A true story about one man and his Nissan Maxima

You wouldn't believe it could happen, but it did. I was leaving Candlestick park after yesterdays USF vs. Pepperdine game, in which were were clobbered by Pepperdine, and heading to a friends house in Mill Valley. Mill Valley is to the north of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate bridge, and a good 30 to 40 minute drive from the Stadium. During the game I'd noticed the big white blimp with the Blockbuster Video name & logo hovering around. I didn't think anything of it except that the game must be on The Sports Channel and I hope my wife was taping it.

Once the game was over (about mid way through the second quarter – stinking USF), I started battling the throngs, made my way to the freeway on ramp and into 5th gear. Well I'm cruising along on the freeway, moonroof open, listening to a little Grover Washington, Jr. (Time Out of Mind – awesome CD, get if you don't have it, and stop listening to The Dixie Chicks all the time) and just minding my business. All of a sudden, my SkyTel two-way pager goes off. So I check the message and it says: "YOU WANT A PIECE, HOT SHOT? COME GET A PIECE", with no signature or return address. Dumbfounded, I sort of scratch my head and shrug it off. A second later it goes off again: "WHATS THE MATTER GIRLY MAN? THEM MAXIMA'S NOT ALL THEIR CRACKED UP TO BE?" Now I'm really bugged. I have no idea who could be sending me these messages, let alone why. I'm on highway 280 in the middle of no-where.

Suddenly I hear an engine rev. And darned if it didn't sound pretty hot. I check my rearview mirror – nothing, both of my side view mirrors – nothing, both blind spots, nothing to the left and an older model Chrysler mini-van to the right, driven by an old lady who's gabbing her head off with an equally old passenger. Clearly not her. WTF is going on?!!

Again, the pager: "LOOK UP, #%*!-FOR-BRAINS". I look up through my open roof, and there, directly above my head, is the stinking Blockbuster Video blimp, pacing me about 50 feet off of the ground! This guy's ready for action. I know this because the front of the dirigible now has a black nose bra on. And that nose mask was shining! He must've put about 40 gallons of Armor All on that thing to make it gleam like that. The blimp now has a monstrous chrome exhaust tip, sticking out the back. This piece of metal, while clearly not functional, must've been about 20 feet in circumference. The pilot had obviously left the game early, gone back to the hanger and gussied her up – and now he was out cruising, looking for some action.

As I'm staring up through my roof in utter amazement, an arm extends from the gondola with a balled fist. Then, the guy sticks out his middle finger! This lousy blimp pilot, who obviously also has a SkyTel two-way pager, has now called me $#%!-for-brains, AND has flipped me off. Well, needless to say – its on.

I pick up my pager and type a quick reply, "YOU SHOULD BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR DOUGH-BOY, BECAUSE YOU JUST MIGHT GET IT". I wait about 30 seconds, to ensure that he has received and read the message, I then clutch, cram her into third and drop the hammer. The Steal'n intake howls and I'm off like a rocket.

Now I don't claim to know anything about blimps, but my best guess is that a blimp should be good for about 30mph on a calm day. I'm figuring that this guy has this thing blown and souped up so that it's good for twice that. Regardless, I'm going to have this guy for breakfast.

If you don't know the San Francisco area, let me describe Hwy280 to you. The SF area is on very hilly, mountainous terrain. Many of the roads and highways simply do "switch backs" to climb and descend. 280 is just such a highway. It is in essence, one long series of "S" shaped turns, as it goes up and down along the northern tip of the Santa Cruz mountain range – right into San Francisco. San Fran itself is somewhat of an oddity as far as cities go, in that it does not have any freeways running through it. To get to the Golden Gate, Hwy280 turns into 19th Avenue, which is a long boulevard, with stop lights every block. These lights are sequenced so that you catch about three greens at a time, which keeps traffic down to reasonable speeds. The road is a favorite for stop light shoot outs though, as it is three lanes wide, completely and totally straight.

