A couple of weekends ago, when Mr. Scout and I were insulating the basement, I ran across an ancient cardboard box with my father’s handwriting on the side: “BILL’S TRAINS”. Inside was an old friend of mine: a wooden Montgomery Schoolhouse train set my parents bought for me over time as a child—they were probably as expensive then as they are now. I opened up the box this afternoon to let Finn get her first look at them, and they captivated her for about a half an hour, which is about a year’s elapsed time in her toddler’s attention span.
Thanks, Mom & Dad.
Mama called me early Tuesday afternoon and asked if I could come home early to watch the baby; I knew by the croak of her voice that she was in a bad way. So I came home just in time to get the girl up, fed, and dressed, set a cool glass of water next to my sick wife, then slip quietly out of the house on a combination grocery/Lowe’s run.
Words cannot describe how easy it is to get a child out of a four-door vehicle when you’ve been limited to two doors for sixteen months. Car seats are built and regulated in such a way that they are impossible to use for all creatures except perhaps the octopus; one needs at least four arms to wrestle the baby while the other four are engaged in latching the tiny buckles without getting them caught in clothing, toys, or fingers. Having to do all this while leaning over a bucket seat in a snowstorm is enough to make one swear off automobile travel forever. Being able to remotely open a door, lean in, and handle everything while standing on solid ground is a revelation.
I think the best overall way to illustrate the differences between our Jeep and the CR-V is to say that the Jeep was designed by people who probably had children; the CR-V was designed by people with children for people who have children. I realize I’m dinging Chrysler—actually, American Motors—for a model design that dates back to 1978, but you’d think that in twenty years of production and two(!?!) major refreshes, they could have built in some features to make everyday life a little easier.
The Honda’s cabin is quiet and very roomy, compared to the Jeep; both vehicles share almost the same wheelbase and dimensions but the Honda feels larger and more stable. The doors close with a solid feel. The interior components are sturdy and feel refined and polished. The controls are bright and clear. I’m enjoying the clutch more as I get used to it, although I have to really listen to hear when it’s ready to shift—it’s that quiet. And I’m still not used to the microscopic distance between gears in the shift pattern; that’s going to take more practice. It’s responsive and quick in a very Japanese sort of way, unlike the hairy-chested American manner of the Jeep, which is all sound and fury when the gas pedal is down, but an absolute mess to wrestle back into control.
On the ride, it’s now very easy to turn around and check on Finn; this is partially due to the positioning of the seat, which is in the middle of the 60 side of the 60/40 bench. It’s also due to the wider split between front seats and the thoughtful collapsible tray between them; Jen and I have joked that it’s designed so that of us can easily get to the back seat to administer beatings.
I stopped at a total of five stores, and took the backpack with me for the first time in months. It was a breeze to get Finn out of the seat, open the barn door in back, set her in the pack, stand up and lock the car with the keyfob lock—all without slipping a disc, hitting her head on the roof of the car, hitting my head on the top of the hatch, or having to open one of the front doors to use the switch to lock the car. This was a day where I was able to do five stores in two hours, as opposed to maybe hitting three stores in the same amount of time with the Jeep. That’s a quality of life improvement that I can get behind.
$40, an eBay order from England, and 30 minutes of wrenching time later, I have a functioning screen on my MacBook Pro again. The inverter board, a tiny little slice of silicon hidden inside the clutch cover of my expensive laptop, which controls the backlight on my LCD, had decided to die last fall. I’ve just now been able to get a replacement ordered and installed, and life is good again.
Yep, that’s right. That right there is our new babyhauling chariot. That’s sixteen months of waiting and saving and cursing silently as we hoisted poor Finn into the gaping maw of the Jeep, praying we wouldn’t blow a disc or pull a muscle while simultaneously twisting, stretching, and lifting her into a rear-facing carseat. Now we’ve got four doors,bitches! Four doors and more airbags than a political convention. We waited and watched and saved and compared and test-drove, and when it was time to move, we marched on that Carmax faster than ants at a picnic.
Actually, I bought Jen and I some lunch first. But then we marched into the showroom with a printout in hand, featuring that pretty silver car, with low miles and a stick shift, and said, “This one.” Arthur, our salesman, really didn’t have to do much other than hand us the keys and take a siesta in the back seat. He knew we were there to party. He was professionally mortified, however, when we pointed out the red Sharpie drawings on the back of the C-pillar plastic, and he had their service guys remove it as soon as we finished the test drive.
Did I mention this thing has a table in the back? A fucking table. It’s the cover to the rear well. It’s got legs that pop down, and you can pull it out and use it for tailgating selling lemonade.
When I told Arthur we were paying with a check, he didn’t blink an eye; he just said, “Ok,” and tried to ignore my shaky hand as I wrote out one of the biggest dollar amounts I’ve ever spent (Yes, the down payment on this house was orders of magnitude more expensive, but that was all done by the real estate people, and all I did was sign a paper that said “move this money there.”) It sure did feel good to have done that at least once in my life.
So, power everything, a sunroof, cruise control, 6-disc CD changer (?!?) and enough room in back to comfortably hold a carseat with the LATCH system and not bungee cords. The seats fold and tumble down into a space the size of a deck of cards, unlike the Jeep’s mattress-like bench, which only folds when stood upon. And a stick! It’s not like the stick in the Saturn, which has a clunky, open American feel to it, or the Scout, which is like driving, well, a truck. This has the Honda-style stick which feels miniaturized somehow, and on a spring: The distance between 1st, 3rd and 5th is about a quarter-inch, so one has to be careful not to accidentally downshift when looking for fifth gear merging into traffic. At least the sweet spot is larger than my last Honda. It will take some getting used to, but it’s the kind of getting used to I’m prepared to do for the next 150,000 miles.
This is pretty cool.