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The Big Bend: Muse-Mobile

Memorial Day 2021

My Muse decided sometime last summer that I need a new vehicle, a Muse-Mobile that will amuse me!

In NORTHSTAR, my character Shannon Caine is striving to attain that higher plane of reliable automotive function, and progress from a broken-down Mustang to a bucking Bronco. I, Debra, have personally always wanted a Bronco . . .

A couple of years ago, I chronicled my on-the-road history (Summer Driving Lessons), but I left out the Bronco-lust that overcame me when I first arrived in The California West of the late 1970s. The neatest, sweetest, hottest wheels on the freeway were rolling underneath vintage Broncos — and they all were from out-of-state. I’d never seen such a sight, anywhere, ever!

The Wyoming license plate had the bucking bronco, which I found a rather predicable and ho-hum choice.

The Colorado one, it was something else!

That license plate alone inspired the Western-Writer in me. White mountain tops floating on a dark green metal background. Poetry in motion!

The aesthetic effect on me was awe-inspiring! Somehow, the Sierra Nevada of California no longer seemed my ultimate destiny. And I’d only been in the Golden State for all of one month!

Colorado, however, is a boom-to-bust state: that’s what my opinion was, and remains, of the Centennial State. Having experienced the Bicentennial in D.C., I was leery of the formal proclamation of a centennial of anything. Carbon-Dating your brand-new statehood was not the wisest choice for a former territory that attracts opportunists like a flame draws moths.

My love of the vintage Bronco has never ebbed from my early days of observing the brutishly austere rig and the rough-and-ready guys driving them. When the Ford company put out their Bronco II in the 1980s, I laughed and called it “The Tip-over II.” It was so narrow and top-heavy that I predicted the 100% lawyer-employment that remains the only goal-game of the American Shyster class.

My very young family and I decided to buy the 1992 Ford Explorer, in the teal green, with taupe interior, for those adventuring days and nights of our lives. And we decided to ORDER one, straight from the factory, in late 1991. This command act reminded me of my youth, buying a manual-gear Chevy Citation without knowing how to operate a stick-shift. This time, the purchase would be for “the best-selling SUV in the World” without any Milligan having handled the wheel of the novelty sports-utility-vehicle.

We took a trip, right after Christmas, to the Roseville Automall, just to get a gander at the future family wagon. I fully expected the hard-sell from the car salesman, and was prepared to combat the pushy peddler. When he glibly insisted that we ALL go for a test-drive, I explained that I was just coming off of a flu-bug, a virus of some sort, and really did not want to risk ruining that beautiful brand-new upholstery.

The dealer backed off very fast. I can only imagine trying to pull this fast one today, without wearing a mask, and hacking and coughing. Thirty Karens would ambush me and cart me off to the Isolation Ward!

The shiny teal green Explorer was our gorgeous conveyance to many far-off locales, coasts, campsites, and national parks. What eventually did this driving machine in was not a rocky route on distant treks; or the freight packed on those 1,000-mile expeditions; or my writing voyages to Monterey, to Truckee, and to Minden, Nevada. What did in the Explorer was my own private road. That woebegone path was so pot-holed that the automotive suspension gave out within a couple of years, just before we chipped in our 75% of the cost to blacktop the rutted Peach Lane. (Living at the end of the thoroughfare upped our percentage to the max.)

The Explorer then gave way to the metallic red PT Cruiser in 2002. That compact vehicle was not the easiest for me to drive (my turn-the-head rear-view was partly obstructed by a head rest), but I happily cruised around in it for a few years. Dear Son then took over those wheels — and I progressed in the autumn of 2005 to my Blue-Chip Caddy.

I still own my Caddy. It’s quite a collector’s item, and it is a stick shift. I nonetheless did not want to run this classic car into the ground; and I decided to purchase a “used car” in November 2018. I really threaded the low-priced buying-needle when I acquired the 2013 Edge at the local college auto-mart. I’ve mastered the Edge, but I really do not enjoy driving this “crossover” oddity. It’s an automatic and my right hand keeps wanting to gear-shift up!

This past February 2021, I told Dear Husband: “We need to put in an order for the Bronco.”

I figured the auto industry was gonna be in a huge mess, given what all the other Whiz-Bang Wizards of US Capitalism were busy doing during at least the past year of 2020. In early February, Dear Hubby dutifully put in the order for the Big Bend, using the Build-Your-Bronco website.

In March, we heard exciting news from the Salesgal at the Local Ford Dealership: She was so happy to receive news of our Reservation for the New Ford Bronco. Our reservation is confirmed for A BRONCO in 2022!

I’d not wanted to purchase the beta-version Bronco of 2021, so this piece of information did not alarm me, not at all. The estimated arrival-date of the 2022 model was given: 1 September 2021.

Then the Micro-chip Crisis arrived. It’s in full swing! The U.S. Auto Industry is currently plagued by the back-order of many parts, but the GLOBAL crisis is The Auto Micro-chip.

At times, it feels like I am re-living those Carter years of the 1970s, but in digital time. The fact that I was out on my own, and working, by the time that I was in my teens is a fact that I fail to find today. The luxury of living at home and getting that degree was not even possible during my “youth” (because “youth” is, for some people, a state of mind, not an age or number).

When I worked in D.C. as a soda&coffee-shop cashier at Quigley’s (one of my 3 jobs), the prices of goods and services were always going up because of the latest crisis — something called “inflation”. Each month, I had to re-learn unit prices all over again.

One of my other jobs during the Stagflation ‘70s was as an assistant Photo Editor at U.S. News & World Report. I got to “model” the crisis for that week — holding a bag of sugar in the grocery store aisle; looking longingly at an over-priced pair of real leather shoes in a store-front window; and glancing upward as the top of the beauty parlor hair dryer descends on my head — and wondering how was I ever going to pay for this coiffure. I then caused a crisis at that magazine, stating I wanted a fee for the modeling duties-as-not-assigned.

There were also the Gas Crisis and the Hostage Crisis. And the Soybean Crisis, which was when I learned that the McDonald’s Quarter-Pounder was composed mostly of soybean. I never again ate one of those greasy faux-meat meals.

The crises of the Carter years just kept coming — economic, political, military, foreign, domestic, commodities, services, taxes, black-market, bartering, under-the-table work — till the doldrums got all rolled up into the Misery Index and the Malaise. The 21st Century Anvil Chorus and Institutional Infirmity presently await us all!

There was The Leather Crisis, The Haircut Crisis, The Sugar Crisis, which led to The Coffee Bean Crisis. I can tell you there was no dairy crisis, at least not in the Northeast, because my Friday night cheapo-dessert treat was 1 pint of Chocolate Chip ice cream from HoJo’s (Howard Johnson’s) in the Watergate Complex. Furthermore, no one was using cream/milk in his cup o’ joe, just that plasticky Cremora or, gah! the powdery Coffee-mate. What working stiffs did drink was cheap wine, and lots of it!

My dream-Bronco has 7 gears, so I’ve taken the liberty of purchasing red Italian leather driving gloves — made by Italian hands! The latest ETA, however, for this 2022 Big Bend Bronco for my Muse is anytime between December 2021 and March 2022. I might need to buy a different pair of driving gloves to handle those snowy roads.


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