Speedcafe.com continues to attack Coronavirus isolation this week by running a series of extracts from the autobiography of the site’s founder, Brett ‘Crusher’ Murray.
The remaining 100 copies of the book are being sold at a discount of $40 (inc Express Post) with 100% of proceeds going to Speedcafe.com’s charity, Motor Racing Ministries, to buy your copy CLICK HERE.
In this chapter ‘Crusher’ looks at a road trip across America he did with two of his best mates in the early ’90s, one of which just happened to be future Bathurst 1000 winner Paul Morris. How are they now still not in jail? – Read on.
Chapter 10 of 29: G’Day Love
“G’day love, we’re from Australia. We are on our way home, do you want to come with us?”
That was enough of a distraction to have the young lady at the Daytona Beach Hertz service desk process our entire rental agreement, accept a dodgy Australian paper licence, provide us with a ‘sweet’ ride for a 2500-mile (4000 km) jaunt across the US and with a saving of about two grand.
A couple of days earlier my travelling companions, Paul ‘The Dude’ Morris and David ‘Mack’ Macklin had been into the same rental establishment, but had failed to get the car they wanted because they were both aged under 25.
As a consolation they were allowed to hire a sedan for a couple of days, on the condition they did not take it out of the state.
That was enough to get them to the Orlando airport and provide them the chance to get completely smashed in the bar while they waited for my three-hour overdue flight.
“This is Mack, you’re driving,” advised ‘The Dude’ as he threw me the keys.
While my welcoming party had been mates for a few years, that brief introduction was the first time I met Mack, who had been making a living selling cars in the US for the previous couple of years. For the sake of immigration laws, we will suggest he was doing it legally.
As we made our way back to Daytona Beach, mostly on the correct side of the road, my travelling companions for the next 10 days started to outline our predicament.
There was an absolute cracking deal where we could hire a new Chrysler van with full leather, cruise control and all the fruit for 10 days, with no drop-off fee anywhere in North America, for $200. (We would also discover that a Corona fitted perfectly in the steering wheel.)
The catch was that you had to have an airline ticket booked with Continental Airlines, be paying with American Express, and be signing up for a minimum of eight days.
Oh, and you also needed to be at least 25.
We ticked the boxes with the first three requirements and I suggested I could probably solve our dilemma concerning the fourth if I could get access to a typewriter, some liquid white-out solution and a photocopier.
OK. We had a plan. In the meantime, it was time for a bit of bonding.
We checked into a 1950s-style Florida motel, dumped our bags and set off for a local college bar, where it was not too long before I was doing my best Angus Young impression and
backsliding along the bar to AC/DC’s Back in Black.
We then moved on to a Western-themed bar and after a couple of beers decided it was time to push on.
Unfortunately, the security guard was pretty eager for us to finish our Coronas before we departed, but we were more keen to have them lubricate us on the way to our next venue.
The female bouncer followed us to the car park and actually grabbed the rear passenger side door as I jumped into the back seat.
She finally got her beer back when I up-ended the Corona into the top of her cowboy boot, encouraging her to jump back and let go of the door, which I proceeded to close as we smoked our way out onto the main road.
Mack was keen to take us to one of his regular bars in Daytona Beach and was in a bit of a hurry to get there.
As we approached the bar, Mack gave us a taste of his motorkhana skills by slamming on the handbrake and drifting into a 180-degree slide into the car park.
As we bounced sideways into the parking area you can imagine our surprise when we looked up to see a Florida State Highway Patrol car sitting in the exact spot that Mack had pinpointed for his “landing”.
In full flight, Mack managed to manoeuvre our rig to an adjacent spot before we jumped from the car and shuffled hurriedly towards the bar as if our Dukes of Hazzard stunt was just a normal parking procedure.
“Hey buddy,” said the friendly officer as we headed off in the opposite direction.
“I said HEY BUDDY,” said the now somewhat agitated officer after we had ignored him.
