Speed Bumps – Part 2

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Eight weeks had passed since the fraught weekend on which I purchased my S2000. I had finished final exams, survived a disastrous week at the Formula SAE competition in Michigan, and moved to Maryland for a summer internship. It turns out you can carry everything you need for three months in an S2000 if you’re creative with the packing.

During those eight weeks, I had also replaced the secondary air pump, all four brake rotors, and the clutch. Disgust at the sole local Honda dealer’s joyriding tendencies (150 miles overnight) had driven me to perform the majority of the work, including the 12-hour clutch job, myself. I labored and even bled for my little yellow Honda, forming a bond between man and machine deeper than I’d presumed possible.

Now I was heading north through Pennsylvania, going home for the long Independence Day weekend. I was racing the clock; the forecast was for storms later that night, and I had 350 miles to cover. Gradually the sky darkened; my speed dwindled to an agonizing 50mph right-lane crawl as the first drops splashed the windscreen. I was still driving on S-02s, and their reputation for wet-weather lethality had preceded them.

Ten or so miles dragged by, and the weather showed no signs of worsening. I began to cautiously increase my speed until I was sitting at a vaguely anxious 64mph. Ahead the freeway dropped gradually into the Susquehanna River valley, a lofty bridge spanning its center.

The sky opened just as I entered the bridge. The right lane, already patchy with standing water, flooded almost instantly; I moved left, straining to see through the blinding downpour.

The car started to spin faster than I could react; a violent snap counterclockwise without any warning.

I threw an armful of opposite lock at it; the rotation stopped, but our trajectory was irrevocably altered. The barrier seemed to creep toward the left fender in slow motion; then a surprisingly gentle impact, and the car was spinning again, a complete 180 and on. The right rear hit at 45 degrees, the slope of the barrier launched it upward, and I was watching pavement pass beneath my window. I wrenched the crippled steering back left and the car dropped flat again, the right rail now rushing straight at me. I hit it almost dead on, the airbag blossoming in slow motion, then I was scrambling out, away from the smell of fuel and gunpowder and hot metal.

That was the end of my S2000.

I don’t remember much of what followed; the highway patrolman who told me this would have been avoided if I’d bought a Mustang, the kindly older couple with the decrepit tow truck, checking in to the hotel; because the hotel had a bar and I spent the remainder of the evening getting thoroughly hammered.

I do remember the last I saw of the S. Sitting on the back of the tow truck, glowing with the same incandescent violence as the first time we’d met, the dim light and rain made it look almost whole again. Then the cab turned a corner and it was gone.

Author’s note: Five months later, a minor miracle brought me a singularly flawless ’03 NFR. So maybe this story has a happy ending after all.

Images: ScandinavianFlick

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