Back to the race. I'm pulling hard on blimp boy & loving life! I've already hit 105 in 4th as I enter the next switch back. Grover and I are rock'n! The max is pitching, heaving, floating and bobbing on the soft, undersprung stock suspension like the Titanic in a hurricane. I have to back off for the corner entrance. The long sweeper opens right, like a giant horseshoe, and then switches left. As I take the curve, I come to a realization which had previously avoided me – blimp boy doesn't have to take the switch backs! I look over out the passenger window & sure enough, there he is. Cutting straight across the curve and giving literal meaning to the term "As a crow flies". The quarter mile that I had so proudly opened on him was being whittled away before my eyes. Drat!!

By the time I finish the wide arching curve, I reach the end of the horseshoe at nearly the exact same moment that the slow moving airship arrives on the same spot. Through my open roof and can see he & his co-pilot laughing and high five'ing each other. Damn their hides! I charge into the next sweeper with reckless abandon, as the dirigible continues is arrow straight path. This time I live on the edge and attempt the curve at 100. The max does not like this one bit, and it heaves in protest. I check out the driver's window, as the blimp is now on my left. The pilot must have seen that I was attempting to pick up the pace. Suddenly, the front end of the blimp rises ever so slightly and then settles back into place. The son-of-a-%$*!# just popped a wheelie! I couldn't believe it. He mashed the accelerator and lifted the front end a good five feet. This was clearly going to be war, and if I was to be defeated I was determined to make his victory a costly one.

Twenty seconds later, I reached the end of this 1/3 mile sweeping bend. Same result - a virtual dead heat. This game of cat and mouse continued all the way to San Fran. Just when I'd pull a lead on him in a straight away, along comes another switch back that eliminates my advantage. While I weaving left and right, he's cutting a nice straight line, and recovering every inch of lost ground.

Finally we make it to San Fran, and the haven of 19th Avenue. 19th Avenue is just as straight as a bowling lane for about 6 miles, all the way to the bridge. Guessing that he's topping out around 50 or 60mph, I figure I've got him. The interstate drops me onto 19th, I'm about 40 feet in front of the blimp and adding space fast. I look in my rearview mirror and can see the deflated look on his face. HA! I'm pulling away, I'm pulling away! I've GOT HIM!

I turn around and look back through the windshield just in time to see a glaring yellow light at the intersection of 19th & Stanyon. It's a fifth of a mile to the intersection, I can't make it, I'd be running a red for sure. I left off and hit the brakes. Darn these stupid lights! But the sun rays on my face feel good. I close my eyes and rock my head back a little to soak up some free vitamin E. MmmmmSthat feels good. Suddenly, my face goes cold. Darn San Francisco fog, must be a cloud passing in front of the sun. I open my eyes and gaze skyward just in time to see the bottom side of the Blockbuster Video blimp passing over. A mere 35 feet off the ground, the thing's shadow covered 10 cars! I hear the engines roar as the blimp clears the intersection and blastss down the avenue at full throttle.

Damn! I'm pounding the steering wheel, white knuckling it until I get a green. He's pulling away,Shalf a blockS(c'mon)Sa blockS(c'mon light, CHANGE!)Sa block and a halfS(C'MON, what do these lights changed twice a day or something?)!!!!. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, my light changes and I jump all over it. New Sumitomo's screeching as they search desperately for traction. I redline it in first and gain a full block on the lumbering blimp. I proceed to redline it in second as well, not caring that I'm already doing 60 in a 35. By the top of second I've covered a little over two blocks and am a mere 30 feet behind the behemoth. I grab third and pull directly beneath the gondola, the hulks massive shadow dulling my vision through my Ray Bans.

I'm just starting to walk him down whenS.DOH!!S100 feetSyellow light!! Double e damn! I'm 20 feet in front of the blimp and forced to brake hard in order to make the stop line. I check the rearview mirror and can see the huge shadow on the street starting to overtake first my trunk,Sthen rear windshield,Snow the nose of the blimp is above my open roof. He's passing me again, and going to gain another 45 second head start while I wait on this stupid light! Ohhh, I'm dying a slow death!

