it’s the only way to live

I feel like I should have some kind of deep, insightful post after being away for so long. But it ain’t happening.

The thing I’ve been thinking about most lately (when I’ve had time to breathe between work and family commitments) is cars. Mostly that’s due to the fact that my trusty ’99 wagon is now getting on in years, and starting to fail me. It’s little things right now–the cigarette lighter stopped working about six months ago, which is a pain because I can’t use my cell phone charger anymore. The glove box door has been, shall we say, quirky, for more than a few years. The driver’s side sun visor is flapping in the breeze. The number of crumbs that my children have littered it with over the years approaches a googolplex.

So I’ve been contemplating my next car, and along the way, reminiscing about cars gone by. In high school, I drove a bitchin’ Camaro. I truly loved that car, with its massive V-8 engine. Sure it fishtailed at the slightest hint of rain, which meant I had an accident exactly 11 days after I got it. But once I got the back weighted down with 100 pounds of counterweights I “borrowed” from my high school theater, it was all good. To this day, the only speeding ticket I’ve ever gotten (knock wood) was in that car, after my brother dared me to see if I could go over 100 on the New Jersey Turnpike. A costly error in judgment.

My parents had all kinds of crazy cars growing up. At one point, we had a huge Mercedes sedan, which was from some time in the late ’50s or early ’60s, when they were enormous, round metal automobiles –ours was a sort of forest green. I think that was my first experience with a leather interior–it had such a distinctive smell, musty and antique.

mercedes.jpg

There was also a Triumph Spitfirespitfire.jpeg, a Volkswagen Beetlebeetle.jpg, and an Oldsmobile Cieraciera.jpg, which is the first car I ever remember our family owning that was actually new off-the-lot. My parents let me and my brothers pick the interior color, which was a phenomenal amount of responsibility at the time. I’m pretty sure we ended up with something like ‘Sand.’ In addition to those fine vehicles, there was also the conversion van, which provided our home away from home on many camping trips.

This wagon is the first new car I’ve ever owned, and it will be the first car that my kids really remember (it’s known affectionately as The Mommy Car). There are several stickers from political causes or rallies on the dashboard, and the Bee demonstrated her early facility as a reader by reading some of them aloud.

So as I think about replacing my car, it’s hard to do without reflecting back over the long seven years we’ve had together. A pretty transformative time in my life–we bought the car when we left California, when I was five and a half months pregnant with the Bee. I’ve given it up to landisdad during both of my pregnancies–it wasn’t made for a heavily pregnant woman–and at this point, it’s in a semi-retired state. It doesn’t get to go on road trips any more–we mostly take landisdad’s car if we have to go anywhere far, to save wear and tear on the older car.

For my next car, I’m likely to buy a Prius, or some other kind of hybrid. I want a car that’s more environmentally responsible–I’m required to drive long distances for my job, and I don’t like the feeling that I’m destroying the atmosphere while I’m doing it. I wish that Detroit were building them, but I haven’t seen a sedan being produced by an American automaker, and frankly, I don’t have a driveway big enough for an SUV (nor do I particularly want one). I’ve wanted a massive white pickup truck for about fifteen years, since I had a coworker with one who was the epitome of cool, but that’s not a very practical choice for a mother of two.

I’m curious, what kinds of car memories do you have? Did you grow up in a family with quirky cars, or did everyone drive a hoopty? Or were you carless? Did you vacation by car, or road trip a lot as a young adult?

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September 27, 2006. random other things.

18 Comments

  1. Suzanne replied:

    We had a powder blue station wagon when I was very young; my fondest memory of that car was the seat in the very back (rumble seat?) that faced backwards. We did take long-ish trips in that car, or what I felt were long trips at the time; no car seats, no seat belts even. I could stretch out across the entire backseat with my head on a pillow.

    (Shakes head, waking up from reverie.)

    Good luck with your car hunt — that is definitely one of my least favorite things to do.

  2. jackie replied:

    My mother drove Mustangs when I was younger, after she had to get rid of her two-door Corvette once she had two kids! All of my parents are big road-trippers, so we drove up and down the East Coast pretty frequently and I’ve taken many good road trips as an adult, including a three-week cross-country journey right before I got pregnant with my girls.

    It’s funny, because I really love traveling by car– but since my accident this spring, around-town driving is still a cause of anxiety for me. I hope it gets better soon.

  3. HeatherJ replied:

    We had only Volkswagons until I was 15. The first car I can remember was a split window VW Beetle nicknamed “Thunderclap” because of its tendency to backfire. Then we had a microbus, square back, and a rabbit. When I turned 15 my parents ignored their hippie ways and bought a Jeep Cherokee Laredo. Major step up from the rabbit. Oh did I mention our rabbit had one of those mylar signs across the top of the windshield that said “Wabbit”. We did a lot of road trips in that car, and even though I make fun of it now we had a lot of fun in that family car.

  4. Jay replied:

    We just went to the dealership to look at the Prius last weekend and there wasn’t one to see. Apparently we have to wait for someone to order it, decide they don’t like it, and leave it, for us to finally be able to test drive.

  5. alala replied:

    A maroon Ford Fairlane 500, named Russel. It was a ’66 I think, but I can’t be sure, and I don’t remember how long we had it. I do remember that the speedometer was broken, but we didn’t really need it because as soon as we got over 55 mph, Russel started to shake.

