Early in the summer of 1986, I found a vehicle I will never forget. I knew it was the right one instantly. It was a mid-length ¾ ton 1979 Chevy van with a 350 V8, a four-barrel Holley carb, dual exhausts and air shocks. Black, with thin orange and yellow parallel racing stripes on the sides, two air vents on the roof, and a small side window towards the rear, it appeared powerful, and the noise it made was equally impressive.
I had it inspected by a reliable local mechanic, got the price down to 1800 from the 2400 the dealer was asking, nicknamed it “The Black Dragon” and immediately put it to work for me doing light hauling in the Boulder-Denver area. The name of the business, of course, was “Black Dragon Transport.”
Other than having to replace a broken radiator at one point, and having to have the transmission rebuilt later on that year, it never gave me any trouble. Getting behind the wheel of it at night and starting the engine always created a momentary impulse to fill the tank with super-unleaded and go screaming westward down the nearest interstate towards the great divide, with no specific destination in mind. Occasionally I would yield to this impulse.
The van made it to the west coast loaded with cargo once, and with people another time. The aforementioned cargo run to California was also the form that the “Honeymoon” of my first marriage took. We drove from Boulder CO to San Francisco, unloaded the cargo (a friend’s furniture) and headed for Santa Cruz, L.A., and San Diego, before finally triangulating eastward across the desert, back to Boulder.
I lost the Black Dragon to a police impound lot after spending 10 days in jail for driving without insurance (the result of a number of anti-social and irresponsible behaviors I had taken to after a divorce; a divorce which in retrospect was inevitable). The 50.00 daily charge for holding the vehicle accumulated to the lofty sum of 500.00, and as I scrambled to raise the money, the daily fees continued to accrue, until I gave up.
With the vehicle gone, I found it necessary to move with a few select possessions from Boulder to Denver and into another, deeper hell realm to be dredged elsewhere for other stories. Now I have another van, blue, battered, rusty and loyal, a workhorse for sure, but not any kind of dragon. I will never forget “The Black Dragon.”