Our need for steed er, speed 

The geniuses who decide important things ramped up the speed limit on Interstate 25 through our village a few days ago. They boosted it from the long-standing 55 mph or as we like to call it, "90" to 65 mph. Apparently, we weren't driving fast enough.

I wanted a piece of this new action, so at 7 a.m. Sunday I put on my tattered leather driving helmet and the circa 1890s racing goggles once worn by my great-great grandfather, Italian auto racing legend Giancarlo ("If You No-Lika Getta' Hit, Getta' the Hell Outta' da Cross-a-Walk!") Tosches, who raced for 25 years on the European circuit thanks to a sponsorship from Venicio Collegio I Ciechi (Venice School for the Blind).

With the helmet and goggles in place, I went into the garage and fired up the engine in my classic touring road coupe, the 1974 Ford Pinto.

I had spent endless hours in the garage through the previous few weeks, coaxing life back into this 1,800-pound tribute to American automaking industry. (Proud motto: "We Built the Pinto, the Ford Maverick and the AMC Gremlin, and Frankly, We're Surprised Any of You Are Still Alive.")

One hour before the new 65 mph speed limit signs started to go up, I had the Pinto talking to me like Mr. Ed. (Its actual words: "Willll-burrr, please don't make me go out on the Interstate.")

I'd picked the Woodmen Road southbound entrance to I-25 as my starting line, partly because the speed limit signs were being changed first there, but mostly because going north through our village is slightly uphill and the great steed that is the Pinto doesn't, uh, do so well uphill. In 1995, I accidentally mentioned the Pikes Peak Highway and the Pinto became so stressed its mane fell out.

The big moment came at 8 a.m. I paused at the on-ramp entrance. Suddenly, the new speed limit green flag came down, and I punched the gas pedal to the floor and the Pinto roared, accelerating madly and pinning me against the seat as it went, in just a quarter of a mile, from zero to 12 mph.

We smoked past the Rockrimmon exit, the Pinto now hurtling along at 48 mph. I knew what this baby could do and I remained calm even though the odometer stopped displaying numbers and instead spelled out the word "EJECT!"

Out of nowhere, a Cadillac Escalade surged past me in the left lane at a startling clip. The driver, a woman, was obviously taking advantage of the new 65 mph limit to see if she could bring her vehicle to a speed that would send her back in time. Although her hair and makeup suggested she already had made that trip.

(Note: If I have, with that flippant sentence about outdated hairstyles and 1960s-era makeup, in any way offended the tens of thousands of conservative Christian women in our village, I hereby apologize and say now, in all sincerity, "Hey Ward, have you seen the Beaver?")

I gripped the wheel and we blasted down I-25 in the winter chill. We'd found our cruising speed now, a speed I would put into numbers if a Hyundai Sonata hadn't shot past so quickly that it sucked the red needle right off the Pinto's speedometer. I would, however, estimate our speed to be somewhere between "a tuna boat" and "a Kenyan in a marathon."

Soon the race was over. We had passed just one car, a lime-green Valiant made by Plymouth to compete with the Pinto and Maverick during the mid-1970s, the era of the fast-growing Affordable Death Trap market.

Oh, and if you're wondering why anyone in his right mind would boost the speed limit in our village this year we're up to No. 6 in the nation among "Cities with the Most Rage-Filled, Uneducated-Looking Drivers Who Appear to Have Little Reason to Live" well, here's the answer.

The government guideline for setting speed limits on any stretch of a roadway is based on the speed at which 85 percent of vehicles travel.

Put more simply, if we drive way above the speed limit, the Mensa Club raises the speed limit.

So at noon today, the speed limit on Academy Boulevard goes to 350 mph.


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