  6. MetroDad replied:

    My fondest car memory was when I was 10 years old and my dad bought a bright purple Cadillac Fleetwood. All we did was take shitty road trips in it but I didn’t care. I was fascinated by this new technology called the 8-track. We owned that car for years but the only tape we ever had was the one that came with the car. It was loaded with Barry Manilow, Abba, & the Bee Gees.

    To this day, whenever I hear “Mandy,” I think back lovingly about that car.

  7. Jennifer (ponderosa) replied:

    My husband is a car guy. Not a tinkerer but a collector. If he had his way, we’d trade our house for a stable of vehicles. He’s always talking about what the next best car for us would be — he likes cars for their beauty but also their purpose, and people always ask him for advice because he can choose the perfect car for a person’s lifestyle and price-point. (A Volkswagon Tuareg would be the perfect car for our lifestyle, but not our price-point. We’re waiting for some used ones to hit the market.)

    So. He doesn’t like the Prius. He’s been talking about the new Volkswagon diesels, which actually get better gas mileage than the Prius. I think they’re only available in Europe, though. http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/07/volkswagens_pol.php

  8. Jennifer (ponderosa) replied:

    By the way. Wagons rock. We have an Audi A4 ’98 — just sunk $2500 into a new suspension so we’ll be keeping her another decade, looks like — and it’s my favorite. car. ever.

  9. Daydreams and Musings replied:

    Gosh – I haven’t thought about this in awhile! I was going to write a response talking about the cars I remember but it started to get way too long – I could probably do a Thursday 13 on that alone!

    The one car I remember most is my mom’s red VW bug with the black vinyl interior. I loved that car but the interior was awful on hot summer days! Just thinking about it makes the back of my legs hurt!

  10. landismom replied:

    Ouch! the bag of the leg burning is definitely painful.

    And Suzanne, I once worked somewhere that owned a reverse-seat wagon–we would fight over who got to sit backwards, even as adults.

  11. Mary Tsao replied:

    My mother bought her first car when I was 5 years old. It was a Pontiac Ventura. It was a metallic green with green vinyl interior. It was da bomb. Not to mention the first car my family had ever owned. We had it until I was in Jr. High.

    I never see old Venturas on the road, although it was basically the same as a Chevy Nova and there are a lot of those to bring back the memories.

    We’ve got a Prius. It rocks.

  12. Vicky replied:

    OMG! I thought I was the only one left who remembered the Dead Milkmen. Bitchin Camaro, Bitchin Camaro, I ran over my neighbours…you just took me back to high school!

    My parents didn’t buy a brand new car until we’d all left home. I remember a brown K-car that they bought used and ran into the ground. It lived through all three of us kids learning to drive in it and only suffered a little from me running it into the side of the garage after my first driving lesson. My Mom managed to have an accident in every single one of our cars, so maybe the accident gene was inherited.

  13. Michelle replied:

    My parents had a wood-paneled station wagon that was as big as a boat. I wasn’t sure which was worse, driving that or riding the bus to school.

  14. Comfort Addict replied:

    OK, LM. You know I work for a car company. I have a car for you (I think) that is small enough for your driveway, fuel-efficient and, I think, neat. Buying it would send a message to Detroit, and my company, that people really do want responsible cars. Besides, I can get you a deal.

    Write me if you want more info.

  15. Kate the Shrew replied:

    My dad is a car junkie, so there were usually several more sitting around than there were drivers. My first car was an old beat up VW Rabbit, which got retired after it had more money put into repairing it than we’d spent buying it in the first place.

    I’ve been driving the same compact sedan since ’98, so I’m saving up for a new car now–probably a Prius, unless I change my mind and go for the Civic Hybrid, or else the Jetta diesel and then run it on Biodiesel.

  16. can we buy our way to a greener planet? « Bumblebee Sweet Potato replied:

    […] So I was stumbling around the internets today, and ran across this site. I’ve been thinking a lot about our consumption of energy lately (although I still haven’t bought a new car). For some as-yet-undetermined reason, our electric use has increased tremendously in recent months. Landisdad thinks it’s due to our expanded use of dehumidifiers in the basement. I’m blaming the dryer, which is really just more of a tumbler of clothing at this point–I think it might be getting up to 50 degrees in there, but not much more. It’s certainly taking waaaaaay longer than normal to dry the clothes. […]

  17. Evan replied:

    Funny, how a discussion on cars sparks so many memories.

    Since I got my license at age 16, I’ve had 24 cars, including some duplicates (Ford Tauruses, or Tauri; Mazda B-2200 pickups; Mercury Mountaineers; Ford Festivas). So far, the best ones were, in no particular order:

    1.) Both Ford Festivas. Really a Japanese Mini, these cars had room for four, plenty of go, and 40 mpg.

    2.) Both Mountaineers, although we love our 2002 – it’s an excellent road trip vehicle, which we use for that purpose frequently!

    3.) My 1978 Olds Delta 88. Big V8, jacked up in the back, blood-red crushed velour interior. Big pimpin’ during my misspent high school days.

    Whatever you do, avoid the Taurus at all costs. Boring, lousy build quality…good for traveling sales (which is how I use mine), but not something you want to use every day.

  18. paper chase « Bumblebee Sweet Potato replied:

    […] and I finally bought a new car this weekend. After we made our deal, we came home to look for the title for the wagon that we were […]

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