This morning I had an objective – or more like a challenge of a personal sort. I rode my bike nine miles just to see if I could do it. Obviously I succeeded, since I’m writing this. I guess you just have to take my word for it that I actually did it. This who know me well know I usually don’t lie…but I am prone to exaggerating a bit every now and then. Hey, I’m a writer. It’s what we do.
Anyway, the reason or the personal challenge is two fold. I ride a bike to and from work, so being in shape is important. And since I nixed my car as transportation about four years ago it has been my primary means of transportation – other than hoofing it everywhere. I’ve done a considerable amount of that as well.
Now, you may be asking how I ended up not having a car? Well, it’s one of those long stories but I’ll tell you anyway. In 2008, while I was commuting from Satellite Beach to Kissimmee on a regular basis, my 2002 Chevy S10 died. Fortunately, I was close to home when it happened. I drove a rental car for a couple of days – a Chrysler Sebring convertible that got terrible gas mileage in my estimation, though it was fun riding around withe the top down and the wind in my hair even if it was late March and a little on the chilly side. I recall driving my youngest, Sarah, down to Melbourne Beach with the top down one of those nights – satellite radio blaring – just to get some ice cream. I remember telling her I could get used to driving a convertible.
Having been in car sales a short six months before that I looked up a guy I used to work with and we worked up a deal for a silver 2006 Chevy HHR. Sarah and my other daughter Amanda christened it ‘The Rhino’ dues to its overall look. And for over two years that was my car. Sarah finished high school that year so the reason for staying in Satellite Beach was gone. Amanda was starting her junior year at The University of South Florida near Tampa. I had just helped my son move to Claremont to attend a branch campus of the University of Central Florida. My ex and I were on the verge of getting a divorce and bankruptcy. So Sarah and I moved to an apartment in Kissimmee, which was about a half mile from where I worked. Shortly thereafter I started having a continuing problem with the HHR.
You see, in the corporate wisdom of General Motors, they cut corners on some things like battery size in the newer cars. It doesn’t affect most people, so they are fine with taking the hit from the rest of the people who are dissatisfied, I guess. Being fair, I’m sure its not just a GM thing. Everyone does it. But here’s what happens when you drive a car like the 2006 Chevy HHR a half mile each way everyday. The battery dies. Why? It’s a design flaw in my estimation. You see, you need to drive it at least ten miles a day for the undersized battery to fully recharge. Otherwise you must deep charge the battery for fifteen to twenty hours at least once a month. I learned this after researching the issue on The Internet upon the second instance of my battery dying and having the service department at my local dealership swear that the battery and the electrical system on the car was fine. Because of the antitheft system on the car, the key had to be reprogrammed each time plus the towing charge. So, it cost me $170 each time it happened. I was not happy.
I called the owner of the dealership. I called Chevrolet. Both told me not to believe everything I read only The Internet. Well, is that why there were over 5000 reported instances of the same thing happening to people? What Einstein automotive engineer determined that, on the average, people will drive a car at least ten miles a day? Seriously, they designed a car to need to be driven that much instead of conserving energy, etc. No wonder the company went into bankruptcy and the local dealership, by the way, was one of many GM forced to close its doors forever.
Since my own bankruptcy was final by then and under the terms of that settlement as long as I kept up with the payments I could continue to drive my car, I had a decision to make. Did I really need the car? Sarah had driven it to work in Orlando until the car’s dead battery ‘feature’ caused her to lose her job. Yes, because she didn’t drive it everyday even driving it 12 miles to Orlando every couple of days a week wasn’t good enough to charge the battery. So, I called the bank and told them to intervene with GM about the car’s electrical problem or I wasn’t going to continue making payments. They told me it wasn’t their responsibility to fight with the manufacturer over car defects and if I stopped making car payments they would repo the car.
“Fine, repo it.”
“Well sir, it will ruin your credit.” That is always a good threat when someone has good credit, isn’t it?
“Look, my credit is so bad that, at this point, if you make any entry at all into my file it will probably improve my score.” Yeah, I was being facetious but my credit really was bad.
And so, I bought a bike on closeout from where I worked, a nice one for about 1/3 of the normal price. I began riding to and from work.
Sarah and Amanda moved to Illinois to share a place there together. I remained living and working in Kissimmee, Florida, riding a bike and waiting for the car to be repossessed. I waited and waited and waited.
I wasn’t able to drive it. The battery was dead. So I cancelled my insurance. The State of Florida threatened to fine me if I didn’t maintain insurance on a registered vehicle. So I turned in my license plate. Not that I really ‘saved’ the money but I had a whole lot more disposable income after not making payments on a car, paying insurance or being gasoline. Such a radical I am! Why it’s almost un-American not to have a car, right?
While Sarah still lived with me we rode the bus a lot of places. The service wasn’t great but it got us where we needed to go even if it took all day to get across town and back. Other times my son who had moved closer to the main campus at UCF and started graduate school was able to drive me some places in a pinch.
The bank that owned the car loan was bought out by a larger bank and apparently my particular case file was misplaced. So it took the acquiring bank over a year to finally decide to repo The Rhino. By then they assumed I had flown the coop and hired a private detective to find me. I’m not exaggerating, this folks. As vivid as my imagination may be, I couldn’t make something like this up.
It wasn’t like I had tried to hide my address or phone number. They were still the same as when I last changed them on my account. But the PI assumed I had relocated again. So he tracked down my relatives, and ended up calling my son. He didn’t give any information, because he assumed it was someone form the bankruptcy trying to scheme a way back into my life. But he took the guy’s number and called me. I assumed it was about the car that was still sitting in my driveway. So I called, told him to pick it up, the sooner the better. Probably the easiest repo ever.
So that’s how I ended up not having a car, riding a bike or walking everywhere.
Granted, my current situation of commuting a mile and a half each way has only been since May. But since starting this job I have lost a lot of weight between riding the bike and working a job that requires a lot of physical effort and manual labor. It’s a good change up from sitting and writing or editing. It’s a huge change from being a manager. I’ve lost some weight – about 60 pounds in the past year, half of it just since May.
And today I rode nine miles. Toward the end it felt like it was all uphill and against the wind. Still, I made it.
#biking #walking #cars #repo #exercise #ChevyHHR #DeadBattery #DesignFlaws #defects