“That was a damn pretty silly thing you did there boy.
“You been drinking?”
“No sir,” replied Mack, but not before throwing the car keys into the adjacent shrubbery.
“What about you boys?” the officer asked “The Dude” and myself.
“F#*^ yeah. We’re drunk as 10 men; that’s why he is the pilot,” I replied.
On cue, “The Dude” started hurling a barrage of abuse – not towards the officer, towards Mack.
“David that is one of the most irresponsible things I have ever seen,” he yelled, as I started bleeding from the mouth after biting down too hard on the inside of my cheek in an effort to stop laughing.
“I cannot believe you subjected us to that, and I believe you owe me and Brett an apology and certainly this fine officer.”
With that, the officer gave us some friendly advice.
“Gentlemen, I suggest you leave your car right where it is. Don’t touch the car, don’t re-park the car. Just leave it there and go about the rest of your evening and collect it in the morning.”
“Yes sir,” the three of us responded in unison.
We then set about breaking the all-time Jack Daniel’s consumption record for Daytona Beach before getting a cab back to the motel, which displayed a large illuminated sign out the front telling the world that the establishment was “Proudly, American Owned and Operated”.
As we stumbled to the door of our room we looked at each other in anticipation of one of us producing a key that would allow us inside.
“F#*^, the key is in the glovebox of the car,” recalled Mack.
After unsuccessfully trying to prise open a side window, we were left with no option other than to bang on the door of the manager’s quarters.
By this time it was around 3.30am and it took us a good five minutes of progressively louder banging before this 4.5-foot Chinese lady answered the door in her nightgown and a pair of bright green and orange plastic slip-on shoes adorned with large plastic yellow sunflowers.
“You boys, you boys, you make too much noise,” she started screaming at us in her best American Owned and Operated Chinese voice.
“You forget your key, your fault.
“You need to pay me.”
As the boys continued to get barraged, I started to totally ignore the situation and took up an infatuation with her footwear.
“They are the most exquisite shoes I have ever seen,” I said in one a most sincere voice.
The complement stopped her screaming mid-sentence and she turned to me with a massive smile on her well-aged Asian face.
“You like my shoes?” she questioned.
“Oh yes, they are stunning. I would love to buy a pair for my wife. Can you tell me where I could get them? I think my wife would be about the same shoe size as you. Maybe I could just buy
yours and you could get another pair?”
“Oh, you boys not too bad.”
And, with that, she reached forward and stroked my cheek while handing me a key to the room.
“You boys let me know if you need anything else during the night,” she winked, before returning to her room and closing the door.
We were living a real-life scene from The Hangover 20 years before the script was even written.
A few hours later we were heading back to the bar where we found our car sitting diagonally across two spots right in the middle of the car park.
Maybe Mack’s precision-driving was not as good as we had remembered at the time.
After 30 minutes rummaging through the bushes trying to find the car keys, Mack drove us into his old dealership and sweet talked the receptionist into arranging some counterfeiting tools of trade.
Within five minutes I had converted “The Dude’s” old paper driver’s licence to say that he was born in 1965, and we were in the game.
We returned to the Hertz centre and sat in the car park for an hour, waiting for the woman who had served the boys a couple of days earlier to finish her shift.
Once she had gone, we moved in like a team of serious players straight out of Ocean’s Eleven and had the whole process completed within 10 minutes.
As we pulled out of the driveway we looked at each other in disbelief, then decided we should celebrate by buying a pair of steer horns from a local roadside trading post and super-gluing
them to the front grille.
We also picked up Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison and San Quentin Prison tapes as well as a Roger Miller album from the bargain bin which included his hit single King of the Road.
With horns in place and cool tunes on board, we headed off for one last visit to Mack’s girlfriend’s house, which also happened to be her parents’ place. They, conveniently, were away for a few days.
While Mack engaged in some emotional “goodbye” time, “The Dude” and I raided the old man’s garage fridge and pantry, giving us about three days of supplies which we packed into one of his coolers – the one we thought he would not notice missing for a while.
