The one crucial item for every road trip I’ve ever taken is the car. I suppose you can bike the country or even take part in long cattle drives out west. Under certain circumstances I could consider those road trips. This post however is a dedication to the various cars I’ve owned.
The first car I kind of owned was a 1979 Trans Am. My dad bought it when I was 10 as a play toy. By the time I was old enough to drive he would let me borrow it from time to time. My dad rarely said no to me, so gradually it went from borrowing it once a week to driving it every day to school. After I graduated, for several years it became my daily ride. Once I got a full-time job at 19, I began to really pitch in with the car. I put multiple radiators in it (the large engine would constantly overheat) and more mufflers than I can count (it was so low that it would grind on any speed bump or dip in the road). In the late 90’s I had it taken apart, stripped, sanded, and repainted (see below). Six months and $6,500 later it looked pretty snazzy. After my dad passed away I sold the car. I didn’t have the time/money to keep restoring it and it didn’t seem right without him.
The only times I’ve taken the Trans Am on any sort of long trip was to visit my family in Ohio. When I was 18 I started driving my parents there, a departure from them doing all the driving. Like any old car it had it’s problems…only the driver’s seat had a working seat belt, the t-tops leaked a little, and the speedometer didn’t work. Fortunately no speedometer meant my mom couldn’t nag me for speeding. I once turned what google maps says is a 6 hour trip into 5 hours! I’m not in such a hurry these days, but with a car like that how could you not speed? Fun fact, if you go fast enough rain water will shoot over the car and not flood you if the t-top panels are off.
So the furthest south I had taken it was Baltimore, the furthest north into Philly, the furthest east was to the beach, and the first west was Youngstown, Ohio.
Don’t get me wrong I liked my second car, but a ’79 Trans Am is a hard act to follow. As underwhelming an upgrade as it was, the TA was followed by a 1996 Buick Regal, red with grey leather interior. What it lacked in style it made up for in ruggedness. I was at a stop sign once and an old guy in a Lexus decided to turn into my lane and hit me head on. I ended up with some scratches I was able to rub out. He had his headlights destroyed and bumper dented in. He was pretty cool about it, apologized profusely, and laughed about the whole thing. We shook hands and went our separate ways. Below isn’t the exact car I owned, but that’s what it looked like.
By the time I had this car I was a little more independent and willing to explore further from home. So heading south I took it to Washington, D.C. or maybe Virginia. The furthest north would probably be to New York City. East and West would be the same, the Atlantic Ocean and Ohio. I had this car for 4 or 5 years before I sold it for 2 grand to a waitress who worked down the street. I had just put in $2,000 worth of repairs so selling it was really just a wash.
In 2003 I had been promoted and given a nice raise so I decided to buy my first new car, a Chevy Cavalier LS Sport Sedan. Little did I know this would be my car for the next 12 years and 160,000 miles! I have so many fond memories of adventures in that car that I have to share a few. But first the statistics. The furthest east is always the ocean for me, there isn’t anywhere further I can drive. The furthest west and north was Ann Arbor, MI for a friend’s housewarming. The furthest south would be the Outer Banks, NC; once for a New Years party and twice for kayaking adventures. I replaced all the window motors at least once, I lost the keys to my roof rack so it stayed on for years, and eventually I gave it a new paint job because it began to look janky. I don’t know how much I’ve spent in repairs but it was a fairly reliable car, surprisingly decent in the snow, and not bad on gas mileage.
Cavalier story one took place on a cold, snowy February day in 2006. I worked for a conference center and had a large event occurring on a Saturday. The client assured me that since the group was staying on site the event would happen as scheduled regardless of the impending snow storm. Snow storm hit and I had to get to work even though everything else was closed. I took a longer route to work than usual to avoid back roads and serious hills.
On my way I found an old woman at the bottom of a hill who had slid to the side of the road and gotten stuck. What could I do? I stopped the Cavalier and dug her out. Of course in stopping I had gotten my car buried and stuck by the still falling snow. Twenty minutes after getting her out I got to continue on soaking wet and cold. About 10 miles down the road I discovered that somehow I ended up on the wrong side of the median. I was heading down the road in the wrong lane facing oncoming snow plows. I said a bad word, aimed towards the grass strip, and put the pedal down figuring I was going to get stuck. Surprisingly the Cavalier exploded through the two foot snow bank and I made it safely to my side of the highway! I got to my office an hour later (typically a 20 minute drive) and got the call that the group was canceling…I was unhappy but my car got me home safe.
