Sentimental Journeys
July 6, 2014


The cars we drive say a lot about us. ~ Alexandra Paul

So we bought a new car this week. It’s another Ford Explorer, our third over the span of 19 years. For the most part, we have had a great track record with Explorers. There’s good old Bert (19 years old), then Donnie Ray (12) and now along comes Dingle, who is a pristine silver, beautiful, sleek and fancy vehicle. Here’s to another great car!

I’m almost afraid of him, because of all the technological advances that new cars have; it’s been 12 years since we bought Donnie Ray, and he seems almost primitive compared to the new Dingle.

donnie ray

While DR’s front seats can be automatically adjusted, the rear ones do not, and to access the “way back” seats, one must manually lift them, and move the middle one aside to make way. The back lift gate needs to be opened and closed manually. With Dingle, you just push a button, and all the rear seats fold and unfold as desired, and of course the lift gate also magically rises and shuts at the touch of a button. Cool!

DR’s dashboard displays can be hard to read in bright light, and now seem so quaint compared to Dingle’s fancy computer generated displays, all of which are voice activated. ACK! I’ve got to do some practicing before I can drive this guy! It’s going to take me awhile to learn how everything works.


Bert? Bert was Shannon’s first car, given to her when he was 7 years old. Previously, in addition to many a Texas road trip, we’d driven him up to Wyoming via S. Dakota, then down into Utah and Arizona for a National Parks tour. Then there were all the “learning to drive” moments that Bert provided, bless his automotive heart!

It makes me laugh to think that he still has a cassette player (and a CD player, which was pretty fancy back in 1996!). He’s also got a cigarette lighter and an ash tray, which you never see anymore. His displays are not digital at all. As a matter of fact, his odometer is the kind in which the mile numbers roll over, except that his stopped working at 138,500, about 8 years ago. Since then, he has gone to NY and back, CO and back, VA and back (several times), along with the everyday driving wherever he has been. I’ll bet he has gone at least 250,000 in his 19 years.

(Note: if you want to turn on Bert’s windshield washers, you must turn on the right turn signal to make them work)

So now we have Dingle! While it may seem kind of exciting to have a new car, it doesn’t hold the charm that it once did for me. There’s a certain nobility that a good old car has, and I still think they are the best. Once you get used to them, they are comfortable, maybe slightly worn and damaged, but who cares? You know how all the buttons work, and can adjust things without even looking.

I don’t know why I am so sentimental about our cars, but I just am. Yes, I know naming them gives them a personality which only exists in my mind. But gosh, what fond memories I have of these fine old cars. And they’re PAID FOR. Yes, I do still love them, dings, quirks and all.

As for Dingle, I’ll worry about every scratch and bump that are inevitable, every spill and stain that are bound to happen. Tucker will not be allowed to drool on the back seat, and there will be no bird doot allowed! Yeah, right.

So if I keep Dingle for 19 years, then I’ll be pushing 80. I can only imagine what cars will look like then. Something tells me I would be happier with a car that is less fancy…

Maybe I’ll just keep Bert around? He should qualify for antique status by then!


Best Car Ever
May 23, 2013


The cars we drive say a lot about us. ~ Alexandra Paul

There is something very comfortable about driving an older model car. You know how everything works, and never have to fumble while trying to find the right switch. It may have some dings and dents or maybe a crack in the windshield, so who cares if someone whacks it with a grocery cart in the parking lot?

Our “Bert” is now 17 years old. He is a navy blue 1996 model year Ford Explorer; we bought him in November 1995. I thought he was a good looking car back then, and I still think so today.

I love this car. There is nothing digital about him (except the clock/radio display). If you still have cassette tapes to listen to, he can play them. I think this particular model may have been one of the first to also offer the option of a CD player (which is housed in the console between the two front bucket seats). We thought that was very advanced technology back then! He also has a cigarette lighter and an ash tray, which you never find anymore (not that we ever used them).

Bert has been all over the country on many a road trip. The most memorable one for us was our National Parks trip in 1998 through Colorado, into South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.

Then when Shannon turned 16, she inherited Bert, and we bought “Donnie Ray”, another Explorer, for me in 2002.

Bert survived Shannon’s high school years with a few scrapes (who cares?). Then when she went off to college, he stayed with us, and my niece Megan drove him for a year while attending Rice University.

In 2005, we bought a Volkswagen Jetta for Shannon to drive back up to Bard College in NY. Bert stayed with us and served as an extra car to use whenever needed.

Things get convoluted in my memory at this point, but I think it was in the summer of 2006 (?) when Shannon’s then boyfriend (now husband), Kat was working here in Houston. His car got rear-ended on a stormy day, and there was some conflict with the other driver’s insurance about getting it repaired. But they had to get on back to New York, so he drove Bert.

I know I drove Kat’s repaired car up north at some point, but I can’t quite remember when and how Bert returned to Houston. I think it was at Christmas, when Kat drove him back. It was during that trip when Bert’s odometer stopped functioning at 138,550 miles. Seven years ago. I wonder how many miles he has now? Probably over 238,550…

At some point, Kat’s car eventually failed, so we just gave Bert to them, with the thought that they really didn’t need a car payment, so why not just use Bert to forestall the inevitable? We figured they would drive Bert until he died.

But Bert kept on running. Next stop Colorado for a two year Masters program. Once there was an issue with his air conditioner. We opted to fix it. And Bert kept on running.

Next stop Virginia for law school at Washington & Lee. I personally drove Bert up to Lexington (with Emma the cat and Geoffrey the beta fish- in the cup holder), while caravanning with Shannon and Kat, who were driving the Jetta with Lucas, the great white dog.

Summer 2013. Kat is once again working in Houston this summer, and he drove Bert down with Lucas (Shannon stayed in Lexington because of her job).

So this week I took Bert in to get a new inspection sticker (he was a year overdue), an oil/filter change and to get a standard maintenance review. He passed with flying colors!

My ace mechanic, Ron (who has taken care of Bert from the very beginning) said that he was in great shape! I’m not going to tempt fate and make any predictions, but my hope is that Bert makes it through law school graduation and then maybe he can retire to “senior status” as an extra car for anyone who needs one (maybe in Wyoming?).

Note: if you have a 1996 Ford Explorer, keep it. It’s the best car ever. I see others driving around town daily, and will always consider this particular car model the epitome of reliability.

My next car? It will be another Ford Explorer.