ChevLightning – our beloved new car

Do you want to talk cars? Let’s talk Chev Lightening!

imageWoohoo. I’ve been assigned family car trialling and buying in North America. It is expensive to travel as a party of seven…flying, bussing or renting a car, so the next best option is to buy a car and hopefully sell it in LA before we fly home. Christos did a little investigation of 7 seater car rental prices one way for the last three weeks doing the national parks around the east coast, and the cost was many multiples beyond our budget, so talk of buying a car soon evolved from fantasy to need.

Talk about fly by the seat of our pants. Things change here daily. It’s a challenge to not get overwhelmed by it. Actually, we’ve just had a few days in a friends country log cottage in the middle of the Wisconsin forest, and on the second day, I felt myself ‘landing’ there. I had been using the word ‘overwhelm’ a little, but all of a sudden the word ‘overload’ seemed right. Overload of the senses. Cars, Chicago style pizza, constantly living in other people’s space, buses, homeschooling on the run, trains, too much crappy TV time for the kids, and new wonderful people, and more new awesome people, and late, late nights!….I had started to wonder whether I was Arthur or Martha!

imageSo stopping in this wonderful large, full of games and toys and space place, with no TV or Internet was a stroke of luck from above. Which brings me back to the point of this blog…. We couldn’t have got here without our NEW car! She’s still unnamed, but perhaps as I tell you our story of getting to know her, a name might emerge. ( Editors note, Chev Lightening is her name – very American, and rolls off the tongue like a song from a musical… Very important!)

As I said it started with Christos floating the idea of the car being the most economic and wise option. Someone we spoke to early on didn’t know too much about cars and we kind of got put off a bit – it all sounded too hard, where the hell do we start, international drivers licences expired, insurance etc… But, then we went to my ‘big brother’ Kumars for the weekend and all that changed.

imageI originally met Kumar back in 1995 at the fruit and vegetable market in Miryalguda, Andra Pradesh, India. A voice came across the mangos (that part is fantasy- I can’t remember what was in season, I was probably buying onions) “where are you from?”. I replied “Melbourne, Australia”. “I am going to study at RMIT” he replied, and so began a long friendship.

How are Kumar and cars connect little miss rambler I hear you say? Well cutting a long story short, Kumar lived, studied and worked in Melbourne for 10 years. Mum was like his mum in a way, he was like my big brother. He moved to Singapore, and eventually the US. Christos often has Facebook contact with him when he comes to the US for his iridology, but we have not had physical contact since 2003.

So, we borrowed our friend Kirks’ mums’ car, and drove 4 hours to St Louis to visit Kumar. That is a whole other blog. But for now suffice to say immigrants to a country have to learn a huge amount. Kumar knew all about cars, he knew all about setting up a SIM card so we could call people about cars! He knew where to start looking; ‘Craigslist’. We mentioned what we need in a car, did some figures and started the hunt. With Kumars help we wrote down a whole lot of car questions to ask, we looked at many over the internet, rang about insurance, etc etc. By the time we left Kumar, my big brother, my golly, life felt so much more possible.

imageHe even added a phone line to his phone contract and ensured we have unlimited internet so we don’t keep getting lost and not being able to contact people. He rings regularly to check on us. We had a few cars lined up to check out in Chicago and we had tummies full of exquisite Indian food and chai thanks to Sujatha’s incredible cooking!

imageSo we get back to Chicago and Kirk is on hand to help us check out car number one. It is technically a P.O.S. (Piece of shit) in Kirk language, but early on was not off the possibilities as there was not much on offer. But then with the updated internet ‘Craigslist’ search we found some new cars to check out. I rang about one on Sunday afternoon, Monday morning we had an appointment. But with 5 kids to care for and homeschool in some sort of fashion, I was allocated the car job. Vicky, Kirks’ mum offered to come along…. Thank goodness.
imageI would have bought it for the advertised $2300. Vicky was a professional. With 25 years in the real estate business she checked out and questioned all the documents, and with 2 brothers as mechanics she could talk the language. It turns out the guy we bought from buys cars does them up and then sells, instead of his original ‘it’s grandpas car and too big for him’ story. So with more honesty on the table, negotiate we did. Albert agreed to re gas the air conditioning, check the spare tyre access, and re check the brakes overnight. As long as all the paperwork checked out, I planned to pick up the car the next day for $1900!

imageThe next day came, and finally we got an afternoon call to say all was ready. I am so excited about my new baby! Kirk and his dad Ron came for the final expressway test drive to check the wheel alignment, the aircon was awesome. We did all the paperwork activated insurance and on the way home Kirk, Ron and I stopped off and bought one new windscreen wiper, and got a new key cut, but it would only open the car not start the engine as the official key has a chip in it.

Just to be safe we looked up a Chevrolet dealer close by, Christos got out of the car and met ‘one of the nicest people in the world after Kirk’ who arranged a new key, with 25% discount in minutes. We now are less fearful of locking the keys in the car.

And we’ve fallen on our feet again!

imageSo this car is better than any we have had in oz! All the windows open, there is space in the back for our luggage, there is a bench seat in the middle which means when Jen comes we can fit quite comfortably, it’s got 130,000miles, rear and front air con, cruise control, one electric sliding door (the other one only works manually) and most importantly it runs like a dream! imageWe’ve got insurance, our Aussie licenses are fine as travellers, and I get to take the number plates back to oz because the plates go with the driver here- my tractor will have Illinois plates! And Christos wants one of the plates for his office…

Thanks to Kumar, Kirk, Vicky and Ron, we love our new car. We are safe, travelling and flexible. The Milikings American Adventure has begun in our Chevrolet Venture..

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