Name That Car

“Well we’re riding on the freeway.
Oh lord, we can’t stop that.
Yeah we’re riding on the freeway.
Gonna love in my pink Cadillac.”
(1985) “Freeway Of Love” Recorded By: Aretha Franklin Composers: Jeffery Cohen & Narada Michael Walden

I blame my grandmother, really. From the moments of my earliest memories, I learned she named each and every vehicle they ever owned. My granddad was a mechanic for an Oldsmobile/Cadillac dealership for many decades, and took care of his vehicles as if they were his children, but he never named them. Nope, that was up to his wife. I am fairly sure it all goes back to their earlier days when they named their horses along with some of their cows, (The ones who didn’t go to the slaughter houses.)

Photo: My grandmother with her prize horse, Ginger.

Her choices were very descriptive. From what I recall, there would be a “Misty”, an “Old Blue”, and a favorite entitled, “Fancy”. Each one lived up to its name, by appearance.

Photo: My grandparents with one of their earlier cars.

So, I didn’t have a chance. I, too, named all of my vehicles. Just to name a few, there was, “Brit”, “Moose”, and “Rocket”. Unfortunately for me, when I name a vehicle, like a pet, I tend to think of them as…well…okay, I’ll admit it, like a pet. Of course, the car has no feelings toward me, or sit at my knee at dinner moaning for a nibble off of my plate. However, my vehicles were fed whenever they needed feeding by way of oil, gasoline, and whatever fluids when low.

Moose, my beloved, Isuzu Trooper, was the toughest vehicle I ever owned. Honestly, you could go to war in that thing. (In fact, some militaries from various nations have.) Moose was a die hard SUV that served my family for about 17 years with very little auto repair garage time. A terrific road life. I raised my three daughters in that vehicle. When getting out of school at the end of their day, they knew to look for Moose and his luggage rack on top. Later, we added a Toyota 4Runner as a mate in the garage. However, Moose saw a failed marriage, a remarriage, and the marriage of my oldest daughter, as well as the birth of my granddaughter. He survived a move from Dallas to Buffalo, NY, and then another move back to Dallas five years later.

Photo: Renea, my half-sister, and Moose.

What he didn’t survive was outdoor parking where the neighborhood squirrels enjoyed the taste of the plastic covering of the wires in the engine. One day, on the way to the studio for another day at work, a small fuel leak ignited against a naked wire which started an engine fire. Yes, Moose could’ve had surgery to replace the damaged wires, but the wallet, and his high mileage, said no way. You may think I’m nuts, but I shed some tears as I cleaned out Moose and said farewell, along with a little prayer of thanks for the wonderful SUV which took very good care of my family.

At the time of Moose’s curb-side memorial service, my wife and I were temporarily without transportation. In Dallas, there is a fabulous mass transit system, however, not so much in the suburbs. Plus, I just couldn’t imagine being without a vehicle. So the hunt was on.

Enter, “Sampson”, a charcoal 2008 Nissan Xterra.

Photo: Sampson enjoying a rare snowfall in Dallas.

Although he came to us at two years old, with only 23k miles under his fan belt, he was an almost perfect replacement for dear old Moose. He was sharp, quick, and his horsepower was breathtaking. I lost just a tad of cargo space, but he still had loads of hauling room. I treated him with kid gloves. Anything Sampson needed, he got. Over 12 years and 97k miles, our relationship grew into…well…okay, love. Sampson saw another daughter married away, a graduation for another, and a full-organ shutdown, and years later, a quadruple bypass. YES! I LOVED THAT SUV! My wife did too, with the exception that he rode a bit like a jeep, just a bit bumpy for her taste.

Unfortunately, over the last 5 years, I have had to spend a few thousand dollars on parts and labor for the old lad. Recently, his heater core began to slowly leak antifreeze, promising to get worse. It was going to be another $800 to replace the core. At the same time, I knew the brakes would need replacing later in the year. I made the decision to get the heater core replaced about 12 weeks ago. The dealership had to order the heater core, as Nissan no longer produces the Xterra. There was no ETA given, and frankly, I was beginning to believe the part was on a cargo ship stuck out in the Pacific waiting to be unloaded at a thinly managed shipping port. While calling each week, waiting for that part to arrive at the dealership, the calendar punished me. The inspection and registration ran out. I was faced with driving a leaking SUV around illegally, or buying a horse. With a little pressure from my better half, we made the choice to trade Sampson, and her failing VW, in for a newer model.

It was a difficult time, as I hugged the grill of Sampson on that cold February morning. I wiped his headlights as I thanked him for his service during both happy and challenging times in my life. Sampson seemed to wink in an acknowledgment. Afterwards, I quickly looked around to see if any of the neighbors saw my conversation . At least my grandmother would’ve been pleased.

Last week, we found a beautiful, 2016, Toyota Rav4 XLE. His name is, “Silver”. After 30 years of driving large SUV types, I am adjusting to a smaller one. Also, my ailing mom finds it easier to get in/out of this SUV. That needed to happen. So far, we feel we made the right choice.

It’s always been heart wrenching for me to let go of vehicles in my life. Although unhealthy to think of a machine as a living, breathing pet, I have held a sincere heart of thanksgiving to my sets of wheels. My handwriting suffers greatly when signing the back of the car title. When finishing the letter, “N” on my last name, I release the air I hold in my lungs as I pass it on to a new owner.

Have you ever felt like you were traded in for a newer model? Really, think back on your journey. Like yesterday’s rag, being tossed out of a job, a friendship, or even a marriage, the feeling of failure and loss is the same, to certain degrees.

In today’s culture, so many over 60 are no longer respected, or admired. Often times, those past their prime can be viewed as useless, or forgotten. Many don’t look forward to family reunions, or holiday gatherings, because of the unmistakable notion that they have been demoted, or put out to pasture somehow. Age and disabilities have a tendency to beat on the mind, the heart, and the spirit. Once, the mailbox, or in-box was full of Valentine cards and wishes, where now, only echoes of the past can be retrieved. Demotion is a hard thing, especially when you know you have plenty of mileage left to give.

Humanity. Always recall the biblical truth concerning humanity. It is fallen to start with. Humanity came off the assembly line in perfect condition until the first couple fell short of perfection by choice. Humans will let you down, one way or the other. If you’ve been free from this issue, just wait around awhile.

Have you compared yourself to others around you way too often? Is your “get up and go” not what it once was? Maybe, just maybe, you leak from the tank of kindness at times. Maybe you are shy a spark, or two. Have you discovered you are low on battery power in your spiritual road in life? You’ve tried to pray, but you just can’t turn over a decent sentiment that’s directly from a humble heart. As you check under the hood, have you observed a few issues on your intake, and exhaust? Could it be your self-placed air and fuel filters have allowed garbage to enter into your cylinders? Do you wonder if God Himself has given up on you?

Yet, there is One Who never will trade you in because of your personal faultiness. Over, and over again, He has stated in scripture that He will never sign the back of your title. He is the ultimate mechanic, parts-maker, and technician. He’s never going to wait on a component to arrive on a ship from Japan to bring you up to your best. He creates new hearts, new spirits, new light. God will never, ever sign you over to be sold in an auction. That is such good news.

Don’t look to your own power, but search for His fuel for the race.

…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought for a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” I Corinthians 6:19-20 (NAS)