Scarlett’s Letter October 13, 2013

Driven.

I have been described as driven. A lot. I suppose I am, though I always feel as though I could be more driven. I certainly don’t sit still long, I gather no dust, and I am always making an effort to evolve into the person I want to be, in every role I serve in life. For these reasons, I write, with the hope of offering inspiration and insight for others who may be looking to advance themselves in some direction, distant, perhaps, from where they currently are. Anything is possible, but you may have to drive yourself to get there. There truly are no free rides.

My new favorite saying; nothing ever gets better that stays the same. So, if you want to be better, in any respect, however small, however large, then don’t. Don’t stay the same. Embrace change.

On a related tangent; I love to drive. I love cars. I love to drive cars. I love to ride in cars. As a small child, my dad, for several years, was a traveling salesman for a couple of different bicycle suppliers, before he bought his own bicycle shop. He had a company car and for many years, that car was a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. We had several over the years and eventually, my mom acquired one of the Chevrolet Monte Carlos and I thought it was the bomb. She called it “a bomb”, which had only a slightly different meaning in the 1970’s, but related only to cars. As a child, I remember making the weekly trip from Napa to Oakland for my allergy shots. Grimace. I would sit in the front seat, probably not buckled in, and count the other Monte Carlos on the road. I could identify them from almost any distance, at almost any rate of speed, headed in any direction. Anyone who knows my son now knows where he gets his passion for cars and his ability to identify year, make, model of nearly anything that rolls down the road.

My first car was a 1966 Mustang, my seventeenth birthday gift. I loved that car. I kept it forever and only sold it, a few years ago, because I wasn’t in a position, figuratively or literally to provide it the love, care and ground up restoration it deserved. I sold it to a seventeen-year-old girl with resources and passion and, well, the drive, to get the job done.

After high school I moved to Sacramento to go to college at “Sac State”. I worked for my dad for most of college, on the weekends, as a mechanic in his bike shop. My steady boyfriend through most of college lived in my hometown, Napa. So, needless to say, that little Mustang and I drove up and down Interstate 80, Highway 12 and Highway 37 thousands upon thousands of times. And in that car, on those drives, I discovered the blissful solitude of being alone in one’s car, the luxury of getting lost in creative thought, meditative problem solving, and the challenge and satisfaction of “playing the game”. The game; driving faster than the posted speed limit and not getting pulled over. It is a game of predator and prey, and, still, I excel, or should I say, accel, at his game.

After the Mustang, being a young mother and a budding career woman, I was given a very practical hand-me-down Honda Accord from my mom. An ordinary, gray, 1985 Honda Accord. I remember chiding her when she bought it, “it’ll fit in a dumpster when it falls apart”. I ate my words. Mighty Mouse, as the car was named, was one of the best cars I ever owned. I drove the wheels off of it and after 285,000 miles, I traded it in on another (used) Honda Accord.

When I became involved as a scout leader, both for boys and girls, and after purchasing a remote piece of recreational property, forty acres, outside of Foresthill, California, the Honda Accord made a little less sense. Gas was less expensive back then and driving to remote locations on dirt roads with a ton of kids and gear became a priority. I bought a 1992 Ford Bronco, Mighty Mo, and I have never loved a car so much. I drove the wheels off of that car, too, and gained recognition and notoriety in that vehicle. I retired it and passed it on to my son after 225,000 miles. We kept Mo, sort of jointly, for as long as we could, but, expensive to operate and a little out of our means to keep in top running order, we sold it, and, sadly, Mighty Mo was spotted, abandoned in a field, dead beyond repair, only months later. We are still in mourning.

In the middle of the Mighty Mo years, because we’d moved to the country, to another forty acre piece in El Dorado County, and I was commuting the hour plus, per direction, every day for work, and, again, every evening for kid activities, logging 3,000 miles a month, I bought a very used pewter gray 1991 Honda Accord to reduce my gasoline expenditure. “Scooter (the pewter commuter).” I drove the wheels off of it. At 358,000 miles and a great deal of neglect, it required an engine and transmission replacement. Fortunately, though due to unfortunate circumstances, we had an extra (totaled) Honda Accord in the yard, the one my mom bought to replace Mighty Mouse, and since replaced with, yes, another Honda Accord, which she still has. I was given the “in-between” Accord, in pristine shape. I bequeathed it to my sixteen-year-old son, as I already had Scooter. You can put two and two together, I’m sure. So, we took the engine and transmission from the smashed Accord and put them in “Scooter”, and though I’ve since given the car to my ex, it, to my knowledge, still tootles about town under it’s own power.

