Driving and Biking in the Big City

Vinny and me

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Vinny is ready for a canoe trip

Vinny is ready for a canoe trip

I feel the clock ticking on my commuting days with Vinny the hot red Xterra as my sidekick. I know this because I find my eye wandering to sleek new models on the highways and my thoughts turning to the wonderful and unique smell of “new car.”

As a Texan who lived in Detroit, I come by my love of cars naturally. And, while I’m loyal and getting pretty level-headed with finances these days, I still love the thrill of shopping for a new vehicle with the thought of opening it up on the long and winding road.Vinny recently passed 170,000 miles and I still hope for more. But, I feel the call of the wild.  I’ve been shopping a bit for replacement vehicles and thought recently that his commuting days were at an end. He’s been in the shop off and on for the last several months — costing me $500 or more with every repair. He will be due for inspection in January and last January we were lucky to get a pass. I’m prepared for the worst or else the time may come sooner.

I have driven a fully loaded Nissan Rogue with a moon roof and four-way cameras on all sides. My family seems to believe that the cameras are a great idea with my commando style of driving. Then, the 2013 Pathfinder has been redesigned for long road trips, my favorites. And, of course, I’m always drawn to another convertible.

Dan and Derrick, my friends and mechanics, advised me to purchase Vinny when the Xterra was a new idea, and they’ve never steered me wrong. That means they worked on no fewer than four used cars that I’d bought for my two kids at mileages over 100,000 and for $6,000 and less.  I believe my daughter’s Sweet Sixteen Corsica only had 60,000 miles and was the only real deal I got. Then came my son’s Mustang that burned up on Highway 59, a Pathfinder that my daughter had and  passed on to my son who totaled it while wearing his Batman t-shirt and then the short-lived Isuzu we bought from an engineer and that should have lasted longer because of the original owner’s excessive fastidiousness.

We had just welcomed a new century, and I was commuting the 30 miles or so to Houston in a mom mobile at the time I switched to Vinny.  I had raised my kids in a convertible with hardly a back seat when I switched to a green Grand Caravan — just when the kids didn’t want to be in the car with me anymore. I remember wanting to trade it in within weeks of its purchase because there were so many green vans in the parking lots I frequented. Once, I even got into someone else’s green van, thinking my automatic opener had worked. It was after I was sitting inside and looking around that I realized I had the wrong vehicle.

I went down immediately to a car dealership and found a similar model that was a different color. Gold instead of green this time. I can remember sitting in the salesman’s office with him saying, “Now, why is it you want to trade in your almost new  van?”

As a woman who prides herself on her non-materialistic and sophisticated nature, I heard the words come out of me, “I wanted a different color.” How shallow. I immediately grabbed my keys, headed out of the dealership and remained silent about choosing the most popular color for a mom mobile of the times.

As my Grand Caravan crossed 126,000 miles, dozens of tennis team trips and innumerable outings for both girl and boy middle schoolers, Dan called to say, “Mrs. Hensley, please don’t make us fix your car again.” They recommended a Nissan, Vin Diesel was just out in the movie “XXX” and Vinny was bought and christened.

As I say on Vinny’s home page, I have spent more time in the last 10 years — now 12 — than I have with any other vehicle, creature, person, etc., in my life. He has protected me through four car crashes in Big City traffic and has  become exactly what I wanted in a commuting vehicle. Something tough, high sitting for the routine Houston flooding and basically a road warrior. He sits up high so that I can view my domain and the whizzing 18-wheelers and lane weavers. He’s tough and resilient, fending off flying debris from big trucks in front of us. Sitting all day in a crowded lot in the medical center where aggressive parkers may or may not give him a smack.

Tomorrow, I will get back inside for another commute. Vinny will fire up, drive smoothly and we will make my way to the medical center. He doesn’t have the perks of today’s new cars, his driver’s seat is a bit frayed and the lining in the ceiling is hanging a bit low. In any case, Vinny will never be a trade-in. He is far more valuable to me than he would be as a number to the bottom line.


Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

November 11, 2012 at 7:15 pm

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