in his backyard haven

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Our CARS Part 2 of 3

Part II of III

People, watch out when your partner disappears for a year!

In 1983 Dennis went to Sicily for a one year remote assignment.  That means the wife gets to stay home with five kids and “carry on” while the Dad is carousing around “club med”.  Liz was learning to drive and we had carpools all over Sherwood, North Little Rock and downtown Little Rock.  It was becoming very difficult to transport the crowd of six.  (What will we do when Dad gets back?  We can’t fit seven people in one car.)  On Friday, January 13th 1984 the house burned down from a lightening strike.  (another blog entry)  With the proceeds from my jewelry claims I had $7000 plus and determined we would get a vehicle big enough for all the kids and Mom and Dad!  The kids and I were excited about a “van”.  (Remember, Dennis was in Sicily - I was on my own!)  But, I was “SOLD” the first ever Dodge minivan; it was all white with red vinyl seats and held seven passengers.  I had to wait for delivery but I put that whole $7K as a down payment.  I was damn proud of myself!  When the kids came home from school I told them we would be getting a new car that would hold everyone.  Joe said: “Oh Mom, I hope you didn’t buy one of those white mini-vans with red seats - they’re so cheesy!”  (eye-roll)  We had a family discussion and the next day I went back to the dealer and asked for a refund.  He was stunned!!!!  Asking me “why”, I explained that I had promised a “van” to my kids and we really needed something bigger than the seven passenger.   I said I’ll keep looking.  Imagine, they produced a used12 passenger Chevrolet diesel van!  It was ugly brown and tan - but it accommodated TWELVE!  We had a blast in that thing!  It became the star in future vacations and I became the carpool Queen!

Dennis was stunned that I bought a diesel and was a bit worried.  But he checked with the motor pool guys and learned that I bought a very fine “Cummings Diesel”!  It served us pretty well - but wasn’t without some drama:

  • surfing to the “Beach Boys” ~ if we removed all the seats the kids could stand up and “surf” as we embraced the Arkansas hills...
  • plenty of room beneath the bench-style seats meant we could stash a full sheet cake on the floor under the front seat but it slid all the way to the back seat - under Amy’s feet - boy was Dennis livid when she stepped down on that cake and tracked it all over the car....
  • National Lampoon’s Vacation O’Donnell style ... at the Grand Canyon we stowed all the kids in the car but didn’t latch the rear doors ~~~  yup - luggage strewn for half a mile.... (no blonde in red Ferrari - heh heh)
  • You can fit a whole Christmas tree inside the van ...  too bad it was riddled with ticks!!!
  • Oh, and don’t forget when the brake peddle just fell off - yes, thankfully I was driving uphill to Mt. St. Mary’s High School and I had to use a privet hedge to stop!
  • The last vacation was cross country to California when the fuel filters (there were two) clogged up and Liz - the driver - was harassed for driving too slow on the highway.  “But, Dad, I’m practically standing on the gas peddle!”  That was east of Albuquerque; by the time we arrived in Albuquerque the electrical went berserk and the door locks were popping up and down, the windshield wipers flapped at full speed and she died just as we cruised into downtown Albuquerque.
  • When we got back home one of Den’s buddies was going to help him replace the fuel pump and do a little minor “overhaul”.  They began stripping the engine parts because the pump and some other part were unitized under the engine.  Well Den was working on one side and the other guy on the opposite side.  Each had beautifully laid out all their parts in nice orderly fashion.  The other guy got a phone call about some emergency and he took off.  Poor Den was yelling something about “all those parts on your side of the van...”    
  • I guess we left that thing in Arkansas ~~~ LOL.

Our second brand new car was ordered by me, from Arkansas, but negotiated by Dennis in California.  Liz, a student at UCLA, was commissioned to accompany her Dad and “make sure” he gets cobalt blue - not burgundy.  Liz can fill in the details about she and her Dad wheeling and dealing to find Mom the perfect newest model - yet again - 1988 CHEVY CORSICA.   Some details of the process included a cocky salesman who asked if Dennis’ “wife” (Liz) liked the choice; when Liz promptly corrected the man he made passes at her.  Dennis was on cloud nine...

Now, in case you are keeping track of the thread you should have noticed that most Chevy’s seemed to get traded after a significant usage.  The Corsica lasted about 12 years - it was our first disappointment with Chevrolet.  The engine was terrific but the paint peeled off and the accessories failed rapidly.  We tried to DONATE it but it kept coming back to us.

Meanwhile - we were still driving the 1970 Monte Carlo!  We drove that thing for 32 years!  Someone decided to try to “fix it up” and enter it in the annual Route 66 parade.  I don’t know if it made it to the parade but it caused great “mourning” for Dennis to part with his beloved Monte!

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