Stories and thoughts about family and life

The unexpected family member

on July 13, 2014

We bought my GMC YukonXL in 2003, shortly after the birth of my second son. It had about 26,000 miles on it and cost us a fortune, but I fell in love with it immediately and despite my love of all things Mercedes and the hope that I’ll get to drive a sleek 500SEL at some point in my life, I can’t see myself driving anything else at this particular point.
If you’re not familiar with the Yukon XL, it’s the longer version suburban-looking vehicle. I can seat 7 comfortably (provided they’re not all over 6’2″), and carry luggage as well. I can flip up or remove my back seat and flip down my middle seats to make one long, smooth cargo area. My friends are always amazed when we are out shopping and suddenly need to haul something large. With five minutes worth of rearranging, I can handle almost anything.
I remember when I bought it, thinking there were tons of features I wouldn’t ever use. I had never had a vehicle quite so “fully loaded” and it’s humorous to realize that many of these features are now pretty common-place. My vehicle would probably rate as “standard” currently, as I don’t have on-board navigation, blue tooth or DVD. My husband added a Sony Xplod system for me which allows me to stream music or use my phone hands-free in the cabin, and I really thought I had hit the big time then, too!
My children don’t really recall me driving any other vehicle, and we’ve joked over the years about what to call her. I suggested “Gina Marie Car” (GMC), and they settled on “Good Mountain Climber.” She’s got nearly 200,000 miles on her now, but still is as trusty as ever.
As I drove Friday to take my dad to the doctor, I pondered all the trips we had made in that vehicle, and how much she’s become a part of our family.
The soccer games when Lucas was 5 and was no more interested in playing soccer than I am in hang-gliding. The scout trips, and oh there have been plenty of those! Including a couple where one or all of us have slept in that truck. She has shown her ability in towing and strength, kept us warm on cold days and cool on warm ones.
The vacation trips, where we have had our luggage and all our gear loaded up. Cruising the gulf coast and watching the boys grab snacks out of the basket I store on top of the cooler in the back, just so they can reach it and cure their “munchies” along the way. DVD players we used to strap to the back of the front two seats, which have now given way to the ipad or laptop, or to the kids just playing on their phones. In 2010 we drove from Little Rock to Booneville to pick up my parents, and then drove to Seattle, trekking all the way through Kansas, part of Colorado and Wyoming. We stopped in Montana and visited some friends of mine and then toured the lower part of the Glacier park, then continued across the northern states into Washington. We picked up my husband, my sister, and her husband at the airport, and stored everyone’s gear as we boarded the ship for our 7 day cruise. Then we toured northern California and came down through Yellowstone, where it began to snow the 10th of June. Sure-footed and easy going, GMC just ticked off the highway miles, keeping us all safe and comfortable, and always giving what was requested of her.
We’ve taken trips with a truck-load of boys for Scout adventures, and GMC has heard more than her fair share of giggling kids.
What struck me Friday, especially, were the emergency trips we had made. I was headed that day to take my dad to the doctor over a cyst which had become infected and was making him ill. We had several of those under our belt, though. My friend Deedra and her husband were in a serious motorcycle accident a few years ago, and GMC carried us quickly and safely to that emergency room waiting area, where we were able to give them a hug and tell them how thankful we were they weren’t hurt more. I’ve made several Emergency Room runs for one family member or another, as well as friends. GMC has carried me on a couple of hospital runs for myself, too, and always given me a safe, comfortable ride home–which says something if you’ve driven on many Arkansas roads!
She and I have an understanding. I like to go fast, and so does she. I take care of her and she politely finds rather interesting ways to tell me something is wrong. We had to put in a few fuel pump a couple of years ago and the one they put in apparently had some relay switch on it which was bent when they put it in. Did she leave me stranded? No, she told me something was wrong by playing tricks with the fuel gauge (I still have the video–it really made me laugh) so that I would take her into the shop.
We’ve helped people move, we’ve carried loads of groceries, we even provided a mobile workstation on a camping trip one summer as one mom was providing mohawk haircuts for all the boys who wanted them. On that same trip, we nearly blew a tire, which was bubbling out on one side. We had driven from our home to Las Vegas, and then on to the Grand Canyon. We found the tire when we stopped at our campsite, and my husband and I were safely able to change it without any damage or anyone being hurt.
I remember talking to our mechanic a while back after a brake job they had performed which hadn’t gone exactly as planned. When I was returning to my office, my brakes bled out and I found myself unable to stop. It was a sheer miracle that I was on a side road which was surprisingly not busy that afternoon, and I was able to guide her over and roll to a stop. It broke my heart to see her loaded onto a tow truck that afternoon, but by the next morning she was all fixed up again. Our mechanic corrected the problem, and he and I had a long talk about the safety of my family, and that GMC is definitely a big part of that. He smiled and talked to me about his appreciation of that, and how he appreciated that I treated my vehicle so well.
The people who ride with me regularly have likely seen me pat her on the dash and thank her for another safe trip. I drive a lot for business as well as scouts, and I can’t imagine not having her.
My dad and I have been talking a lot lately about how it’s time to trade the old girl. My husband and I have been looking around a little here and there, but I honestly just can’t get too serious about it yet. I always said I was going to drive that vehicle until the wheels fell off. It saddens me to think about such a good vehicle being “discarded.” Besides, the new ones are OMG expensive, and I don’t mind her cracking seats and stained floor mats. I’ve grown accustomed to the things that don’t work 100% perfectly. That ol’ girl and I have been a long way together.
As I was driving with my dad the other day, it gave me comfort to have her with me. I know that seems silly, to consider a vehicle part of your family, but I believe she truly is. I can’t imagine what it will be like, putting my kids in a different vehicle and not having the space which we have now. I suppose it’s akin to being raised in the same house all your life.
I’m glad we’ve been able to build such great memories with our family and that vehicle, and I hope my kids get to have the same thing with their kids someday.


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