As I may have mentioned, I christened my car “Tina” after I bought her. It started as “Tiny” because she’s a big girl, but she didn’t like it, so now it’s Tina. I have always loved Nissan cars–one literally saved my life in 2003 (that story I’ll blog about at some point, trust me)–and when I moved back to Colorado, with the prospect of snowy mountain roads, I bought a one-year-old Nissan Murano, silver gray with black interior. She has many talents, my new (still feels new to me) big girl of a car.
Interesting (to me) digression: While some complex mechanisms remain resolutely neuter, neutral and completely without individuality, others come equipped with personality, gender and, definitely, opinions of their own. When I was in college, the elevator in my dorm hated me. It simply did, that’s all there was to it. My first car’s name was “Prudence Duvernoy” (from a character I had played in Tennessee Williams’ “Camino Royale”), and that car was madly in love with another student’s big old Chevy and always found a way to park next to him. My second computer seemed a bit miffed that somebody so clueless could possibly be in charge of it, and I spent more on repairs and tech support than I had for the computer. I think most people would, if absolutely pressed to the wall about it, admit that some machine in their life seemed to have distinct preferences and likes or dislikes. And acted upon them.
In any event, back to today’s topic. My car has many talents, chief among which is being the easiest to drive and the safest-feeling car I’ve ever owned. As I said, she’s a big girl, and in my part of Colorado, which gets a lot of wind, it’s a delight to have this big solid vehicle around me as traffic lights wave around like banners and flags get ripped off flagpoles and construction signs have to have holes in them to protect them from becoming lethal flying weapons. Tina also has the ability to find a parking space within reasonable distance of my destination virtually every time. Even in Estes in the summertime. That’s a very good talent for a car to have. And, in spite of her size, she doesn’t guzzle gas, but sips it instead. Very useful in the coming years. She’s also comfortable and not cramped. I’m glad she has cloth seats, because leather seats can be sticky in summer and cold in winter. She has quite a bit of cargo space, and her rear seats fold down nice and flat. So, yes, I’m very fond of Tina and she seems quite fond of me.
And where does she spend most of her time? In my garage. I’m sure she’s glad it’s there (she’s the first car I’ve ever had that didn’t live outside all the time like a husky). I know I am, because I’m lucky enough to have an attached garage, which is a great luxury in a cold climate. But Tina doesn’t spend a lot of time out on the road both because of my California gas crisis background (“is this trip necessary? how much time do I want to spend in line at the gas station? and I really shouldn’t be using so much gas anyway” and so forth), and because I’m spending much more time these days at home, writing. All good things. But it turns out I miss driving. Really a lot.
On Monday, when I went to buy my new toy (see previous post), one of the things I noticed about the whole trip was how much I enjoyed it. Not just driving Tina because she’s a good, drivable car, but simply driving. When I first learned to drive, my greatest (non-romantic) pleasure was to drive, simply to drive, not to go anywhere in particular, but to go! I remember when I was a little girl, Daddy would sometimes say, particularly after dinner on a summer evening, “hey, want to go for a drive?” And we all piled in, thrilled at the idea. Daddy, Mama, Gail (that’s me) and Velvet (that’s the dog). Of course, no summer evening drive engineered and guided by my father would ever come home without stopping at A&W Root Beer, so we had a hidden agenda, but so much of the joy was the drive itself. This was a while ago, so our car didn’t have air conditioning (nothing had air conditioning except the movie theater, let alone a car) and Greeley, Colorado, while it did cool off after dark in the summer, was HOT. My mother would bring beach towels so we could actually sit on the seats (which weren’t leather, but the particularly stiff and staunch plastic they had for car seats in the fifties) and Daddy would say a few Army words (as Mama called them while she shot a very dirty look at him) until the steering wheel cooled down enough to touch, and of course we’d have all the windows open. So off we’d set, no seat belts, of course, not back then, and Velvet’s head out the side back window, ears flopping (she was a cocker spaniel), and me with the dog mostly in my lap, talking to Daddy at the top of my lungs. The best time. Ever. (Especially with the soft ice cream cones we’d always get on the way back home, “we” in this case including the dog, who loved ice cream.)
