Ticket to Ride

The year I was born, my mother bought a new Spring Yellow 1965 Ford Falcon Futura from Huntersville Ford. That car got me to the babysitter’s, to Brownies and Girl Scouts, to church, and to Long Creek Elementary School on mornings it was too cold to walk the mile from our house. For eleven years, I left layers of my skin on the black leather seats during blistering North Carolina summers. The only air conditioning it had was 4/55 … four windows down at 55 mph.

That car delivered me to Hopewell Presbyterian Church one August day in 1976 to board a bus bound for Camp Eva Good in Transylvania County, near Brevard, North Carolina. During the week I was at church camp, my brother turned sixteen and, unbeknownst to me, the 1965 Falcon had a new owner. Mama picked me up from the church parking lot in a brand new 1976 Ford Granada, white with burgundy interior. It seemed like a luxury car compared to the Falcon. After all, it had actual air conditioning and four doors!

If I had thought about the obvious line of succession, I wouldn’t have been nearly as excited about the new car Mama had surprised me with on that day in August 1976. I would’ve questioned, “Why not a Mustang … or a Camaro?”

As you may have guessed by now, when March 1981 rolled around, the 1976 Granada keys found their way into my sixteen-year-old hand. One of my friends owned a Shelby GT, several drove late 60’s model Chevy Camaros … and I would be driving a 1976 Ford Granada to school. It was the quintessential Mom Car. While that stung a little, I did recognize how lucky I was to have been given a car at all, any car.

Though it had that fancy air conditioner, I loved riding with the windows down and the cassette player turned up. I blasted AC/DC, Molly Hatchet, Journey and Foreigner from our driveway in Long Creek to North Mecklenburg High School’s parking lot on weekdays and up Interstate 77 to my best friend’s house on the Meck Neck on weekends. On Friday nights, the trusty Granada got Terri and I to the football games and to Godfather’s Pizza after the games. It took me to Eastland Mall and Putt Putt, where I first met a guy named Darryl one night, hanging out with mutual friends.

At a Friday night football game not too long after that fateful trip to Putt Putt, I drove the uncool sedan to a North vs. Olympic football game at North. My recent ex-boyfriend who now attended Olympic appeared with two girls I did not know. Terri and I went to the stands and found Darryl and Mike Phillips sitting with some friends. “Hey, guys,” I said to Darryl and Mike, “wanna help me make someone jealous?” The guys agreed and I walked to the Olympic side of the field with a cute guy on each arm.

Mission accomplished, we hung out for the rest of the game and then the guys rode with me to Godfather’s Pizza. Mike’s girlfriend, Lisa, got off work at Bojangles and showed up about the same time we did. When it came time to leave, Mike went out with Lisa, which left Darryl and I alone. I agreed to take him to Lisa’s house, where he had left his car earlier. As we sat in the car at Lisa’s house, Darryl turned to me and asked, “So, do you want my phone number?” I said, “I think that’s my line,” and gave him mine.

Darryl drove a much cooler car than mine, a 1968 Camaro, so we mostly took his car on the many dates that followed, but the trusty Granada still got its workout getting me to school, to work, and to Terri’s house.

It also made the long trek to Myrtle Beach for Senior Week, but just barely. About the time we reached Gallivant’s Ferry, we heard a distinct thump, thump, thump. We pulled over in a random driveway and noticed a bulge on one of the tires. Just as Darryl knelt to look at it, the bulge exploded with a loud hiss, expelling a small plug of rubber that left a mark on Darryl’s cheek about an inch below his eye, scaring me to death. The homeowner of the house where we’d stopped helped us change the tire and we were soon on our way.

That week was the last carefree week I had for awhile. I’d been accepted at Appalachian State University months before and had, at the time, been excited at the prospect. As the time to actually leave home drew nearer, I began to have severe anxiety about it. In the next two months, I lost about twenty pounds, broke up with Darryl, and began having panic attacks, which led to near agoraphobia. I began to doubt I could make it on my own so far from home. I’d never been away from home for longer than that week at church camp. I told my mother I did not want to go. She made me promise to give it a semester, which I reluctantly agreed to, and the trusty Granada actually got me there.

Every weekend it also got me home. I would get out of class at ten on Friday morning and head for Long Creek. While my dorm mates were going to football games and pledging Delta Zeta, I was burning up the road between Boone and Huntersville. As the semester neared it’s end, I put in my request to transfer to UNC-Charlotte. After my final exam, the Granada got me safely home and a month later it got me safely to my first class across town.

Then something strange happened. I missed my friends in Boone. Before I knew it, the car was heading that way on Friday afternoons. Darryl and I began to talk regularly on the phone again, and he became another draw in Boone. When that second semester ended in May 1984, he decided to come home for good and go to work instead of finishing school. By July, we were engaged.

And still the Granada got me to class each day, though the route was a bit circuitous since Harris Boulevard was still under construction. After class, I’d drive to Harrisburg and work on getting our future home set up. Darryl was already living there and I was trying hard to not have it look like a bachelor pad. I stuffed the large trunk full of comforters, sheets, and dishes Mama and I had collected from Food Lion each week for the past year and made the ten mile trip from UNCC to Cedar Park Estates after classes. On the day I picked up my wedding dress after the final alterations, I backed out of the driveway of our future home and ended up with the back wheel stuck in a drain in the curbing. Thankfully, our friend, David Mendez worked at his brother’s gas station and they had a wrecker that he was able to bring over to pull me out.

Three weeks before our wedding, Darryl had to put the Camaro in the shop for some repairs and I lent him the Granada to get to work. On the way, he ran off the right side of the I-85 access road, overcorrected, and totaled the car. Thank God, he was unhurt. When I saw the car, I burst out crying, just imagining what could have happened. There may have been a few tears in there for the car, too. After all, she had served me well for a little over four years. There were so many great memories tied to her. There was a little pain at letting her go. That pain was somewhat eased by the little black 1982 Mustang I got to replace her, though.

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