Wheels and Memories on the Road

I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but I lost part of my freedom last November when I crashed my 1988 Baby Blazer on a slick mountain road.

I’ve always enjoyed driving and the independence it gives me. My mother, mother in law and one of my sisters in law have never drove, relying instead on their husbands. That’s something that would have driven me (!) insane.

Thankfully, I wasn’t hurt in the crash and the motor was not damaged, but the extensive damage to the exterior left me without wheels.

I didn’t know at the time I would be without my own wheels – something I had not experienced since I was 16 – for 9 full months.

Dale looked for new parts and of course, could not find them for a vehicle manufactured 23 years ago. Reconditioned parts were well, reconditioned and worse to him, shipped from China. After waiting about 8 weeks for the parts book, he threw it down after reading, “The parts may be slightly damaged from shipping overseas.”

We finally found a 1990 here, same body and same colors. Dale bought the parts we needed and had the Baby Blazer back together this past weekend.

The find came none too soon for me. Although I don’t go out often during the week, just not having a vehicle here made me feel trapped.

When Dale finished the bodywork, I decided my BB needed a good cleaning. I had neglected to clean it out between 1998-2010. It sat without an engine from Christmas 1998 until Dale put a new one in before we moved here in 2007.  After the move, well, cleaning a car out I only drove about once a week wasn’t a priority.

Cleaning it out was like being in a Way Back Machine. I found receipts and notes from 1998-2007. Among those was an empty envelop with my mother’s careful handwriting, “Deposit.” There were also fliers and notes from my craft business I closed in late 1998.

The papers and receipts blended our old life in the city to our new one. Among the decade old bank receipts and papers were deposit receipts from our bank here. Assignment sheets for the reporting I’ve done for the newspaper here were mixed in with reminders of my corporate job, now a long ago memory.

In the glove box, buried among the years of tax receipts and registration forms was a note from our Australian daughter, Meg-Ann, written for me to find in the car after she returned to her homeland in 1993 (I had put it in the glove box when I found it and forgotten it).

She thanked me for taking her to all of those basketball and volleyball practices and games and on Roller Coaster Road, a hilly road I probably drove too fast on, while listening to Def Leppard.  She also thanked me for our many mother-daughter talks.

Meg’s note was the only time capsule item I put back in the car. I placed it back in the glove box, thankful for a husband who can assemble a car, inside and out, and glad I once again have my freedom and have a chance to make more memories here in our new life in my Baby Blazer.

Have you ever been without transportation? Have you ever found old notes or surprising items in an unexpected place? Where? What were they?



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45 Responses

  1. Merr says:

    What an incredible detail about the non-drivers in your family. Driving, like walking, is such a metaphor, to me anyways. But perhaps not to all?

    • kerri says:

      I don’t know, Merr. My mom didn’t drive because as a child, she was with her stepfather when he hit and killed an old man who stepped off of the curb right in front of him. She said she never wanted that responsibility. I don’t know about my inlaws. It seems awfully limiting to me and I’m too independent.

  2. Donna Hull says:

    When I’m in Montana, I live so far out into the country that I couldn’t get by without a car. Having said that, I’m very happy to sit here on my hill and not go anywhere – it’s that beautiful.

    What a special gift you found with the note from your Australian daughter. I’m glad you put it back in the glove box for a second discovery down the road.

    • Kerri says:

      Yes, it was a special gift, Donna. I’m happy to be here for the most part as well. But, I still need to know I have the freedom to go if I need/want.

  3. Frugal Kiwi says:

    I’ve been without a car and fairly often, I’m without the ability to drive. They both can be isolating and infuriating. Even when I “can” drive, I just don’t trust myself to drive more than half an hour in any direction, because that is as far as I think I can get back home if I feel a migraine coming on. Half an hour from where I live in rural New Zealand is pretty darn limiting.

  4. I learned to drive on a blazer and still have a soft spot for them. I’m glad you have your wheels again.

  5. Sheryl says:

    I’d love to get rid of one car, but living where we do necessitates driving everywhere. This story, though, brought ba ck memories of growing up with a dad who loved to rebuild cars and dragged me to junkyard ds with him on the weekends.

  6. Jane Boursaw says:

    Yes, we’ve been there, and living ten miles from anywhere means we’re pretty stuck without a vehicle. But my hubby’s a great mechanic, so we usually take cast-off vehicles from relatives and make them run for another 4 or 5 years.

    • Kerri says:

      Isn’t it great to have a spouse who is also a great mechanic!? I actually prefer recycling just about everything, including vehicles. 🙂

  7. After moving into a downtown condo, we’re driving far less — and it’s clear to me my husband and I don’t need two cars any longer. But it’s strangely threatening to think of sharing a car after so many years of separate ownership.

