As I write this I am sitting at DMV. West Randolph Street. Chicago, Illinois. So far doesn’t appear to be all that different than New Jersey. They are telling me I need to take the written exam even though it’s technically not a requirement (“agents do reserve the right to choose whether or not you take one”). So much for 36 years of driving experience. They took my picture already, so I guess they’re assuming I’ll pass. I’ve been here for a half hour. Read more
A few things came together last week which quickly launched me into a plan to accomplish my next goal. That goal is to have two cars, two pets, two people and the contents of a four-bedroom house packed up and transported to Illinois before the end of the summer. And no, I’m not running there. Although that actually seems less daunting. Read more
Thirty-five years ago when I was nearing my 17th birthday, my dream car was a brand new Mercedes Benz 350sl. Red. Convertible. I just imagined the radio playing a favorite song and driving along curvy hills overlooking the ocean somewhere. Hair blowing in the breeze, not a care in the world. Freedom.
I might have been willing to settle for a “pre-owned car,” you know something like a 1965 Mustang (’65 because that was the year I was born, and I love significance and symbolism). What I wound up with was my mother’s old car. She got a new – well pre-owned although they didn’t call them pre-owned back then – Cadillac which I guess was her dream car, or as close to it as my parents could afford – or wanted to spend at the time with college tuition around the corner. I was mortified. Living in affluent northern New Jersey, all my friends were getting brand new Camaros or Firebirds and here I was with a nine-year-old mustard color Chevy with a rusted fender.
The dream and the reality (courtesy of Google Images).
I accepted it. I didn’t have the balls to object and demand something better. My father – as wonderful and gentle and loving as he was most of the time – would have kicked me into he middle of next week, if I didn’t express anything but gratitude for what I was given. He would have reminded me that growing up where I did skewed my perception; that having access to a car – any car – 100% of the time that I didn’t have to share with anyone else was a privilege bestowed upon the more elite 17 year olds. I also knew with the measly salary I earned at my part-time jobs, I wouldn’t have had enough to buy a better car myself, even if I saved every dime. So I kept my mouth shut.
A funny thing happen though. The boys at school thought my 1973 Chevy Malibu with the 350 cubic inch V8 was pretty cool. And I also learned that freedom came from just having a driver’s license, from being able to get from point A to point B by myself. And yeah, great driving music on the radio and a warm breeze through the open windows makes it that much sweeter.
The mustard-color Malibu died its final death about 3 weeks after my college graduation and I bought a 3 year-old Camaro. A step up. A car I picked out myself. Now I had my own car. And my own car payment and my own insurance premium. But holding on to that Malibu through college allowed me to save some money. Patience is important. The ability to put off immediate gratification for long-term gain, I learned, is the first sign of real maturity.
The “family car” that brought my daughter home from the hospital and saw me through 13 years, 3 dogs, numerous memorable road trips, and almost 180,000 miles was a hunter green 1999 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport. When that died, I had my “affordable midlife crisis” purchasing a 2012 Fiat 500c. It was such a fun little car and my first convertible. I loved that car! It was the first car since the Camaro so long ago that was just mine. After my husband died, and the Fiat became our only car, I was faced with the reality of its impracticality. Driving my daughter and her friends and lacrosse equipment around in such a tiny car, just didn’t make sense. I made a very difficult decision to trade it in for a 2012 Honda CR-V. All-wheel drive, safe, roomy, practical. Mature adults make sacrifices (temporarily).
In less than seven weeks, my daughter is scheduled for her road test on her 17th birthday, just like I did. And like me, she will be getting her mom’s hand-me-down to drive. 100% access, all of the time (with a year of satellite radio!). And like me, joining the elite 17-year-olds. Her mom? Well, I bought a pre-owned 2015 Volkswagen Eos. 2015 because that was my first full year as a widow. Eos is the Greek Goddess of the Dawn. I love significance and symbolism. Plus I got a really nice deal. It’s as close to my dream car as I can afford – or wanted to spend right now with college tuition around the corner. It’s a convertible. It’s German. I outgrew red. After 35 years behind the wheel, I finally have what I want and deserve. I really earned this. Freedom.
Saddle River County Park, Paramus, New Jersey, February 2017
I’m sitting in a hotel room outside Boston, trying to think of a way to work in an 8-mile run today. I woke up too late for starters. Didn’t wake up until my 16-year old was demanding breakfast. So we ate at the hotel’s buffet. Now I’m too full to run and she’s got a day of sightseeing planned before we have to get back on the road for (what should be) a 4 hour drive back to New Jersey. It doesn’t matter. I’m enjoying a weekend road trip with my girl and I can run another time.
I love road trips. And road trip songs (My daughter’s favorite from the Cars Soundtrack: Life is a Highway; mine: Radar Love)…and road trip movies (my favorites: Easy Rider, Thelma & Louise)…and road trip books (On the Road is on top of both our lists). Since I was a kid, I always loved seeing everything along the way. Flying is certainly more practical, but there are times when the road is so much more fun. Of course I grew up as an only child so there were no backseat sibling squabbles. Now I just love the time in the car with my girl. We always seem to have our best conversations in the car. Plus we are creating memories that will last a lifetime…which is more important than ever now since this weekend’s road trip was for our first official college visit.
“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road
I have road trip memories with my daughter dating back before she can even remember. There was the trip to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee just after she turned one. I was so overwhelmed as a young mother that I left all her clothes in a hotel room in North Carolina (they shipped them to me at no charge). I wish she could remember the Smoky Mountains or the ferry ride between Maryland and Cape May.
When she was three we went to Folly Beach, South Carolina. And when she was 7 we did the road trip every family should do – once – to Disney World and the obligatory stop at “South of the Border” since she didn’t remember it from the South Carolina trip. Honestly, never need to do that again. Actually, I’d be okay with avoiding I-95 – forever. On my bucket list however is a road trip out west. She mentioned this weekend that we should do a cross country road trip (I’m 90% sure she said WE). So although my girl is growing up maybe there is still hope that she’ll still want to do another big adventure with her mom after the college-visit trips have run their course.
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road
The University of Maine was this weekend’s destination. On the way back we took this side trip to Boston. I told her it was kind of like a trip her dad and I took over 20 years earlier. On that trip we detoured by Lowell, Massachusetts to pay our respects at the grave of Jack Kerouac. She asked where that was and I said it was off this exit coming up. She said, “lets go!” and we did. I know that would have made her father smile. He once told me I was the only girl he knew that actually liked On the Road, and a few years ago he gave his daughter his copy when she went to him looking for a book to read that would impress her English teacher.
The best part of the trip is sometimes the detours. The unexpected twists and turns.
“The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view.” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road
The road is always calling. The journey. An experience. Sometimes it’s on foot and sometimes it’s by car. Today it will be by car. Tomorrow I will run. Yes, Jack, the road is life.
If you want to keep in touch, have new blog posts (and occasionally some other interesting stuff) delivered to your inbox, please subscribe on my website: TheCauseCoach/Contact.
Edson Cemetery. Lowell, Massachusetts. August 2016