Curbside Announcement: Dear John, Happy Trails To You


Paul has been kind enough to allow me to make this extended announcement.

This is my last article for Curbside Classic.  Despite my sheer joy and delight for having been associated with such a terrific website for over a year now, numerous life events have necessitated a serious refocus of my efforts.

All men at some time or another reach the point where they start to question what they have done with their lives.  I hit mine a while back.  After experiencing a seemingly never-ending barrage of huge life events since February 2009, I have decided to make a change.

Here’s what led up to it:


This picture was taken about four weeks after my 39th birthday, right after I was relocated due to my job.  I was mostly trim and really watched what I ate.


This is the picture of me that has been on Curbside Classic for right at a year now.  I look horrible – this picture is only about eight months newer than the first one and I had grown another chin!  Seriously, I had gained a tremendous amount of weight due to living in a hotel for three months sitting all evening watching episodes of Hawaii Five-O on DVD (that’s how that hokey Jack Lord pen name got started).  Gluten-free cookies and sweet tea from McDonald’s was culinary utopia to me.  To add another layer, my house simply was not selling–something that injects into your life new stress that I do not recommend.  Life was hell, and I had not coped well.

While this wasn’t my theme song, I could certainly identify with the chorus of it:

Soon after the picture of me in the Buick was taken, the sheer shame of my appearance prompted me to be bold and take life by the horns (or the gonads, since I really wanted to be bold).  To begin the journey, I started weight-lifting again.  Realizing I was needing to suck in my gut to see Tiny was also a great motivator to get back in shape.

I have to admit to being quite surprised by how well my body responded.  I am (barely) over 40, after all, so the response was astonishing.  For you youngsters, this is not an easy age to talk about, although I have heard whisperings that other, greater numbers that end with a “0” are even worse.  I shudder to think about it.

Life works in mysterious ways.  One day at the gym, this guy approached me in a friendly, smiling way.  It took me a minute to realize it (another sign of the damnable zero in my age), but I had met Simon before, in 2009, after giving a presentation at an engineering conference.

Simon had left the conference impressed not only with my expert grasp on the subject on which I spoke, but also with my unparalleled public-speaking abilities.  He commented at length on how I held an audience in rapt attention by squeezing 73 Power Point slides into a 24-minute presentation.  After chatting a bit further, Simon, too, admitted to a recent change in the direction of his life, and then made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.  Simon is the director for the grassroots organization “Fine & Fit at 40”.  He, like me, is truly concerned about the lardassification of many folks in North America, and he offered me a position as an educator and motivational speaker to help people learn how to eat properly.


I am now the “Fine & Fit at 40” representative for the Midwest Region, an area covering the states of Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Colorado and both Dakotas.  My new mission in life is to inspire people of all ages to become more fit and active while adopting a lifestyle of consuming such traditional foods as grass- fed beef, free-range chicken and whole milk, while avoiding the genetically modified, plant-based foods that have become so prevalent.  I’ve been at it for six weeks now, and it is the most rewarding thing I’ve done since becoming involved with Curbside Classic.  As an added perk, I’m getting paid obscenely well.

Part of the challenge of my newest endeavor, as with other new endeavors, is getting the word out.  Any opportunity to do so is highly welcomed.  Just last week, I was being interviewed by a gal from some New York-based fitness magazine. She suggested that for part of the article I pose in a pair of workout shorts in an effort to hammer the point home on diet and fitness (and increase sales a smidgen .  She also inquired if I had any tattoos (I do not).  I was intrigued by her idea, especially as she said a U.S. Representative from Illinois had done the same thing and the notoriety is helping him in his 2014 gubernatorial run.  Yet fickle was she; upon seeing the abundance of abdominal scars from both my gall bladder removal and fundoplication surgery, she withdrew the offer, saying I needed some tattoos to compensate for the scars.  She was too dim to understand that scars tell much better stories than tattoos do.

In all my excitement, I have digressed.  A major part of my new job involves travel.  As so much of my new venture involves being seen as well as impromptu motivational coaching, driving between locations is a must.  I have received a stipend for vehicle acquisition, and it has been a real treat!  I haven’t been able to pick out my own vehicle for work purposes since my stint as a fleet manager (although I don’t see me giving myself a 3/4 ton Chevrolet pickup this time).

Given the amount of stuff I’ll be hauling, I listened to several people about finding a nice, fuel-friendly baby SUV for carting myself around.  I started checking out the local car lots.  Think about it: I was able to buy my own ride with the company checkbook!


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The Mazda dealer was closest to the house, so I stopped in there to take a peek.  When I saw this CX-7, a weird thought flashed through my mind.


