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Column: Buckle up

Published: Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 11:10 a.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 11:37 a.m. CST

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It could be argued the invention of automobiles was one of the biggest accomplishments of man and has changed the world forever. Cars were first invented in Germany and France, however, it was the brilliant minds of Americans who turned it into a life-altering industry. After more than 100 years of existence, it’s hard to imagine life without them.

A car to me has always been a practical possession — something I needed to get from point A to point B. Sure I have admired the sports cars and luxury vehicles, but it would be something I would own only after winning the lottery — not for an everyday car.

My first vehicle is slightly embarrassing to reveal. As a twin, it was only natural my sister and I shared a vehicle. I mean, we had pretty much the exact same schedule in high school, and we were best friends and roommates in college. It was easy to make it work. We took turns driving and learning more and more about how to control the beast we were forced to drive.

What vehicle was it? A 1993 Ford Aerostar van. It was a box on wheels. Mom and dad purchased the vehicle for family road trips, and it had stood the test of time for my sister and I to move from the back seat to the driver’s seat 10 years after it rolled off the lot.

Trish and I embraced it as our vehicle. It wasn’t like mom and dad were going to buy us a new or used car while “ol’ trusty” still was running. Our other option was to learn to drive a manual and drive the 1995 Ford Escort instead, but that didn’t happen. I’ll give my sister credit, she did try to learn. However, after killing the car 32 times in a 10-block trip from school to home and a near-death experience, she left the five-speed behind, never to return.

That left us with the Aerostar. “The old van” had lots of memories, however, the lack of air conditioning and a stuck driver’s side window left some challenges during the hot summer months or when ordering at the drive-thru. It was a perfect starter vehicle because it had a “built-in” speed control. The steering wheel would shake once you got it up to 60 miles an hour. Anything beyond that, and it was a wonder the whole thing didn’t fall apart on the road.

Well, the old van made it through our high school days. As much as my sister and I had a secret love for that van, we knew we did not want to take it college. Thankfully, Mom and Dad agreed. Trish and I went to Wartburg College, the same institution our older brother was attending. His senior year was our freshman year, and we shared his 1998 Ford Contour. After he graduated, he bought his own vehicle, leaving “the white car” for Trish and me to use. It was a good college vehicle. It had a V6 in it with way more power than the van. The only wimpy part on it was the horn. It sounded like an Ewok’s howl. It would barely make a deer spook let alone persuade a bad driver.

I inherited the white car following college graduation. After my first week of work, the power steering went out in the car. Instead of fixing it, I traded it off on a 2001 Buick Century, the very first car I bought as an adult. I didn’t keep that one for long before getting my 2006 Ford Fusion then upgrading to my 2014 Fusion, which I plan to keep for many years.

Even though I have driven sedan-sized cars for the better part of 12 years now, I’ll never forget learning to drive on the old van. After learning to park that old boat, anything seems easy now. It comes in handy when I drive my fiancé’s full-sized truck. I hope he was a little impressed when I drove it without hesitation. I have ol’ trusty to thank for that.

Contact Pam Rodgers at prodgers@newtondailynews.com

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