SISTERS ON WHEELS

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SISTERS ON WHEELS

Our dad passed on many positive attributes to his seven children.  One of them was an appreciation for vehicles, and how to take care of them.  Having seven children required having many vehicles over the years, and Dad made sure they operated soundly. 

The most memorable school car we had growing up was the 1973 Plymouth Valiant in a beautiful army green tone.  Not being able to locate any pictures we took of this beauty, here’s one from the web:

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I never got to drive it.  I was too young anyway, and it had a three-on-the-tree gear shift.  I eventually learned how to drive a four-on-the-floor standard transmission. 

It was Gail’s high-school pride and joy, however.  (Not really.)  Dad loved anything Chrysler, and this Plymouth didn’t disappoint him.  He bought it for a school car for Gail and the two brothers between Gail and me.  It was a legendary, local bomb, and it didn’t escape the notice of one of the infamous tricksters in our high school.  He decided to take it out for some four-wheelin’ fun in the rain one day after school, and returned it caked with mud.  Our brother, who had driven it to town, drove it home. Dad drove it right back to town, found the guilty party, and, by putting the fear of God into him, made him clean it thoroughly. 

He never crossed our dad again. 

Dad was proud of all his vehicles, and he took expert care of them.  He loved to tinker with them and fix them when he could, which was most of the time.  He taught us girls how to change a tire and how to change the oil; he wanted us to know.   Greater than that, he instilled in us that taking care of one’s vehicle in every way was an important obligation.

Dad and our brothers read Motor Trend and Mechanics Illustrated magazines, so we did, too.  All three of us sisters notice cars to this day, probably because of these early influences.  Speaking for myself, I am usually able to name a car’s make when I see it, and sometimes the model.  The car companies that are newer on the American market like KIA and Hyundai confound me; I don’t recognize them.  These are not the cars I grew up with.

Dad was a Chrysler man, most of his vehicles were from the Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge family.  I have vivid memories of traveling from our farm home with him to the small city I now live in to buy my first car.  I was between my freshman and sophomore years of college, having survived the first year walking, begging and borrowing a car when I needed one.  We came home with a 1982 Plymouth Horizon, a beautiful cream-colored four-door hatchback.

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Again, a picture from the web

It wasn’t a cool car by any means, but it was a set of four wheels, thus beginning my status as a car owner.  I have owned two other Chrysler cars since.

I traded that car in for a fancier Nissan from a small car lot several years later.  I made the deal myself; I learned how to inspect, inquire and negotiate from Dad.  The dealer was in my college town, and his wife was in one of my classes.  She told me that he said:  “If every woman could buy a car like she did, they wouldn’t need a man to help them.”

Thanks, Dad. 

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On my first date with my husband, I recall thinking clearly:  I don’t like his car.  It was a gold 1988 Chevrolet Beretta.  I should have been careful what I didn’t wish for, because I ended up driving it for two years after we got married. 

I didn’t give up much too marry him, except for a car almost like this:

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It was the first new car I ever bought.  I had my first real job after college, had stars in my eyes, thought I had money to burn and thought I needed a brand-new car.  It was a great car; it even traveled to Philadelphia with me for  the second half of my year there.   It was a Toyota, a runner-up to Chrysler in Dad’s mind, and the same kind of car I drive today.  I was smitten with that car, and loved every moment I spent in it.

This small car wouldn’t easily accommodate my future husband’s legs on his six-foot frame.  We didn’t need two cars because he had a work truck, so one of them had to go. 

I sold it to a young man just before we got married.  I rode to the courthouse with him to take care of the business end, and lectured him that there would be no sex or drugs or drinking in this car, but rock-n-roll was certainly okay.  I’m pretty sure he rolled his eyes at me.   I met his mother in the process, she was a kind woman.

I loved that car with all my heart, and selling it just about broke my heart.  I knew my husband was worth the trade-off, but still…

Because I love to write, I decided to write a letter to Toyota to let them know how much I loved that car.  I expounded on how well it had treated me, and why I had to let it go.  Apparently I was singing their song, because they sent me a bouquet of flowers to thank me, and to congratulate me on my upcoming wedding. 

A few months later, I saw the new owner driving it down the street and I almost cried.  He had put low-rider tires on it, and had covered the back window with stickers.  I saw his mother in the grocery store a short time after that, and I told her to tell him I didn’t like that one bit. 

Of course, she laughed.

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Gail’s first new car was one-of-a-kind.  So much so, that I couldn’t find a picture of it on the web, and Gail didn’t have a picture of it.  It was a two-tone blue 1980 Ford Pinto.  If you change the top 3/4 of this car to a dark blue, it would look like Gail’s car.

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She, too, spent the first year of college hoofing it, so this car was her ticket to independence.  She shelled out $4,300 for this new beauty.

I remember that car well.  It had a personality just like Gail.  She let me drive it; if I recall right, I think I learned how to drive a stick shift in that car.  There were memories made in that car, both hers and mine. 

Gail has always had a spirit of fun about her, and whatever car she happened to be driving was her means of taking her brand of joy to other places.

