Car Stories

Our next two MIS trips, we joined the ranks of day-trippers.

For the first one, we still had my little Dodge Neon. The car hadn’t yet been through a damaging hail storm, a ride through a ditch on a water-covered road home and one full-on accident.

The hailstorm repair left it with a leaky sunroof, a tail light that had not properly been reinstalled, and back seat floorboards flooded with water. Lesson learned: Pop-up, post storm, windshield replacement and dimple remover outfits that camp out in parking lots, aren’t the best way to go.

Jeff was driving for our low-car off-road experience. We were coming up on a corner, and as we rounded, we noticed the truck in front of us weave. It ran off the road, into a ditch and drove right up over the drain pipe to land on someone’s driveway.

When that water-ballet ended, I realized there were two other cars stalled in the water that the truck had been trying to avoid. Headed for a collision, I shouted at Jeff, “Ditch! Ditch! Ditch!” Jeff swung the car to the right. I’m not sure how our little car didn’t roll. It really should have, since Jeff was on the up side of the down-slope. Jeff kept hold of the wheel, veered back to the left, gunned the engine and tried for a similar path to the driveway that truck was, thankfully, no longer in.

To Jeff’s credit, he didn’t even try to clear the pipe. He just jammed on the gas and barreled us up one of the graveled sides. The underside scraped along the rocks, but we made it to level ground. Without stopping, Jeff maneuvered us out of the driveway. We skidded along a white picket fence that I am still amazed we did not crash through or damage in the slightest. We shot around the standing water, completely avoiding the stalled cars.

Neither one of us said a word. Finally, at the first stop light we came to, Jeff sort of chuckled. “That was some pretty fancy drivin’,don’t ya think?” I agreed and remarked how I just could not believe we came through that unharmed, with no damage to the car.

Jeff tapped the side of his head with a curved pointer finger. “I was thinkin’ like a race-car driver,” he grinned , proudly. “Good thing, I’ve seen a lot of races!”

Our amazement ended about a half-hour after that, when just a few miles from home, the Neon began to smoke under the hood. We’d busted the radiator. Later, I noticed a raw, red spot on Jeff’s left temple where he’d scraped against the window frame and roof. That wasn’t that much of a surprise, considering he normally drove the car with a height-adjusting, slight-head tilt, anyway.

The third strike against my mini, really too-small-for-Jeff, but great gas mileage commuter car, was pretty much a head-to-side collision. That time, I was driving the same ditched road. A little farther on down the stretch, I approached a green traffic light, that quickly turned yellow. I considered hitting the brakes, but when it became clear I wasn’t going to be able to stop in time or behind the line, I hit the gas.

It was Jeff’s turn to shout. “Stop! Stop! Stop!” A large white truck had decided to beat the light on his side and cut directly in front of me. Even standing on the brakes, I hit their right front tire, head-on.  Jeff ended up with deep bruising and a seat-belt rub across his chest. The crazy left-turner ended up with a broken front axel on his brand-new truck, and a ticket.

I didn’t end up with a ticket, but we did have to have the car towed from Saline to Tecumseh. Our insurance paid for a rental car, since the police report had shown the other driver to be at fault. The Dodge dealer inspected the damage, and estimated repairs.   Before we had a chance to get back there, it occurred to us all of our purchased Christmas presents were still in the Neon’s trunk. We didn’t have any real storage space in our apartment, so we figured the best place to store it all was in the car.

When we did finally get to the car shop to discuss the repairs, it became clear that it might be time for a new car, anyway. So, we traded the Silver Pea (as Jeff referred to it) for a much larger, used, gold Buick Century. Not long after, we began to see a lot of gold Buick Century’s driven by a much older crowd. So much so, that it was actually a little difficult to locate ours in parking lots, sometimes.

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