There’s an author out of Wisconsin by the name of Michael Perry who’s a local legend, okay maybe that’s a stretch, (sorry Mike), but he produced a fine piece of literature titled “Truck a love story”. The book chronicled his struggles with independence from gardening to fixing up his 1951 International Harvester. The “love story” was about him finding his wife and starting their life together, where I thought it was about the truck. Shortly after reading the book I emailed Michael that I needed more truck and less love story. He emailed me back from a laundromat in New York to apologize and to this day I follow his website, his Facebook page, and have read most of his books, (Jesus Cow is on my to be read list).
This column is Car: A Love Story, no it’s not about gardening or about fixing up a classic but it is about my love affair with cars. My first ever car was a Town & Country station wagon that weighed over 5000 pounds and had a 12-foot-long hood. My theory was that my mother knew there would be a learning curve so with that tank of a car I would be safe no matter what I hit or what hit me. From there it was the famous Sunbird that I shared with my best friend Erik, a couple of Chevy Impalas, and a couple of Dusters along with three Chevettes, all before turning 20. But my greatest love affair with cars is the world famous Dodge Neon.
The first Neon was Bubba, white with a lot of miles and a lot of charm. Bubba served me well and even survived a deer collision, denting up the fender and adding a cute little crack in the window. When Briana turned 16 and could drive it was destiny that she would drive Bubba. After a short period of time Bubba decided to throw a rod, (through the bottom of the block), and bleed oil all over the street. When I gave Bubba to her I had my silver Neon, which I had from only 10,000 miles and that journeyed from a lot in Florida to the UP. With Bubba laid to rest, yet another Neon fell into my lap, a purple one, a five-speed stick shift. Briana drove the silver neon and I the purple. College time came, and freshmen can’t have cars, so I sold the purple neon and back to silver I went.
Briana learned to drive on silver, Hannah and Bethany as well. I put one bumper sticker on silver and Briana said, “Dad that’s embarrassing”, so I continued to add stickers with the last count being close to twenty. Three weeks ago, I was driving to Baraga when the engine light came on, then the oil light, and then the car simply stopped running. I pulled over to the side of road, called a tow truck, and started the grieving process. The prognosis was a timing belt, could be big damage, and at this point silver had 149,000 miles on it; she was dead. I went out and bought a boring car, named it Forrest and passed the bad news to the kids.
Then a miracle happened, I went to the garage to retrieve the license plate and there, in the stall, silver was running. It turns out that the belt did break, but no other damage occurred. So now, my neon, my silver, was fixed but not needed. Silver will sit under a tarp until spring where hopefully she’ll rise like the phoenix and be driven again. I love my cars –not like, love. They mean something to me. Memories of trips, kids, and life. I doubt I’ll ever buy another Neon, but I know that I’ll always look because there’s always another love story waiting to happen.