Darrell Huckaby - Summer to-do list includes car shopping

It's almost summer. Again.

Is it just me or does it get here a lot faster than it used to?

I don't have too much to do this summer - which now encompasses the months of June and July. Thanks to the madness of the balanced school calendar, August has seceded from summer just as surely as South Carolina seceded from the Union back in 1860 - with about as much effectiveness if you're paying attention to the latest test score fiasco.

My family and I completed our cross-country 50-state odyssey last July so there are no long trips planned for the Huckaby clan. All I have to do in the next two months is go to Disney World, write a book, take a week-long history class at UGA, teach a week-long writer's conference at UGA, write a book - the one that was supposed to have been released last fall - visit College Station, Texas, to see if Aggieland is all it's cracked up to be, redo our entire front and back yards and roof the house. Oh, yeah. And attend camp meeting at Salem.

Other than all that, I'm just going to kick back and relax.

But I find myself in a bit of a pickle as Memorial Day approaches.

I need a new car, but just can't bring myself to buy one - for a lot of reasons. I'll try to explain.

I drive a Dodge Caravan. I have driven Dodge Caravans for the past 22 years and I am firmly convinced that the Caravan is the greatest vehicle ever built for its purpose. I've had five, myself, and have driven each one more than 100,000 miles. That's half-a-million miles - and I've only been left on the side of the road once - in San Diego, Calif. That car had as many miles on it as it is from here to San Diego, Calif. The battery went dead.

That's it. The rest of the time, my ride has been as dependable as telemarketers' phone calls during the supper hour.

My current Caravan has been the best. For one thing, it is red - which is my favorite color. It's not really "Dawg Red," but it's close enough. I have had the car six years now and have driven it from sea to shining sea - literally. It has taken me to three Sugar Bowl games and countless other destinations, near and far.

And it still drives like a dream. It's not so pretty to look at these days - but then again, neither am I. But it is still functional - and for the record, so am I. The thing is, I just don't need a seven-passenger minivan anymore. Most of the places I go now, I go alone. So I could really use something smaller.

But here's the rub.

I can't find a car I want to buy or a person I want to buy a car from. That's a heck of a problem.

You see, I bought all five of my Dodge Caravans from the same person - Tony Harris. Now, honesty compels me to admit that Tony wasn't the easiest person to buy a car from - not because of high pressure salesmanship, understand. Just the opposite. Tony is one of the best friends I have ever had, and he knows how impulsive I can be. More than once he has had to protect me from myself by talking me out of making a purchase I really didn't need.

And when Tony did finally agree with me that a new vehicle was in order, he would ask me what color I wanted and tell me how much it would cost and that was that.

Unfortunately, Tony doesn't sell cars anymore, and the folks that do, well, they aren't Tony Harris, let me tell you that.

I have talked to more high-pressured salesmen with less knowledge of my needs and their products than you could possibly imagine over the past two months. They all want to "put me in" just the right ride and they all want to give me top dollar on my 6-year-old van - at least, they did before my 16-year-old daughter, Jenna, put a $4,000 "scratch" on the side last week. And to hear them all talk, they are willing to practically give away their cars - all of which, by the way, have excellent gas mileage and will last forever.

All I have after weeks of shopping is a headache and a handful of business cards.

Big sigh here.

Maybe I will just keep driving my mommy-mobile for a while longer. It looks a little rough around the edges, but I think it can make one more bowl trip if it has to.

If you see a red Dodge Caravan with a crumpled back quarter-panel headed toward Miami next January, that would be me. Be sure to wave - and have a great summer, y'all.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.