Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Dream Car

As I drove to take Hubby some lunch at work the other day, I passed a wonderful thing. Though this two-door hatchback sports car was the wrong color, an awful teal that was very popular back in the early nineties, a flood of memories came back to me as I remembered my own college car. My pink 1994 Plymouth Sundance.

At least, what paint was left was pink.

For my first year of school in Salt Lake City, I rode public transportation. And did I ever learn some interesting things about people as I rode two buses, 1.6 hours one-way to get to the International Airport for my flight lessons and work (one of my jobs during my stay in SLC was to be an administrative assistant for my flight school. I also worked in the library on campus). It was a time-consuming way to get around such a large city, especially since I literally had to go from one side of town (up on the eastern bench of the Wasatch mountains) all the way to the west side of the valley to the airport. And, thanks to my mad skills at becoming car sick if I look down for just a few seconds, I wasn't really able to use the travel time to study. I even rode my bike to the airport a few times, but it's mostly downhill and thus not very impressive (and I only did a a few times before realizing I was crazy for riding twelve miles in the city with a heavy flight bag attached to my back). My bus trip to the airport was made about five times each week.

When it came time to move to North Dakota, my parents let me use the pink Plymouth Sundance for my trip. And, they let me use it during my full four years in North Dakota! What champs! It ended up being such a neat little car for me. Before I left Utah, my step-dad installed an engine block heater inside my hood. I wasn't sure what this was for until I arrived in North Dakota two days later to find it was minus thirty degrees. That's right...I moved to the upper Midwest in the dead of winter! I knew I had made a mistake when I first stepped out of my car, houseplants in hand, only to watch them die instantly when feeling the fifty-degrees-below-zero windchill. Ah, those were the days.

I drove that car for three and a half years. I faithfully "plugged it in" everywhere I went, but especially overnight at my apartment (I wasn't senior enough in the house to get the single garage spot that came with paying rent). All the stores have electrical outlets at each parking spot so cars can be plugged in to keep them warm. Some folks just left their cars running while they ran into the store. That's how neat Grand Forks was...doors could be left unlocked and cars could be left unattended. Most people, however, used remote starters on their cars to warm the engines and the interior before even heading out into the bitter cold. Because my pink Plymouth Sundance was a stick-shift and not an automatic, I could never get such a wonderful contraption to save my frozen fingers. And toes. And nose. And everything, really. 

One of the greatest days of my life was when I threw away all of my thermal underwear after moving from Grand Forks.

My parents had purchased the car from chain smokers who politely left several cigarette burns in the top of the roof lining. I rigorously scrubbed the interior to prevent the smoke smell from staying long. My shifter quickly lost its top due to the cold not helping glue stick for long, so for most of my stay in North Dakota, I drove around with a carefully-wrapped-in-duct-tape shifter in my hands. It was nice being able to use my gears to help me slow down on ice, too. Man, I hate driving on ice. For six months straight. With 40-MPH wind gusts. But that little car stayed true to the end. Not the bright pink paint. It was trying to leave the car faster than most people were trying to leave North Dakota.

In the summer of 2005, my dad drove from Phoenix to Grand Forks for his last trip in his Ford Taurus. Before he moved to Mexico, I was lucky enough to receive his 2002 car with 194,000 miles on the odometer. I put my little pink Plymouth Sundance up for sale and actually got $900 for it after just a few weeks. Cash. From a night-shift construction worker. Which made me nervous because he was actually excited about the pink. No doubt that little car is still running around North Dakota at speeds barely trackable on a radar gun. And I'm still driving that Ford Taurus, which is about to tip 230,000 miles. Who would have thought it could go so long!

My little pink Plymouth Sundance was such a great little car, and seeing its twin the other day reminded me of all the fun times driving around such a hopping city. Well, at least we were hopping after the Super Target came to town. That's right...Grand Forks had a Super Target (I worked there for three years during school)! And Walmart wasn't even a grocery store yet (though rumor has it that it certainly is now). I knew it was rush hour when I saw more than three cars at a stop light.

Thanks for being such a little trooper, Pinky. And thanks, Mom and Merrill, for letting me take it to the Great North for school. I can't imagine riding my bike in February to get around there!

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