28 July 2004

He Really Ought to Have Bought the Disassembled F-15

Well, I'm not gonna write about any of the stuff I thought I might write about. Instead you get to hear about yesterday's adventure at the Naval Submarine Base, New London, which is inexplicably located in Groton, CT. Josh had purchased a 1984 Dodge Ram Pickup from an online government surplus auction and it needed picking up (or loadout as they call it) from the DRMO office there.

The paperwork claimed it only had 22,000 miles on it, but I was dubious from the start. If we hypothesize that this vehicle was used only for driving around base it is possible that it only got this much use. And when we arrived the 5-digit odometer did, in fact, read "22,286" but something tells me that it's the second time that number has come 'round on that gauge.

Anyway, wear & tear aside, the mission was quite a success. We first headed to Enfield, CT to swipe the plates off the now officially dead Jeep. Somehow time seemed to be slipping away quicker than we'd have liked. We had a 12PM appointment with the guy running the DRMO loadouts and Josh seemed to think these types of dudes only hung around for about a one hour window on any given workday. Despite the fact that we had left Cambridge very close to our planned start time of 8AM, it was already 10:30 by the time we departed the car storage lot known as JRandall Sr's house.

Thanks to some remote navigation by Laurie we managed to sneak across the middle of CT without diverting too much from the straight line path roughly between Hartford and Groton. We arrived at the sub base at about 12:20 and proceeded to the inspection location where the Corvair was searched and documented and several Naval enlisted personnel tried to buy the car off Josh. As an aside, only he would show up to pick up this P.O.S. pickup truck in a '69 collector's item. Whatever.

We were given our "Temporary Employee" base passes and proceeded to head 'cross the upper base toward the DRMO office. Upon arrival we met up with the civilian contractor responsible for the liquidation auctions. After getting some paper work together Josh asked nonchalantly, "Are we insane for thinking we might be able to get this thing started?" To which the guy immediately gave us a look indicating we were indeed insane for thinking such a thing and said, "Well, you never know with these vehicles, but I wouldn't bet on it."

He continued making copies of the official documents and we wandered through all the pallets of goodies waiting for other crazy people to come pick up until we reached the vehicle lot at the top of the hill. Lots of neat-o deuce and a halfs in addition to some other cool trucks parked alongside Josh's new (to him anyway) pickup. It was in decent shape, although the interior looked like it had been subjected to 20 years of bored Navy guys sitting in it.

We discovered that it had a working battery when Josh accidentally brushed the dangling horn wire against the contact point on the steering wheel and scared the hell out us. We searched around for keys under the floor mats or above the sun-visors, but didn't find anything. Josh also found the small "trash can" bolted in the truck bed (which we later learned is actually a urinal—after Josh had been poking around in it, of course). We were joined by the auction guy and Josh said, "Well the battery seems to work," to which he replied, "Oh good, you have the keys, then?"

Evidently keys aren't necessarily included in these sorts of auctions, so we were in a bit of a tight spot. The guy had a handful of keys which definitely did not fit this truck, and told us we had until 2:50PM (it was then about 12:40) to get the truck off the lot or else we'd be kicked out. We returned to the Corvair and drove it up the hill to the truck and connected the batteries so at least we'd have a good charge if we ever managed to hotwire it and bypass the mechanical steering wheel lock. Josh and I discussed alternatives for a few minutes (neither of us had thought to bring picks—next time!) when the dude reappeared with a few more "random keys" he'd found down in his little surplus shed o' fun.

Thankfully, one of the keys was to our truck (he even had the door key) and we were eventually able to get the engine to turn over and start. After pushing it out of the gravel rut it is was in, Josh drove the truck down the hill (with me following in the Corvair) and we zoomed off-base. It was a quick lunch at KFC and then homeward bound. As I tailed the truck on the highway home it belched the occasional huge cloud of black smoke while the whole body would shudder. Josh later hypothesized it had never been in 3rd gear in its 20 years of on-base service, and so the transmission was very unwilling to cooperate when Josh tried to go over 50mph.

In the end we made it safely back to Ducksberry and I managed not to wreck the Corvair. If only I'd had my camera with me, this whole entry would be much more entertaining.

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