When I decided to leave my husband for a list of reasons longer than most of my articles, I also left behind a life where we had ten cars and three boats, none running, none maintained, in an overgrown yard. And with my quest for my own minimalist, healthy, life without limits, I liberated myself further by buying my own car, not a hand-me-down, and not a terribly used car with 100,000 plus miles in need of more than routine maintenance and a mechanic on staff, a role my husband happily and willingly played, for a while, until the Internet was invented and he no longer had the ambition to remove himself from in front of it. Instead, I bought myself a very practical, nearly new, Honda Civic, only a couple of years old and with only 15,000 miles on it. “Meep.”

Meep is now six years old and has nearly 92,000 miles. My warranty expires at 100,000 miles. Yes, I could buy another warranty, but I am driven to buy a newer car at some point in the not so distant future. For two reasons; to have a newer car, with a warranty, and to continue to build myself a personal credit history after the aftermath of, well, some of the things I mentioned above.

Last week, my car crazy son, presently carless, by choice, a difficult choice, and living in Honolulu, a not so difficult choice, sent me a Facebook link from Tesla Motor Company, offering a test drive of the Model S at a winery in St. Helena. Because I am wired the way I am and because I believe in taking advantage of every intriguing thing that crosses my path, I clicked on the link and signed up. I messaged my son back and told him I’d signed up. I honestly don’t think he expected me to, but his response was that he “had to swallow a jellysickle”. LOL.

Today was my test drive. I drove the top-of-the-line model, the P85+, and, after spending a little time educating myself on their website, I was completely blown away by this car. Even though I drove it like a grandma on the winding, narrow mountain road, I could feel the amazing weight balance and stability and could easily imagine how it would feel at higher speeds, with it’s 416 horsepower engine, cornering the tight s-curves on this road. Had my nearly 90-year old mother not been in the backseat, repeatedly asking the Tesla sales rep in the passenger seat whether anyone had ever gotten car sick on the beautiful Nappa leather interior before, I may have been a little more assertive cornering, a little more aggressive accelerating. I’m glad Mom went. Really, I am, otherwise I might have done something terribly irresponsible, and bought the car on the spot! She served her purpose; to subdue me into boring, mind-numbing practicality.

More about the Tesla; I loved, loved, loved the regenerative braking. In the extensive mountainous road driving I’ve done in my life, having lived for several years in the Sierra Foothills and spending most of my weekends recreating in the nearby mountains, I always used the transmission to brake on downhills, rather than replace brake pads every other weekend. This car, without a transmission, required no braking, even on the tightest, downhill, hairpin curve. My foot hovered over the brake pedal, but as soon as I lifted my foot off the accelerator, the car slowed smoothly and adequately. The regenerative braking, by design, not only slows the car but sends energy back to the battery for storage and later use. How cool is that? I applied the brake only to stop, and, reluctantly, turn around, when directed to. It drove effortlessly back up the mountain, how curious to not hear an engine strain with the grade, how bizarre to never feel the car downshift to manage the climb. It just went. I admire that, I like to think I’m that way, I just go (link). The car and I, as one, just go.

And so, having driven a car that I have only ever admired from the safe and practical seat of my Civic, I am driven, in more than one way, to have such an acquisition not seem irresponsible, but, rather, practical. The numbers support themselves, it is a practical purchase, if you apply creative mathematics and time, and if you are at a certain income level to afford the initial outlay, or the monthly income to afford the inventive lease program, which, technically, I do. And, for me, it is not a matter of whether I want such a car, or not, certainly I do. And for the few who tell me I can’t, poo on you. For every one of you naysayers there are four people telling me I can, and this, I know. However, the real question, for me, is whether I am willing to realign my goals, based on my roles, in order to make such an acquisition, whether it is a long-term practical move, or not? The question is, what am I currently working towards and would I have to abandon current goals, or maybe even roles, to make owning this car an eventuality. Certainly, I would have to. But will I? No, not now. I have a clear vision of what I am evolving towards right now, and abandoning or even reprioritizing any of those goals right now would not be my path to happiness. I am prepared to say, though, “never say never.” If the Universe and I are on exceptional terms, then perhaps I can “have it all”. For now, though, I am content with what I have and with what I have planned.

Sometimes in life, we have to take a look around us, perhaps take advantage of unique opportunities, to step out of our present roles and place ourselves in another role, temporarily, to inspire ourselves, to motivate ourselves to take another step in a direction we’ve been hesitant to go. Or to just take any kind of step. At the very least, I had an incredible experience driving a car that is at the pinnacle of engineering excellence. I believe it is truly the shape of things to be and I am grateful to have had this opportunity. I look for inspiration, in order to keep myself motivated in my effort to evolve, and this experience, the actual experience of driving the Tesla, and the experience as a catalyst for thought and reflection, certainly did not disappoint in either respect. I continue to be driven.

To be driven, you just have to drive. Drive it for yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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