Or, maybe it wasn’t a car.  Her next vehicle was a small, brown Toyota truck.  She rocked it, too.  Whatever she drove, her essence of Good-Time Gail came along with her.  It looked pretty much like this:

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When she needed a bigger car to accommodate her first child, she essentially swapped vehicles with Mom and Dad, who no longer needed this family truckster:

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Plenty of memories were made in this car as we grew up in it, but then it also served as a means for me to go places as a teenager.  I will never forget that car.

After her first two girls got a little older, she traded the wagon for the first of her four Honda sedans. The first was a light blue Civic, followed by a dark blue Accord, then two white Accords. 

Her last white Accord moved with her to her current small town.  She then made Dad even more proud by becoming a Chrysler owner—and she made the local dealer happy too.  She still drives a Dodge from him:

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Gail and Cindy Citadel

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Now, about Suzanne and her car:  let’s start from present day and go back, because I can’t wait to tell you about her latest car.

She has driven a Nissan Altima for four years, even though she prefers to trade every few years to stave off the boredom that always comes with her car after a few years.   She reports that since 1991, she has traded cars 15 times.  

She still has the Nissan, but has made it essentially her Sunday car.  She recently purchased an older General Motors product for her daily commute.  I’m pretty sure Dad is frowning upon this, because he was never a GM man.  No matter, it’s what she wanted, and just to show you how much she loves it, I can’t wait to tell you what she named it—the first car she ever named:

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Meet Carol Anne.  (Make sure you spell Anne with an ‘e’ on the end.)

Perhaps Suzanne’s favorite car of all time was—Dad is smiling upon her for this:  a Chrysler 300M that she owned in the early 2000’s.

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She also owned four different Toyotas as well.

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My first car to ever have a name was two cars ago.  I took a gamble on another Volkswagen product after my Jetta wasn’t what I’d hoped.  It took too much to fix, so I traded up for a bright red Passat.  I named her Scarlett, and I was sure I would never love another car as much as I loved her. 

I was wrong.  Scarlett betrayed me one too many times, and after four new water pumps, I had to let her go.  It was to my dismay only, not my husband’s, and I think the mechanic was even happy to see her go. 

I limped her—almost on her last leg—into a Toyota/Honda dealer just down the road, told the fine young salesman that I wanted a used Toyota or Honda.  It must be black or dark blue, and have a black leather interior (so my morning spilled coffee wouldn’t show).  I wouldn’t budge on a sunroof, either.

“Well,” he said, “We have this one.”

“I’ll take it.”   It wasn’t quite that quick.  I did sleep on it, but the next day, I went back and adopted “Stella.”  I had another name picked out, but sometimes, just like with a baby, she didn’t look like that name.  She was Stella, and that was that. 

Of course, Dad’s negotiating skills surfaced in me when I made the deal, and I still think I got the better deal than the dealer. 

And that is how my 2013 black Toyota Avalon has become my favorite car.  She had 36,000 miles when I brought her home, and now, just a bit over three years later, she has 111,000 miles.  She has been my faithful companion and friend, and has treated me like a queen.   May she ride on for 211,000 more miles. 

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She’s not clean today, because she travels with me on asphalt and rock alike to my home health visits, and she is going back on gravel tomorrow, so I didn’t bother to clean her for this post. 

My Mark-of-all-trades did change the oil and rotate the tires just yesterday–and he cleaned the windshield to boot.   I am forever grateful that he does this for me.  Even though Dad did teach his daughters how to, I don’t have to maintain my wheels.  Thank you, Mark.  Dad liked you for so many reasons. 

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Four-wheeled modes of transportation are not the only means of transportation that Gail and Suzanne employ. While I do own a bike, they are the biker chicks, not me. 

When I started running again after my second baby, I had a very basic bicycle that I decided to ride down the road one Sunday morning, leave it in the ditch and run down the less-busy gravel road instead of running down the highway. 

I laid it over in the weeds, laid the helmet on top of it, and ran/walked down the road a mile.  I turned around and did the same on the way back.  When I got back, it wasn’t there.  Neither was the helmet.  It was a Sunday morning, and I don’t think the thief was headed to church. 

I walked the half-mile home along the highway in tears, channeling Pee-Wee Herman.  His bike got stolen in his movie, and I laughed at that thought through the tears. 

I did find a high-quality bicycle at a garage sale, and it has sat in my garage motionless for several years.

Gail and Suzanne, however, do ride their bikes.   They both loved them enough to name them.   Meet Trixie—Suzanne’s bike, and Lucille—named in honor of Gail’s first boss.

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Gail even belongs to a bike gang in her small town.  Boasting over 30 members, they used to go on regular rides, enjoying the camaraderie of fellow bike-lovers. 

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So why all the fuss about our cars and bikes?  Because we enjoy them, that’s why.  And, if I may get back up on my soapbox as I have lectured from before on this subject, we should all be grateful that we can move.  Whether it is moving our legs to move our bodies, or moving our entire bodies on two or four wheels, it is a gift to be able get around.

Having the means to own and maintain a working vehicle, having the right as American women to drive, having the legal privilege of holding a driver’s license and having the freedom to hit the road are all gifts not granted, and none of us should ever forget that. 

Suzanne, in her youngest sister wisdom, offered this food for thought to ponder: 

“If no one could see you driving your car, would you still drive the same car?”

Without a doubt, Suzanne would drive Carol Anne and her Nissan, Gail would drive Cindy and I would drive Stella. 

We hope you would still drive the same four—or two—wheels as well.