Thanks to the internet and our Google overlords, there exists now the ability to instantly map a drivable route from hither to yon, anywhere in the world. That is a tantalizing enough time-waster. What weaponizes this capability, though, is that after the route is drawn, with a mere flick of a wrist and the click of a left index finger, one can adjust that route and make it far more personal and compelling than the usual freeway haul. I succumbed to my weakness for this particular electronic brand of hooch again today.
As a result, I’m suddenly rereading an old novel that I’ve long adored, and planning a trek through the region where the story took place. But here’s the best part—I’ll be making the journey in the newest addition to my car family, a 1992 Porsche 968 coupe.
I found the car with the help of autotempest.com a little over a month ago. It was residing at a small, performance-oriented, premium-makes dealership in Wylie, TX, a Dallas suburb. Its proprietors call it simply “Dallas Motorsports.” I called, asked a few questions, got a few answers, and shortly thereafter emailed with an offer. There didn’t seem to be much interest. I was disappointed, but moved on. I’d been eyeballing 968s for a long time, always having loved how rare they were, how contemporary they look even now, and how from the front, they whiff faintly of 959. But I wasn’t going to overpay on a near-quarter-century-old four-cylinder coupe that most folks don’t even recognize.
Two weeks later or so, I glanced back at the dealer’s website, just on a lark. Wouldn’t you know it, the car was still there—but the sale price had changed to exactly what I’d offered. I called back and closed on the car. All that remained was the matter of picking it up and getting it home.
For nearly the last two years, I’ve had to travel about a week per month for work. One of the several places I’ve been going is Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Nice, right? Even nicer, getting there from Des Moines via airplane involves connecting in one of two places: Charlotte, or…Dallas. Can you say “pick up your Porsche on the company dime?” Yes, please.
Planning time. Sitting in front of Google Maps, I plug in the dealer address and my home address. A long drive home, certainly, but nothing I haven’t done before. Nothing really appealing on the route, though: Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Kansas City, home. I personally prefer to avoid Oklahoma—the entire state always looks like it got wiped out by a green-sky thunder-nado yesterday, and no one is bothering to rebuild because they’re expecting another one tomorrow. No thanks. Click, flick, drag.
Fort Smith, Arkansas. Now that’s a decent spot. I remember flying into the regional airport there back in pilot training. Real nice FBO–great lobby and delicious pulled pork sandwiches, along with really smooth, clean tarmac. Always liked that place. There’s a Holiday Inn Express in town – book it. I’ve been working nights, so my body clock will be mixed up, and I can’t plan on driving too far on day one.
Look at these roads in northwest Arkansas, though. Lots of wiggle to them. There must be mountains. Mountains, you say? In Arkansas? And suddenly my inner monologue rolls into a measured, steely drawl. It says, “I don’t like you, Payne. I don’t like a man who carries a sawed-off semi-auto 12-gauge full of double-ought because he doesn’t want to miss.”
My brain is echoing the voice of Bob Lee Swagger, a brilliantly-named character from the mind of author Stephen Hunter, introduced in the novel Point of Impact and contemporized in the based-on-the-book film Shooter. While Mark Wahlberg did a nice job in the lead role and the movie was certainly entertaining, the Swagger of the novel was as deep, powerful, and haunted as Bruce Wayne, except with a Remington Model 700 and a southern drawl instead of a black suit and cape. Whereas the climax of the film centers around an anonymous mountain range, the climactic action in the novel takes place in the Ouachita Mountains of central-western Arkansas.
Now looms a chance to see (and carve) those mountains, and I won’t be passing it up. This feels like some real car-writer stuff—flying off somewhere far from home to pick up a rare, ancient automobile that no one cares about but me. Planning to drive said automobile hundreds of miles home through the hometown of a favorite fictional character. I’m channeling Peter Egan and Jamie Kitman this month, but Stephen Hunter is riding shotgun.
And to think, this adventure all sprang to life from some squiggly lines on an internet map. What a glorious time to be alive.