Grant McGee: Local Columnist
There was some show on public TV the other night; some in-depth news thing about high crimes and misdemeanors in Peru. In one of the shots of the Peruvian Palacio de Justicia in Lima, a Bajaj motorcar zipped past. Bajaj is an Indian vehicle manufacturer. They make three-wheeled cars and scooters. I’d like to have one of my own for tooling around Clovis.
I like small, weird cars.
I think it may have started long ago with my Uncle Bud. He was my father’s family’s bon vivant and raconteur — fancy words to describe a man who liked to have a good time.
One time when I was little he dropped by in a convertible Rambler Metropolitan. Those were tiny cars, basically two-seaters. They looked like the kind of car a 5-year-old could drive.
Growing up, I got acquainted with Cushmans. I’d see the parking-meter cops doing their thing along city streets from the comfort of their Cushman vehicle, a small, three-wheeled affair. I always wanted a Cushman. They made a lot of sense to me. They used little gas and got you where you were going. There are some folks around Clovis who own some classic Cushmans.
My most memorable encounter with a small, weird vehicle was on a lonely stretch of New Mexico highway in the dead of night in 1992. I was too tired to make it home to Roswell so I was going to stop at a Vaughn motel.
It was just me, the highway and stars over New Mexico. I was almost to Vaughn when a car came up behind me, seemingly out of nowhere. When it passed me I did a double-take. This was unlike any vehicle I had ever seen: Flaming red, the driver enclosed in a bubble-covered cockpit like a jet, a fin in back like a jet, two wheels were underneath the main part like a motorcycle, and there was a small wheel on each side of the vehicle held in place by a support that made it look like it had tiny wings.
I sped up to have a closer look. I rolled my window down: The vehicle wasn’t making any noise.
I began to wonder if I were looking at a UFO; after all, this wasn’t far from where a friend was abducted and returned by aliens (that’s what she told me anyway).
The strange vehicle zipped into Vaughn. It passed a cop.
That’s when I got confirmation the thing was real: The cop pulled out, followed the mystery vehicle for a while, turned on his flashing lights and pulled it over.
I pulled into a motel parking lot and watched from about a quarter-mile away as the policeman conducted his business with the mystery vehicle. After a couple of minutes the cop got back in his cruiser and the thing was headed off in the direction of Santa Rosa.
What was the small mystery vehicle on U.S. 60/54/285 outside of Vaughn that night in 1992?
Was it an experimental car from the University of New Mexico?
Was it something the Unser family was playing with?
I guess I’ll never know. I would like to have taken it for a run.
I’ll bet it got good gas mileage.
Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org