My Life In Automobiles

(Just so you know, these are all stock photos. Not my real cars.)
We bought a new minivan yesterday, and as David and I were driving home with it, we were talking about the cars we've had over our lives. It brought back so many memories of my high school and college years, that I thought I'd document them in pictures. My very first car was the family station wagon. It was awful. Looking back now, I am grateful to have had something to drive but at the time--when lots of my friends had cool cars or fun cars or at least cars that weren't the color of dog poo--it was rough. By the time I got my driver's licence, our station wagon (a Plymouth Volare) was ancient. It had a battery acid stain on the hood and the engine had issues with exhaust, so that even after you'd turned off the engine it would shake and cough and rattle for another minute or two. I remember parking it in the high school parking lot and running away from it because it made so much noise.

After we buried the station wagon and my younger brother got his driver's licence, we found a little Mercury tracer compact that he and I could drive. I loved it. I eventually took it with me to college and could pack up my life and put it all in the back of this little red coupe in a matter of minutes. That car was good to me, and it made it across the country on road trips with friends and eventually to Minnesota where I chose to live after college. Unfortunately, I was hit head on by a little old lady one block from my apartment and the car was totaled. I think the little old lady had her licence revoked after that incident.

So there I was in Minnesota, without a car, the day before Christmas. I took a taxi to the airport and flew home to spend Christmas with my parents. We eventually decided that I would drive back to Minnesota in my dad's Plymouth Reliant. He and my mom had moved to Colorado and were thinking about a pick-up truck, so my dad was more than happy to pass the old sedan on to me. My dad was amazing. So I drove the grey/blue sedan back to Minnesota where it hated the winter. It barely ran when it was cold.

David entered my life (with his own automobile ghosts and issues, but that's another story) and along came Carver. We'd been married for a few years, had both been working, and actually had some money to buy a new "family" car. We bought a Saturn wagon and I was in heaven. It was reliable, comfortable, affordable, and safe for Carver. I about broke my back leaning over that back seat and taking Carver in and out of his car seat, but other than that it was a dream. Our little Saturn took us to so many places on so many road trips.
We'd had the Saturn for a few years when David's car finally became more of a nuisance than something you wanted to drive. We found an old Volvo sedan (it was actually silver) that a nice family by the University of Minnesota was selling. I kid you not when I tell you this, they took one look at Carver and came down $1,000 on the price. We bought the Volvo for so cheap we paid cash for it. It was unbelievable. It was old and had high miles, sure, but it was a Volvo. Such a great little car. Unfortunately it was with us for a very brief time. We'd had the car for only 6 months when David was in a hit-and-run accident on the highway. He was horribly rear ended, and then the people who hit him (in a stolen car) ran up the embankment and disappeared. Honestly, though, had David not been in such a safe car I think he would have been injured. He walked away without a scratch.

The Volvo accident took place a few weeks before we were moving to Colorado. David drove the Saturn to work during the day which was fine because I was home packing up our house. And in the middle of all that, we adopted Lily. David flew to North Carolina and back in one day to get Lily, and 6 days later we drove with her in a U-Haul to Colorado. It was interesting. And crazy. I have the pictures from that week to prove we did it, but it's all a blur in my mind.
Fast forward 2 years. We were living in Colorado, and we had purposely bought a house a block from the high school where David worked. We were a one car family and loving it. At the end of the day, Carver would ride his tricycle while I carried Lily, and we'd go down the street to meet David at his school and then walk back home together. I have the sweetest memories of that time. One day our phone rang and it was a Saturn dealership offering to buy our Saturn wagon. Seems they had a customer who wanted a used wagon, exactly like ours. I guess we were in the Saturn database somewhere because we weren't trying to sell it. We told them we'd be interested if they had a used Honda Odyssey we could trade it for. We'd heard that was a good, reliable van and loved the idea of more room for road trips. They did have an Odyssey, so before I knew it I was a minivan mama. Our Odyssey rocked. Loved it. Loved not bending over anymore to strap kids into car seats. Loved having more than 3 inches of space between my back and my kids' feet. Loved that they could sit in multiple places and still not be touching each other.
Our old faithful Odyssey made it to 107,000 miles and was 10 years old. I recently took it into our mechanic for basic maintenance and discovered that it was time to replace some big items. The cost of the work was going to be more than the car was really worth, so we decided to look for a new car. We wanted something newer (obviously) that would see us through the next 5 years of crazy road trips. We're planning trips to Atlanta, South Carolina, Washington D. C., and possibly Florida. So the hunt for the next family car began. I had hoped to be past the minivan stage, but with 3 kids and a dog we just don't fit into a mid-size SUV. I couldn't justify a super sized SUV because the gas mileage is so terrible, and to be honest I was scared to death to drive something that big. So it was back to the minivan. We narrowed in on a Toyota Sienna because of the good reviews and their reliability. Turns out the rest of the world likes Siennas as well, because they're hard to find used. We wanted something just a couple of years old with average miles, and in our search over a 100 mile radius we found 3 that fit our criteria. 3. Yesterday David and I drove to Denver and looked at 2 of them and settled on the one we wanted. It's a 2007, but it's tricked out with so many gadgets and features and add-ons that it feels like it's from the future. It also has a sound system like a movie theater, which David and I put to good use on our drive home.

Welcome to the family, Swagger Wagon.*
(If you've not seen the Swagger Wagon video on YouTube, I suggest you go do it now. Funniest commercial EVER!)


Melodie Monberg said...

Sounds like a good deal for all...I'm rethinking the lack of entertainment unit in my Pilot as I contemplate many road trips...might just need to buy each kid their own player huh?

Vivi said...

That is quite some car history - not terribly unlike some of the beasts I've driven over the years too. It was fun to read your car story (loved the mental pic of you, C and L going to meet David at work to walk home together).

I had one that gave a constant stream of blue exhaust. Annamarie and I were actually stuck inside the car once (all of the doors were frozen shut) and we had to climb out the hatch.) When we sold it, the guy offered my parents $300 in salmon instead.

I also drove one where I literally at one point said, "Run, I think it's going to blow up."

And now I drive a mini van too. I love the room, the convenience, the carpool/friend factor, the sliding doors, the bells and whistles...I just kind of wish no one could actually SEE me driving it.

Enjoy the new swagger wagon. I've heard great things about Siennas!

jayme said...

I'm such a nerd, but I love hearing stories about the cars people have owned. Congratulations on the new ride!

Old Men Reflect said...

I think you should start saving now so that your children do not have to suffer driving substandard teenage rides. Carver would fit famously into a 67 Camaro ragtop, Lily would look divine in a mid sixties mercedes coup and the Z man would make it happen in a Viper.

Peace, out.

Sarah said...

Aaah, cars. I hate them. We drive crappy cars, and I'm totally satisfied (mostly). Our van will take a beating this summer--we're driving to Utah, and then later to Delaware. Long trips, lots of miles. A tape player is what we've got for entertainment. (Though we can rig the MP3 player up now, thankfully. Who has tapes anymore? Except the library, where the demand for books on tape is VERY low.)

Hope you love your new van and that you have many wonderful family trips and memories in it!