An Ode To My Chariot


A Chariot Of Past Dreams

9 years.

Nine years to the exact month that I had my Volvo.

A 2007 Volvo, S40, 6 speed, T5 AWD. 

Turbo. Loved the turbo, first time for that.

The color was Barents Blue. Did I mention it had a spoiler? Pretty sexy.

Yep, I said it. My car was adorable. 

The Volvo was part of a program that let you build your own car and then pick it up in Europe. I took possession of it in Germany.

For over 4 years, I drove it in Europe, followed by another 4 1/2 years in California. It crossed the merry ocean by container ship to join me in the States. 

I zipped all over Europe in that Volvo: Italy, France, Belgium and Germany. We journeyed to the Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany and four times to my Number-One-Favorite-French classes in Spa, Belgium.

I hit the road for the first time with a trusty GPS and it opened the world for me.

I laughed and cried in that car. Traveled alone and with others. I had a one-day Volvo safety driving course on a professional track. Took it to work and on vacations. I meditated in it at rest stops on long driving trips. 

Repairs To Break The Bank

I didn't plan to say goodbye. I wanted to keep my Volvo until 130K miles, at least... maybe longer if I could.

Fate, however, declared that we had to say goodbye at 80K. To be more precise, the engine repairs were going to cost more than the car was worth. My initial reaction was, "Fix it!" – then, reason stepped in.

I found myself thrust into a frantic, last minute, you need a car NOW, situation. 

So, off we rushed into a mad dash of researching and test driving new cars.

New cars? I hadn't looked at other cars for 9 years. I was very loyal to my Volvo.

1964 rambler classic, 3 speed on the column

From Manual To Automatic

Over the last 9 years, cars have made a lot of changes and technology has exploded. We now have blind spot assist on side mirrors and back up cameras.

During this time, Volvo stopped making the S-40 model that I was driving. While that was sad enough, an even bigger shock was when I discovered that many car makers don't offer the option for a manual transmission. Volvo doesn't bother to make them anymore.

They. Don't. Even. Make. It.

Face it, I'm a dinosaur. 

I started on a manual many moons ago. My first car was a used "3 on the tree" (3-speed on the column), blue 1964 Rambler Classic. Picture a glued-to-the-earth mini-tank. It's been out of U.S. production since 1969.

Loved that Rambler. The emergency brake was a pedal you stepped on. There was no power steering. AM radio was our one and only music option.

I graduated to a "4 on the floor" sporty, red 1974 Ford Mustang and that was a snazzy ride. I kept that car for many years. The next step up was a vehicle with a 5-speed.

After that, I had a 6-speed manual in my Volvo. I wasn't convinced that I needed a 6th gear, but I made good use of it on the German Autobahn.

photo by tage olsin

German Autobahn

What began as a racing track grew into a sophisticated high-speed road system, linking to almost all the major cities in Germany. The Autobahn boasts super thick road beds, 4% or less grades, wide lanes, and utilizes sophisticated technology.

I shall wax poetic about the German Autobahn for a moment. If you ever get a chance to drive on it, but all means do so. The old adage "fine German engineering" never rang so true as it does on this finely balanced concrete. 

In the early morning, as the fog lifted from the roads, but still hung low in the fields, you could find me swooping down the Autobahn on my way to France for a flea market. With the road to myself during those early hours, the Volvo and I skimmed the pavement at 100 to 110 mph. Even at 100 mph, it was not uncommon for a BMW or Porsche to pass me. Still, my Volvo clung to the road like a champ.

Lest you think I am entirely reckless, there are parts of the Autobahn that do not have speed limits. Your mission is to drive safely. The speed at which you do so is at your discretion. The roads are designed to handle high speeds.

I watched a program about the Autobahn before I left the States. I've included a link here. The wealth of information helped give me the confidence I needed once I started driving on the Autobahn. Even so, when I drove at high speeds, that's all I was doing: driving – focused – two hands on the steering wheel.

In southwest Germany where I lived, the Autobahn heading toward France opened up to higher speeds. The lines in this road sign mean the end of the 130 (kph) zone and a speed limit no longer applies.

Don't be fooled into thinking this "no speed limit" is good other places. When the speed limit is 50 kph in town, you'd best be going that speed because, if not, you will be flashed by a radar camera even if you're only going 52 kph. And there is no arguing. A ticket arrives in your mailbox with a photo of you in your car. Pay up and put your check in the mail. End of discussion.

Bring Light To Your Auto Adventures

For students of The Radiance Technique® (TRT®) – making a decision like buying a new car is supported with your use of TRT® hands-on. You can also benefit from your hands-on while you're in the car, such as at a stop light, or stuck in traffic. Placing one hand on your heart or abdomen provides centering, helping to decrease the stress of driving. As mentioned above, when my trips were long, I would do my meditations at a rest stop. 

Time To Buy A New Car

As I watched the sassy spoiler on the back end of my Volvo disappear behind the locked gate at CarMax, wistful strings tugged at my heart.

When CarMax handed me a check, tears filled my eyes as I realized my Volvo was gone forever and with it, an era of my life. All that remained was a colorful snapshot of the past, sweet and dear. 

Baby girl Volvo, you'll always have a place in my heart. 

On to a new chapter. Time to find a new car.

The moment has come to abandon my manual transmission and drive an automatic. It's now the way of cars in the U.S. and automatic transmissions display new dimensions.

Today's sophisticated automatics have three driving modes: economy, sport and manual. In manual mode, you shift with paddles next to the steering wheel and there is no clutch. 

A new learning curve.

As a winding road unfurls like a ribbon in front of me, I take a moment to pause and wonder: what adventures are calling?

Do you have a favorite car story of your own?

I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.
— Langston Hughes