[This is the third of several blog entries on the cars and other vehicles I have driven. It may or may not be of interest. Enjoy. Or not. It’s your choice. – KM]
I went off to the University of Southern Maine in fall 1980 to begin college and spent the first two years there pretty much dependant on friends with wheels and the university’s bus service between the Gorham campus and the one in Portland.
It was an OK situation, I suppose, since I had plenty of friends willing to give me a ride and the bus stopped near the Maine Mall in South Portland where I had a part-time job at Olympic Sporting Goods selling athletic footwear and other assorted athletic gear.
But my sister was to attend USM, too, and my parents felt it was time for a more dependable vehicle to carry the two of us back and forth between Gorham and Aroostook County, typically a six-hour drive with a meal stop midway in Bangor.
If I didn’t make it clear enough, let me do so now: The Bug, in its physical condition, wasn’t particularly safe for the roads, especially wet and winter Maine roads.
My parents got rid of the Bug and purchased a used Dodge Duster. It was plain and brown, brown and plain. And plain. And brown. But it worked fine enough for a while.
I don’t even remember how or when we got rid of that car. It may have happened after I went to California via the National Student Exchange where I attended California State University, Chico. If I couldn’t walk, I usually was able to wrangle a ride from one of my floor-mates and later house-mates, much as I had done the first two years at USM.
I suppose the only road-trip story I have about the Duster involves getting stuck at a beach in the middle of winter.
You see, I was an activity assistant at Robie-Andrews Hall, one of the residential halls on the University of Southern Maine campus in Gorham. (USM also had a campus in Portland, Maine, and I believe it now also has a campus or satellite campus in Lewiston, Maine.) The winters in Maine can be demoralizing – long, dark and cold. So I suggested we have a beach party.
An assistant decorated some butcher paper with a beach scene, but I wanted to add to the scene. I jumped in the Duster and drove to a beach about 30 or 45 minutes away. I pulled into the parking lot. Cold, cold wind was cutting through my coat and snow blowing about, stinging any exposed skin.
I took a shovel and a box, trudged to the beach, dug up some of the beach sand, trudged back to the parking lot, and threw the shovel and box of beach sand in the trunk. I climbed into the Duster, started it up and nearly immediately found that the car was stuck in the blowing snow. Ugh!
Fortunately, a town snowplow drove by before too long and the driver offered to use the snowplow to pull out the car. I’m sure the driver, a Mainer through and through, had plenty to say to his buddies back at the plow barn about the college kid he helped out of a snowbank.
I got the sand back to Robie-Andrews and put it on the floor under the beach scene and changed into a tropical shirt for the party.
Here’s a tip: Never schedule a wintertime beach party on St. Patrick’s Day. College students tend to follow the green beer before they follow the box of beach sand.
Rides of My Life … so far
Part 3: Dodge Duster
Part 4: Chevrolet Caprice Classic