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Posts Tagged ‘cars’

A mini-van?!

In behavior, cars, design, domestic life, life, Style, urban life on December 8, 2012 at 2:38 am
2011 Dodge Grand Caravan photographed in Largo...

2011 Dodge Grand Caravan photographed in Largo, Maryland, USA. Category:Dodge RT Caravan Category:White minivans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you had told me that in this lifetime I would be seated behind the wheel of a Dodge Caravan, I would have said you were mad. Mad!

But this week I was. For those of you not in the automotive know, it’s a fucking mini-van! The sort of thing that soccer moms drive, full of screaming, squirming kids. The sort of vehicle that ends up in heart-warming commercials. (I hate heart-warming!)

We don’t have kids.

We don’t need anything this big.

I’ve only sat in a mini-van when I got into one that is a taxi.

Our ancient Subaru was in the shop for a $3,300 repair. Yes, you read that right. It took longer than our mechanic expected and — which is extremely classy — he paid to rent a replacement vehicle for us. But because of Hurricane Sandy destroying so many cars here when huge trees fell and crushed them, there’s been a local shortage of rental cars. So when I showed up to claim the Chevy Impala they had promised, there were four minivans and a huge truck.

Holy shit. Cars have changed a lot since 2001, the year ours was produced.

It’s new, it’s shiny, it’s huge. It tells me the temperature but I can’t find the clock. The rear visibility is a disaster — the window is too small and all those seats’ headrests block what’s left of it. I finally understand why women driving these things drive really slowly and cautiously and annoyingly. I started doing it too.

My Dad — at 83 — drives a black Jag. When I was 12, he had a gold Jag XKE, sex on wheels! My mother and grandmother drove sports cars into their 60s and I still mourn my beloved red two-seater convertible, a Honda Del Sol, that was stolen from our parking lot and pillaged for parts in 2003.

I saw my first super sexy sports car — a yellow Lotus — in my teens. That was it! I’m the girl who dreams of owning a Porsche Boxster, or maybe a Z4. I’d take a Mercedes or Jag if someone else picked up the payments and the maintenance costs.

But no econo-boxes!

I know, I know, it’s deeply shallow of me to care so much about what the car I drive looks like. Our Subaru is dinged and dented and gray and does its job well, for which we still appreciate it. But I am a total sucker for gorgeous, thoughtful design, whether in fashion, clothing, objects or cars. I was stuck in traffic a while back beside a Maserati — celebrity sighting!

Here’s Wall Street Journal columnist — and a fellow Tarrytown writer I see at Bella’s Diner all the time — Joe Queenan on how boooooring most cars have become:

Bond’s infatuation with his car underscores how little the average man has in common with 007 anymore. When the Bond movies first appeared in the early ’60s, the average guy might not own a Lamborghini or a Porsche or an Aston Martin, but it was still quite possible that he drove a car exuding a certain measure of style: fins, a convertible roof, a two-tone leather interior, fancy hubcaps, perhaps even wood paneling—inside and out. Because of this, he could deceive himself into thinking that there was a little bit of James Bond in all of us. Even if, like me, he was only 11 at the time.

But that was back in an era when men were men and cars were cars. Now all cars look the same. You can see it when the men come pouring out of the multiplex and pile into their automobiles. Honda Civics. Toyota Corollas. An assortment of vehicles that are putatively Ram-tough. And maybe, for the really daring, a Lexus. Which looks like an Elantra. Or a Sonata. Or an Acura.

But it doesn’t look like an Aston Martin.

don’t even get me started on the Priuses.

I myself am just as guilty of this failing as anybody. If Javier Bardem unexpectedly decided to rake my Sienna with merciless machine-gun fire, I’d say, “Be my guest. And strafe the Camry while you’re at it.” I feel the same way about the Nissan hatchback we used to own. A beige hatchback. Torch it, Javier. I’ll lend you the kerosene.

Do you love your ride? Or long for something dreamier?

Road trip!

In behavior, cities, life, travel, women, world on May 22, 2012 at 12:04 am
Open road, B6355 Big sky country, the road ove...

Open road, B6355 Big sky country, the road over the Lammermuir Hills. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I looooooove road trips!

I took the first one when I was too little to even remember it — from my birthplace in Vancouver, Canada all the way to Mexico, in the back seat of my parents’ car. No wonder I’m always eager to get behind the wheel, crank up the radio and flee the jurisdiction.

