Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Horseless Carriage - Necessary Evils in a Modern World

On my drive to work yesterday morning I came across two vehicles in the ditch.  The first fellow was out of his vehicle and talking on the cell phone and the second, the ambulance had already arrived.  The roads were not great, but neither were they terrible, a bit of snow -- slow down accordingly, I say.  The first one, I had trouble feeling much pity.  He had tailgated me for several miles.  I turned off the main drag to drop my wife off at her destination, and when I got back on the road, about a mile up, there he sat in the ditch.  Perhaps my reduced speed should have been a warning!?

I got thinking about the countless miles and hours we spend in our vehicles, and how our dependable cars get us from point A to point B, every day, pretty much without incident.  My mind goes back over the automobiles I've owned.  Don't get me wrong, I am really not a car,  van or truck enthusiast, but perhaps it is time to pay homage to the long line of vehicles that have delivered me safely to date.

I had just landed my first real job, fresh out of college and needed a vehicle to get me back and forth to work.  My oldest brother, an auto mechanic, found me an old green GM truck, that his company was wanting to get rid of.  Never deal with family members.  For $750 I got a piece of junk that should have gone straight to the scrap yard.  It worked dependably for about a week and then started leaving me stranded.  So unfortunately I don't have the fond memories of my first vehicle that some folks do.

In need of something at least slightly road worthy, I sunk $3000 of my hard earned shekels into a little red Chevette ( I know you were hoping Corvette).  My brothers used to laugh and call it my 'Shove It'.  But I liked my little red tin can on wheels.  It was a comfortable little buggy and very economical to run.  It did have a weakness in the brakes department, and I had to have them done on a fairly regular basis.  Probably the most interesting cargo I ever carried, was two little Angus calves, that I'd purchased from a nearby dairy farm.  I was going to make my fortune in the veal industry and this was the only way I had of transporting them home.  It was risky business, but as I recall both boys held their little bladders and other things, until we arrived safely home.

No that is not me, but you get the idea!

My next vehicle was another Chevette (see I told you I liked them).  This one was a little sportier, wine with vinyl racing stripes down the side, and considerably newer.  Not much stands out in my mind in regards to this vehicle, but I guess, no news must have been basically good news.

I was getting more and more into farming at this point, and there was a distinct need for a truck.  I was also single and earning fairly good money (or so I thought).  I wanted a new vehicle.  So it was off to North Bay to the Toyota dealership.  Toyota trucks came in very few colours, and I narrowed it down to red, grey or blue, my first three choices.  Wouldn't you know it, none were immediately available, but there was a white one that they could deliver in the next week.  Think about it, white..... farm truck.  Obviously, I didn't.  The thrill of being the potential owner of a brand spanking new truck was too great.

My Toyota was terrific for the first couple of years I owned it, then the box began to rust along the midseam, and I don't mean just a little bit.  This was a major flaw in the late 1980 model Toyota trucks.  I probably should have taken it back to the dealership and demanded something be done about it.  However at that point in time, I had other things on my mind -- namely a certain lady, who would shortly drive to Prince Edward Island in said Toyota truck, with me on our honeymoon.
Tin Lizzie and the new bride

 I'm kind of getting ahead of myself here though too.  As well as the Toyota, I picked up a 3/4 ton Ford truck from a co-worker.  Her husband had just died suddenly.  He had this truck that he used for hauling scrap metal.  She knew I was looking for a vehicle for around the farm, and she no longer had any need for something that heavy duty.  So Tin Verna became mine (Verna named after the former owner).  Tin Verna could handle quite a load of hay, fifty bales or better if you stacked carefully. So there I was with two WHITE farm vehicles.  To distinguish, the Toyota became known as Tin Lizzie.  

Tin Lizzie with terminal rust ( do you really think the picture is about the truck?)

Tin Verna performed faithfully for many years, just around the farm and the feed and dump run.  Of course there was the one six hour excursion when I moved across the province.  Here we came, a veritable cavalcade of trucks, Dad with his GMC, the missus with the Toyota and me with Tin Verna.  All three trucks were loaded to the gunnels.  I neglected to tell the other two drivers that my Tin Verna had rather limited brakes, didn't want them to worry.  All I can say is, I was never so glad to finally arrive safely, and Tin Verna rarely ventured far from the new farm again.

When the news hit us that we would soon be parents, the Toyota really did not suffice as a family vehicle.  My father-in-law was able to find us a hardly used Ford Topaz, driven by a little old lady on Sunday afternoons.  Well perhaps I hyperbolize slightly, but it was in fairly mint condition.  The most noteworthy feature I remember of this car was its propensity to rupture a wheel bearing at the most inopportune times.  The last one I recall was on the coldest morning of the year, on my way home from a twelve hour night shift. I heard it start to grind, and rode that sucker all the way home.  I'm sure the neighbours heard me coming five minutes before I arrived and of course I did major damage to the spline.


With two small daughters, the two door Topaz was not feasible. Strapping babies into car seats while straddling the front seats was neither pretty nor ergonomically wise.  At work, they occasionally held raffles to get the opportunity to purchase (usually quite reasonably)  their used, but still useful vehicles.  I was the lucky winner of a 1990 silver Ford Taurus.  This was a great family car for several years.

Times were pretty good, and we decided to join the trend and become minivan owners.  I recalled the thrill of new vehicle ownership from the Tin Lizzie days, so we headed off the the dealership and came back with a beautiful new maroon Plymouth Voyager van - ah that new vehicle smell!  

Unfortunately my two new vehicles have neither had great starts to life.  I hit a deer, or rather the deer hit me, in the first month of ownership, with the Toyota.  Three weeks after we purchased the Plymouth, my three year old daughter decided it was a nice big canvas to draw a happy face on....with a stone.  Needless to say that was the last happy face she saw that particular day.  The only other noteworthy adventure, with this van, was the fire under the hood on the four lane highway in front of the Corel Center in Ottawa.  

Although they were able to fix the van, the smell of burnt plastic was always there and we soon dealt it, on the Dodge Caravan we drive to date.

The other two vehicles I must mention are the two trucks that came after Tin Lizzie and Tin Verna met their final demise.  The first was a maroon Ford Ranger, a good serviceable little vehicle that transported me back and forth to work for several years and moved many bags of chicken feed, wood and whatever else was required of it.

The second is the Dodge Dakota I presently drive.  She's a bit of a gas-hungry little beast, but again very serviceable.  When we moved two years ago, she made 68 trips between the two houses, moving all the furniture and trip after trip of perennial plants to their new location. 

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

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