My Wheels!

We got our first taste of wintry weather on Saturday afternoon into the evening. The temperature was hovering just below freezing, and the rain that began in the afternoon turned into freezing rain and swiftly made local highways dangerous. There were numerous vehicle accidents and road closures.

My husband and I went into town late Saturday morning to run some errands, the last of which was grocery shopping for our upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. The rain began just as we entered the grocery store and my husband advised that we be very speedy in our shopping, as he was concerned that the roads might get bad. And so we did. And they did. We were home, safe and sound, when the first alerts were issued to stay off the local roads and the first photos showed up on social media of various road closures (that included I-99, the road we had just traveled home on). Whew! A narrow escape!

But when we awoke on Sunday morning, it was much warmer and balmier out. The temperatures rose, some clouds rolled in, and my husband suddenly decided it was time that we wash and wax my car, a 1998 Mazda Protege. So we got out some buckets and soap and rags and wax and Armorall and my mini-vacuum, and away we went. After about two hours of both of us working (he was "wax on," I was "wax off"), the car was clean and shiny, and I took some photos to document the moment. Ready for winter! And one last touch: I placed a snow brush/ice scraper in the back seat.

I know that it is a bit unusual for me to post a photo of a car here, but this is the place where I document my life and I talk about my love of photography. A personal vehicle has always been very important to me. Having a driver's license and wheels of my own has always represented freedom (and control over my destiny) to me in a way that nothing else can.

Many of the photos posted to these pages were taken while I was driving around in this car, on my way to somewhere or other, somehow still managing to fit in a few minutes of picture taking here and there. Hop out, snag a few shots, hop back in. And so it is that my Mazda, like my camera, though in a much less direct manner, has become an instrument to support my photography habit.

I bought this car on April 19, 2002. At the time, it had just under 40,000 miles on it. I was at a local used car dealership, looking for a back-up car for my 1987 Nissan Stanza (which I also loved!), which was starting to get old. I was actually looking at a station wagon, which it turns out was WAY too big for me, when I saw this little gold car sitting right next to it. Hmmm, what's this . . . my husband (boyfriend at the time) and I said to each other.

And then we got inside and drove it, and that was the end of the story. The car was well-equipped in every way: an automatic transmission (no, I don't do "stick"), marvelous AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo, a moon roof, power windows and door locks, the whole nine yards (as we say in the U.S.). And the handling! It drove like a dream! And it cornered like nobody's business! SOLD!!!

I paid for the Mazda with a check that very day and we took it home, where it served as a back-up car to my Stanza until we sold that little Stanza in September of 2004, shortly after I moved into my new house. At that point, I was living further from town and walking to work was no longer an option, so a car was a necessity rather than just a nicety.

The car currently has short of 140,000 miles on it. It is still in good shape and I am hoping that it lasts a few more years. As far as gas mileage goes, it gets in the low 30s miles per gallon on local trips, more like mid 30s on highway driving. It has some great tires on the front as we head into winter: Dunlap Signature 2, which are excellent for ice and snow.

Since 2004, I've driven the Mazda most days of the week, and I've been nothing but pleased with it. In the mornings, when I drive to work, I usually have a hot cup of coffee in the cup holder and am jamming out to some serious tunes. I am flying down the highway with these wheels as my wings. I am free as a bird! I am living my dream!

Nobody but the Boss could provide a soundtrack that would describe how I feel about this car. So here is a car tune, with the Boss and friends rockin' it old school: Bruce Springsteen, Thunder Road, live at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1975.

And now let's sing it together just one more time . . . The screen door slams. Mary's dress waves. Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays . . .

P.S. For the record, since we're talking cars, here's a short list of other cars I have owned: a 1974 baby blue Ford Torino, which I bought from my dad for $500 in May of 1986 ("I've got a lemon for you, doll-baby," my dad chortled as he drove me home from college for the last time; and then he sold me my Torino).  And a 1987 blue Nissan Stanza GXE, which I purchased in the fall of 1989; and sold the baby blue Torino to my oldest sister . . . for $500. My oldest sister also loaned me a blue 1974 Plymouth Valiant to use during the summer of 1984, when I worked at Knoebel's Grove and lived with my second-oldest sister and her family in Elysburg, PA.

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