Saturday, March 19, 2011

But will it cost me my first born child?

There are a few moments in my life as a married woman when I should have stopped and said, "Wow! That is a really bad idea."

For the most part, those bad ideas resolved themselves with time. And the obvious.

Except for one that is haunting me right now. It keeps me up at night. Makes my stomach ache. Is giving me a few new strands of gray hair every day.

Readers, heed this word of advice.

Never purchase a car from a family member.

Especially if that family member is your mother-in-law.

It seemed like a good argument. The case was successfully made by the more aggressive of the couple. Sell the Toyota Tacoma 2WD. Buy another car from her. Pay down the loan interest free. Have a new car with 4-Wheel Drive to help us safely get from our new Montana home to the office and back home again from September to April when the streets are covered in ice and snow.

At the time, it really was for the best. I am grateful that we were able to have what we had when we had it. And Mother-in-Law really did help us out a lot in our early years of marriage, when only one of us had a full time job and then later when we were both graduate students and only one of us had constant employment.

You can never predict the future.

But you can predict that such a decision will have consequences.

Unfortunately, in the Great Division of a Shared Life, I had to chose my battles. So I came to California with a U-Haul pulling another trailer full of stuff.

Not a car.

Sister and B-i-L have been very kind in letting me use their extra vehicle and I am eternally grateful. In fact, I get choked up every time I think about how awesome it is that they have done that for me. But the time has come to return that kindness, to spread my wings, face my fears, swallow the bile rising in my throat....

And buy a damn car.

I have to admit that the last few months I have only been passively shopping. Squirreling away some money. Checking Craigslist. Stalking the local car dealerships, but not going in because the salesmen scare me. Calling my dad regularly to talk about how I absolutely must have a "Toyota Tacoma, 4WD with a back seat. Make sure it has an automatic transmission, and if it already has a camper shell on the back, that would be awesome." This is after all, my dream car, so why shouldn't I go for it? The hardest part will be finding it in my price range and with the right number of miles.

But then last week, on my way home from a meeting in Santa Rosa, I paid $4.80 per gallon of gas. Granted, it was in a work car, so it didn't come out of my pocket...but it could have.

Hours upon hours of research and some very insightful brainstorming with a dear friend last week have resulted in 1). Sticker shock, 2). a revised version of my ideal car, and 3). a bigger picture perspective that is making this decision easier...and the same time.

While the Toyota Tacoma is still my dream truck, and I have big plans to drive all over the desert with Ellie, camping in cool places and seeing amazing sights....I also have to keep in mind that the Tacoma (in the flavor I want) on a good day gets about 14 mpg in the city, and 18 mpg on the highway. This is not very economical, given my current location in a somewhat removed part of California. Every where I want to go requires a good deal of highway driving, often followed by some serious dirt road driving. But maybe not extreme 4-wheel drive driving...

And to top it off, about a month ago I made my "List" of things I want to do in the next year. I wrote it out on a very bleak day, when I was discouraged and bitter and could not get out of bed. I hung it on my refrigerator door so that I see it every morning when I make coffee and every evening when I make dinner (or eat ice cream) and remember that I do have some goals and the wherewithal to accomplish them. Number 5 on the list of things (that is actually not in any particular order) is to buy a a town about 80 miles away. I have this idea of living there, and commuting 4 days a week. Math is not my strong suit, but I think that equates to a drive of about 640 miles a week...

There is time to figure out the details, but the point is that I have a "bigger picture" in mind that includes a lot of driving.

Another friend who regularly commutes to her job from rural Montana gave me a great bit of advice: "...Take a deep breath. Have a beer. What is more important right now in your life: roots to grow (house) or wings to fly (car)? You'll work it out, realize it doesn't all have to happen at the same time. Good'll work through it, just maybe not tomorrow ;)."

So with all these things in needs, my wants, my wallet, and of course, the environment....and a looming deadline for getting the loaner car back to Sister...I think a compromise between roots and wings is a good option for right now.

I've decided to focus my efforts on a vehicle that 1). gets good gas mileage, 2). has some clearance to drive down dirt roads, 3). fits all my camping gear plus Ellie in the back of it and 4). maybe doesn't cost me my first born child to get it.

And definitely does not belong to my mother-in-law.

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