Drive, baby, drive

This is going to sound like a commercial.

It’s not.

No, this is a love story between a woman and her Subaru. And just like any love story, this driver had to drive a lot of toads before she found her prince.

I’ve had a long relationship with cars — most of them bad.

It began in 1973, before I even had a driver’s license. My dad decided my sister Peggy and I would buy a car together because she needed one for college. She couldn’t afford it on her own and dad knew I’d been saving babysitting money. So he ordered me to hand it over so Peggy would have wheels. She would drive it for two years, then pass it down to me. But I had to pay half the bills while she was driving it and I never got to drive it in that two years. And when it came down to me, there was nobody to share in the bill paying.

Bad deal, bad car. That Ford Fairlane was a dud. When I finally did get the car, it conked out every time it rained or misted because the distributor cap cracked. I was better off on my 1973 Columbia Tourister. The chain never came off and I was a pretty fast bike rider back in the day.

Next was the Bronze Bomber. It might have been a Thunderbird. I was never a car expert and in those days was just looking for something to get me from here to there. My dad paid $300 for it the day I learned I was hired at the La Crosse Tribune and then made me promise not to tell my siblings he had done that because he couldn’t afford to do it for everyone. The trunk was so big I got a kitchen table, sewing machine, the Columbia Tourister, and some suitcases in it. But it was terrible to park and it had a hole in the gas tank.

Next up was the Dodge Dart. It stalled at intersections and was put out of my misery 11 months after I bought it when a drunk driver crashed into it and totaled it.

I thought my Prince came along with my next car, a 1977 Ford Mustang. But it leaked oil and I had to add a can every time I filled the gas tank.

My first brand new car was a Mazda hatchback. It was pretty good but we just never had that certain spark between us.

I graduated to a Tracker in 1985 and had a lot of fun with it until I rolled it on an icy interstate on the way to my dad’s funeral. That’s when the voice of reason sounded loud and clear in my head and I decided my next car was going to be very safe.

And that’s when I met my 1996 Subaru Impreza Outback. It was love at the first tap of the anti-lock brakes as the salesman demonstrated its safety on the snowy roads in Pettibone Park. And then I discovered the joys of all-wheel drive on Wisconsin’s winter roads and that sealed the deal. It was great for hauling auction finds and it had the bonus of a roof rack.

I was in love and everyone knew it. When I met other Subaru drivers at the gas pumps, we would gush about our love affair with our vehicles.

All was well until 2008 when the transmission began to slip on the Subaru. I knew I was going to have to replace it and I started thinking about a small, fuel-efficient car. That meant no more gas-guzzling all-wheel drive and I decided to switch to a Toyota Yaris.

But we never clicked as a couple. It didn’t hold as many auction finds as the Subaru, it didn’t have all-wheel drive, it didn’t have a roof rack and it didn’t have my heart. I lasted in that car for seven years. But every time a Subaru passed us, I would sigh, and yearn for what I once had.

“Its like I had a really great boyfriend and I just tossed him aside,” I told my sister. And no other boyfriend could compare.

So, in April, after my brother-in-law did some scouting online, I walked into Dahl, took a test drive in a Subaru Impreza wagon, and agreed to buy it that day. We’ve been tooling down the road together ever since and I couldn’t be happier.

Once again, I have all-wheel drive. Once again I have a roof rack. Once again I can go to a farm auction, park in a field, and know I can drive out of it without getting stuck.

If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

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I am a techno-dummy

I apologize.

There are many things I could apologize for, but today’s apology is for my admitted lack of skill and interest in technology — specifically in social media.

It seems that in the last year, 193 people have tried to connect with me on Linked In, but I didn’t know it because I never link.

I discovered this because there was a little button on top of inbox that said “social.” When I clicked on it, there were 525 messages from Linked In, responses to my blog, GoodReads news and Pinterest notifications. And the Graphic Fairy has been sending tons of clip art that I had not seen until today. I had this whole other phantom inbox I didn’t know existed.

For the last hour and a half, I’ve been catching up, accepting links (Yes, Susan T. Hessel and Richard Mial, we should now be Linked in), not that it will do me much good. I can’t promise I’ll check for social media contacts frequently. I can promise I will do it more than once a year, though, which would be improving the odds drastically.

I figured if I kept up on Facebook, that was work enough for one woman. Evidently, it is not.

While I’ve been missing from Linked In, people have been recommending me for my talents. It also says I’m a reporter-columnist for the La Crosse Tribune. I don’t know how to change that to retired, even though Linked In sent me a message saying that editing would be easy. So one thing I’ve established is that Linked In lies.

One of my most treasured parts of being retired is not being forced to learn new technologies. When I got a new TV, my sister Therese set it up for me. She even set up my new landline phone and when it comes time to replace my basic cell phone, she’ll be the one helping me pick a new one and then she’ll program it.

When I couldn’t install my own router, Charter did it for me.

When I get messages from my computer I don’t understand, I delete them.

I know everyone worries about privacy for their information on the Internet. I’m not as worried as some. I don’t bank online. I don’t pay bills online. I don’t order anything online. I’m an offline gal in an online world and I’m hoping to keep it that way.

I have hope because this is not my first rodeo. When everybody started ditching their LPs for CDs, I held out. And lo, and behold, vinyl got hip again. I wasn’t about to buy all my favorite James Taylor, Rolling Stones, Beatles and the Association records on CD when they sounded just fine on the turntable.

I know everybody else is doing the i-tunes or Spotify or whatever it is called. Not me. I bought James Taylor’s new album on CD. Yes, I do have one of those new-fangled CD players, but I still have my turntable and my tape deck, too.

So go ahead and reply to this blog — I’ll try to read it. Link in with me and I’ll try to link back. Or just hit me up on Facebook. I’m going there right now to play some Candy Crush.

Yes, some of this new-fangled stuff is A-OK.

Hot enough for ya?

Is it hot enough for ya?

Yeah, I already know the answer.

In a couple of months we’ll be muttering about howling winds, bitter cold and too much snow. But, for now, we are obsessed with the heat index.

Or maybe I don’t speak for all of us. I just know I am obsessed with the weather.

Years ago, in my letter-writing years (yes, actually putting pen to paper), my brother Tom would tell me that every letter I wrote him included some reference to the weather. I became self-conscious about it and stopped mentioning how hot or cold I was, but I still kept thinking about it.

Maybe I think about it so much because it dictates how my day will progress. On a hot day like yesterday where the heat index hit 98 (I like to use the heat index number because it’s so much scarier sounding than the actual temperature), all I did was pop in and out of the garage to work on a few projects. I was never out there for more than a few minutes.

When it’s a wonderful 71 degrees and breezy, I bike longer, I walk greater distances and I putter happily around the yard. Sometimes it just feels good to walk around the garden, pulling a weed here and there, finding a stake to prop up a drooping New England aster, or retrieving a garden tool abandoned where I last weeded. Puttering becomes my main occupation in nice weather and along the way I manage to get quite a bit accomplished.

But when the heat index hits 98 degrees, I feel as trapped in the house as I do when the wind chill measures 30 degrees below zero.

So, yes, I am constantly switching to the Weather Channel to check out how comfortable or uncomfortable I’ll be if I step outside. That’s who I am, Tom, so consider this your letter with my update on the weather.