill to get to the ocean, which is perhaps why the Land Rovers hereabouts wear snorkels.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Public Space, Private Space & 1963 Chevrolet C10

From our man in south Saskatchewan, Alex Emond:
"In Lafleche, this old building immediately made me think of "Wolf Willow" where Stegner describes a place that the town's business owners built as a draw, a gesture of consideration, for the farmers and their families who came into town. A public restroom, a place where people could freshen up after a dusty drive into town. Men's side. Woman's side. You could even bunk there for a rest, a nap, or stay the night if it rained and the roads got too gumbo to driv . This building might be one of the very last  examples standing of such a thing. And, hey, parked alongside of it was this fine Chevy pickup. Nobody is in a mad hurry to erase the past in this mellow corner of the country. You gotta love that."-AE

[Many farm towns in Western Canada had these retreats. There was certainly one in Olds, Alberta when I worked on the wheat harvests there. I guess everything is privatized now: go pee at the MacDonald's up on the interstate (but don't even think of napping there!) The shrinkage of public spaces that allow people to feel respected is something that infuriates me.  Private space masquerading as public space just won't do: the North American shopping mall, for example. Why are malls so boring and depressing, and actual downtowns or main streets encouraging and stimulating? (Of course many once-lively downtowns and main streets have become more or less shopping malls, in spirit: e.g. Santa Barbara, CA; Fredricksburg TX; Camden ME) Public space needs to be about a mix of things, not just shopping: any urban geographer will tell you that. I feel alive in space (buildings, towns, streets, built landscapes) that somehow allow me to feel a sense of the dignity of being human. I never feel any trace of human dignity in a mall, where humans are merely shopping machines, or wannabes. Malls make me ashamed of our species. Everyone seems like a teenager at the mall, even the old people, who should know better, wearing ludicrous branded clothes (isn't branding just a strategy to sell things that have actually become commodities?), sucking on sugar, onlooking, consuming, yearning. But not quite living. 
       No dignity allowed to humans=bad space That's what it comes down to: my litmus test for architecture and built space.]--PB

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Three Men in a Tub

Annals of Maine summer. Median age of crew: 6.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Motobecane, puis un Citroën 2CV camionette

from our West Texas/Midi correspondent, Don Culbertson:
"I know this is a pickup truck site, [not really--pb] but seeing a Citroën camionette and a Motobecane together harkens back to the days before the family car when workers commuted on two wheels. The golden age of the moped, or  mobilette. Can one use the word golden age and moped in the same sentence? The Citroen was spied  in the village of Meyronne. Appears to  be a working truck, because it was off on the farm working the next day, when I went to to check on it."-DC

Friday, August 10, 2012

1951 Pontiac Sedan Delivery

from our man in south Saskatchewan, Alex Emond:
"This old panel wagon [aka, sedan delivery] and the pickups were drawing me closer. I can't remember, quite, which tiny town that I saw this scene in. Just north of Rockglen. The stylized Pontiac himself is quite noble and savage.  The globe was on the Fargo."--AE

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The American Boy's Handy Book, 1880

Plans for this skiff were in the American Boy's Handy Book of 1882. E.B. White (Charlotte's Web, etc.) built one her in Brooklin for his son Joel White, founder of the Brooklin Boat Yard. The Whites' vessel was called Flounder. Bill Mayher built Flounder II this summer. Her homeport is The Pond, and she is lots of fun.
         Huck Finn & Tom Sawyer have been having a very good, very shoeless summer here in Brooklin.

Beetle Cats in Center Harbor, Brooklin, Maine

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

1959 Pontiac Catalina

The '59 Catalina is my dream machine and in this essay--"Love Cars"--I attempted to sort out why. Conclusion: the car thing, guys, is all about our fathers.