A Necessary Affair

Bandaids sometimes just aren't enough....

I gripped the steering wheel of my car tightly as I drove on the open road. It was night and I was not aware of the moon shining on the road to illuminate my way. My knuckles were white, gripping the steering wheel as I grit my teeth in frustration. Flying over small hills and dips in the road, I was remembering back to a time when my children were small. I was able to soothe their bumps and bruises with a band-aid and a kiss on the forehead. I couldn’t soothe their hurts anymore. Now that band-aid was in the form of a 2001 Chevy Cavalier and it was soothing my personal hurts, something I could have never predicted.

The Ruler of the Universe.

Life has a funny way of changing your perspective. Years ago I had a motto. “If I were Ruler of the Universe, I would ban sports cars of every size and shape from the face of the earth” I happily proclaimed this fact, and let everyone around me know in no uncertain terms of my intention, should I be given the opportunity to rule the world. Sports cars were noisy, obnoxious pieces of steel driven by entitled persons that saw their right of way as the only way and I abhorred them. But as I’ve shared, life has a way of changing things including my misguided perceptions.

The Brandywine River Valley, home to many of my late night drives.

A necessary affair.

My love affair with cars was borne out of necessity. The very piece of machinery in my drive way that I once regarded with indifference, was offering me a chance to have privacy and solace when everything around me seemed out of control. It started out with a single drive in my Cavalier at sunset. I knew the roads I wanted to drive. I traversed the Brandywine River Valley, driving through a covered bridge into the land of the DuPont dynasty. Smith Bridge Road is a beautiful twist of a road that connects Pennsylvania with Delaware and boasts the home of Andrew Wyeth and George Weymouth, painters of Americana. It was in this drive that I realized what my car could offer me.

The Smith covered bridge. Yielding the right of way is always an adventure.

Driving particularly at night was something I began to do with regularity. I drove when I was anxious. I drove when I was mentally tired. I drove when I was lonely. The open road became my sounding board, listening to me and quietly showing me roads and scenery that took my scattered thoughts and made some order and sense out of them. Through the years the Cavalier turned into a 1998 Plymouth Voyager. It lumbered over highways and happily jaunted through farm country driving me through rain and even snow storms that distracted me from daily cares of life. I used the time on the open road to ponder over ideas and make decisions. I began to slowly relax and let this old vehicle take me places rather than deciding where to go.

What was I thinking?!?...

On one of my nightly rides, I decided to go back to school. I listed all the pros and cons of the idea to my Plymouth Voyager while driving and, as it drove me, we decided to enroll. Four years of graduate school allowed me to take hundreds of drives, again mostly at night. This time, my 2000 Volvo 70 XC, Cross Country wagon became my sounding board as I grappled with the challenge of writing a master’s thesis. I drove on back roads feeling the Volvo’s soul come to life between my fingertips. It spoke to me in whispers in my gentler moments and shouted when I needed to accelerate.

A new way of thinking.

At some point my brain was slowly evolving into a state of “mush” towards the end of my education. I had to find a respite from the hours of data analysis and literature searches. I wanted to challenge myself to learn something completely different that I knew absolutely nothing about. Cars. When I needed to turn my mind from research, I started watching a famous trio of men review and describe their motor experiences. It seemed instinctual to them. The feel of the car, how it handled and the noises or growls it made. I found myself not feeling antagonistic towards sports cars or super cars anymore. When driving, I looked for these anarchists of the road and longed to hear them make their presence known. I noticed styles, makes and models. This “tabula rasa” blank slate, devoured everything I could about all things automotive.

The accident....

Accidents are strange things. You are always aware they could happen at any time but when they do, you are still always surprised. I was surprised. It was a rainy day and I was travelling on a road that was unfamiliar. I was rounding a curve, slid off the road across a grassy field and found myself sideways up against a bank of bushes at a 30 degree angle. I was on the road and then I wasn’t. Leaves and tree branches engulfed me on the driver’s side and I couldn’t open my door. A glance in my rear view mirror, saw a car pull alongside of me, look over and then drive away. Eventually, a Good Samaritan came and pulled me out of the passenger side. Thankfully, my Volvo was able to be winched free and I was able to limp home. Here is the point of sharing this encounter with shrubbery in a nondescript yard. I was close to a state of panic, I was going to lose this precious friend I had spent countless driving hours bonding with. The entire driver’s side was crunched in and the odds were not in its favor of survival. I would have never given this a thought before. The “Ruler of the Universe” surely would not have cared. But that Ruler had abdicated her throne.

I put this on my tribe page to remind me that nothing is perfect in life. Like the skid marks? I think they are cool!

All things mended.

Nightly travels are still part of my routine. My Volvo, (yes, it was able to be repaired) takes me places and speaks to me when life is all a bit too much and I need to escape. But even more than that, my love of all things automotive is only growing slightly faster than my ability to assimilate and understand all that I can. For now that will have to be enough, and I will be always grateful for the unlikely romance.

What do you think?

Do you have a story to share about the relationship you have with your car? I would love to hear your “Because I said so.”

As always, a spirit of humility and inquiry, Karen