Saturday, June 20, 2015

Best Ride Of My Life

Life is full of twists and turns. Some are good; some are bad. Some of them you never see coming. One of those surprise turns happened to me last Tuesday. 

For the first time in almost 16 years I was involved in a traffic accident. It happened on Louisville road near Porter Pike in Bowling Green. Although it was considered a "fender bender" involving 3 vehicles (my car and 2 pick up trucks) damage to my vehicle was extensive. The good news is that no one was injured at all, thank God. 

As of this writing I'm not sure that all the issues with the other drivers and insurance companies have been settled so I'm not going to discuss the accident details.

One thing I can say about that afternoon is this. Just moments after the accident I realized from looking at the damage that my insurance company wouldn't pay to repair it. I knew I would never drive my silver Saturn Vue again. 

There's no way I can truly express how much I am going to miss this car. It has taken me almost everywhere for over a decade. 

I bought it back in March 2005. It had only 346 miles on the odometer. It was my first brand new car ever. 

For 15 years my Vue took me so many places I can never name them all in one post. Many of the longer trips were vacations with Paula. 

Some of the cities we traveled to together in the Vue  include: Easton and Philadelphia, PA; Nashville (too many times to even count), Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Chattanooga, TN; Huntsville, AL; Orlando, FL; Chicago, IL; and Washington, DC; Lexington and Louisville; just to name a few. 

It was the Vue that took us to all the road games we went to the 6 years James played football in school. 

It also took us to Columbus, GA twice to visit James during his National Guard basic training at Fort Benning. 

In 2009 the Vue transported the decorations and food Paula needed for James and Brandi's wedding reception to the cabins in the hills of the Great Smoky Mountains just above Pigeon Forge.  

A conversation between my then future daughter-in-law, Brandi, and I in the Vue on the way back from taking James to the Nashville airport on his way back from leave changed our relationship and set the foundation for becoming family a few years later. 

The Vue took me to Holiday World theme park in Santa Claus, IN 3 times. I went twice with my daughter-in-law Heather (Michael went with us on one of those trips) and once by myself.  

I made plenty of solo trips to other cities in the Vue as well. Some of them were to places or events that changed my life. 

In 2006 I drove the Vue to Fort Mitchell, Kentucky to attend the Vent Haven Museum ventriloquist convention. The next Sunday, I performed as a "vent" for the first time in my church. 

In 2006 & 2010 I drove the Vue to Burbonais, Illinois to attend the Creative Ministry puppet festival. During that first trip I drove an hour north to Chicago for the first time to visit both Wrigley and U.S. Cellular Field. 

Of the great years of reliable transportation that the Vue provided for me, 2010, the year I turned 50, was probably the single best. 

In June of that year, Paula and I went to Washington, DC and then continued on to Pennsylvania to see my family. In September we made the trip of my life, so far, to Walt Disney World in Florida. 

In August 2010, I made a two cities-two games-in-two days baseball trip in my Vue. I drove 8 hours to Milwaukee to see the Brewers play a night game against the Giants. The next day I drove back down to Chicago to see the White Sox play the California Angels in a day game. 

It was during that trip that I had the most memorable solo driving experience I ever had in my Vue. 

As I was leaving Chicago area, driving north on interstate route 294 toward Milwaukee, it began to rain. Not a slow even rain, it was a sustained mid-summer cloud-burst type thunderstorm.  
Instead of the downpour passing through and the skies subsequently clearing, its thunderheads followed me as I drove directly north, parallel with the coast of Lake Michigan. For a little over 2 hours, I cautiously crawled along with the flow of traffic in the downpour. 

My windshield wipers labored at slapping away the sheets of water obscuring my view of the only things I could see ahead of me, tail lights. 

I marveled at the amazing streak lightening around me, mostly in the distance, but at times, a bit too close for comfort. 

Listening to a Milwaukee AM sports talk radio station for entertainment I did my best to keep the Vue on the road. 

My immediate goal was to avoid the water build-up that threatened to hydroplane my silver vessel into a guardrail. It was the most nerve wracking but at the same time exciting time I ever had driving that car.   

I drove to a lot of other baseball games in the Vue. I went to MLB games in Cincinnati (about half a dozen times), Pittsburgh, and Atlanta. I went to minor league games in Louisville & Nashville a couple of times as well. 

