Monday, April 22, 2013

Love/Hate Relationships with Cars

Growing up, my parents had a strict policy on only buying cars they could pay for in cash. So a long string of various clunkers became part of the fabric of our family life and memories.

First, there was Clark, my mom's old boat of a car (a Ford Fairlane). We named most of our earlier cars.

Then there was "Windy" the olive green fake wood-paneled station wagon in SLC.

Here's me, Shawni, Josh and Saydi on top of good old Windy -wish you could see more of her olive green and fake wood splendor!

Then we had "Redy Rosie," the red (surprised?) mission station wagon in England followed by a red station wagon with a white top back in SLC. They all seemed like decent enough cars - perhaps because I wasn't old enough to remember the issues they had.

Then came the Van - no specific name - just THE VAN. It became a huge part of all our family adventures.

That van was such a big part of our Mexico trip, our trips to national parks in Utah, our summer Bear Lake trips (we'd have to decide between choking on dust with windows down or dying of the heat with windows closed on the long dirt road to the cabin there), and our regular daily trips to and from school, lessons, church, everything. It was this full size Ford van, silver van with blue "racing stripes" on it. It had nice captain's chairs for mom, dad, me and Shawni and blue and white speckled shag carpet with a padded back area where the little kids could roll around and play rather than sitting on the uncomfortable benches that lined the sides in the back. My dad had a CB radio installed that was hooked up to the back speakers in the van so he and mom could tell us stories and make us sing all the family songs whenever we were on a road trip. One year, we got the van all "remodeled" - had it painted dark blue, added bigger windows in the back, put in a couple bench seats that could fold down into beds and dark blue carpet that was perpetually very dirty-looking (plain navy blue carpet in a car...just a few crumbs makes it look dirty). We thought it was a totally awesome van then.

Why in the heck can't I find any photos of that van? I guess we just don't think to take photos of things that are just part of the scenery of our every-day lives...

One day my dad brought home a 1976 diesel Mercedes and was super proud he'd found it for an amazing price. My mom was somewhat aghast at the sight of the car. It was about the ugliest chartreause (pea green/bright yellow) color you've ever seen. My dad said it looked like a perfectly lovely color to him (he's colorblind). And that became the car that Shawni and I drove to high school. Heavy - built like a tank. Slow - maxed out at about 5mph uphill. Safe.

But the slowness proved to be a double edged sword. About a week after I got my license, I was chugging up the hill right by my high school, headed to a school "stomp" with a bunch of my friends, when a car tried to pass me on my right while I was trying to move over to the right since I was going so slow. That speedy car came out of nowhere into my blind spot as I was moving over and BANG. Turns out I'd just run into the brand new sweet-16 convertible VW Rabbit of another girl at my school. Right next to the school parking lot. Right when everyone was arriving for the dance. I felt pretty darn embarrassed hanging out in the middle of the road with a couple policemen at that particular point in time. There was no damage to the Mercedes. But that poor little Rabbit . . . No one got a ticket since no obvious blame one way or another was decided by the police. I was shaking and crying and I remember heading over to the 7-11 right there to call my dad on the payphone and tell him about the problem. I felt so awful. I'll never forget how calm and kind my dad was about the whole thing. Way to go dad. He came down, talked to the officers, we got the car off the road, and I headed on into the dance. Turns out I was somewhat of a celebrity and everyone wanted to hear the story...

While mom mostly drove the van for like 10 years or so (then it became a teenager car), dad had a slew of different cars, most of which seemed to be perpetually at the shop. He had (and still has - but no one's seen it in years) an old silver Alfa Romeo convertible that he'd take us on dates in when we were little. We thought it was a pretty darn cool car. We named it the "nickle car" because of its color. But over the years, when it kept breaking down all the time, a nickle seemed to be about all it was worth. He found and fell in love with a 1960's Daimler Jaguar with beautiful original burled wood trim and leather seats. He had it shipped home from England. We had to pick it up at a port in California and Shawni and I got to help drive it back to Salt Lake City - which seemed like a pretty exciting thing to do until we realized that thing was SLOW and HOT (no air conditioning). My dad still has that car too. It's been someplace getting fixed for about 20 years now, I believe.

Later on, when the van finally died (after like 300,000 miles I believe) and we started having more drivers in the family, more and more clunkers came our way.

All drivers in our family came to know and love a guy named Frank at Frank's Service Station who'd come rescue us when our cars would routinely break down. I'm pretty sure the Eyre cars provided a pretty high percentage of Frank's business!

There was this terrible old bright yellow Suburban that broke down again and again and finally bit the dust when one of my brothers had the bright idea of using it to tow water skiers in the shallow part of Bear Lake. He drove that thing in a little too deep and found out that when a car's exhaust pipe is submerged, it's just not a good thing.

There was the old navy blue limo my dad bought from a mortuary (not a hearse - but some people called it that). My younger brothers got to drive that to and from high school and it became a great vehicle for road trips after the Suburban was dead.