The New York Times recently ran a great selection of their writers’ favorites, several of which I’ve also done and enjoyed, like Route 100 in Vermont.

Here’s a fantastic recent blog post about driving Highway 1 in California, a classic trip I’ve longed to take.

Some of my favorite road trips include:

— When my Dad and I took a month to drive from Toronto to Vancouver, dipping south of the Canadian border into North and South Dakota along the way to visit some Indian pow-wows. We camped, and woke up to find a large steak and a bag of sugar at our tent door. In one farmer’s field, we camped and were awakened looking up at the owner on his tractor. I think every 15-year-old girl should spend a month with her Dad on the road. You learn a lot about one another.

Like….I am not a morning person. So my Dad would set the alarm for 6:00 a.m. and tell me it was 7:00 a.m. It worked, for a while.

— Our road trip from Mexico City to Taxco to Acapulco, in the mid-1980s. I speak good Spanish so, as the gas gauge fell alarmingly low, he said “There’s a house. Go ask where the nearest gas station is.” When we arrived in Acapulco, he remembered a cheap hotel from a decade or so earlier and there it was.

— My mom and I lived in Mexico when I was 14 and drove all over the place, which was vaguely insane for two women alone, one of whom was 14, with waist-length blond hair.

— Montreal to Savannah, Georgia, crossing — yes, this is its real name — the Great Dismal Swamp in North Carolina, with my Dad. We dipped into tiny coastal towns like Oriental.

— My first husband I drove south from Montreal to Charleston, S.C. where he tried to teach me to drive — why? — on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We visited one of my favorite places ever, Kitty Hawk, N.C. where the Wright Brothers got the very first airplane to fly in 1903. I adore aviation and travel, so these guys are real heroes in my book.

— In Ireland, my Dad and I drove the outer edge of the whole country in a week; as Europeans well know, you can cross several countries in the time it takes to get out of Ontario or Texas. Ireland, side to side, three hours. I’ve spent that in NYC traffic just trying to get home! We visited Rathmullan, Co. Donegal, where my great-grandfather was the teacher in the one-room schoolhouse.

— In 2002 while researching my book about American women and guns, I went to visit a cowboy who lived in the middle of nowhere, between Silver City and Colorado City, Texas. For hundreds of miles, all one could see were oil drills pumping up and down.

Out there, on a long bare and empty stretch of road, my cellphone didn’t work, my gas was getting low and I was a long way from help. Then a white pick-up truck pulled up beside me, with a weathered man at the wheel. “You the writer from New York?”

Um, yes. That lost-tenderfoot thing probably gave me away.

“Follow me!” And when I arrived, his wife Doris showed me a long, narrow, low wooden box. “You’ve probably never seen or heard these and I want you to be safe when you’re here.” Then she opened the box, using a long metal stick. It was full of….live rattlesnakes. 

— Jose, now my husband, took me from his native Santa Fe, New Mexico along the High Road to Taos, through the town of Truchas. Spectacular.

— Alone, in June 1994, I drove in a circle from Phoenix, Arizona north to Flagstaff, saw the Grand Canyon and the  Canyon de Chelly, (inhabited for the past 5,000 years), and arrived back in Phoenix against a sunset sky so yellow and purple and orange — cacti backlit — I felt like a character in a 1940s Disney cartoon.

— I had a great solo road trip, in my beloved red Honda del Sol convertible, (since stolen, from New York to Charlottesville, Virginia. I stayed in B & Bs. I visited Monticello, home to polymath, and its designer, the U.S.’s third president, Thomas Jefferson. I drove through lush hills and valleys in West Virginia that made me feel like someone in a Thomas Hart Benson painting.

I didn’t learn to drive until I was 30, so I had a lot of driving to make up!

Go alone, or with your BFF or your sister or your nephew or Dad or Mom or husband or sweetie.

Pack a cooler with yogurt and green grapes. Bring binoculars and a sense of wonder.

Stop often. Eat well! Get up for dawn.

Drive in the cool of the night, as we did in North Carolina, the scent of dew-covered jasmine filling our nostrils.

But go!

What’s the best (or worst) road trip you’ve ever taken?

You're Driving Me Nuts! How Couples Co-Exist In Cars

In men, travel, women on June 1, 2010 at 11:50 am
AC

Who gets the driver's seat? Image by Hugo90 via Flickr

Anyone who’s spent time in a vehicle with a loved one knows the drill — the gasp, the shriek, the moan, the whine. These are not engine sounds. These are the sounds of your sweetie driving you mad.