Suddenly *SPLASH*, I'm completely soaked! The inside of my car is too, the inside of the wind shield is covered by a sparkly green liquid. What theS? Did my a/c just pump a bunch of anti-freeze into the vents or something??? I'm looking around at the stained leather on my seats, trying to figure out what the mystery goo is. There is a puddle of it on the passenger seat, which I dip my right index finger into. I draw the finger near my nose and take a whiffS, smells sweet. So I taste it – Mountain Dew. WTF?!? I'm looking around, trying to get a grip on this, when suddenly, half way across the intersection, a 64 ounce 7-11 Big Gulp paper cup falls from the heavens onto the street. The piece of trash dumped his drink on me when the blimp passed over my car!!!! I can't believe it! I'll KILL HIM!!!

My light turns green and I absolutely SHRED my tires. First gear – I gain on him. Second – I gain some more. Top of third – I begin to pass beneath the blimp. Middle of third – I'm out front by nearly 30 feet. Next intersection – yellow light!!

Again, I brake to a stop, check my mirror and watch as the hulk's shadow begins to creep up on me. As my grand father used to say, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me". I reach up and hit the close button on my moonroof, and just in time. As soon as the gondola is over my car, I see the same hairy arm come out and turn something upside down. A second later my roof is pelted by small particles of falling debris. What are those, rocks? The look for all the world like little pieces of rat turds. What,Swhy,..they're Raisonettes! He's dropping Raisonette candies on me! (The guy does work for Blockbuster afterall.)

Now my ire is really up. The light turns green and I mash it, taking her swiftly up to 60. You won't believe what happened next. The blimp had left a trail of Raisonettes in the road, which a bunch of black birds sitting on the telephone lines lining the street had noticed. Well as I come rocketing down the street, one of these stupid birds decides to make a move and scoop up some free lunch. The dumb bird is diving with a singular focus – determined to get some of those candies. Its about three feet off the ground and doesn't even realize that its on an intersect course with my car. Bent on catching the blimp, I have no intention of slowing down to keep from hitting a darn bird. And then *SPLAT*! The thing smacks right into my B-pillar. It implodes on contact and spatters my back seat with warm bird guts. So now I've got crow innards in back and Mountain Dew stains in front to look forward to cleaning up.

Anyway, this viscous cycle of win-lose-win, continued. There are exactly 15 stop lights on 19th Avenue in between Hwy280 and the Golden Gate Bridge entrance. 14 times I took the lead, 15 times, blimp-boy passed me. His not being confined to earthly restraints was clearly a decided advantage.

I'm now waiting at light number 12, he's just passed me, and I know that if I can time it right and get through number 15, its all clear to the bridge. Blimpie apparently knows this too. My pager goes off: "ALRIGHT HOTSHOT. LETS SETTLE THIS ONCE AND FOR ALL. YOU AND ME, FOR TITLES, TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BRIDGE". This guy's nuts. Now he wants to run me for titles! When (not if) I win, what am I going to do with a blimp? No matter, he's insulted me, dumped soda and candy on me, challenged my manhood, and now has thrown down the ultimate gauntlet. No way I'm saying no to this one. I reply: "YOU GOT IT CHUMP! MEET ME IN THE VISTA POINT OVERLOOK PARKING LOT – WITH THE KEYS!!! FIRST ONE THERE WINS"

Thirty seconds later I receive the reply: "SEE YOU THERE. OPEN UP YOUR ROOF AGAIN IF YOU GET THIRSTY".

Arrrggghhhh!! (I scowl)

He's pulling away from me as I'm revving waiting for a green. Geez, this light is really taking forever. The blimp is nearly a half mile ahead of me now and I can see he's approaching the first bridge tower. The GG Bridge, as you know, was once the world's longest suspension bridge. If you've never seen it, its an impressive piece of engineering by any standards. I'm guessing close to a mile and a half from end to end, with each of its two support towers about a quarter mile in.