There was the dark green Dodge Power Wagon with a winch on the front that my dad bought for our Oregon adventure. Jonah loved that thing and it was his car in high school. He'd take it on crazy 4-wheeling adventures. Then Noah inherited it - here are some of Noah's memories of the Power Wagon:

"I idolized how Jonah would drive that sucker and was determined to drive it one day. Oh the joy of revving that baby up with no muffler! It was common for me to have to push and compression start the truck - but that was one of the things i liked about it. I felt like I went through an initiation of sorts as Jo introduced me to Frank at Frank's Service Station and they both taught me great things about spark plugs and that beauty of an engine. I recall as if it were 10 minutes ago when i first tried to get the truck going on the slight incline down the street from us and killed it several times with a long building line of cars behind me. My dad was going "give it some gas!!" so i finally really punched it and we went roaring out of there. I'd park it on a downhill slope at school so i could get her started easy if the key didn't work."

"My best moment with that truck was when I was on a date with a gal and was really hoping for a kiss. The passenger door had been having some problems opening so I thought sweet, I'll pull up to her house, she'll try to get out and I'll be like well since you can't get out we'll kiss... So we pull up to her house and I wait there as she tries to open the door with a little smile inside. It doesn't open. She's like "I can't open the door" and I'm like "oh no problem I can go around and open it for you from the outside since it works that way" then we sit there quiet and she's probably like "OK dude, come on around and open the door already." After a few seconds of awkward silence she says "No worries, I can just climb out the window" and I'm like "No that's OK" then a few more awkward silence mili-seconds and I go in for the kiss. Just as the lips touch my foot inadvertently pushes on the gas and that no muffler sound rips through the quiet snowy streets and ends the kiss quickly. Then she smiles and thanks me for the kiss and climbs out the window."

Great story, huh?

As a college graduation present, my parents gave me mom mom's old Ford Taurus which seemed like a pretty nice car compared to anything else I'd ever driven. It did turn out to be a bit of a lemon, though, stranding me and a friend in Beaver Utah when the transmission conked out at a gas station. We were on our way from SLC to Vegas to visit a mutual friend from college and were determined to still get there, even when the guy at the gas station said the car needed tons of work that he couldn't do and would need to be towed elsewhere and parts would take a week or so to arrive.

We decided to hitchhike to Vegas. A nice man at the gas station said he'd pre-screen people while he was pumping their gas and find out if anyone who seemed safe was headed for Vegas. Sure enough, after about 20 minutes, the guy helped us find a very nice retired couple who were headed to Vegas and were happy to take us along. We had a great time in Vegas, got some cheap 1-way tickets to fly home, and about a month later, I found someone to tow the car back to SLC and did my first car repair research and payment on my own.

Even though I really shopped around, that new transmission was really expensive. And then the car kept having problems. So after my mission, my dad assigned Shawni and I to go sneak a brand new car into my Grandma Ruthie's garage (a gift from my dad and uncle for her birthday) and take away her old blue subaru sedan which I got to keep as my car. It turned out to be a really great car for a long time.

Then there were the old Mitubishi Monteros that my younger brothers drove in high school and that now "live" at Bear Lake, having become the perfect thing for hauling people and stuff from the water's edge up to the cabin. It's totally amazing that these things still run. I think they're almost 20 years old.

The twins loved pretending to drive the Monteros and the older cousins have loved learning to drive on the beach where there's nothing they can hit.

Don't worry - the rule is that kids can only ride inside or on the back - they were just on the top and front for the photo...

I think my brother Jonah is the only one of my siblings who's kept up the "only old cars" tradition. He buys these old Mercedes diesels and converts them into "greasels" that run on used vegetable oil that restaurants are happy to have Jonah take off their hands. They've saved tens of thousands on gas over the past 10 years or so that they've been using greasels and Jonah makes pretty good money finding and converting old cars into greasels for other people as well. He's a very good self-taught mechanic so the old cars thing works great for him.

But I have to say I'm pretty darn pleased with our Toyota mini-van we bought brand new 8 years ago and that has never once broken down or had any problem. And we still drive Jared's 1997 Mercury Mountaineer that he got brand new in college and has only just started to have the occasional problem. I have to say there's something to be said for getting a new or almost-new car and keeping it in great shape with regular maintenance....

Here's our good old Mountaineer taking its turn as a beach vehicle at Bear Lake.

But wow, what great memories and crazy adventures all those cars offered to us growing up!

P.S. For my sister Shawni's recollections and more details and stories about our family cars, click HERE.


Camile said...

Oh wow! What fun memories! I especially loved Noah's date story - I was laughing out loud!

Eyrealm said...

We did have a wild conglomeration of cars! I had forgotten most of this stuff. Thanks for the revival and for putting up with all that wild stuff!

Jessica Taylor said...

Noah's story was awesome!!


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