The inhabitants don't blink an eye as I extricate myself from the driver's seat. It'd been dripping rain all morning, though that's now stopped, and the gnats are out. "Where ya'll coming from?" asks Wood, a properly sized woman for an Amazon tribe. I tell her, "Vernon."
"Whatcha all doing up in Vernon? That's a good little place. My mom lives up there." Now that the girls are talking, the guys feel it's okay to ask some questions. Sherman takes over, barking out the specifics of how many cylinders, how many turbos, where the air goes in, and how the heat flows out, in two complete, and completely coherent, sentences.
"Can y'all wait five minutes while I call my brother, Clint, to come over?" asks Moore. "He has a local fishing show." It seems churlish not to oblige. Clint roars in, jumps from his pickup with a camcorder in one hand, and starts filming. "What is it?" he begins. Which explains why you might have seen us and the Bugatti "thing" recently on the local Port St. Joe fishing channel.
Back on Highway 98, the historic nineteenth-century fishing village of Apalachicola is humming. (Speaking of humming, when we cross the bridge into town, the Veyron's foot-wide tires set up a howl exactly like a 727 heading down the runway for takeoff.) We stop for a quick photo, and the Veyron begins to suck people out of shops, out of offices, down the street, up the sidewalk, and into the range of their phone cameras. They don't see us, or they don't care. They want to touch it, photograph it, call their friends, photograph it again. One kid has an ice-cream cone in one hand and his phone cam in the other. I am waiting for him to stick the cone in his eye, he is so excited.
Sherman has not abandoned the idea of doing a blast-off in launch mode. Raphanel agrees but insists that he himself be the one who does the launch. One miscue and all four tires will be fried. There is no miscue by Raphanel, but there is no light up, no smoky burnout, although he makes several game attempts. He speaks to the German technicians, who blame it on a software glitch. Sherman is unimpressed.
On the way back, Sherman wants to check out a very cool auto boneyard near Old Town, Florida. There is nothing to recommend the bleak, desolate stretch of Highway 19 from Perry to Old Town, other than that it's as straight as an arrow, with a solid ten-mile straight and a 65-mph speed limit. Which we do not observe.
Old Gold is as promised. Sherman runs up and down aisles yelling things like, "He has 400 Cadillacs!" and "See if they have any Pintos!" Even the Europeans are crawling in old Buick hulks, taking pictures of each other. I know there are snakes in here. Where are the snakes?
It's 140 miles back to Amelia Island. Sherman commandeers the Veyron for a much-deserved last blast, and now all I want to do is get home. I chew my nails to the end.
You're never as nervous about borrowing a $1.3 million car as you are the last mile, the last block, the last moment until you see the big, orange Reliable transporter in the parking lot, running lights blazing and loading ramps in the receiving position. All is right with our world.
Georges Keller called from overseas last week and asked if I could send more peanut brittle. And a copy of Vernon, Florida.