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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Car Trip (07/18/05)

TITLE: Old Bess
By Cheri Hardaway


Though slightly quirky, we nickname our vehicles. Lexie is my Lexus, purchased for one-third of her value at an estate sale. Epy, named after his license plate, is our 19-year-old Honda. Semiretired and aged to perfection, he squires our son about town. My husband’s parents were trading in their Toyota, but instead gave Sport – who shares my husband’s childhood nickname – to us, when my husband wrecked his car. Then there’s Bessie; in her prime she was a sleek, state of the art Chevy conversion van – the station wagon of the ‘90s. With us since 1989, Bessie witnessed the advent of minivans and SUVs, but we’ve remained loyal to old Bess, not letting our heads be turned by newer models. (The fact that Bessie has been paid off for years doesn’t hurt either!)

Gas guzzling Bessie was my everyday vehicle until she was replaced – first by economical Epy, then by luxurious Lexie. But for long trips, Bessie is still our vehicle of choice. As the kids grew from toddlers to teens, they appreciated the extra leg room Bessie offered, as well as not having their personal space invaded by siblings – Ugh! Gross! (And the less we heard “He’s touching me!” the better we liked it!) After 16 years, Bessie can almost make the ten-hour trek to Grandma’s blindfolded, and she has toured the entire Gulf Coast, and seen both the Rocky and the Smoky Mountains.

Bessie has the character that comes with age. She doesn’t have one of those newfangled electronic key chains, so it’s easy to get locked out. However, a well-executed thump to the secret spot on the window just behind the driver’s door allows that window to open just enough for an arm to reach through and unlock the door. Before we discovered this trick, we used to squeeze a small child through the sliding rear window that no longer locks. Unwilling to waste vacation money for a locksmith, we’ve had many opportunities over the years to find creative ways to break into old Bess. And though it’s not unusual now to see me patting her dashboard coaxing, “You can do it! Come on, Bessie,” nothing got in her way in the days before her Get Up and Go got up and went. Another of Bessie’s endearing traits is the broken bench seat in the back. The seat was factory perfect until the day we bounced along with five teens in the backseat. One extra big bump, along with Bessie’s absence of shocks and rear suspension, sent the kids flying into the air and down again – hard!

A peacekeeper, Bessie keeps family bickering – actually conversation of any kind – to a minimum. Over time her engine noise has escalated to a dull roar; coupled with her mysterious creaking and rattling, this affords ample time for quiet reflection – often pondering what each new noise might be! Bess also exhorts us to creativity and prayer. One such time, we were stuck in rush hour traffic in Houston, Texas – a perfect catalyst for prayer – when I noticed the needle on Bessie’s temperature gauge sprinting for the red zone. Things were better if we kept moving, so I made right turns only, snaking through neighborhoods and parking lots until we reached our destination. One thermostat and one water pump later, I only had to pray about my VISA bill!

Another time, Bessie’s fuel filter failed. After ten hours of driving, the engine just shut off, and the brakes and steering locked up. I wrestled Bess to the side of the road, where she refused to move another inch. A battered pickup pulled alongside of us as we awaited the tow truck. Encouraged that someone cared, I rolled down my window to say thanks, when the gentleman inquired, “Wanna buy a watermelon?” What was that about?

Our family has priceless memories of our trips with Bessie. Today’s hurry, scurry and hustle, bustle pace can dissuade people from road trips. They see extra travel hours as wasted time, rather than investments – investments in people and places visited; investments in memories made and relationships built along the way. In an age of convenience and disposables, Bessie has taught us the value of growing old together. When I grow old and slow down; when I am bent and my rear suspension is saggy; when my bones creak and I make loud noises – I know memories made will hold our family together, just like old Bess. She is family and we love her.

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This article has been read 1079 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Debbie OConnor07/25/05
Great job. This is a lot of fun. We name our vehicles too. I even have a Bessie of my own! Your descriptions were great and I love the connection to spending time with family and aging.
Crista Darr07/25/05
Oh no - not the saggy rear suspension! Too funny. Thanks for the enjoyable ride.
Helga Doermer07/25/05
This is a great character sketch of an old car - beginning with the name.
Sally Hanan07/25/05
Wistfully funny. My favorite was 'her get up and go got up and went'.
Beth Muehlhausen07/27/05
How can the reader not fall in love with Bessie, the matriarch of the family?! A great line: "In an age of convenience and disposables, Bessie has taught us the value of growing old together."
Nina Phillips07/27/05
I liked Old Bess the peacekeeper. This was realistic, lighthearted and humerous. Old Bess had just the right touch. God bless, littlelight
Lynda Lee Schab 07/28/05
This was a wonderful read. Great "car trip" angle and written well. I found myself rooting for Bessie! I hope she's with you for a long time!
Blessings, Lynda
Phyllis Inniss07/29/05
You have truly given the reader great respect and love for Bessie who has remained faithful and loyal to the family. You have managed this tale with love and humour and it shows what a great writer you are. Thanks for sharing.
Kyle Chezum07/29/05
Good job! This was a fun read.
Maxx .07/30/05
Thanks! Nice writing! Keep it up!
Val Clark08/06/05
A delightful and well written story. Thank you so much for sharing it.