Ride with Clyde in the Florida Keys

Clyde arrived in the southernmost tip of the continental United States this November. His first few months in the Keys were spent on a lift in a local shop where a generous mechanic glued, zip-tied, and hammered parts back on him. Eventually, I ran into his caretakers at a party. Keys were exchanged and I ended up with a rusty chunk of Americana parked next to the sailboat I call home.

Though separated by several hundred miles, the Ozark Mountains and Appalachia share a certain colloquial charm. Small wooden cabins with prison bars in the windows advertise cheap guns, rundown gas stations converted into liquor stores promise a sale on Sundays, and friendly folks serve barbecue on styrofoam plates. Additionally, each mountain chain sports an under-appreciated trout fishery.

Last we left you, Clyde was crashing shoddy motel rooms, pounding Coors Light silos, and scarfing large Hawaiians from Pizza Hut—clearly reveling in Peach State culture—as he meandered through Georgia's Blue Ridge mountains. Where'll Clyde curb-check next? Here, the Southern Revival Tour rolls on.

Clyde may be of industrial-strength Detroit stock. But his love of nuclear northern winters is only lukewarm. Road salt gives him an itchy undercarriage rash. And all that ice fishing ain’t all that, unless it involves Great Lakes-size servings of Fireball. So having spent most of his winter vacay lurking in the Wisconsin Northwoods, it was time to top the tank and pump the pedal. Here, Drake intern-extraordinaire Elliott Adler steers the big-block boss on a course toward the Heartland, for Part I of Clyde’s Southern Revival Tour.

Clyde meets the smallmouth of Mille Lacs

Clyde meets the smallmouth of Mille Lacs

"I THINK THE BEST TIRE is the spare in the trunk," says Pete, handing me the keys. The other four tires vary in brand and age but seem to be holding air. I drop onto the seat and close the sagging door with a little extra encouragement. Amy does the same on the passenger side. Between us, decades of dust whirls in a beam of evening light pinched flat by the narrow windshield. The air is a bouquet of sun-dried vinyl, stale foam rubber, and used motor oil. It reminds me of my grandpa's 1971 Dodge Power Wagon, which we bounced around in as kids hauling firewood to the house from the edge of the hayfield.

Carpin’ and Jackalopin' with Clyde

The flashing freeway sign reminded us that high winds had closed I-25 to light and/or high-profile vehicles. This wasn’t a problem for Clyde. Ford built him in 1974 weighing just under 5,000 pounds. Its big-block 460 engine alone weighs more than 700. We weren’t getting blown anywhere. Instead, we were comfortably cruising north riding low and heavy, eventually passing four semis lying on their side in the median. Don’t mess with Wyoming cross winds.