Cliff Notes: What 2 Years in The Peace Corps Teaches You About Cars
Greetings fellow gearheads! My name is Clifton Klaverweiden. I am the latest addition to the powerTV crew, and I will be working as a Staff Writer for CorvetteOnline.com and LSXTV.com. My experience with cars, like most of you, stems back to my teenage years when I became enamored with the power and style of American muscle cars. I would spend hours reading through issues of Hot Rod and Car Craft, trying to soak up every ounce of knowledge their pages could give me. Eventually, just reading about cars wasn’t enough – I wanted to get my hands dirty working on them and I started looking for a project of my own. Finally after months of searching all the alleyways, backyards and cow pastures around my home town, I found “The One.” All it took to sell me on a very rough, but fixable, 67 Camaro was to hear its cammed-up small block run with open headers. I’ve never been the same since.
However, I have a confession to make. Even though I’m going to be writing about cars for powerTV, I haven’t actually driven a car in the last two years. Scandalous – I know! What makes it worse is that it hasn’t been because of any kind of forced injunction like having my license suspended; it was because I actually agreed not to drive. I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “What kind of car guy would intentionally choose to deny themselves of their God given right to drive?”
The truth is that I agreed not to drive as part of something I wanted to do for the greater good; I just recently finished two years of service as a Peace Corps volunteer in the small Central American nation of Belize. As a Peace Corps volunteer you are forbidden to operate, drive, or otherwise maneuver a motorized vehicle of any kind, because Uncle Sam says it’s for your own good. You aren’t allowed to so much as kick start a ramshackle moped, let alone drive a car. To get around the dusty roads of Belize, our main modes of approved transportation included public transportation (converted US school busses), taxis (mostly cars with salvage titles from the US), and bicycles (“Beach Cruisers” that I swear were made of solid cast iron).
But not all hope was lost. Just because I couldn’t drive didn’t mean I couldn’t work on cars. To get my wrenching fix, I would offer to help my Belizean friends with even the most mundane maintenance tasks on their personal cars in my free time, and I soon had others coming to me for a free diagnosis of a funny noise or mysterious leak. I also took the time to painstakingly plan out the future conversion of my 67 Camaro from a drag racer to a competitive Pro Touring/autocross machine. I also made it my mission to study everything I could on LSX engines and the cars they come in as preparation for (you guessed it) an LSX swap into the Camaro.
Now that I’m back here in the USA, I’ve reflected on the last two years, and realized that in addition to all of the skills such as patience and perseverance I learned in the Peace Corps, I’ve also been able to take away several important lessons about cars and driving.
1. Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance – Fix things before they break and leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere with no water and no cell phone reception.
2. Resourcefulness – All joking aside, duct tape, JB Weld, and pantyhose actually CAN serve as long term repairs when there is no other option.
3. Be Thankful for What You Have – Cold air conditioning, computer diagnostics, and the convenience of even the smallest local auto parts store shouldn’t be taken for granted.
4. Drive Defensively – You should never assume that any car around you has fully functioning brakes, or that the driver even cares to use them.
Its good to be back in the USA, and I can’t even begin to express just how stoked I am to be able to get behind the wheel of a car again. I’m looking forward to putting my new and somewhat unique perspectives to work for the readers of powerTV’s publications, and all though I was sad to leave my small community in Belize, I am very happy to be a new part of the vibrant and ever growing LSX, Camaro, and Corvette enthusiast communities!