In August 2010, my Saturn reached a milestone; 6 figures on it's odometer. 

Other than the engine and heater/air conditioning the most important part of a car to me is the entertainment system. 

When I bought the Vue it had the standard AM/FM stereo with a CD player. But what I listened to in the Vue changed when Paula got me an XM Radio for Christmas in 2007. 

With a short range FM frequency adapter XM provided me with the ability to enjoy major league baseball games (mostly the Yankees), a channel of clean comedy, and repeats of Casey Kasem Top 40 countdown shows from the 1970s. 

In 2010 I added my Ipod to the in-car entertainment menu. My entire music collection (over 10,000 songs), podcasts and audiobooks became my listening options as well. 

Two years later a new JVC stereo system with a direct auxiliary and USB inputs improved the quality and convenience of what I what I listened to while I was on the road.

I could literally write a book about the decade I drove the 2005 Saturn Vue. The miles I put on it is equal to driving 3/4 of the way to the moon. 

If I had to choose my all-time favorite memorable moment that happened in my Vue I think it would be one that happened in July 2012. 

I had picked up my 3 month old granddaughter at her babysitter's house to take her to meet Brandi when she got off of work. It was my first time alone with Aria. I was nervous, excited, and proud all at the same time.  

Having arrived early I parked in the lot behind Sheldon's pharmacy to wait for Brandi. 

While waiting Aria got a little fussy and started crying a bit. So to give her proper attention I got in the back seat. I tried to give her a pacifier but she wanted nothing to do with it. I gave her one of her toys and started talking to her. 

Her fussing eased a bit but I would tell she was on the verge of starting to cry again.  

I did what came naturally to me, I started singing to her. I sang "Everybody loves a baby that's why I'm in love with you pretty baby." That's was the first time my granddaughter ever smiled at me.   

The last picture of the Vue's odometer was taken on the day after Christmas last December. 

Now I know this looks picture looks different than the others but take my word for it, this was taken in the Vue. 

In September 2011 Paula got a new car, a Chevy Impala with 19,000 mile on it. Because it was more comfortable and in order to save putting miles on the Vue, we started taking it on our trips together. 

The last two memorable solo trips I made with the Vue were in 2014. They were day trips to major cities to the north and the south of Smiths Grove, respectively. 

On March 8 I drove 200 miles north to Indianapolis. I went to the Brick World Lego Expo. It was the first non-retail Lego event I'd ever been there. It was a lot of fun and I saw a lot of great exhibits and models.  

Two months later I drove 300 miles south to Atlanta. My reason for going there was to meet and have lunch with the host of the WDW Radio Podcast, Lou Mongello. While the weather and circumstances didn't work out exactly as I wanted them to, it was still a great day. 

Although I'm sad that they were the last long road trips in the Vue that only makes them extra special.

As I end this post I want to give a good review to the Geico insurance company. They provide coverage for both our vehicles and our house. 

Their local adjuster, Alan Tange, was extremely professional, friendly, fast, and efficient in processing my claim for the Vue. 

My accident was on Tueday afternoon. By Wednesday afternoon he had inspected the car and processed the claim. As I expected the Vue was a "total loss"

Because I had to get some last minute paperwork to finish the claim it wasn't until Friday morning that we were ablt to complete the settlement and get the check. 

I've had two other car insurance experiences like this one but they took a lot longer. Without a doubt that was quickest turn around time by an insurance company I've ever experienced. 

Last Wednesday afternoon I went to the salvage yard in Bowling Green and took everything out of the car. It was a very sad and difficult moment for me.

Because it happened so suddenly it was kind of hard to accept that after 178,500 miles, by far the most miles I've ever put on a car, I'd made my last trip in my 2005 Saturn Vue. Here are some of the last pictures I took. 

I loved that car. I could write a book about all the things that happened in my life while I owned the Vue. While that may never actually happen. I'm sure I'll be telling the stories for years to come.

I can't believe that I will never get behind that wheel again. Change isn't easy for me sometimes. 

Now I've got to turn the corner and go find me another car. It's a process that is both exciting and very stressful at the same time. 

The way I figure it I'll probably buy maybe 3 more cars over the remainder of my life. But there is no doubt that I will always consider my Silver Saturn Vue the Best Ride of My Life.  


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