    • Kerri says:

      I know, Ruth, right? It’s like taking a bit of independence.

    • Sheryl M says:

      Ruth – Our eldest son live in downtown Seattle. He does not own a car, but belongs to the Zip car club – Zipcar.com It’s a car sharing company that lets a user pay a small fee to have a car available when they need it, without the car ownership fees. We country people just need to figure out how to do the same thing.

  8. Susan says:

    I lived in the city for eight years with no car and I never gave it a second thought. Cars are expensive, we have a good public transit system, so why would I need a car? Now I’m living a little outside the city and sharing my boyfriend’s car. We often seem to need the car at the same time but we always work it out and I can’t imagine getting (and paying for) a second vehicle. If we lived in a more rural area, though, I’m sure it would be much harder without wheels.

    • Kerri says:

      It is harder in a rural area, but even when we lived in the city, having a second vehicle was a must. Kansas City didn’t have good public transportation options within the urban areas, and none in the suburbs. We’ve always combined our trips, doing several errands at once, which typically take up a Saturday afternoon, and will continue to do so to help our impact on the environment (not to mention our gasoline budget). But not having a car here for me, was really more about the feeling of being isolated and trapped.

  9. We chose to live in a place where we do not need a car. We are always without wheels since we only have a compact with 5 seats but a family of 6. My friend’s son died in a car crash 4 months ago, my daughter’s gymnastics teacher is paralyzed now from a crash last week, and my dear writer friend also lost her son (17) to a crash a few years ago. I just hate cars and hate driving. And hate that everyone in America seems to take it for granted that we have the right to a car per person. (I think we should have a one car rule for families, like China has for children.) But I know your situation is totally different and you totally need your car. Forgive the rant. I just feel sad at how cars are polluting our environment and maiming our children.

    • Kerri says:

      My husband and I said the same thing, Jennifer, that if we lived in an urban area that had public transportation, we would gladly give up the hassles of vehicle ownership and only rent one when we need it. One of the things I love about visiting Chicago and NYC is the ability to take a bus or train, or walk anywhere in the city I need to be. That, to me, is a vacation! 🙂 I do wish we had stricter environmental standards here in the U.S. on our vehicles.

  10. Sheryl M says:

    Wow Kerri! – I can not imagine living at our cabin without any sort of transportation. Our place is 12 miles from a small town (745 pop.) I guess a bicycle might get me to a convenience store the opposite direction, but I really can’t imagine living there without some sort of wheels. You certainly were brave! My hubby always said he could live without a car… (If we had to go down to one, I think he should be the first to experiment.) Congrats on getting your wheels back.

    • Kerri says:

      Thanks, Sheryl, it does feel good. We’re also 12 miles from town. We have the truck, but Dale is gone for many hours of the day for his work, so I was pretty much stuck unless I got up, took him to work, returned to town for whatever business and then waited for him to get off!

  11. That is wild. It really is a time capsule for you. I have NOT ever gone without my own car since age 17, so I can only imagine … especially when you live in a remote place, how isolating that must be.

    As far as blasts from the past, I have only 2 examples: (1) My fav boss of all time died of breast cancer. Many months later, her assistant tossed a note in my in box from the “tickle file,” a place where my boss jotted reminder notes for us. It really freaked me out that the note was in her handwriting. So from then on, her assistant wrote out new versions of reminders for me. (2) While digging through family photos for my Uncle’s memorial, I came across one of him … with my sister-in-law standing in the background. Since my sister-in-law has been paralyzed for years, it was a real jolt to see one of her standing.

    • Kerri says:

      Thanks, Rox, as a fellow Mountain Girl, I know you would understand how isolating a feeling being out here without wheels is. Your note reminded me of when my sister had some old 8mm made into videos. My dad, long gone by then, was the cameraman in most of the family home movies, so after watching for about an hour, he finally appears on screen. I hadn’t seen him alive and walking at that point for probably 20 years or so. It was quite a jolt, especially as he waved goodbye to the camera.

  12. While packing to move to our new home last summer, I came across a few “treasures” like the note you found from your daughter in your glove box. A paper that my youngest wrote in fourth grade called, “Why I Love My Mother,” that brought me to tears and which is now tucked away in a special box of keepsakes. Those kinds of discoveries are more precious to me than finding gold, though we could actually really use some gold right now!

    • Kerri says:

      LOL, Kathy, I’m with you on the gold! You’re right, when I was asked if I found money while cleaning out the BB, I felt the discovery of the note was a much better find.

