Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Morgan Adventure

My Morgan Plus 4 with a bed roped to its back.
My Morgan has it easy these days. I'm in my 60s and retired; It's in its 40s and is also taking it easy. But things were different when we were young. Back then both of us were up for anything.

In the spring of 1971 my Morgan and I took our annual spring trip south. Starting when I was 16, I had welcomed spring with a long prowl down the back roads of Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia, Arkansas and Alabama. Every year it was the same states, somewhat different roads and completely different adventures.

In 1971 the adventure centred around an iron bed. It was old and a little bent but it had all its parts. It had both the head board and foot board, and the bed spring side supports were still intact. With cast iron ends, these bars could be brittle and often broke in use --- and an old bed has seen a lot of use.

I was in northern Georgia, checking out an antique store in an old wood clad home, when I found the bed. It was thick with green paint but that was good. No rust. It was a simple design but I liked it. I asked the owner of the store what he was asking.

"I reckon about ten dollars," he said.

I bought the bed on the spot. He carried my purchase outside, spotted my car, and thought no way this young man is carrying this bed all the way back to Canada with that little car. But, I found a long plank, had the store owner drill a large hole in the middle and I attached the plank to the back of the Morgan. I then rested the bed on the bumper overriders and tied the bed firmly in place.

I duct taped two short metal plates to the bottom of the legs to protect them from being damaged when the Morgan went over bumps. As it was, each time we hit a bump, sparks shot from the sacrificial metal plates. It was rather spectacular at night.

I made sure I got a receipt for the bed. I didn't want to have to pay duty. The owner of the shop took a slip of paper and had me write that this was a receipt for a ten dollar bed. The fellow took the paper from me and put a large "X" at the bottom. He had made his mark. He didn't know how to write his own name! I wasn't all that surprised. This was the south and I was used to stuff like this.

I had been planning to drive to northern Florida but with a bed tied to the back of my Morgan I decided to change my plans and head north. I would head in a direction vaguely towards home. On April 30th I was in Washington, D.C.

I parked the Morgan and went to the Washington monument, taking the elevator to the top. When I got off the elevator I heard loud beeping and noticed a couple of uniformed policemen checking me out. I must admit that my hair was a bit long; Yes, I once had hair. They politely took me aside and asked to check my bag. They were looking for bombs and their instruments indicated that I had an incredible amount of metal in my canvas bag.

The found camera gear: camera bodies, camera lens, a small tripod. But what they really took an interest in was my 300mm lens which I paired with a 2X converter. The police officers took turns looking at the distant city through my "friggin' telescope."

When I got back to the Morgan I found more police were taking an interest in me. It was the bed this time that caught their eye. I had more than a dozen police cars surrounding my little Plus 4. "What's with the bed, young man?" I was asked.

Soon they were satisfied that I wasn't planning on taking up residence in the park and they turned their interest to the Morgan. A steady stream of officers slid behind the giant Bluemel steering wheel. Some toggled the toggle switches. Some asked to see the engine. All, in the end, smiled. Morgans are like that. They make people smile.

"Boy, do you know what tomorrow is?" "May 1st," I replied.

I soon learned that tomorrow was to be a very special May 1st. Large scale civil disobedience protesting the war in Vietnam was planned for Washington, D.C. There would be mass arrests and maybe a few bashed heads. The police officers told me I'd be wise to get in my little roadster and put a few miles between Washington and me.

My long hair, tattered army jacket and weird car with a bed tied to the back would draw attention and tomorrow would not be a day for friendly chatting. They made it very clear that I might get hurt. I started up my Morgan and waved good-bye to Washington. Dozens of boys in blue waved back.

I motored out of Washington and kept going until I crossed into Pennsylvania.

I still have that bed today. It is now beige and sits in Judy and my guest bedroom in London, Ontario. I think it may need a new mattress. Guests have suggested to me the mattress is beginning to feel as old as the iron bed itself.