Many of our readers may recall the little yellow VW bug that became former Riverbank News editor John Branch’s ‘signature’ vehicle. We laughed (mostly with him) at the trademark jet engine sound when he fired the bug up, shared our concern when one of the wheels literally fell off as he was turning the corner to come to the Oakdale office – luckily he was close enough to park with three wheels intact – and celebrated with him when the bug went to storage and a newer, more reliable vehicle emerged.
At the time I wondered why John took so long to say goodbye to the bug and find himself a new ride, when everyone knew it was long overdue.
Having just parted ways with my old vehicle, I now kind of get it. It’s hard to let go of something that has been a part of your life for the better part of a decade. And even more so when it is paid off…
Still, I did as my mechanic suggested the last time he fixed something that went awry with my car; I drove it until I broke it. That’s basically what he told me to do, said it really wasn’t worth repairing anymore and to just drive it until it gave out. Of course it gave out one morning as I was taking my daughter and her best friend/cousin to school and we ended up walking the last block and a half. I am not sure which was more mortifying to my 17-year-old; having a car break down with a very loud whine and a noticeable ‘thump!’ and limping it to the side of the road to park it or having to walk a block and half to school with her mother.
My car had over 205,000 miles on it when it finally decided it was done. Of course, it had been to countless Friday night football games over the years, taken lots of trips to Collegeville and Farmington for elementary school activities, excursions to Knights Ferry for river visits and campouts, drives to Fairfield to see family … basically, it did its job. And, despite the fact that my daughter grew to dislike the car more and more as the years went by, I truly enjoyed the vehicle. Unfortunately in the last couple of years, we had been having to contact the mechanic more often and actually had to start renting a vehicle anytime we needed to take a trip further away than Stockton or Sonora, just because I didn’t trust the 1999 for those long distances anymore. It knew the way to Escalon by heart, and I could always get to whatever sports or news events I needed to, but going to places like my sister’s meant trying to find a ‘weekend special’ on a rental.
In that regard, we got to ‘test drive’ a number of different types of vehicles. Our search was informal at first, with a handful of vehicle makes and models my daughter and I could both agree on. Since she will be going for her license test this month, we also had to make sure it was one she could easily handle, had good visibility, was good on gas and – most important of all – something that won’t embarrass her when she pulls into the Senior Parking Lot next year. We already have a tentative schedule drawn up; she will drop me off at work on Mondays and Tuesdays since those are crunch time-in the office-deadline days and she can have the car at school, Wednesday and Thursday, I drop her off and keep the car for my ‘running around’ and photos/story work in Escalon and we will figure out Fridays as we go.
My sister would ask, when we arrived in yet another different car for a visit, if this was ‘the one’ or was it still a rental. This time, when we head over there, we will be driving ‘the one’ that has taken the place of the broken vehicle.
I know my old car was tired, dusty, had lots of clunks and rattles and just didn’t want to get up and go anymore. This new(er) one is a different color, a different manufacturer, goes when you step on the gas pedal and has power windows and door locks. We have taken a step into the 21st century, much to the delight of my teenager. It’s not too flashy or souped up, which certainly will help when she is added on to the insurance policy, but it gets the job done in comfort and in style.
We haven’t named it yet, that usually takes a while as we learn the nuances of the vehicle itself. Such as my first stick shift, something I learned to drive after I bought it. The nickname was Bucky, since it took me a while to learn how to shift smoothly. Even after I had the clutch work down, Bucky lingered on as the car’s name. Perhaps when we take our first ‘big drive’ with this car and put a hundred miles on it one-way, we will figure it out. I will be sure to let you know.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times, The Oakdale Leader and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.