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My Blog

February 2011

Family Truckster 2.0

Twenty-five-something years ago my family had a station wagon.  We called it the family Truckster, because the similarities to Clark Griswold’s car in National Lampoon’s Vacation were uncanny (right down to the real-imitation wood-grain siding).  “You think you hate it now, just wait till you drive it!”  We used the car a lot like the Griswold family too; it drove us on a ton of summer vacations.  On its maiden summer voyage the Truckster took us all along the US east coast including Niagara Falls, Washington DC and then to the 1982 world’s fair in Knoxville, Tennessee.   On another summer voyage the Truckster took us out West to some of world’s most breathtaking vistas through the Badlands of South Dakota, Glacier National Park in Montana, Yellowstone and the Tetons in Wyoming.   And each and every year at Christmas it drove the 500 miles from our home in Minnesota to a wonderful little town called Lincoln in central Illinois. 
There were a lot of good memories created in the Truckster, and plenty of bizarre moments too.  There was the time that it was so cold in Central Iowa that the car actually froze up.  True.  The engine physically froze and stopped working.  So there are five of us on the side of the road, it’s like minus 50 Fahrenheit and we’re dead stopped on the side of the road, the temperature in the car rapidly dropping.  The good thing about minus 50 in Iowa is that people are going to stop to help a potentially frozen family – and they did stop to help, but no one had enough room to fit five extra people.  First a car stops and has enough room for two people, so my mom and sister get in with instructions to meet us at the first restaurant on the right hand side of the road at the next exit.  Next a trucker stops with enough room for two of us – so my brother and I, probably age 9 and 11 get in with the trucker, leaving dad to wait with the car for a tow-truck.  It was a different time, and a different place.  When I consider the circumstances, I suppose getting into an 18-wheel truck with a strange trucker was preferable to freezing to death, but this was before cell phones, text messaging and twitter and we were in the middle, of the middle of nowhere.  There were no guarantees that we’d ever find each other again.
Luckily, we arrived in one piece at the appointed restaurant at the next exit, and set out to find the first expedition.  It was a long and cold search (they decided they would wait at the first restaurant on the left… not the right), but we eventually accounted for all five at that interstate exit and were no worse for wear once we got the Truckster started again.  
The very next Christmas it was even colder if that’s possible.  We decided to leave on Christmas day so we wouldn’t risk getting frozen on the side of the road in the middle of the night.  Once the Truckster was packed I slammed the station wagon’s back door, and crash! the Truckster’s back window exploded into a thousand pieces.  I was nothing a piece of plywood and a jigsaw couldn’t fix, we may have even stained the plywood to match the actual real-imitation faux wood-grain side panels.
Ahhh the Truckster, so many fond memories.
A thousand years later and million miles away I bought a new Truckster here in Australia, only this one’s called a Kluger, and I guess it’s more of Truckster “2.0.”  Unlike the Truckster we had when I was a kid, this one is an SUV, not a wagon.  It has lots of cool stuff like enough seatbelts for everyone and airbags (five or six of them), definitely an upgraded version in comparison.  There’s a lot better about our new Truckster – and some things that are quite similar, including the fact that it has a weak back window.  Let me explain.
At the end of January we had a heat-wave here in Sydney.  It was hot, really hot, for like five or six straight days.  There was one Saturday where the temperature got up to 42 degrees (that’s Celsius, and it converts to about 106 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s hot).  Everybody’s cranky, it’s impossible to stay comfortable and after sitting around in pools of our own sweat that Saturday evening, I said to the kids, “let’s get in the car where it’s cool and we’ll go out and get ice cream.”  I didn’t have to ask twice.  We all pilled into Truckster 2.0, we asked Australian Julie (that’s our GPS friend) to guide us to Manly and off we went in search of ice cream, enjoying the cranked up air conditioning on the journey.  
Now, aside from the fact that I occasionally turn into the wrong lane when making a right turn, I’ve gotten to be a decent left hand driver – but for some reason I left my better driving judgment at home on this particular hot night.  After searching for a parking spot we end up in a multi-level car park, which is bad enough to begin with, but I decided to get cute, and backed into a spot to enable an efficient exit later.  Things were going great until I heard a noise that sounded almost exactly like the glass exploding in the original Truckster twenty-five years ago.  This time I had backed into an overhang and broke the back window of our Kluger.  Glass everywhere, thankfully no one was hurt…well except my ego and my wallet. 
Ugggghhhh, Truckster 2.0, so many fond memories. 
So what’s the moral of the story?  “When the temperature is at extremes, stay out of the family Truckster.”  No, that’s not it…  It’s more like this… “no matter how far your blood pressure rises, you just gotta laugh at yourself, because you can be sure that there are many others who are already laughing at you.”  Those laughing at you will invariable include your kids, and in this case the parking lot attendant as he points out the sign warning of a low overhang.  Absolutely hilarious mate.    
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