  13. Kerry says:

    I’ve been without transportation for several months, actually. I’ve a VW Rabbit, about the same vintage as your BB, which started having what I deduce as electrical problems. I’d love to get it fixed, but no handy people in the family to do that, and work thin on the ground so repairs not in the budget. Bus and foot for me for a while longer. I’m at peace with that but the financial situation, ready for that to change…

    • Kerri says:

      Oh, I feel for you, Kerry! At least you live someplace where you can walk or catch a bus. I wish my husband was closer, he would help! 🙂

  14. Freedom to drive myself went away when my husband
    decided we didn’t need two cars, and his car was his alone to drive.

  15. mat says:

    I feel your pain, Kerry. In the fall of 2009, I parked my fuel-dripping 1979 Yamaha in the garage and worked up a parts list to get her (her name is Josephine) straightened out. When the economy turned south, my company cut back on my hours and suddenly, another $100 in parts for a motorcycle that I only rode on nice days was a bridge too far. The bike languished in the garage, gathering dust and spiderwebs until last month, when I finally got my wits and checkbook about me and ordered the parts and gave her a wash & polish. My wife graciously didn’t bother me while I rebuilt the carburetors and in the process, I found what two professional shops had missed, potentially (still not TOTALLY sure) discovering what has kept the bike from running properly ever since I’ve owned it–7 years now. I managed to take her on a good shake-down ride last Friday and it marked the first time I’ve ridden Josephine in nearly 23 months. I was too busy trying to get a feel for how the engine was responding to the new fuel tuning to really enjoy the ride, but there were a few times when I was able to look around and enjoy the pure, unfiltered nature of the scenery that only comes on the seat of a bike.

    • Kerri says:

      I’m so glad that you and Josephine are back on the road together, Mat! 🙂 I love her name. Any relation to the song, “Come Josephine on my flying machine!?” 😉

      • mat says:

        Me too! I’m going to get some more time with her on Saturday, which I hear is going to be perfect riding weather. And she got her name from this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjZCtMg_j04

        You must tell us how weird it was to drive your baby again!

        • Kerri says:

          I will let you know, Mat. I’m driving her again today for the first time. And it is rainy outside, the same condition (minus the darkness) as it was on that night I wrecked her. You can bet I’m going to be extra, extra careful.

        • Kerri says:

          The drive was great yesterday, Mat! The weather has cooled, so I could have the windows down (good thing as the air needs the old freon and now Dale is on a quest for that). I was very careful with her, particularly on the hill we crashed on last fall. She did a good job and I had fun with her! 🙂

  16. Alexandra says:

    Loved this story! My husband could do this, too. I’m in admiration.

  17. Heather L. says:

    That’s a real tribute to not cleaning out your car. Did you find money? I almost always find money when I clean out something that hasn’t been touched for a long time. Although last time I cleaned out my closet, I found a small frog skeleton.

    • Kerri says:

      OMG, Heather, how in the world did a frog get into your closet? Maybe your grandson!? 🙂 Well, you know in those little envelopes you get when you use the tubes at the bank drive thru? Found several of those with less than a $1 combined in them. 🙂 However, I did clean out my purse this weekend and found tax money I had stashed in my secret hiding place. That was nice!

  18. Olivia says:

    A car represents freedom to me as well, Kerri. I could stay at home for weeks on end as long as I have my car so I know I can go out if I want to. I would give up almost anything before I would give up my car especially as we live in a rural area with no public transit at all. Sometimes DH talks about the future when we may downsize to just one car but that won’t happen if I can help it: I think I’d give up the house and move into my car!

    • Kerri says:

      Ha, Ha! Olivia! Well, after living in Our Little House now, I think I could live in a car! 🙂 Thanks for the empathy. I really felt trapped in the wild without at least knowing I had a way out if needed/wanted.

  19. Christina says:

    I had my first Grand Mal Epileptic seizure 6 months before I was going to get my driver’s permit. Up until then, I had dreamed of graduating high school and taking off across the country in a van to “see what I could see”! Well, that never happened. I got married, had children, got divorced, had another child, all the while having seizures every 6 to 8 weeks. I have never been seizure free long enough to get a license. Friends have always stepped up when I really needed it and I lived in the same city as my brother so he drove me home for holidays and such. I re-married and now I rely on my husband for transportation but in those 16 years when I was a single mom, taking public transportation, having to figure out which routes and scheduling appointments with bus routes in mind, it was very empowering! I kept it all together and did it well! Life ran smoothly! It was an accomplishment! Sometimes food tastes better when you have to carry it home a mile and a half, while pushing a stroller and keeping an eye on a toddler. I climbed that mountain and conquered it! Now that my kids are grown, I am ready to move out to the woods, take care of my chickens, walk my dog. Somehow these things are sweeter after all that fuss!

    • Kerri says:

      Wow, Christina, what a story of determination! I also have friends who *cannot* drive due to medical issues and I know they are grateful when people can help. I’m sending positive thoughts your way that your dream will come to fruition.