Obviously, I grew up with the idea that one of the great things to do is get in the car and go for a ride. And I think that feeling has always been there, even when I didn’t have a car, the time or a full tank. When I moved to California, after my divorce and before I got so poor I couldn’t afford the gas (let alone trying to be a good person ecologically), I would get in my car and drive on a Sunday or late at night when the world just got to be too much with me and my life was otherwise out of control. I remember late nights driving up the freeway to Palmdale and letting the car out, with much the feeling that I’m sure a horseback rider has, and driving as fast as I could on those straight empty highways in the high desert. (For any possible California Highway Patrol person reading this, I think the statute of limitations has run. I hope.) I remember trying to pretend I was a famous star incognito driving a convertible (when actually I was a word processor in a Sentra that didn’t even have a sunroof) tooling up and down the Pacific Coast Highway on the way to or from Malibu, just too cool for school.
Once I took a vacation and drove up the Pacific Coast Highway practically to Oregon, which included driving the utterly glorious (and terrifying) Highway One to and past Big Sur. It’s perhaps better to be a passenger on such a road trip, because as a driver, you can’t really take your eyes off the twisty turny narrow heartstopping road long enough to look out at the unbelievable heartstopping (for another reason) view. But there are lots of turnouts, so I’d stop and stare at the Pacific and get back in my little Sentra and twist around the switchbacks some more. Anybody who loves to drive someday simply has to drive on that road between San Simeon and Carmel.
The only time I didn’t enjoy driving was, of course, the daily commute to work. Even then, there were times it had its compensations. After all, if I was in my car getting to work, I wasn’t AT work, drudging away, so that was still a plus. And there is nothing quite like the feeling of driving home after work. The relief of it. Except, of course, in southern California when it rained. Just as Colorado drivers forget how, each and every year, to drive in the snow, Los Angeles drivers forget how to drive in the rain. And a year’s worth of oil and muck on the roads gets as slick as snot (I know it’s a disgusting image, but it’s the only one that really says it) when the rains first come. One night, when I worked downtown, I remember that it took me over two hours to get from my office to my apartment during a rainstorm. At that time I drove a stick shift, and by the time I arrived home, I thought my leg was permanently damaged from the constant shifting into and out of first gear, trying to get ten more feet down the pavement.
Until I got Tina, I was also frightened of driving in snow, for the very good reasons of the stark terror I’d felt over the years commuting to work in Denver in the blizzards, and a bad accident (I’ve talked about it on this blog) in Wyoming during a blizzard. But now, Tina does very well with her all-wheel drive and her big all-season tires and her weight. She’s only slid around once or twice and that was in my neighborhood, so I may be getting a little too sanguine about what is really more dangerous than standard driving.
But last Monday, even with the high winds, driving was just a sheer pleasure. Going down the canyon (that’s how Estes residents, or “locals” (see my post on Estes definitions) talk about driving down to the “valley” (ditto)) with little traffic was a pleasure, looking out at the trees and the sky and beauty. I had lunch at a great place in Lyons called “Oskar Blues” and then set off to Boulder for my shopping. I found parking places easily (okay, Tina found them), and I had the delight I just talked about in my previous post of purchasing my new iPad. Then I went to Whole Foods, which is another terrific shopping experience, especially for someone like me whose only alternative in her home town is a pretty standard Safeway. There I bought produce and strawberries that smelled so richly of strawberry that my mouth was watering right there in the store, and other good things to enjoy. And then I drove home, up the canyon, out of the worst of the wind.
And I loved it. It reminded me of being young and taking off on a California highway just for the sheer joy of it. I know it’s frivolous and ecologically unsound and I do try to minimize my driving for the most part, both for reasons of carbon footprint and pollution, but oh how I love to drive Miss Tina!