Clyde should be dead by now.
He was pronounced dead. More than once, in fact. In February 2012, a Salt Lake wrencher put a $1,200 tranny in him and said, “He might make it through March.” In November of that same year, driver Steven Hawley emailed: “Clyde’s 460 is shot. Best quote for a rebuild here is $1,395.” It’s fun going back and reading old emails from Clyde’s drivers, many of them frantic. But some of the best ones came not from drivers, but from fishermen who’d stumbled across Clyde on a river somewhere. My favorite, from a man named Jason Koertge: “Was walking out of one of my go-to Oregon Coast runs a few days ago and lo and behold, there sat Clyde. Nice camp those guys had, but it’s complete bullshit their cooler didn’t have any beer in it.” Clyde’s engine was never rebuilt. And the cooler is still empty. But I’m sure Clyde’s co-owner, RA Beattie, still shares my opinion that he was the best investment either of us ever made.
There was a cold snap in the Roaring Fork Valley, with highs in the teens and lows in the sub zeros. Clyde didn’t like to start in this weather. With a winter storm barreling in from the west, I needed to get on the road early the next morning for the eight-hour drive to Salt Lake, so I kept him warm overnight with a heat lamp pointed at the oilpan.
After going through three mechanics, I was glad we took a test drive to Idaho before the long haul. I’m also glad I signed up for AAA, and that Grizz from TroutHunter just happened to be rolling by with jumper cables at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Clyde and I had an agreement: I’d feed him endless amounts of oil, if he’d glide us smoothly through the Redwoods.
I don’t much respect things with motors. Old jimmy-rigged Clyde, meanwhile, does not suffer fools. So we were at odds from the start. After a day of bass fishing with John Sherman on California’s Discovery Bay, Clyde and I pulled north toward Redding in the dark. Ahead lay four hours on I-5 with a broken gas gauge, oil gauge, and speedometer. And a steering column so loose that you could rock the wheel 180 degrees without changing course. I got us lost immediately in a web of overpasses and off-ramps. Tensions rose with every six-point bitch flip we were forced to make in a sketchy 7-Eleven parking lot. It was very un-fahrvergnügen. When we finally got going the right direction on the right freeway, I brought Clyde up to a singing 56 mph, where his ’70s suspension gave the calm feel of being adrift in light seas. He seemed to like it straight, smooth, and northbound. So do I.
CLYDE DRIVERS, WRITERS, PHOTOGRAPHERS:
Geoff Mueller, Will Rice, Copi Vojta, Lee Church, Corey Kruitbosch, Ryan Peterson, John Sherman, RA Beattie, Marlon Rampy, Katherine Mueller, Steven Hawley, John Larison, Michael Peterson, Chris Santella, Nate Koenigsknecht, Keith Carlson, Tom Christensen, Tanner Gimble, Trey Combs, Jack Mitchell, Wes Campbell, Jesse Robbins, Lucas Young, Ben Romans, Miles Nolte, Austin Trayser
Clyde was a fine ride to park at the 205 Hole on the Clackamas. No doubt it aroused envy in the hobos that sometimes camp in the woods nearby—more for its living possibilities than its transport options. But Clyde especially shined when I slid him and a backseat full of kids into the drop-off area at my daughter’s elementary school (it held about eight third graders). Onlooking staff and parents immediately understood I was not to be taken lightly at the next coffee klatch.
After my road trip, I drove Clyde around town and, like a dick, double-parked him just to see the different reactions. I also got to watch the look of agitation wash over soccer moms’ faces when I pulled that sputtering, smoking machine up to the school one day. But my favorite reactions came from self-righteous neighbors who considered Clyde “unsightly” under the neighborhood covenants, and demanded I relocate him. So I did—parking him on the street in front of a different person’s house each day of the week. I think he enjoyed the change of scenery.
I’ve never been so drunk in steelhead camp as I was that trip with Clyde. It was Clyde’s fault. He showed up with a bottle of Ardbeg and no glasses. I was the first one back to camp after a long day of running the coast’s most off-the-map whitewater and swimming flies through some of its least pressured pools. The guy “on dinner” that night wouldn’t get to camp for another hour, and by then it would be too late.
Clyde and I met in the parking garage at SeaTac International. He wasn’t hard to find; his ass stuck out four feet beyond the other cars. After I took him fishing, winter set in and, regrettably, he sat. I hadn’t started him in more than a month when I got word that he had to move on. Unsurprisingly, he wouldn’t start. Popping the hood revealed a beach ball-sized birdnest of grass, twigs, and hood insulation. I cleaned him out, put in a new battery, and he started on the first try.