Thursday, September 16, 2010

Student Auto-Biography -- Alex Bowling an his Travels: his Dad's 1969 Buick Skylark Convertible

Alex Bowling

Dr. Heitmann

HST 485

Sept. 3, 2010

My “Auto” Biography

My life behind the wheel began much earlier than most other people. My first time in the driver’s seat was at the age of three. My mom left the car running while she ran back inside my house for a moment. Something compelled me to get out of my bucket seat and hop behind the wheel. I shifted my mom’s minivan into drive and the car lurched forward into our brick garage. Amazingly, my mom did not notice that the car was leaning against the brick wall when she returned. So when she got in the car, I reluctantly confessed what had happened. The damage to both was minimal but I received a stern lecture about touching things in the car. Unfortunately, several years later one of my friends happened to fall and hit his head on the sharp corner that I created that day. He had to get numerous stitches in the back of his head but fully recovered.

Some of my earliest memories are of my dad’s green Buick Le Sabre. Green was my favorite color and I loved how smooth the ride was, especially compared to our old minivan. I was heartbroken when my dad repainted the car red and I actually refused to ride in it for a short time. My dad had always had a knack for Buicks. One of his most prized possessions is his 1969 Buick Skylark convertible. It is has all of the original parts, except a tape-deck stereo that he installed himself. I have so many wonderful memories with that car. It was the mode of transportation for important sporting events and several parades. Gallons and gallons of ice cream have been consumed in that car while cruising around the historical districts of Louisville, Kentucky. I have even been lucky enough to take a few dates out in it. I always push my dad’s buttons by telling him that as soon as the Skylark is mine, I am going to put some huge chrome rims on the car and fit it with some sub-woofers. I would never do such a thing, but it always drives my dad crazy. If I am lucky enough to inherit the car someday, I plan to keep it as original as possible.

I bought my first car, a 1996 Grand Cherokee Laredo, from my uncle in 2006. The jeep already had 212,000 miles on it so needless to say, it wasn’t too expensive. Today the odometer reads 253,000 miles. The Grand Cherokees from the mid to late 1990’s are notoriously durable and long-lasting. Excluding the obvious components such as tires, everything on the car is completely original. I take great pride in a clean and organized car and I am proud of the extensive mileage that it has accumulated. I have been in one fender-bender accident with my car which didn’t cause serious damage. Unfortunately, I have a pronounced lead foot and I have amassed a total of three speeding tickets. The first two were undoubtedly justified, but I must present my case for the third and latest speeding ticket. I was pulled over in Boone County, Kentucky last year while driving home for Christmas Break. I had been in my only fender bender about an hour earlier and one of my headlights was shattered. After I was pulled over, I explained to the officer that my headlight was out because of the recent accident. After listening to my explanation, he returned with a ticket for five over. A police chief I know told me that in twenty-five years of service, he had never heard of a ticket for five over. I believe that this policeman just had a quota to meet and he wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to fine someone that he pulled over. On a lighter note, I have a copious amount of positive memories in my jeep. All of the places I have traveled and people that I have transported in my jeep have had a significant effect on my life. I thoroughly enjoy spending time in my car, even if I am by myself just listening to music. I wish that the cruising around associated with earlier generations was a more viable option for a poor college student who pays for his own gas. All things considered, I love my Grand Cherokee and I plan on driving it until it reaches the end of its rope.

Some of my favorite memories involving cars were family vacations. Two years ago my family rented a Ford Edge and drove up Highway 1 along the California coast. It was quite possibly the most breath-taking car ride of my life. The view of the Pacific Ocean, steep cliffs, thick forests, and sandy beaches is something that I will never forget. This past summer my family flew out to Park City, Utah to experience the mountain west. From our base in Park City, we drove to Yellowstone National Park and Teton National Forest; two of the most picturesque destinations in the United States. Not all of my car rides have been so invigorating though. Almost every summer during my adolescence, my family drove down to Hilton head, South Carolina. It is still my favorite vacation destination, but I always dreaded the car ride there and back. Driving through the Smoky Mountains always made my stomach twist and churn. I was routinely carsick, which made for a very unpleasant trip. Thankfully, I have grown out of my carsick phase and winding roads no longer bother me.

Two of the most pivotal trips of my life were dependent on an automobile. In high school, I volunteered to help with the Katrina cleanup. A local church rented three extended vans and packed about twelve kids in each of them. It was a fourteen hour drive to New Orleans and we drove straight through the night. I only slept for about an hour because of the cramped conditions and the anticipation of the task ahead of us. I will never forget the conversations that we all shared and the things that we encountered on that trip. Our group gutted several houses in a Vietnamese neighborhood wearing full body suites to protect against the mold build up and other bacteria. We drove to the 9th Ward and observed one of the breaches in the levee. It was one of the most moving and influential road trips of my life. Another momentous trip in my lifetime was my trip to China and Tibet in the summer of 2007. I went with a group of student from my high school Chinese class. We obviously flew around much of the country but several of the tours we embarked upon were by bus. The most spectacular of these was our trip to the Kambala Pass in Tibet. At an altitude of 16,000 feet, it is nearly as tall as the base camp for Mount Everest. From the pass, the Himalayas were visible in the distance. There was a holy lake in the valley between the mountains that is one of Tibet’s holiest lakes. It was the most intense shade of blue that I have ever seen in nature. The three hour drive up to the pass was heart wrenching. Our group was in a huge tour bus that was almost the exact width of the road. It was a one way road and the only way down was on the other side of the mountain. I was sitting on the side that was nearest to the edge and closest to the drop off that was 1,000 feet or more at times. It was difficult to look over the edge for too long. The local driver had a deadline to meet so every turn was like a roller coaster ride. It was without a doubt the scariest automobile ride that I have ever experienced.

I am absolutely amazed, as I reflect on this paper, that automobiles have played a significant role in my life. Some of my best memories were in automobiles as well as a few of my worst. I have no doubt that i have spent months of my life in automobiles and I will probably spend many more in them as well. They are vital to everyday American life and I believe that they will continue to be for generations.


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  2. Listen here. That picture of the Buick Skylark is copyrighted! Return my message within 48 hours, or your blog will be deleted by the internet cops. I don't know who you are John Heitmann, but I will find you, and I will apprehend you!