Funny story in today’s Wall Street Journal:

Beverly Floyd will never forget the worst argument she ever had with her husband—a fight that saw the couple screaming at each other and hurling insults of “crazy” and “psycho.”

A spat about finances? The kids? Work? Nope. It was about which one of them should gas up the car.

The fireworks started when the couple pulled into a service station while on a return leg of a road trip. Already silently fuming that he hadn’t offered to do his share of the driving, Ms. Floyd was astounded when her then-boyfriend didn’t lift a finger to pump the gas. So she did it herself and paid for it. As she got back into the car, he handed her a $20 bill.

Bad idea. She threw it at him. He tossed it back at her. She ripped it up. He shredded the cash she kept in the ashtray. She ripped up the money in his wallet. All told, they destroyed about $200 in a matter of minutes. (They spent their evening trying to match serial numbers and tape the shredded pieces of money together.)

Then she married him?

The sweetie and I leave this weekend for a road trip to Vermont and Quebec, about six hours of driving each way. That’s nothing, for us, as we’ve made the drive to Toronto — about 10+ hours — several times and once drove from Seattle to Vancouver, Canada late at night in a rush to get to my sick mother. We’re actually pretty good in the car, an old Subaru Forester, as it’s one of our few chances to catch up with one another uninterrupted by phone or computer. He commutes to the city every day so he gets to do (happily) most of the driving because he misses it. When we cross into Canada he jokes with the border guards that he’s returning a national treasure. They’re OK with it.

He does tend to second-guess me sometimes, which irritates the hell out of me. My most egregious slip? Flipping the bird at a driver ahead of us while on a very long bridge. I’ve never seen him so angry, and it’s since verboten. (I still do it, just beneath the dashboard.)

What does your partner do that drives you nuts? Or vice versa?

Here's A Car I Want — A 1950 Nash

In business, design on March 6, 2010 at 5:52 pm
... Nash + babes = Fun!

Image by x-ray delta one via Flickr

I am crazy about great automotive design. I love the chamfered edges of recent Volvos, the dashboard of the Mini Cooper, the swooping curves of the Allard, a British car made between 1936 and 1966. I love the deep bottle green of early MGs, the nuttiness of Karmann Ghias and Deux Chevaux.

My first car, when I finally learned to drive at 30, was a used gray Honda Accord, not sexy, but a great vehicle for rural New Hampshire, where I bought it and lived for a while.

But, no, not my dream car.

At 12, I wanted (still do) a yellow Lotus. My Dad, then, drove a gold Jaguar XKE, sex on wheels. He’s now 80, on the road as I write this, driving from Toronto to Madison, Wisconsin in his black Jag (used, dirt cheap.)

I mourn the loss of the Solstice, which I first saw at the Manhattan Auto Show as a concept car –  I never even got around to test-driving one. They killed the Honda S2000 and I am pissed to read the the Boxster is slipping in its ratings. If I ever have money again, it was top of my list. I’d still like to test-drive a Corvette, Z3 and Z4 and maybe even the Audi convertible.

For a while, I owned, ecstatically, a red Honda Civic del Sol, long since discontinued. Almost nothing I have owned, before or since, made me so damn happy every time I touched it. (It was, of course, stolen from my suburban parking lot, pillaged for parts and written off by the insurance company. Yes, I cried.)

So, geeky girl that I am, I read The New York Times automotive section every week and this week they featured a man and his 1950 Nash. What a gorgeous automobile!

From the Times:

The Ambassador Custom has several distinguishing characteristics. First, there’s the big and bulbous shape. Nash gave a name, Airflyte, to the look. Introduced for the 1949 model year, it was Nash’s first postwar design, and it featured enclosed front wheels for improved aerodynamics.

Nash also increased the turning radius. “When you make a U-turn you kind of have to phone ahead,” Mr. Conaty said as he tried to execute the maneuver on a wide, quiet street. “I’m not going to make it,” he said before resorting to a three-point turn.

Inside, the rumble of the car’s in-line 6 echoed through what Nash brochures promoted as the “Sky-Lounge safety interior.” The seats recline like first-class airline seats. There’s not much to the dashboard. All the dials, the speedometer included, are in a bullet housing on the steering column. The radio occupies the center section of the dash behind a metal roll-up door.

I love its fully-reclining seats — and wonder how many 60-year-old men and women were conceived in one.

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