Gambling on a new (used) ride



Ted Escobar

I woke up at 1 a.m. Thursday morning, and that’s not unusual for me… except I woke up thinking about my new car.

New for me anyway.

It’s a 2002 Honda Odyssey minivan my son Grover found in Spokane.

He called about 8:30 Wednesday night to tell me about it.

Grover has become a good horse trader over the years.

I was a little concerned about the car’s age and mileage, but it ran pretty well when I was 16, and cars go 350,000 miles nowadays.

All my auto purchases have been gambles.

I bought new cars in 1975 and 1978, and neither panned out better than my used car gambles.

“All the maintenance has been done at the Honda dealer, and they kept the records,” Grover said. “And it’s in real good shape.”

The sellers wanted $2,800.

Sounded good to me if I could still get 150,000 miles out of it.

Grover called again. “Look at your email,” he said.

He’d sent side, front and interior views of the car. I enlarged them all I could and didn’t spot a blemish.

“I got them down to $2,300, and they’ll throw in four snow tires and half a tank of gas,” Grover said. “I’m going to talk to them again to see if I can get a better deal.”

I told Grover to go ahead and get the car.

After I finished reviewing that conversation at 1 a.m., I started thinking of my current car, a more than slightly tainted gold-colored 2001 Chevy Malibu I got for $4,000 in 2010.

My kids asked me if I’d gone into drug dealing.

“No,” I said, and I asked why they asked.

They said gold cars are what drug kingpins drive.

I’ve kept my car dirty ever since to throw off the DEA.

My relationship with this car was like a marriage. I had to learn how to handle her and get past a couple of brushes with divorce.

Pat and I were down around Salem, Ore. climbing a hill when the transmission started to slip. I downshifted manually, and all was well. But, Pat noticed.

“I told you to get a new car,” she said.

Not long after that, unbeknownst to me, the car’s security system locked the ignition. I didn’t even know it had a security system.

I took it to a mechanic in Othello. Somehow, it unlocked, and I started driving.

After a couple more incidents, I had to pay for a tow from Mattawa to Sunnyside and then to Yakima, where an ignition part was changed.

The next mechanic figured out what was happening, and I had him disable the security.

All this time, Pat is saying, “I told you so.”

I was not going to give in. I drove the car from about 130,000 miles to 339,000 miles. I had to manually downshift going uphill all those years.

That’s not much different than all the times I’ve gotten into trouble with Pat.

The first vehicle I drove the year I was 16, in 1961, was a 1937 red flatbed International pickup.

Dad got it to haul gasoline to our trucks at the pea harvest in Dayton. I don’t know where dad found it, but it was a sorry-looking piece of metal and it topped out at 40 mph.

That was good though — one day.

I was going from Dayton to Waitsburg when the left front tire blew. The pickup decided to go left, across the centerline and the oncoming lane into a field, but it didn’t crash.

A used Chevy Vega was the car I had when I met Pat.

She can’t forget it. She asked me to let her drop me off at work, so she could use it.

I exited the car, said, “See you later,” and went to work.

“What am I going to do?” she yelled as I walked away.

Go home.

“But it’s a stick. I’ve never driven a stick.”

You have two choices: stay here all day and wait for me or drive home. She went home.

My first new car was a 1975 Dodge Colt.

I drove it to the KingDome to watch Granger play for the state A football championship with our first two kids — Grover and Brenda — strapped into the back seat, and Jenny inside Pat’s tummy.

Going up Snoqualmie Pass, I drifted into some slush on the right side. It caused the car to spin and flip onto its side. I was waiting for some kind of ticket, for sure, when the state trooper arrived.

After a couple of questions, he helped a passer-by and me flip it back onto its wheels. I drove on.

I’ve been saying for a couple of years that the gold Malibu would be my last car.

But, when seal coating and paint started peeling off a couple of years ago, Pat started saying I needed a new car. She said she was concerned for my safety, but I’m sure she was just embarrassed to see her hotshot news reporter of a husband driving a raggedy Ann.

Seeing that I wasn’t going to budge on the matter, she went to Grover.

“Dad needs a new car. You find one, and I’ll send you the money,” she said.

It was Pat’s voice I heard the first time Grover said, “You need new car dad.”

I agreed. I trusted my horse-trading son would find the right one.

So, here I go gambling again.


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