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I then drove up the street to the Ford dealer to look at the new Escape.  Then it hit me!  I knew what the profile of these little critters reminded me of…


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If there is any hope on this earth, none of the designers at Mazda or Ford attended the Dulcolax School of Design.  However, there are many similarities between these two very important types of products in profile.  As I didn’t care to drive anything that looked like that, I needed to re-analyze my situation.

Since I am covering the Midwest, where big is in, Brougham is remembered fondly and cars made outside of North America are still sometimes referred to as “fur’n”,  I needed to carefully reevaluate this monumental decision.  Conspicuity was proving to be paramount.

As I will be traveling for extended periods with audio-visual equipment, I knew I needed something with size; presence would be gravy on the potatoes.  Since so little currently on the market holds any sort of thrill for me (okay, I would like a new Mustang GT, but it’s too small for my needs), and I had decided to not pay depreciation on a newer vehicle, I started beating the bushes.


This Buick Roadmaster certainly fills the bill for size and presence.  It’s an LT1 model, so I could further enhance my income by drag-racing all those youngsters driving Hondas with fart-pipes.  However, I had to pass on this Buick.  Why?  First, it has such an unfortunate geriatric stereotype–not a desirable perception, although after driving it I see what the older set likes about them.  Second, the old man who owns it has a bit of a digestive issue and this Roadmaster consequently has an unpleasant aroma on the inside.  That’s what years of eating processed food will do to you.


This Lincoln Mark V does give a nod to Brougham allegiance.  Believe me, for what I’m getting paid, I can afford to feed its 460 V8.  My ’75 Thunderbird got about 13 mpg with its 460–not that much less than many new pickups and SUVs.  This Lincoln is certainly more stylish than any SUV, and I won’t have to worry about vertical clearance in parking garages.  Yet, it just didn’t seem right.

Then reality slapped me across my newly chiseled jaw bone.  I am getting a stipend for both hotels and transportation, so I could sleep in my own vehicle and pocket the rest.  As I type this, I am realizing I’ve figuratively won the lottery.

I do own two potential candidates one solid candidate and one iffy candidate.

prince and pauper 1 - Version 2

My F-150 is one of those super-sized, four-wheel drive half-tons with a crew cab and the 5.5-foot bed.  At 5’11”, I would need to sleep diagonally in either the bed or the cab.  As I don’t enjoy sleeping with mosquitos (in Minnesota they are as big as hummingbirds, and hot bacon grease will not kill them) I took out the back seat and front-passenger seat for placement of a mattress.  It fit, but the floor was too uneven.  I can’t go around having this ripped body with a sore back: That would defeat the whole “Fine & Fit at 40” value statement.  And, at least in the Midwest, these things are as prevalent as a Toyota Prius in the parking lot at the Academy Awards.  I would blend in too easily.


Then again, I do own this blasted Ford E-150 conversion van.  Never a fan of vans in the first place, I have had a profound love / hate relationship with this tacky thing since I bought it in 2010.  But you know what?  Taking out the back seat gives me room for a mattress.  Taking out the mid-ship captain’s chairs gives me room for a few free weights.  So you can now guess what I’ll be tooling around the middle United States in.  It’s traveled just 106,000 miles, and I know its 5.4-liter V8 is good for over one million miles–and with my stipend, I’m getting my purchase price back in about eight weeks.  What a deal!

While this isn’t as opulent as a Chinook, it does use a bit less fuel.  Like the Chinook, I will never see its twin in a parking lot.

The best thing is I can still take the wife along on my business excursions.  There is a mattress in the back and eating right has given me the stamina of somebody half my age.

And what am I doing with my vehicle stipend?  Every guy needs a hobby and I have found one for when I’m not on the road or participating in half-marathons.


I have decided to start rescuing all the stray and presentable Dodge Diplomats (and Plymouth Gran Furys) of the world.  These cars have had a special place in my universe ever since I owned an ’86 Gran Fury; if Chrysler had kept on building the Dart / Valiant twins, they would have been these. They’re the most totally underappreciated cars of the Reagan Administration.  I was compelled to do my part to better society and piss off the neighbors.  This champagne colored one is very much a driver…


and this red ’87 has been pampered since the day it was born.  Who said Chrysler never changed these things?  Just look at the front ends–totally different!

Stay tuned, good people.  I’m scheduled to appear on The O’Reilly Factor later this week.  I am currently in negotiations for a documentary show, tentatively called Gluten-Free Challenge, where I will travel my assigned “Fine & Fit at 40” area looking for gluten-free meals at restaurants.  We are hoping to get it picked up by the Food Network, although Telemundo has expressed a distinct interest.

This is truly going to be a great ride.  Take care, and see you around.