We later told Mack that we thought his girlfriend might have been a little more emotional on his departure, considering his move back to Australia.
He admitted to us that he’d told her we were going on a three-day surfing trip down the coast!
Getting off to a later start than anticipated, we drove west for about seven hours and hit Mobile,
Alabama, towards midnight.
The thing about being in a car for that long with two other creative minds, is that you come up with some pretty crazy shit.
As we cruised into town we picked out a hotel, pulled into its car park, and set about our business.
Mack and I strolled to the front desk and asked if it would be possible for us to have a look at the style of room they had on offer before we committed.
The far-from-athletic desk attendant threw us the keys for Room 210 on the second floor and basically told us to “knock ourselves out” as he took another slurp on his 44-ounce Big Gulp frozen soda.
As we made our way to the elevator, “The Dude” strolled into the foyer as if he was already a guest and politely held open the door for us, without making eye contact or speaking.
Once in the room, Mack and I hung out for a few minutes before heading back to the foyer and handing the keys back to the front desk, suggesting that the room “was not what we were looking for”.
We got back into our van and drove to the back corner of the car park where we waited for another 10 minutes before returning to the fire stairs which we used to help us return to Room
210, where Morris was waiting to let us in.
We proceeded to have a shit, shower, shave and shampoo and drink the mini-bar dry, before getting on our way about 8am (after a change of shift on the front desk), passing straight through the foyer where we collected a couple of apples and a complimentary coffee for the road.
Our next stop was only a couple of hours away in New Orleans so we decided that we would try and find a cool go-kart place before heading west.
We stumbled on this brand new establishment which had a terrific track and these formula-type cars with full fibreglass bodies.
The staff were immaculately dressed and all radioed up to ensure the place ran like clockwork.
The track was a mile or so long and you could reach some reasonable speeds, but the problem was that you had to stop after every lap and hand in one of the tickets you had purchased so the opportunity to get into a rhythm, or get some real racing going on, was virtually impossible.
We all purchased five laps and took off out of the pitlane with absolutely zero intention of pulling up after the first lap, which caused a frenzy among the radio nazis.
Imagine our surprise when we came around the final turn to complete our second lap, and were presented with a barrier across the track, forcing our cars into a side road and back into the pits.
Once stationary, the “clerk of course” berated us for ignoring the rules and for racing too close to each other.
We of course apologised for not understanding the rules and agreed to comply from that point forward.
With that we got the green light and took off racing three-wide into a tunnel which was at best a two-wide space.
By the time we came out the other side, Mack’s car, which was in the middle, had all four corners taken off it and had come to a spark-filled rest on its tub in the middle of the track.
The staff went into a frenzy as “The Dude” and I limped our cars back to the pits where we were met by Mack, who had walked 100 or so metres back to us.
When the manager advised us that he was calling the police we decided it was probably best that we got the f#*^ out of there and make a run for the Mississippi State line which was only 20 minutes away.
Once reaching the Mississippi we relaxed with a few tunes from the “Man in Black” and cruised our way on to New Orleans.
We decided to have a re-group with a decent hotel in New Orleans and, after a bit of a look around town at the local sites, and visits to Bourbon Street and the Mother’s Restaurant for one of their famous sandwiches, it was time for an afternoon tidy up before hitting the town.
“The Dude”, who had spent a bit of time in the Big Easy, dragged us to this local bar, Tipitina’s, which has since become quite famous.
The joint was packed.
Mack decided he would show us how to make some progress with the “ladies” with a dose of his Australian charm.
“G’day girls, how are ya?”
“F#*^ing good mate, how are you?”
Yep, out of every bar in New Orleans we had managed to target a group of Australian chicks who were living locally.
After a few beers they convinced us to pile into their “Brady Bunch” station wagon and head to an Australian-themed bar called Vic’s Kangaroo Cafe.
Funnily enough I got to know Vic, the owner, reasonably well that night and have stayed in regular contact with him over the years.