Story two: as mentioned above this car has made three drives to the Outer Banks. My friend’s cousin had purchased a bar there and he was going to manage it. The restaurant (The Froggy Dog) wasn’t scheduled to open until summer but there was a private New Years party that I got invited to. Highlights of the trip are: driving unlit roads in NC while blasting a Tatu album on repeat, my friend Jeff accidentally kicking a hole in the door of our rental house within 15 minutes of being there, and me throwing up copious amounts of alcohol all over the outside of the bar. Good times!
Last year was not my year, but that’s okay, this one has been a bit better and next year will be great! In the words of Phineas Flynn, “I like to keep moving forward.” Among all the changes and major life events that happened in the past year none were as exciting or expensive as purchasing my 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk! Oh boy, do I love this vehicle. Trail rated but filled with luxury features, I hope it lasts as long as the Cavalier did. I just passed the one year mark and have 13,000 miles without a single issue.
Since I have very few stories/memories associated with my Jeep, I’ll just share some of the things I’ve added or changed that I really enjoy. First thing I added was a new roof rack. The Jeep comes with the factory rails but I’ve since added knock-off whispbars. It was difficult to find the right length but some Chinese bootleg dealer on eBay got them to me for $300 cheaper than the real thing. I haven’t noticed any noise difference and they’ve worked flawlessly each time I’ve loaded my kayak.
The Jeep comes with an ample number of cup holders. In the front, there are two between the front seats and an angled water bottle holder on each of the front doors. As my previous post stated, I typically have an open Diet Coke can to my right. For the doorway I added this little gem. It’s a great way to organize and hold all my toll booth change. I intend to wrap it in foam and Phineas and Ferb duct tape as it currently rattles a little and coins fall out if I shut the door too hard.
I love dinosaurs! Stephen was purchased from a magic shop in New Jersey between 2010 and 2012 not far from Haddonfield where the discovery of the first dinosaur species known from more than isolated teeth identified in North America occurred. He had sat on the dashboard of the Cavalier as a mascot, companion, and navigator for the past few years. His move to the Jeep has been problematic. The dash is too slick and he ends up flying all over, eventually ending up under the seats. That is too undignified for a dinosaur with his sophistication. Fortunately the door has this wonderful handle that he fits in perfectly.
I’m a big fan of geocaching and will most likely have posts dedicated to it in the future. I’ve traveled through PA and DE doing different geo tourism trails. One goal of The Trip is to find a cache in each state I drive through. Being that I won’t have a great deal of time to commit, this might not be a feasible goal. I intend to try though. The Renegade did not come with a front license plate holder and I wasn’t looking to drill holes in it to bolt one on. Instead I found this lovely rig that I could put on myself. The plate you see in the picture makes the Jeep an official geocache! Feel free to log it as a find on the Geocaching website.
As there are already two references to Phineas and Ferb in this post, it should be obvious I’m a huge fan. All of the characters, music, and episodes are great but I feel a special connection to Phineas himself. He’s upbeat, loyal to his friends, has crazy ideas/plans, and loves his pet. These are all traits I admire and strive to hold. My office is adorned with Phineas and Ferb gear, I have received half a dozen P&F presents from co-workers, and I even have a talking Phineas and Perry in my bedroom. I jokingly titled The Trip spreadsheet I’ve made the “What Would Phineas Do Road Trip Extravaganza.” I know what he’d do, he’d make it “the best summer ever!” It’s only fitting my Renegade share my obsession with the world.
The Renegade comes with blank buttons, 8 on the dash and 3 on the wheel. Obviously this gave me great ideas for upgrades! I now have some custom features that will aid me in getting out of specific jams. If you need to find Sasquatch or call in a bomb strike, I’m your guy.
I’d like to mention some of the cars I’ve rented over the years as well. For a friends wedding in the Outer Banks I rented a Subaru Impreza which I found extremely ugly but absolutely fun to drive. I tore around some back country roads enjoying it’s great handling. Twice I’ve rented Dodge Chargers. The first was grey with black leather interior. I loved it! From looks to handling the car was fantastic. I believe that was my vehicle to Tennessee. The second was a white Charger I rented to take my parents to Ohio for Thanksgiving. Sadly it didn’t live up to the first. Lastly I’d like to mention the enormous Tahoe I rented for a New Years trip to Oglebay. Without it I would have never been able to get out of the frozen and snowy drive of my cabin. The thing was a tank and we filled it with 5 people, enough luggage and supplies to entertain an army platoon, and sweet Noodles the dog. We were cramped in the barge, but it worked for what we needed.
Finally enjoy a road trip song from Phineas and Ferb and feel free to comment below on cars you’ve owned, driven, wrecked, loved, or despised.