Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Y.S. Wagon

The Boy, the Dog and the Y.S. Wagon. That's Tallulah in the background.

In a few days the Y.S. will be placed on yard duty. She will be cranked regularly by my grandmother, or the Harbor Master's fiance or the Admiral's friend, or whoever is enlisted for the job. As she will not be mentioned again for a while, I am giving her her full share now.
The Y.S., a 1985 Pontiac Station Wagon was acquired shortly after the birth of the Boy. She sported several undeniably wonderful features. 1) Nine seats. Everyone could fit into one car. 2)Decent gas mileage. 3) Low actual mileage, and only two previous owners. 4) A truly remarkable air conditioner. The Commodore could freeze us out. Anyone who has driven though the south jammed in a car with as many other people as can fit and no air conditioning will understand what a boon being a little cold can be. We drove to New Orleans to get the Y.S.. She had a dent on one side in the front, just behind the bumper. The interior was beautiful, considering that it was an almost twenty year old car.
She does not look like that any more. Seven years of us really shows.

On December 6, four or five years ago, we were driving home from town. It had been raining. A cat ran in front of the car and the Harbor Master swerved. We ended up in the ditch on the side of the road. The car was straddling a huge mud puddle. She was sitting longways neatly between a telephone pole and a signpost. Nobody was hurt. A couple stopped to help and the guy borrowed a tractor from across the road to pull the car out. We drove her home, and the Admiral beat most of the dents out of her that weekend.

We've blown a few tires in the Y.S.'s many miled career. Once, we lost a hubcap beside the interstate. We saw it lying there in the median for a long time after that. Another time, when the Admiral was not with us, a kindly police officer stopped to help us change the tire. Now, the Admiral can change a tire. It doesn't usually take much longer than ten minutes. The Admiral's children are not accustomed to being stressed out by a tire change. It took the cop 3 hours. Yet another time, it took a DOT guy and a truck driver 45 minutes. What lesson did we learn from this? If one does not keep good tires on one's car, one ought to travel with a mechanic.

Three years ago we took our first major trip in the Y.S. We drove to Staunton, VA. That trip went so well that we went on another the next summer.

We decided to go on the trip on July 4, and left for Nebraska, where the Admiral was working, on July 8. We jammed six people, clothes for two weeks, school books, reading books, drawing things, games, and camping gear in and on the Y.S. and drove 1,304 miles to Thedford, NE (pop. 248). Somewhere in the cornfields of Missouri, the headliner gave out and collapsed on our heads. We stuck it back up with tacks and drove on. We stayed in Nebraska for two weeks and a few days. During the two weeks, the Y.S. visited a garage to have her brakes fixed. (This was mostly thanks to Kansas City, MO, where we did not hit the gas truck in front of us.) Then she visited again to have her starter replaced. (This was thanks to some very touchy behavior when the Admiral was starting her) We stayed an extra day because the Admiral stuck her keys in his pocket when he went to work. (We have a thing with keys. The Admiral compulsively pockets them and the Commodore looses them. On a side note, I am pleased to report that we finally did find the Commodore's spare key after she lost it a few days ago. It was locked in the car along with the regular set.) No one was upset about our extra day. Thedford, Nebraska is a really great place with wonderful people, even if it is sixty miles to the nearest pizza place.

In St. Louis, MO which is on the way home from Nebraska, there lives a perfect match to our dear Y.S.. The twin makes the same rattly noise that the Y.S. does, and also has some damage to the front end. We know all this because we were in the St. Louis Zoo when we saw the Y.S.'s double. This was, of course, the same day we locked the keys in the car. We knew exactly how easy it was to break in, because we had just done it. Enough said.

We returned to Nebraska in October of the same year. This time, we really pushed our luck and went 1,428 miles away to Alliance, NE. Alliance, Nebraska is the home of Carhenge and the lady who brought art to western Nebraska. She has a beautiful little art gallery downtown. It is just down the street from a shop that sells the absolute best fudge that we have yet found. There is also a gorgeous library that has a reading room complete with a fireplace. And a pond where a Canada Goose lover can see all the geese she wants. There is also the playground where the Boy got a mild concussion.

We went to Memphis in the Y.S. and visited Graceland, where the Boy became an Elvis fan.

On Holy Thursday of 2007 I convinced the crew that there was a chance for us to go to Texas to meet the Admiral for Easter. The Crew had an obsession with Texas. We cleaned and packed and got ready while the Commodore was out. She called around noon and ordered us to be ready to leave that afternoon. We drove to Dallas, Texas that night. We were traveling with another family, and we all stopped for a rest somewhere near the eastern border of Texas. We alloted exactly one half hour for the stop, but at the end of the half hour, the drivers voted for another half hour. When we pulled out of the rest area, there was a wreck on the interstate. Using the crude evidence that we gleaned in passing, we pegged the wreck at about a half hour old. Divine Intervention is a beautiful thing.

Since we acquired Tallulah, the Y.S has mostly been retired from long voyages. The last great voyage of the Y.S. was when we went to see the Leonardo DaVinci exhibit in Birmingham, AL. The day started off beautifully with a horn malfunction. The horn just blew itself at random, with no prompting from the Commodore. Not good. An hour and half a dozen disconnected wires later, we found the one that killed the horn. We then faced the much easier task of returning all of the other wires to their proper places. Over the phone, the Admiral assured us that none of the wires were connected to things that work anyway. Either he was right, or we put the wires back correctly. Then we left town. The exhibit was great. It is very cool to look at five hundred year old sketches. We had a picnic lunch in front of the museum, and then made the unexciting drive back to Montgomery where we planned to spend the night. There, we went to a drivethrough for our supper. The Y.S. has some window problems. We knew about them, but decided to chance it anyway. It was a bad day to chance things. The Commodore's window did not go back up. We gave up after we had exhausted the list of ingenious ways to fix a reluctant window button without tools. We went to our hotel and cleared the Y.S. of all valuables (ha!) and perishables (Leonardo DaVinci posters) and left her to her own devices. It rained that night. In the morning, the Y.S. retaliated by refusing to start until the Commodore threatened her. Then she started, allowed us to back up into the middle of the parking lot and stalled. Eventually, she did start and run as she should. Then the window went up. We have stayed away from drivethroughs since then.

These are the adventures that created the Y.S..

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