“Not good,” I said to myself as the needle dropped to zero rpms. “C’mon baby,” I urged my ’96 Ford Probe. 70 mph to 65. 60. 55. I held the accelerator to the floor. Tried pumping it. Finally my little car came back to life. We were on Eastbound I-70 somewhere in Kansas, trying to make it back to Indiana after a week in Colorado.
My husband woke up next to me. I informed him of the neat little tricks my car had been playing. When I couldn’t revive it, I coasted into a rest stop near Abilene. We sat on a bench in the 104 degree afternoon pondering our next move. Michael studied the Haynes Repair Manual he’d bought earlier. I washed my face with cold water in the bathroom. Our friend Kevin read a John Grisham novel and graciously refrained from complaining about the fact that we drug him halfway across the country in this unreliable car, only to maroon him in the middle of nowhere Kansas.
Michael got the car to start and we were off again. For the next 87 miles, we limped along. The Probe would die, sometimes every few miles. Michael would pump the gas pedal, get to the shoulder, put it in neutral and try to restart it before it coasted to a halt. Sometimes revving it in time could keep it from dying. Two excruciating hours and one speeding warning from a Kansas State trooper later, we crawled into Topeka. We’d given up on the air conditioner shortly after Abilene and it was sweltering. Signs warned of construction ahead in the city. Worried about the danger if it died in an area where the shoulder was closed, I strongly advised we bail. We got off at Fairlawn Road, pretty much the first exit within Topeka’s boundaries. The Probe made it up the exit ramp, but died at the first stoplight. The light turned green. The car started. Mid-intersection, it died. The light turned red. Michael rolled it back. After a few cycles of this, Kevin and I jumped out and pushed.
The good news: we pushed it into an auto repair lot. The bad news: it was a Sunday evening; nothing was open. The worst news: we were stranded in Kansas. We sat in the lobby of a Holiday Inn from 3:30 til around 7 just wondering what to do next. Then we checked in. The next day, we rented a huge Uhaul box truck with a tow dolly and towed the silly Probe all the way back to St. Charles, Missouri. We abandoned it in my mom and stepdad’s driveway, dropped off the Uhaul, and drove Michael’s Jetta back to Indiana. Good thing the Jetta was in Missouri. Too bad we didn’t take it to Colorado instead of mine.
So I’m in the market for a car. The possibilities are endless…within budget, of course. But the budget is much better than it was when I bought the Probe back in high school. Now I’m facing my mid-twenties crisis. On the one hand, I’d like to cling to the last vestiges of youth. Now is the time when we have some money and no kids and we can play a bit. I could get a sporty car. Maybe a Mazda Miata, a Saturn Sky Roadster, a Subaru WRX, a Honda S2000 or a Mustang. Or the beast we test-drove today, a 6-speed Camaro SS. It’s a beauty and so much fun. There’s a car that says I’m young and I’m having fun.
On the other hand, the Camaro would significantly raise our insurance rates, especially for Michael (male under 25 = super expensive). And we never know when kids will come along. Sports cars are not exactly the most safe, car seat-ready vehicles on the road.
So maybe a sensible coup. Like a Honda Civic or Accord, Nissan Altima, Pontiac G6, Chevy Cruze or Cobalt, Subaru Impreza…all those and more are on the table. Mostly I like two-door bodies, though it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a bigger car in the long run.
Then there’s our lifestyle to consider. We’re outdoors people. We should have something with 4WD and good clearance. Something that can handle a couple bikes or a canoe or a lightweight pop-up camper. To that end, we’re looking at Jeeps and the Subaru Outback Sport (or maybe the Baja). Or we could buy my dad’s F-150 if he wants to sell it. Hmm.
Like I said, the possibilities are almost endless. In all, I’m just very thankful to be where I am and to even have the opportunity to get a different car. I know I’m blessed. But I have to make a decision. I like to think I’m a responsible, rational adult. I also like the idea of a rugged vehicle when we’re in the mountains, but I don’t know if it’s necessary for the majority of what I’ll be using it for. And I love the idea of a sports car. Live a little, right? If I don’t do it in my mid-twenties, I’ll have to wait for mid-life. And that still seems a long way off. I hope.
Advice is welcome from all who read this blog. Particular cars you love or hate? General thoughts? Let’s hear it!