As the night progressed we boys went our separate ways and, after a night of local hospitality, I arrived back at the hotel about 11am to be met with a barrage of abuse from my travelling companions who, obviously, had not fared as well.
My late fee “penalty” would be driving duties for the day – and the night, as it turned out.
After some 10 hours in the driver’s seat we were about half way across Texas. I was starting to get a little drowsy in the front seat while my two companions reclined and “slept” in the back.
At that point I got a sniff of something burning and looked down at my crotch to see a string of crackers at the end of a fast-burning wick.
Before I could pull the van up from its 100mph (160kph) cruise control setting I was forced to raise myself out of the driver’s seat as the contraband detonated under my arse.
I finally skidded the van to a stop on the dirt shoulder of the Interstate-10 West and jumped out into the swirling dust with a hole burnt in the seat of my jeans and without doubt some shit in my jocks.
All this obviously proved to be somewhat entertaining for the two clowns about to have a laughter-induced coronary in the backseat.
“The Dude” had managed to sneak away the excess July 4 fireworks during the supplies raid on the Daytona Beach garage a few days earlier and had saved them for a “special occasion”.
Although providing some valuable entertainment should have been enough to make us even for my late arrival back at the hotel in New Orleans that morning, it apparently wasn’t, and I was forced back behind the wheel for another six-hour stint.
After waking up the three of us by hitting a guidepost on the side of the road about 5am it was decided that, maybe, it was time to pull over.
After all, I had driven from f#*^ing one side of Texas to the other.
As the sun started to rise we hit El Paso Texas and, as if a mirage, our final destination of the famous Tony Lama boot outlet came into view.
My “all nighter” efforts meant that we were a few hours ahead of schedule, so we set-up camp in the car park for four hours before the store finally opened.
Tony Lama is regarded as one of the best brands of boots in the US and there was little doubt that our biggest dump of cash for the trip was going to happen here.
We all settled on our final selection with mine being a tough pair of six-diamond rattlesnake boots which would be a part of my wardrobe for at least the next 20 years.
Mack and “The Dude” also decided that they needed 10-gallon cowboy hats, but I refrained from a headwear purchase, something I came to regret.
About 16 years later I received a great surprise when “The Dude” actually gave me his original hat for my 40th birthday. That hat holds pride of place in my home office.
By now almost looking like Texans, we jumped back in the car and pushed on for another five hours to Tucson, Arizona, where we legitimately checked into a hotel and proceeded to enquire about the best place to be entertained for the evening.
We freshened up after our long haul and got dressed in our best western attire, including our fresh new boots, although the boys decided that rolling with the new hats might be a bit too much.
We were told about this new place in town called the Wild, Wild West which was one of the biggest honky-tonks in the US. They were not lying.
The place was enormous, with almost 43,000sq feet (4000sqm) under roof, including a massive 6000sq feet (557sqm) dance floor, a selection of bars, 40 pool tables, a pinball section and a
range of specialty shops.
The three of us were in awe of the place but, despite having three cracking Australian accents, we were finding it difficult to get any of the large gathering of local girls to engage in a
conversation with us.
We started to take it a little personally, given our strike rate on the trip to date had not been too bad, but then it became obvious.
“Hey boys, do you realise that we are the only f#*^ers in here without a hat?”
We were not about to head back to the hotel and get the boys’ lids, so we decided that we would have a bit of “harmless” fun and leave the patrons with something to remember us by.
We went into the car park, pulled the number plates and steer horns off the van and taped together the remaining fireworks we had on board.
We bought ourselves a little extra time by weaving together a longer-burning wick which was attached to the middle of this creation, by now looking like something out of a Road Runner cartoon.
Without much sane thought, we walked up to the entrance of the club, lit up our creation, threw it inside and watched it go off like a submachine gun.
As people dived under tables and took cover, thinking that some crazed local had gone mad with an UZI, it all of a sudden hit us what we had just done.
