Buicks, pontoons and clumsy older models

Published online: May 13, 2010 News Erica Batten - www.charlotteobserver.com
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My first car was a '77 Buick LeSabre, white with baby-blue plush interior. I remember the upholstery especially, because I had to use thumbtacks to keep the ceiling from flapping in my face as I drove -- not that it ever went that fast. There was around a two-second lapse between pressing the accelerator and feeling the engine's response, which made pulling into heavy traffic quite an adventure.

Maneuvering was also an adventure; I rarely made it out of a parking lot without running into something. The car was so wide that, to properly align it in the road, I had to aim the hood ornament for the white line.

It used a ridiculous amount of gas, getting something like 9 mpg, and it was big enough to hold all of my friends at once. I don't know if that was more a testament to the car's size or my popularity -- but it didn't matter. No one wanted to be seen in the thing, anyway.

So last Saturday, when my husband took us for a cruise in our new pontoon boat, I was instantly taken back to my teenage years. Just three years newer than the LeSabre, the boat's upholstery and gas mileage are strikingly similar to that of my first car.

Within a minute of starting the engine, we were bathed in a cloud of smoke. Our miniature dachshund got excited and tried to run across the bench seat to see what was going on, but she got caught in a crack in the fabric and stuck fast. Some fishermen up the cove tipped their hats and snickered, while I cowered, wishing I had some baby-blue upholstery to hide under.

Like that of the LeSabre, the boat's engine took several minutes of warming up before we were ready to pull out. When we did, we barely moved the needle on the speedometer. My 4-year-old son, who judges everything based on its speed, lamented that we were being passed by every navigable craft on the lake, plus a few ducks.

"Go faster!" he demanded. Oh, son. If only you could have experienced the LeSabre.

Once we were safely under the first bridge, the sky opened up above us, the breeze tickled our faces, and the engine quieted enough for us to hold a conversation. The dachshund dislodged herself from the seat and found a sunny spot on the deck. We took turns at the helm and pointed out familiar landmarks heretofore seen only from, well, land. It was a successful and enjoyable maiden voyage.

Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/05/12/1421886/buicks-pontoons-and-clumsy-older.html#ixzz0npX00E8U

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