I saw a bumper sticker on a car the other day that read, “If you love America, don’t buy an SUV.”
Hmm, I guess the owner of that car hadn’t been in a rollover accident recently. Because ever since my husband and I had taken a tumble in our vehicle, I have become somewhat of a reluctant expert on whether a car is safe (translated, “big“) enough to ride in. And I should know, because I have either rented, owned, or been a passenger in seven different vehicles over the past five weeks since we left our cherished 2004 Envoy at Bill’s Collision Center in Washburn, Wisconsin. And, fortunately, most of the driving has either been in rain, fog, or a combination of both, sleet, freezing rain, hail, or blizzard conditions. The only weather condition I was not able to test the assorted vehicles out on was flooding, which surprised me because the amount of water that gushed from the skies yesterday as we drove into Milwaukee to pick up our new, rollover-resistant SUV before the 0% interest expired, seemed more than adequate float a Volkswagen.
After bidding so-long to our smooshed Envoy on November 27th, the next vehicle I found myself in was the back seat of a GMC Yukon as we were being chauffeured by fireman and Collision Center owner, Bill, to the Duluth Minnesota airport – in fog so thick that by the time we arrived all flights had been grounded. After having stared down death several hours earlier, I had to say the Yukon felt a little more secure than, say, a Yugo.
The purpose of going to the airport was so that we could rent a car to get us back home, 300 miles south. At the Hertz counter we rented a mid-size Hyundai Sonata for the eye-popping, one-way rate of $100.00 per day. That particular car handles reasonably well in rain, fog, and gusty winds, as those were the alternating conditions during our entire 9-hour drive back home. I never had a chance to test the car in dry conditions because it was still raining when I dropped the car off like a hot potato the next day at the Milwaukee Airport in order to avoid another day’s charge.
After returning the Sonata, I was given a bright red Dodge Neon at a daily rate of $40.00. This car was immediately tested in rainy conditions during the 45-minute drive back home and, in my expert opinion, would crumple like a Dixie Cup in a rollover, and then probably explode. Twice.
Two days later we hastily ditched the Neon for a cheaper-by-the-day monthly rental. The only car available at Hertz that day was a mafia-looking gray thing called an HHR. It’s sort of a cross between a PT Cruiser and an SUV. Aside from the large coffee spill stain on the driver’s seat, the first thing I noticed was that all of the windows in the car were about same size as the plastic windows in the Barbie’s Dream Car.
“We ain’t gettin’ out those windows if we roll over,” my husband observed comfortingly.
I let him drive it from then on. Luckily I still had my own, trusty, paid-for Pontiac Montana minivan to drive. I dismantled the decorative bricks around the Locust tree near our front step and threw about ten of them into the back of the minivan, along with a 50 lb. bag of sand. That was after driving it home from Milwaukee the previous day in a snowstorm and sliding all the way home at 30 mph because my husband had long ago removed the two rows of heavy back seats so the dog would have room to ride.
With the added weight of the bricks and sand I would surmise the Pontiac handles well on slippery roads. I wouldn’t know for sure because it hasn’t snowed since I added the bricks. And I may never know because my husband took the bricks back out yesterday because we had to drop the dog off for dental surgery before driving to Milwaukee to buy our new car – but we did find out that without the back seats or the bricks you can’t go very fast in accumulated hail, which is what we encountered on the way to the vet. So, after dropping off the dog, we drove the Pontiac back home to get the Ford pickup truck to take to Milwaukee.
Pickup truck? Oh, yes, the Ford pickup truck. You see, the month-long lease for the HHR ran out, and we found out that the back hatch wouldn’t lock and the oil change light kept coming on, and we still didn’t know when or, if ever, we were going to get the Envoy back because, as Rob the body shop guy put it, the insurance adjusters “took longer than the second coming of Christ,” – so we still needed a rental.
“Wait till you see what we got,” my husband grinned. “It’s the only car they had – but the guy said he’d give it to us for the same rate.”
But the all-wheel drive on the pickup did come in handy in the torrential, all-day downpour driving to Milwaukee and back, picking up our new wheels.
And the all-wheel drive also came in handy on the big-ass, gas guzzling, anti-patriotic, Crystal-approved-for safety Yukon SUV with extra-large windows and even a last-ditch sun roof escape route, if needed, that I drove off the car lot yesterday.
God, I love this country!