We leapt into the van and took off at a speed which I am sure gave “The Dude” the experience he needed to win Bathurst a few years later.
We managed to make it back to the hotel and screech sideways into the basement car park without being followed.
At the end of the car park was a large industrial garbage bin. Mack and I leapt out and moved it to the side so we could park the car behind it, out of sight.
The underground parking area had open-air grilles all around it and within a few minutes there was an orchestra of sirens and flashing lights, which all played a tightening role on our buttholes, as we sat silently looking at each other and wondering how long it would be before we became a “plaything” for some madman called Billy Bob in an Arizona State prison.
After about 30 minutes it started to quieten down a little and we made our way up to the hotel foyer via some fire stairs and then to our room where we convinced ourselves that a State trooper would be knocking on our door at any minute.
I wandered back down to the front desk and got a local map, asking for directions on how to leave town in the direction of California.
“Well if you turn left at the end of the street, and follow that for about half a mile, you will hit the interstate,” said the front-desk assistant.
“Great, thanks. What if we wanted to leave town without using the main roads?”
It took us about an extra half an hour to hit the outskirts of town using a string of roads through local suburbia, but once we finally hit I-8 West we just put our heads down in complete silence and did not lift them until we hit San Diego about six hours later.
There was definitely a sense of relief when we made the Californian state border about three-and-half-hours into the trip and it did not take long for Roger Miller and Johnny Cash to be pumping back through the premium Chrysler sound system.
The Wild, Wild West actually closed its doors in 2002.
The action was taken after “violence and killings at the club”, which spurred Marana Mayor Bobby Sutton Jr to call for the club to be shut down by state liquor officials.
Maybe we were just ahead of our time.
Paul Morris says:
Through my teens and early 20s I was a bit of a wild boy, but as far as adventures go, that trip was probably the highlight. I have been on a few that were similar, but none as good as that.
There was something special about that trip. The spontaneity. The fun. Nothing was planned. Just three blokes up for a rort. Usually in a group like that there will be the sensible one who says: “We better not do that”. Well, there wasn’t one of those in this group.
What also made the trip unique was that we would almost instantly pick up on what the other person was doing. A bullshit story would start and the other two would just keep it going.
That trip was also pivotal because it solidified our friendship. Before, Crush and I were friends. After it, we were really good mates.
Crush has plenty of great attributes, but from the first time I met him, at a workshop in Arundel (Gold Coast), I knew he had a genuine interest in what he was doing. At that stage he was a sports writer at the Gold Coast Bulletin.
Then, and now, he is able to listen to what you are saying and put it into words that make a lot of sense to the reader. He understands from a sporting perspective what you are trying to do.
Also, he can get onto someone’s level really quickly; whether that is the chairman of a large corporation or sharing a joint with a couple of blokes out the back.
We have been good friends for a long time. Like a lot of my friendships, it comes back to motorsport. To me, you meet people in motor-racing and it is like being in a special club.
Crush and I have been through alot together. He has been there for a fair bit of my success and some pretty bad failures, but we have been in it together.
His biggest attribute is his belief in himself. He will always back himself. He has the self-belief to have an idea and to make it happen.
My favourite “Crush moment”?
There are plenty, but one that always makes me laugh is from the early days when we were both with BMW.
We had just jumped on a flight and were all seated close together – team bosses, including Frank Gardner, some bigwigs from BMW. The hostess was walking along the aisle handing out headphones. She came alongside Crush and offered: “Would you like headphones?”
Crush replied, loud enough for us all to hear: “Yep! How did you know my name was ‘Phones’?”
For a split second I wondered if he was going to get sacked. But then everyone just pissed themselves laughing.
TOMORROW: The Blind man…..
“Crusher” looks at a trip to the United Kingdom where he found himself in a restaurant one night pretending to be a blind man. He then drove down the road with touring car ace Steve Richards as his wingman – What happened next? – you will have to read tomorrow’s extract to find out.