The Freedom of Wheels

These past few weeks I’ve been involved in an activity I really do not enjoy. After ten years of owning my Toyota Camry, I had to embark on the adventure of car shopping. My car had started to warn me that it was going to quit on me sometime soon when it hit 217K miles. Several times I thought it was going to leave me on the side of the highway.

First there was all the research of finding out which cars were going to do what I want from one — reliable and good fuel economy, but not so small that I get claustrophobic while driving it. Once I had narrowed down the makes and models I would consider owning, there was the task of finding a car within our budget. We test drove several cars and left when the salesmen became to pushy. We read ads on Craigs List. We educated ourselves on the Massachusetts laws about selling or buying used cars. And we kept on looking.

Somewhere along the way, I realized there is an advantage to the decision the Amish have made to not own cars. I was tempted to envy them for it, but then I remembered how stuck I often felt when I could not go anywhere on my own without paying a fortune for a “taxi driver” to take me to where I wanted to go. At the time I was making only $350 a month teaching in an Amish school, which didn’t leave much for such expenses.

So, with the idea that buying a car every ten years was a necessity if I am to enjoy the freedom of mobility, I stuck with the exhausting and time-consuming task of finding the right car. Last Thursday David and I found a Hyundai Sonata that we liked. On Friday we went to pay for and pick up the car. I never thought that I would get nostalgic about a car, but it was hard to leave the parking lot of the dealership without having a flood of memories of travels and adventures I (sometimes we) made and had with our (then) trusty Camry.

David and I were a bit worried about fuel economy, considering the car has a V-6 engine. Yesterday we drove it for more than 100 miles, and found we averaged about 30 miles to the gallon on the highway, which is better than the EPA rates the 2006 Sonatas with the V-6 engine. Time will tell whether this was a good buy for us. When I consider all the adventures we had with our Camry, I wonder where our Sonata will take us.

I also recently bought myself a bicycle. I have not owned one in ten years. I find I do not enjoy walking nearly as much as I do biking. I need a physical activity that I do enjoy if I am to participate in regular exercise. So not only did I buy the bike, but I also bought a “trainer” which allows me to ride it in my house. I’ve set it up inside the bay windows in my bedroom, so that I can look out over the town as I ride, unless it’s dark, then I read. So far I’ve been diligent, which I hope to continue. And I really look forward to riding it outside, come spring and summer. Below is a picture of my bicycle with the rug I finished over the holidays in the foreground.

So I now have two means of travel that I did not have when I was growing up and in my early twenties. Just remembering that feeling, has made me appreciate the freedom my wheels give me now. I’ve decided that it’s worth going through the hideous task of buying a car at least every ten years to enjoy that freedom.

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