Approaching Omaha at almost 11:00 p.m. local time on Sunday, I heard on the radio the news that America has waited almost a decade for: the death of Osama bin Laden.
If you're older than 16 or 17 years, you know exactly where you were on a clear September morning almost a decade ago when America was attacked. Like many automotive journalists, I was in Frankfurt covering the auto show and had just wrapped up a brief interview at the Chrysler booth with Dieter Zetsche, CEO at the time. Less than 20 minutes later, I watched in horror at the live CNN feed of an airplane hitting the second tower while the first tower burned.
Like so many who grew up in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, I knew someone who perished in the tower: Vincent "Vinny" DiFazio. This morning as I prepare to drive to Cleveland, more than 800 miles away, my thoughts are of Vinny. A broker at Cantor Fitzgerald, the firm devastated when the first/second tower fell, Vinny had been several years behind me at Watchung Hills Regional High School when we were growing up. A sophomore when I was a senior, he was closer in age to my younger brother Frank.
In the days immediately after 9/11, I was essentially stranded in Europe, as were so many others. So, I followed through with my plans to visit the D-Day battlefields in Normandy and then follow the Road to Liberty from Utah Beach to Bastogne in the Ardennes. The story of that trip appeared as a two-part series in Four Wheeler magazine: Part One on my day in Normandy, Part Two on the drive from the beaches of France to the forests of the Belgium.
As I listened to the news from Pakistan, I was once again looking over the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, seeing the almost 10,000 graves of those Americans who fell in the battle to liberate Europe from another infamous terrorist. That day defined for me what it means to be an American.
Watching the televised celebrations early this morning, I thought what it must have been like to be in Times Square on V-E or V-J Day back in 1945. My heart goes out to the families directly affected by murder of almost 3,000 of our fellow citizens on 9/11. This must be a bittersweet day, but one that, I hope, gives them some sense of closure after almost 10 years.
Congratulations go out to the Navy Seals who were the point of the spear, and to those in our intelligence and defense communities who planned this long-awaited act of retribution. To President Obama, my thanks for ordering the actions that were taken yesterday.
And to the DiFazio family, my thoughts are with you on this day as you remember Vinny.
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As for how I spent Saturday...
Before I left St. George, Utah that morning, my friend Dick Pearson wanted me to see a local Mopar collection secreted in a converted storage facility. The main attraction is a 100-point 1969 Dodge Charger 500 stored in its trailer. The owner--let's call him Bob--has a stash of Mopars in various states of disassembly and restoration that would make any Mopar fan drool. These include his first car, a second-generation Charger he's been working on for years, a Dodge drag car, a twin-turbo 440-powered E-Body, and other Mopar exotica.
Dick also wanted me to check out some of the cars owned by another local collector, an older gentleman named Bill. Bill's daily driver is a 1941 Chevy pickup that he believes has covered more than a million miles. He is the second owner. I was able to grab a few shots of his 1931 Chrysler Imperial.
The centerpiece of his collection, however, is Bill's 1931 Oakland V8. He calls it a sports car because of the side door that opens to a storage compartment for a set of golf clubs. Oakland was a companion brand to Pontiac, and very sporty for its time. And the V8 was highly advanced for its era. I couldn't resist taking the time to photograph the car in detail; I'll be posting photos in the Automotive Traveler Image Gallery soon.
What with all the vehicles to see, I had delayed my departure until early afternoon. Instead of making it to Denver as planned, I could only reach Grand Junction. There, I bedded down for the night at the dog-friendly Motel 6. They had kept the light on for me after my OnStar advisor Andrew made the reservation when my cell phone was locked in the no-service mode east of Green River, Utah.
Reviewing the performance of my Chevy Cruze Eco thus far, I was able to make it from my home in Southern California to St. George on one tank of gas. Battling strong headwinds all the way up I-15 out of Barstow, however, meant that while the Cruze's computer indicated I was getting 35.5 m.p.g., topping off the tank told me that I got 33.5 m.p.g. That's not bad, but it's a far cry from the 40 m.p.g. I'll need to average if I'm going to reach New Jersey on 75 gallons of gas or less by averaging 40 m.p.g.
The fill-up in Grand Junction was better, with an average of 36.2 m.p.g. for the second tank of gas. I'm hoping that once I cross the Continental Divide, and with careful driving, my average will continue to rise. I'll need to raise the bar one m.p.g. each day to reach my target.
No videos for this blog but check back tomorrow. I'll be speaking with members of the Cruze Eco product team, who will explain to me the changes incorporated into the standard Cruze to make it a Cruze Eco (EPA rating of 42 highway, 28 city).