Freedom: The Quality or State of Being Free

I’ll bet some of you wondering why I have a picture of a car as the ‘Featured Image’ then start talking about freedom. Well, the word “Freedom” conjures up all kinds of images for people; from the American flag to broken slave chains to birds soaring across the sky. For me, it’s always been my car.

You see, here in America, we are a country of movers and explorers and renegades. Most of us are never quite content to stay in one place our whole lives. Even if we don’t move from city to city, we value our vacations and day trips. We look forward to getting out of where we are and seeing something different. Experiencing something new and making memories. I think it has been ingrained in the fabric of our nation from the Vikings to Columbus to Ponce de Leon and on… Lewis and Clark, as well as Theodore Roosevelt could not stand staying in one place either. They had to GO!

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Long live the pioneers

Rebels and Mutineers

Go forth and have no fear

Come close, the end is near

~ X-Ambassadors, “Renegades”

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So what does this have to do with my car? Everything. At first, our country moved on foot. Then came the horses that moved us from coast to coast. Finally, a little over a hundred years ago, it was the automobile. Streets and Interstates crisscross our nation from coast to coast, Canada to Mexico. It does not matter what time of day it is, 3 o’clock in the morning or 7 o’clock at night, you’ll find a vehicle going somewhere. It is seen as a “right of passage” to get your first car. A privilege to many still as the cost of owning one continually goes up. Simply having reliable transportation in the form of a personal vehicle can make life much easier and open so many doors.

As a teenager still living at home, I dreamed of having my own car. Cars are, to me, the very symbol of freedom. My parents could take away my TV, my Nokia, even make me do extra chores. Taking my keys practically killed me every time. It was my ticket to anywhere I wanted to go. I had the freedom to visit friends, or get lost in the woods, or wander the streets listening to the radio blast cathartic music. Driving was, and still is, a kind of therapy for me. I could tune out all around me, concentrate on the vibrations traveling through the gas pedal and steering wheel. I was my own Captain every time I sat in the driver’s seat. Even if I didn’t go anywhere, I could sit in my car and pretend it was my own little bubble away from the world. It was my sanctuary. Once, it was even my salvation, carrying me away from an environment that wasn’t healthy for me.

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Here in my car

I know I’ve started to think

About leaving tonight

Although nothing seems right

In cars

~ Gary Numan, “Cars”

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Honestly, I don’t know where my love of cars started. Possibly when I tagged along with my father since he was a mechanic and he’d teach me little things. Or maybe it all began when my cousins and I would play around the abandoned cars in my Aunt’s backyard, pretending they were wild animals ready to spring to life at a moments notice. Almost all of my memories from my childhood have a vehicle of some sort associated with it. My Mom’s Chevette, my Grandmother’s Buick, my Uncle’s brown truck, the Trans Am we rented to go visit my family in Texas, the Chrysler we bought when my Brother was born, the Impala my Dad drove until there was a hole in the floorboard and I could watch the road go by underneath, my Stepdad’s fancy red Silverado with a phone in the console. All these singular moments connected by one thing… A vehicle.

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Does it make me weird? Sometimes I even wonder if my love affair began when I sat in my Grandmother’s living room and she first put ‘Herbie’ in the VHS player. I’m almost positive that’s where I began to believe that cars had personalities of their own! Watching Stephen King’s ‘Christine’, I was more heartbroken for the car then terrified. To this day, I still want to own a classic VW Beetle or a red Plymouth Fury because of these movies. I think my greatest childhood heartbreak came when my Dad decided to tell me how they made it look like Herbie was going so fast. I haven’t entirely forgiven him for that either. But after Herbie came into my young life, I started naming all the cars in my family.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I still talk to them. The cars. I refer to them as if they are their own entity. My husband thinks I’m crazy, I’m sure. As do you, no doubt, dear Reader. However, I’ve seen too many instances where my vehicles have managed to do things that make no sense. I let my friend borrow my car when I was out of town and the brakes locked up on her. It was in perfect working order before I left. Little Red (my car) doesn’t really care for other people to drive her on a regular basis. She “ate” my brother’s craptastic Bronson Arroyo CD and refused to give it back. This is the only time that has happened – Ever! A transmission fluid line blew on the Interstate and somehow managed to not damage the transmission. Same thing happened when my radiator went due to the salt from the roadways. A tie-rod end snapped in half but not until I pulled safely into a subdivision. When we moved, the thermostat went out but only after my car carried me over the mountains. Recently, DJ (my husband’s car) had his alternator die while we were out but he managed to give up enough juice to drive us home the last 3 miles in the rain. Coincidences? Probably.

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A few days ago, Little Red and I rolled over the 200,000 mile mark together. All but 300 of those miles are mine. Oddly, we were rocking out to 21 Pilot’s ‘The Ride’. Again, so many memories have Little Red in them. We’ve been to see family in Florida on numerous occasions. Been to Texas to visit my husband during training. Rhode Island saw her loaded down with camping gear when we went to see my cousin graduate. We’ve been through New York City, Gettysburg, and Williamsburg. We’ve explored almost every battlefield, fort, and small town within a 5 hour radius. All we required was a map, a full gas tank, and a picnic lunch. She carried us to Maryland and around the Washington, DC area for the past 5+ years before bringing us to Dayton, OH. I missed my future Sister-In-Law’s wedding to go pick her up from a dealer just outside of Cleveland, OH in April 2006. I’ve even had to live in her for few nights while I was in between places. When I say that Little Red and I have seen and done a lot together, you can’t begin to imagine and I’m incapable to telling you.

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If I leave here tomorrow

Would you still remember me

For I must be travelin’ on now

There’s too many places I’ve got to see

~ Lynyrd Skynyrd, ‘Free Bird’

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Some people say I need a new car. Maybe I do. She’s dented, has a decent sized rust spot in her fender, and is currently two different colors from where I replaced her doors and hood. She’s not fancy or big, doesn’t have the latest bells and whistles, and is currently covered in dust and dog hair. But she’s my friend and she runs well and she still affords me that briefest moment of freedom whenever I turn the key. The world is still ours every time we leave the driveway. My car allows me to roam and explore and make new memories. She, herself, is a reminder of all I’ve seen and done. What does your car do?

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