Women Riders

Our Love Affairs with Our Rides

Written by  November 30, 2011

In May of 2000, I was in the market for a new car and really had no idea what to get. I had settled on a Ford Explorer, even though with the 5 speed, it would be rear wheel drive only (I will only drive manual transmission cars). There was a website that was, I believe, a clearing house for the uglier or unwanted new cars, as the only color I could get through them was something called “Spruce Green.” But the price was great and, after speaking on the phone with a rep, I told her I would call back on Monday to finalize my order. I hope it did not take her long to realize I wouldn’t be calling back. One look at a real live Explorer, and I knew I should keep on looking.

We picked up a new car catalog and while the spouse took his Sunday nap, I sat down with the book to find my perfect ride. The one on the cover was dreamy, but we assumed there would be no way we could afford it. “Must run about 40 grand, at least!” we agreed. With no specific plan in mind, I began reading from the first page on. It was pretty boring until I got to the C’s. There, under the Chrysler badge, was the car on the cover. Then I saw a price that made me jump up in lottery winning excitement, force the spouse to wake up and hear me declare, “I found our car!”

The PT Cruiser wasn’t 40 grand, it started at 16 grand. Four cylinders, not much longer than a Volkswagen Beetle, and soon, I knew, it would be mine. I knew this was something special, but I had no idea how special it would become or how difficult it would be to get. But, off to the interwebs we went to seek out just what it was that was making my heart beat with so much anticipation.

The PT Cruiser was introduced at auto shows in 1999. Originally built on a Plymouth Neon platform, it got mixed reviews for its radical design; it was a love it or hate it kind of car. After its debut, Chrysler began plans to retire the Plymouth badge, took the PT Cruiser as a Chrysler product, and changed several components to separate it from the Neon nameplate. Brian Nesbitt, the PT’s designer, wanted a car that paid homage to the classics of the 1930’s but that could also be easily customized to the owner’s tastes. By early 2000, the car became a runaway hit with dealers backordering and jacking up prices on what they had. We weren’t aware of any of this and proceeded with excited anticipation in the belief we would be in the new car by the following weekend.

On October 5, 2000, five months after placing the order, I got the call to come to the dealership. We paid and got the keys, but I was too nervous to drive it. However, within two years of getting this car, I was driving to the Rockies, to North Carolina and to Canada. I drag raced it in Kansas City and Bristol, Tennessee (I won low ET in Kansas City for that weekend). I added gold trim, dropped the rear two inches, and put in a K&N intake.

I have met and become friends with some of the best people on the planet because of a little car. Two of them literally changed my life, encouraging me to go back to school and mentoring me as I did. My best friend, whom I met in a PT Cruiser chatroom, lives 600 miles away, and at least twice a year I pack up the PT and spend a few days with her. Many of my PT Cruiser friends are also bikers. I’m not sure why, but they are. Perhaps it is the nonconformist mentality we all share. I loved my car not only for being what it is, but for what it brought me as well.

On October 30, 2011, she died.

My daughter and I were out for some shoe shopping. It was the day after an unusual snowstorm; the sun was shining, but the roads were wet with melting snow. I had a choice of two different locations and chose the slightly closer one. Wrong choice. Suddenly noticing the brake lights of the car ahead of me, I slammed on the brakes and cut the wheel to the right, but wet pavement and locked wheels do not get along. I slammed into the minivan at about 40 miles an hour. Our eyeglasses flew off our faces, and I banged my knee against the steering column. The airbags never deployed.

A man ran up to my side of the car and asked if we were OK. “Yea, I think so.” A woman then came up to my car and started berating me. “I have two kids in car,” she was saying, as if that made some sort of difference to me. “Are they dead?” I asked her. Yes, even in my dazed state, sarcasm reared its ugly head. I completely lost my composure upon seeing what the damage was to my beloved car and again as it was being hooked up to the wrecker.

The announcement was swift and official: with the engine pushed back four inches and the age of the car, it had been totaled. I was allowed to take whatever I put into the car, at least: my gold Chrysler hubcaps, my cd changer, and my gold plated tailpipe. I would have to leave behind the brand new tires I just bought her and the brand new brakes. My registration for 2012 arrived in the mail six days after the accident. Sure am glad I spent the extra two dollars to expedite that.

After almost a week of diligence, I found a replacement PT Cruiser. This one is also a 2001 but a black Limited Edition as opposed to my aquamarine Touring. It will need some work to truly be mine, but it will do. When I sat in it at the dealership, I became choked up and quietly said, “I’m home.” I’m thinking of having the front painted aquamarine and fade into the black as homage to my beloved first PT. With all that has happened here lately, I could use something frivolous and fun.

I’m not sure why some of us develop emotional attachments to things like cars and bikes yet others look upon them only as the machines they are. A friend who recently wrecked her Sporty couldn’t wait to have it back, unbent and ready to ride. Another who wrecked his Harley a couple years ago fought his insurance company tooth and nail to get the bike fixed. He got his wish. Had I had the money to fix my own car, I would have done so.

Oh, and the shoe shopping trip? We continued on with the spouse chauffeuring us. I got new sneakers for the gym and some fantastic gray suede boots. Retail therapy works wonders.

By Louise Reeves