America’s love affair with cars dates back to the early 1900’s when Henry Ford first dropped the Model T in its lap. Since then, cars – and trucks – have gotten bigger, faster, sexier, and considerably more complicated… which leaves many of us pining for the good ol’ days. Or maybe we just miss what those vehicles represent – a person, a feeling, a moment in time.
Off the top of my head, I can claim having owned seven vehicles in the 23 years I’ve been on the road. They all hold a special place in my heart but it’s the 80’s era, brick red, Ford Bronco II I miss the most… maybe because I was just turned 20, in the midst of college, living on my own and, for the first time, feeling my freedom. To a hatchling fresh from the nest, the “Baby Bronc” (BB for short) felt like a tank. A cute tank but, a tank, nonetheless. A sampler-sized SUV for a sampler-sized adult. I used every inch of that rig… from the drivers’ seat hauling friends on road trips, to the passenger seat while boyfriends practiced their chivalry. From stargazing on the hood to sprawling in the cargo space where, having removed the rear bench and driven up Mt. Ashland, I’d lift the tailgate on warm summer evenings, and study in the shifting light of dusk.
Six months later, on that same ski area access road, the Bronc and I narrowly averted disaster when we hit ice and spun. We came to rest facing the opposite direction, engine stalled, just inches from the drop-off to the Colestin Valley. All I heard was wind and the frantic beat of my heart. The Bronc had protected me.
And that is the feeling I yearn for. Nestled in BB’s fuzzy red interior, and incognito behinds its blackened windows, I felt cozy, warm, and safe. I felt buffered… and not just from frosty winters and prying eyes but from encroaching independence, new responsibilities, the inevitable loss of innocence that comes with growing up.
BB is long gone now… I don’t even recall what prompted what was almost certainly its trading-in. But when I feel the urge to slip back into youth, when I crave the excitement radiating from a future of possibilities, when I simply need shelter from a no-doubt beautiful but occasionally trying world, I close my eyes and crawl back into the memory of the nurturing cave, the peaceful pod, the haven that was my Bronc.