With a Second or Two of Regret
The first car I drove was a 1976 Ford Fairmont. I was 15 and not legally supposed to be behind the wheel of any car. Unable to pass inspection, it had been sitting on the side of our West Jordan home for a year at least. Mom and dad were out, I knew where the keys were. Little brother and sister in the back seat, I turned the key and it started. Three speed standard transmission in first gear, and off I went. We drove around the block once, my heart in my throat, siblings laughing and loving every second. It was exhilarating and frightening.
I repeated this event several times on different occasions until a concerned neighbor informed the local clergy of my misdeeds. She should have told my parents, rather than a church leader, but people are cowards.
The first car I legally drove-1985 Chevrolet Citation. Power baby!
Most of my early driving was done behind the wheel of a 1970 Dodge Dart Swinger. Its claim to fame-driving me safely home after dodging my current girlfriends ex, who apparently wanted to cause me some harm. The V8 engine powered through a (just turned red) light, leaving that sucker in the dust.
I have personally owned-1985 Pontiac Grand Am, 1992 Geo Metro, 1991 Volkswagen Cabriolet, 2000 Honda Accord, 1999 Toyota Camry, 2004 Jeep Liberty, and as of yesterday, a 2010 Toyota 4Runner.
Every car has a specific memory associated with it.
The Grand Am cost 1500 dollars but was worth about 5 cents. It ran for no more than 21 consecutive days before needing a repair. The final nail-throwing a rod through the transmission. It was supposed to be the ‘hot ride’ for my first date with Sheryl. Some fuel sensor or other broke, leaving it unable to start. I drove my parents smashed up Oldsmobile instead.
The Metro was the first car to get named. Esmeralda didn’t have much get up, but she could go and go. One Presidents day weekend it drove Sheryl and I through a terrible blizzard on our way to Phoenix. I can still feel the white knuckle drive on I-70 as we were passing freight trucks, carving fresh paths through a foot of snow. Her demise came in 1999 when her three cylinders became one. Sheryl misses her more than I do.
The Cabriolet, I called Maggie. It was the car of my dreams. Dark green and fun to drive, we took it everywhere. This photo is of a favorite memory-Our drive to Canada. Long, straight roads and lots of laughter. Sheryl’s sister is sitting in the back.
I drove that car into the ground. When I let it go, it had more than fulfilled my expectations. I had always wanted a convertible, but grew tired of it after a while. The wind would blow through the roof in the winter and no matter how much I liked the top down, when it was over 90 outside, any stop was just a hot, sweaty mess.
We still own the Honda. Humphrey had 20 miles on him when we signed the papers. After 140,000 miles, it still feels new to us. Both Sheryl and I knew we were buying him the second we sat in the front seats. By far, the nicest car we had owned to that point, the leather seats, cruise control and cd player were luxuries our other cars never had.
Humphrey has been the vacation car for more than a decade. With five or more trips to Coeur d’Alene, at least that many to Phoenix, another to Portland, Oregon and a wonderful drive to Madison, Wisconsin, this car has been (still is) a champ. I have never worried about him breaking down or sliding off the road in snow or heavy rain. One year, coming home from the annual football trip to Phoenix, we encountered a blizzard just south of Flagstaff. Cars and trucks were all over the road. Some had slid into the median and a UPS truck found itself flipped on its side. Humphrey plowed through it all. I can admit to worrying about other cars sliding into us, but Humphrey never once felt out of control.
The Camry wasn’t around long enough for a proper name. We did dub him “old man car”, as that was his personality. We sold him to my brother, Dylan. He is still driving it.
We bought ‘old man car’ to replace the dying Maggie. I was excited at first, thinking OMC would rival Humphrey in comfort and performance. His downfall was he couldn’t measure up. Driving to visit family near Logan, OMC was unable to manage the canyon with the same ease as Humphrey. It wasn’t his fault, really. The 4 cylinder engine just couldn’t compare to the V6. My brother bought it 6 months later. I was glad to be rid of it.
Knowing I wanted something more like an SUV with a little more power than OMC, we used a fantastic deal from Sheryl’s employer to buy a brand new 2004 Jeep Liberty. Bright red, 5 speed standard transmission, bare bones jeep, it was quick and powerful. Off-road, it handled well and the turning radius was fabulous. The first 4×4 I have owned, it quickly became my favorite car, ever. I knew when we bought Penelope, she would be my car for at least a decade, maybe longer.
Penelope drove us to pick up our two boys for the first time. I can still see their tiny buzzed heads, bobbing up and down in nervous excitement as they sat in the back seat, taking in all this drama that was their lives while tiny, high pitched voices telling story after story from the back seat.
Like they do, our boys have grown from those tiny 7 year old kids into 12 year-old- near- men. I recently noticed their knees pushing into the seats, not from inattention, but from just being bigger. Both Sheryl and I knew our family was outgrowing Penelope and we would have to make some choices.
Yesterday, Sheryl and I went to look at a 2003 Land Rover Discovery II at a local car dealer. It had low miles and we thought as it was bigger, and inexpensive, it could be our family car for a few more years while we saved some more money for a newer vehicle. Sadly, it was not the answer.
His back seat is very roomy and he has considerably more storage space than Penelope.
Again, once Sheryl and I sat in the front seats, we knew. This was our car.
So, after nine years, I swapped Penelope for Jerome. I have to admit, I was very sad when I gave the keys to the salesman.
I was more than ready to give up every other car I have owned, but still enjoyed driving Penelope. Though I know it is just a car, I felt like I was giving up on an old friend and leaving her to rot. When the dealer gave us a terrific trade in offer, I felt better. She would find a new home. Someone who would also appreciate her. Silly silly silly.
My sadness lingers, but driving around in Jerome makes me feel better.
I am again sure we will own him for a decade or more. 4Runner’s tend to live forever and are always in high demand. I am sure it won’t be long until I have a great story for him and he becomes my new all time favorite car.
Besides, look how happy he makes Sheryl and I.