Monday, June 29, 2009

Day 134/365 Four, Or Five, On the Floor

One thing you learn to appreciate when you homeschool (especially after 10 years of it), is a day off. Because the rest of the days are 24/7. No offense to my beloved daughter, and I'm pretty sure she feels the same way too, which is why she's off working at the museum's summer science camps, leaving me to revel in being childless for the day.

Reveling is what I did today while driving around running errands (I'm grownup now - reveling is not what it use to be, but it will have to do).

But it occurs to me I still enjoy doing exactly what I enjoyed doing years ago - driving on a hot summer day, with windows rolled down, and Zeppelin cranked up on the radio. Yes, it was a wasteful use of gasoline and contributed to global warming, and you can tell the eco-police I don't regret a minute of it, and will, in fact, do it again, every chance I get (which isn't often these days).

Today while I took the long road home I listened to (IMHO) the best driving song in the universe, Rock & Roll, courtesy of Led Zeppelin. This particular piece of music has sent me flying across more miles of road than I can remember and possibly not always within the posted speed limit.

But even before Zeppelin I was driving on little twisty, windy, unlit dirt roads up in the mountains -before I had a license - on account of my older cousin deciding I needed to learn to drive (me at age 13, in his souped-up car). Was he sweet or what - letting his baby cousin drive his precious Chevy SS? I remember when we started he kept saying "use the accelerator", and within an hour or so, started muttering: "you might wanna slow down just a tad".

When I actually got a license, we were living in Iowa. Iowa has to be the safest place in the world to learn to drive. Particularily if you're a teenager in the early 1970's. No matter what substance you've ingested, the only place to go is either on the road, or into a flat cornfield.

This is where I discovered my dad's 1968 Impala would easily go 123 mph. And just as easily blow out a tire at that speed. FWIW - 1968 Impala's just roll off to the shoulder when the front tire blows out, almost into the cornfield.

When I first started college it was in Louisiana, land of the elevated interstate with no median and nothing but swamp underneath. The first weekend I drove down to New Orleans, my roommate gave me one last piece of advice: Watch out for gators in the road, they'll pop your tires. And don't get out to move them.

Sometime around then ( my memories are justifiably hazy of this entire time period), I took a road trip out west - while driving across Texas I discovered every state has its little driving quirks. In Louisiana, driving with an open drink was almost part of the road manual. In Texas, everyone seemed to have a gun. I remember seeing a woman pull up next to me at a restaurant, open her door, and then toss her handgun back on the front seat after it clattered onto the pavement.

On this trip I just barely made it to L.A. - that last mountain range killed the compression in my VW Hatchback (my first car). I sold it to a friend, took the money and flew home to Minnesota.

Springtime in Minnesota. At least before global warming. I remained car-less because my dad thought I should save my money until I could pay cash for a vehicle. I went along with it until the winter of 1976 when I found myself stranded at a bus stop one night with too much snow for the buses to run and it was sub-sub-zero temps. I ended up walking almost two miles in -20 degree cold- since anyone else with any sense at all was at home.

The next morning, I got a ride to a car dealer (the first one I saw), and bought the first car I saw. None of this weighing decisions, comparing vehicles or checking Consumer Reports. Nope, I walked in and asked how much is that blue one, and I could pay $100 a month and what could they do. (I don't recommend this approach as a general rule).

I got so lucky. That little blue car was a Mazda GLC hatchback, the first year they were introduced to the States. And it really was a Great Little Car. My father was horrified I had gone into debt. Oh well.

No more waiting at bus stops late at night. No more frozen fingers. I loved that car. It never slid in the rain, never got stuck in the snow(not even in Minnesota), and once I drove through the West Virginia mountains in the middle of a flash flood. The GLC didn't blink once, just held the road and kept going. The dirt backroads up through Jefferson National Forest had ruts in it so deep they were almost up over the roof of the car (I am only slightly exaggerating), but the GLC ran down one side and up the other. And I couldn't count the times the needle was on empty and I sat explaining to the car that it just had to make it home on fumes - never, ever, once did it let me down.

This is the original ad for the car. That's not me. And my GLC was a deep royal blue.

Kinda like this one.

A number of years later, I got a corporate job with a company car, and figured I didn't need two cars. So I gave it to the then-current boyfriend, who didn't appreciate it and totaled it a couple months later. He immediately took the fast track to "ex" at that point.

Now I'm just driving reliable but not memorable cars (I am after all suppose to be a grownup at some point) - but occasionally - on days like today -with the help of Robert Plant and the Zeppelin, I have almost-flashbacks to my little GLC, and wonderful summer days.


  1. what you need is chinese food.

  2. Yes, I know. But when? Diane is back, so it's safe to go. Call me.
    (The rest of the readers are welcome to come too).