A car called Chickadee
The first car I owned was a Datsun 510 called Chickadee, very much like the one in the photo here.
I was 22 or so, had not long been in the USA and didn't know much about cars over there so was fortunate to have a friend who sourced Chickadee for me as a good, reliable, first vehicle.
And it was by golly. We weathered some Seattle winters together, a grunty pair of snow tyres on the rear, ploughing our way up and down the hills and out south to where I was living.
Then came our great journey. Chickadee and I drove from Seattle, Washington to Fernandina Beach, Florida, with a blue Cookie Monster stuffed toy in the passenger seat and a 'CB' radio for company. The car was loaded with my possessions, packed in with such precision I almost had to dismantle the car to get everything out when I arrived at my destination, some three weeks later.
It was a massive trip and I wrote an article about it for the NZ Herald called 'There's no way like the freeway to Florida'.
I met many people along the way, and experienced some pretty full on adventures, some of which I look back on now and think the young are certainly protected by guardian angels and their innocence of the ways of the world.
Some of the most interesting parts were associated with vehicle damage or failures.
One night I stayed at the Grand Canyon. It was cold and I can still remember the clear, moonlit night, the depth of the canyon ghostly and silver-shadowed. The next morning, the car wouldn't start. I was wrestling with the problem when a man wandered up, said he'd had the same issue with his car. 'It's the high altitude and the dry air,' he said. 'Your carb isn't getting the right mix of air and gas.' OK. So he took over, did something under the hood, car started right away, no further problems.
I hit a huge hole in the road coming into Albuquerque, New Mexico, and broke the muffler. Pulling into the first repair shop I came to, the mechanic fixed it back to the car with a coat hanger and we had a great visit.
En route through Texas to visit my Uncle in Dallas, the water pump went out. I was towed into the nearby town of Childress, Texas where the local mechanics set to, repairing the car. The part had to come down from Amarillo so I spent the day on the main street, hanging out with the locals who were very friendly, drinking 'rodeo beer' (aka warm beer), watching the tumbleweed roll down the road and generally chewing the fat until the car was fixed.
There were plenty more exciting things that happened, and I link them all to that first car, Ms Chickadee, and her dogged determination to get me all the way to Florida, one mile at a time. From there, we traveled up to Atlanta where I stayed for several years.
It was a sad day when Chickadee and I parted. She was old and tired, and I needed something newer and more practical, and I'd been wowed by a flash Toyota station wagon - so we parted ways, but not without ceremony. Some friends and I drank rodeo beer one summer afternoon, several toasts to this brave little car who had taken such good care of me and seen me safely through so much.
Do you have a story about your first car? What colour was it, what make? Where did it take you? What adventures did you share? Did it have a name?
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