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98 BMW M Roadster (II)
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79 Datsun, (II)
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The Beginnings

July 29, 2006

1979, 79 Datsun Pick-up Part 1. The Underground Years

The term "The Underground Years" refers to the period of time during which I drove without a license. We (my mom and I) were risk takers even back then. It is ironic that during the underground years I was never stopped; and as soon as I got a license I got stopped at a random checkpoint (during these years of communist rebellions in neighboring El Salvador and Guatemala, plus the communist regimen in neighboring Nicaragua, the police used these checkpoints to search for arms trafficking); but I am getting ahead of myself.

Again, the exact year is lost in my memory. It could have been late 1979 or early 1980. At that time our family was reduced to only my Mom, my brother and myself. From 1967 or 68 to 1974 we had lived in the city of Tegucigalpa, Honduras capital, and as a result we had lots of friends living there; therefore, it was a natural choice for our settlement. When it was clear that our father was not going to join us for a very long time (at that time we were not really certain we would ever see him again), my mom started to organize our lives. Due to old friendship with the nuns who were running the school I attended, I was able to continue my education without interruption. They admitted me in the middle of the school year without the usual paperwork required when you transfer from one school to another. Of course that I had to work extra hard because the curriculum differ a little from that of Nicaraguan schools. Also, out of friendship, the school gave my mom the administration of the school's cafeteria. I am not sure if that happened in 1979 or 1980. In Central America, the school year starts in February and ends in November.

Since my mom was very good in the kitchen she decided to make our livelihood out of food catering and bakery. She also decided to buy a car appropriate to support the business. She got a small 2-seat pick up truck, a brand new Datsun 79 (made by Nissan). Once our lives were more or less back on track, she decided that it was necessary, now more than ever, that I re-learned how to drive. I was 14 years old. This time we were not talking about driving in deserted non-sloping streets. Tegucigalpa's topography is anything but plain. Therefore, I started my re-training in empty lots. When it was clear that I was able to control the manual shift gear, the steering wheel and the pedals, it was time for me to learn how to stop and go in up-hills!  Once I mastered that without scaring my mom to death, I was ready for street training. Now, people who live in the U.S. doesn't know how lucky they are. Nowadays you will hear endless complains about how rude American motorists are. They don't know squat! A month of driving in the streets of any Central American city will show them the real meaning of the term "rude driver". I know, I drove there for about 17 years.

For the abovementioned reason, my mom decided to start the street training during the weekends; and since the purpose of my training was practical rather than recreational, we practiced the route from home to school, which was also my mom's route from home to work. Eventually, I got to drive the car from home to school and back home on a daily basis. Of course that during the "underground" years I never, ever drove the car by myself. Mom always was in the passenger seat ready to take over if required (such as police checkpoints, etc.)

Nothing in particular could be called "glamorous" during that period, although, it gave me a sense of being a privileged boy. I got to drive a car almost every day at a time when most of my peers were "hauled" everywhere.

The minimum age to get a license in Honduras is 18 (or it was at that time. Since I moved to California in 1997 I lost track of the law changes and therefore I can say that for certain). Through some connections in the governmental entity that issued driver licenses, my mom got me a license at age 15. We "exaggerated" my age in the application to the bare minimum (when I finally reached age 18 we had to use our connections again to "fix" the "error" so that all my documentation would be congruent); and that brought the end of the underground years, opening a new set of experiences of driving solo... But that's another story.

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