Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Motor On.

The Reyes men drive. It's a religion in my family. The boys are expected, nay required, to get behind the wheel at 13 or 14; and a certain level of expertise is demanded by age 15. There are also some very strict guidelines. Here are a few:

1. Gear changes must be smooth. If the passenger feels you shifting gears, you might as well hand them the wheel.

2. Riding the clutch is to be avoided like the plague. My father detested this. He disliked having to constantly change clutch discs because some lazy sod had a heavy left leg. "See that space right next to the clutch? Yes, the one with the footrest. It's there for a reason." Classic Cesar.

3. Specifically for three-point turns, parallel parking, and maneuvering out of tight spots: turning the wheels while the vehicle is not in motion is a sure sign of an amateur at the wheel. And a sure signal that your car's tie-rod ends will soon need replacing.

4. Never put the car in neutral under braking. Unless you're sure you can engage a low gear while successfully avoiding other cars-- oh should your brakes fail.

5. That flashing you see in the rear-view mirror probably comes from the headlamps of a rather huge bus telling you to get out of the way. Be prompt in doing so.

And then there are the stories.

Tales of legendary motor vehicle exploits.

An uncle used to drive Philippine Rabbit passenger buses. He drove the Pasay - Bolinao route. On long stretches, he would place a block of wood under the throttle, then place a bag on top of it. A crude form of cruise control, if you will. Imagine waking up from a quick nap and seeing the bus driver out of his seat, stretching his legs-- while the bus traveled through the tree-lined highways of Central Luzon at a leisurely 90 km/h.

My father went on a trip to Angeles and, as he was about to head home, found out he had some clutch problems. The clutch did not want to engage 9 out of 10 times (this was a problem considering he had to change gears, you understand). Alas, because he wanted to see his darling baby boy badly, he drove home without a clutch. He used a trick his father had taught him: he called up gears by synchronizing the shifts with engine revs. Bus drivers call it double clutching. They'd engage the clutch, blip the throttle to get the amount of revs right, get out of a gear, blip the throttle once more, call up a gear, and then release the clutch. Only, my father did it without the first and last steps. He blipped the throttle, slid the stick just up to the mouth of the gear's gate, and when he felt something bite, go on through with the shift. It was an amazing feat of motoring.

The best I've done is to take a car with no fan belt from Las PiƱas to Novaliches. Having no fan belt, in a nutshell, meant the electricals didn't work (pretty inconvenient for gasoline engines), and so did the cooling systems. It took a fair amount of nifty footwork and stopping for water, but I got that sucker home.