Finally! I get green. My right foot is immediately in the carpet as I row the 5 speed through its paces. As I hit the bridge, the blimp is just passing the half way point. I grab 5th and give it all she'll take, my speedo is tapping up on 130mph. I'm gaining fast, but his lead is huge. Half way across the bridge I'm doing an indicated 142. Woohoo! However, Blimp boy is now just 500 feet from the parking lot and has started to descend. Yikes! I'm behind. This is going to be close. The needle has inched up to 144, but that's it. I know that I'm all out of top end. The scenery is rushing by in a blur, I catch a sign which tells me that the turn off for the Vista Point is a quarter mile away. How far can I push this?! The stock brakes can't scrub off this kind of speed that fast. Reluctantly I start braking for the entrance.

The blimp is now right out my passenger window, cutting a straight path to the lot. He's just 15 feet off the ground and 100 feet from the edge of the lot. I'm 500 feet from my turn off and working the ABS system like a mad man. The sign for the turn off is marked "15MPH", I hit it at 40. Still standing on the brake pedal, I crank the wheel as far to the right as I can, and hang on for dear life. Fortunately, the Sumitomo HRT's that are on my 17 in Cragars have less than 500 miles on them. Had I tried this on the balding Dunlop's which the HRT's replaced, I would have met the retaining wall and been picking concrete out of my teeth for sure. But the new meats just dig in and hang on, screeching to all high heaven.

The blimp is now over the lot and has begun to slow. Its still about 12 feet off of the ground when I see the door of the gondola swing open and a figure appear. Its obviously the pilot. He looks up at my skidding Nissan, and then back down at the asphalt below – gauging the length of his drop. He decides its too far, plus, the blimp is still moving. He barks some orders back into the cockpit and his co-pilot starts to lower the lumbering air ship.

I have now cleared the retaining wall and am in a full on, 30 mph, sideways slide. At 20 mph, there's finally enough adhesion for the tires to regain their hold on the road. I point her at the blimp and mash the loud pedal. The blimp is just 25 feet away. The Stillen screams, startling the pilot who nearly loses his footing and falls. His co-pilot has lowered the ship to about 10 feet and is still descending. I get my first good look at my nemesis. He appears to be in his early 40's, a white guy (figures), full head of dark hair and about 15 pounds overweight, explaining why he's so apprehensive of the 10 foot drop onto cement.

I lock up the brakes and slide to a stop just 5 feet from the Gondola. Realizing that its make or break time, and that coughing up the keys to the Blockbuster Corporation's blimp could be a serious career shortener, the pilot makes his move just as I'm opening my door to get out. I've GOT to get one of my feet on the parking lot asphalt first. I let out the clutch and swing my left leg out the open door. He closes his eyes, holds his breath and takes the plunge, landing with a *THUD*, a fraction of second before my foot hits the ground. He's beaten me!

The weasel struggles to his feet and gives me a maniacal grin. He stretches out an open right hand.

Pilot: "Keys please"

I couldn't even speak. I made the bet, I accepted the terms. I gave it my all to win, but in the end he proved to be the better man. I'd lost fair and square. I reached in, pulled them out of the ignition and slapped into his hand, with out a word. He stepped by me, slid behind the drivers seat of my Max, fired her up, slipped into first and was gone. Back to the hangar at SF International, no doubt. It was over that quickly, he just took off.

I walked over to the phone both to call my wife and ask her to come pick me up (our house is an hour from the bridge). She answered the phone and I explained to her what had happened.

Wife: "YOU WHAT??!! You lost our Maxima in a race!!??" Booker: "But sweetheart, you don't understand, it...it wasn't fair, the guy had a BLIMP!" Wife: "You don't you but sweetheart me!! I can't BELIEVE that you...ohhh.


So, to add insult to injury, I ended up having to pay for a $70 dollar cab ride home to boot. Talk about a lousy day.

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