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June 28, 2007

Ode To My Honda Pilot

Hondapilot by Lori Shapiro
I've never been a car girl.  When coworkers would start to describe and compare their cars or discuss which car they wanted when they made a million dollars, I would stop listening.  I could care less.   A car was a vehicle to get from one place to another but I never felt this car love that others had.

Growing up my father was a salesman.  He would get a new Buick every year or so and we  had trouble remembering what his most recent car looked like.  My mother always drove a big station wagon.  The one I recall the best was an Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser complete with wood panel styling.  We used to call it the "S.S. Belle" because it was such a boat.  All three children learned to drive in it.  It survived many family road trips and sporting events.

When I was in college I didn't even want a car like all my friends did.  When I was home I would just use my parent's car or sometimes my brother's beat up old "Yellow Bean" Volvo.  I didn't drive it very well because it had a tricky clutch and I was distracted by the honks from Dead Heads noticing his bumper stickers.
So it should come as no surprise that, when I HAD to buy a car because my job moved to a place that I couldn't get to by public transportation, I wasn't sure what to get.  I went with the inexpensive, practical, good gas mileage, small, Toyota Corolla.  Having a car stressed me out.  I was worried about it and feared I would do something wrong.  After awhile I grew mildly attached to it, naming the car "Candy Apple" based on its maroon-ish color.  I took it on trips and on errands.  I felt cool owning a stick shift and liked that it never broke down.

When it came time to sell the car, I felt like I was losing a part of my no-strings-attached, single, career girl life.  I had to convert to my parent's used, automatic Subaru Outback Wagon so that I had a safe place for the baby on the way.  I got used to the practicality quickly and was not interested in changing cars when the second baby was about to be born.

My husband was vehemently opposed to owning a minivan and frankly, I didn't want one either.  I thought it was silly to take such a large, unwieldy vehicle to the grocery store and carpool line.  People told us that we would love a minivan.  I wouldn't even consider one that didn't have 4-wheel drive.  I wasn't going to be one of those stupid moms with two little kids skidding out going up the hill to the doctor's office. Enter the Honda Pilot.

My husband started campaigning for a Pilot after he saw his friend's.  He even sent me a funny article about how to convince yourself to get a Pilot when you really need a minivan.  My husband is tall and he needed a car with ample lag and head room.  With two kids and a dog we knew we needed a decent size car, an SUV or a Minivan.  The Pilot seemed to fit all the things we wanted including fold away third row seats.  We call it "The Truck".

It was always intended to be my car and I adjusted to the size fairly quickly.  I liked that I was up high and got used to climbing into the car.  I loved that it was a snow capable truck.  We took it on trips and I drove it around town.  It can still be difficult to squeeze it into our garage, but, overall, I have been pleased with it.  Until I got stuck in a late season, traffic-jam producing storm.  Then, I fell in love.

I had taken my almost three year old daughter to visit a friend and her triplets about an hour away.  As we were driving there, the weather report said that the snow was going to continue, mix with rain and become problematic for commuters.  I figured we weren't going too far and, besides, we would leave well before rush hour.  No worries.

We had a wonderful visit that included my daughter falling asleep when the triplets went down for a nap.  Around 3pm we realized it was getting late, checked the road conditions and I prepared myself for what could possibly be a long trip home.

Kids_car_road_trip Little did I know that it would take over 4 hours for me and my daughter to get back to our house.   The trip home was harrowing, frustrating and long, but I never once felt unsafe; secure as I was in my Pilot.  As my daughter listened to the Easter Bunny music CD over and over, I checked in on my cell phone and tried to avoid the other cars on the road.  At first we were at an almost complete stand still. Blocked by cars that had spun out and were stranded perpendicular to traffic.  When we did inch along I was concerned that another driver would slide into the side of our truck.  I was not worried that we would be hurt or that our car would slip, I just didn't want anyone else to run into us and leaving us unable to return home.

My daughter never fell asleep and only got a little bit restless.  I knew her car seat was tethered in properly.  I was warm, safe and mostly comfortable (there was no way I could stop for the bathroom).  I felt fortunate to have a car that handled so well in the snow and ice. I felt safe being up high and also, because it is a big, sturdy car.

I should have stayed home that day, but I didn't.  I am glad that my Honda Pilot brought us home safely even if a little rattled.  I will never defect to a Minivan.  Unless, of course, we have more kids.  Then I may have to reconsider.  Car Love can be fickle that way.

Lori Shapiro is the author of the Spinning Yellow blog

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