Dora The Ford Explorer

To the Ford Motor Company, 5-23-2013

I wanted to pass along my story to you about how grateful I am to have owned a Ford!

Back in 2000, not long after my mother passed from cancer, I went back to school at age 40 and became a licensed massage therapist. I bought my mom’s car from my sister after her death. I don’t remember exactly what kind it was, it was silvery blue in color, but I wanted to keep it so I could keep my mom close to me. I had another car at that time that was white as well that my sister had previously sold me. Soon after my mom passed, my cousin from California came to live with me for a while in Nashville to shoot the movie called “The Last Castle.” He was to work very long days “blowing things up” and didn’t have a vehicle so I told him that he could use my mom’s car. Why I gave him the “good” car to use I will never know, but I guess I didn’t want him to have to drive the other “piece of crap” car that I had. Well, he had a dog, a little dachshund, which we fondly called “wiener dog.” His dog had horrible separation anxiety, so my cousin decided to just take him to work with him every day. Needless to say, after several months, I went out to mom’s car to get something and was blown away by the intense ammonia stench! My cousin had been leaving his dog in the car while he worked and the poor thing had peed everywhere!!! When I addressed the situation about the car with my cousin and asked him to have it cleaned, he got very mad at me and defensive and said, “I’ll just go buy my own car!” I’m sure you can guess who had to clean the car. Yes, it was me! After multiple tries of taking it to car cleaning professionals, I had to end up taking the whole back seat out of it and drenching it in cleaning solution to the point that the solution was dripping off, and left it on my back patio for several days until the ammonia smell was gone. Thankfully, that worked.

That was just a preemptive story to set up what I am about to tell you.

After I graduated from massage school and my cousin had left my household, I began to pray for a new car. I REALLY needed an SUV of some sort to be able to put my massage table into so I could get it out easily instead of squeezing into the trunk of my mom’s car. You know, God has funny ways of answering prayers. Well, one night as I was driving home from work, I turned left onto my side street from a very busy intersection and BAM, I got hit on the passenger side out of nowhere by an oncoming car that sped through the yellow light! I never saw him coming because he had no headlights on! I was only mildly injured because I had on my seatbelt. But the guy who hit me was drunk, had no seatbelt on, and his head hit the windshield. He ended up just having mild injuries and insurance took care of him. Anyway, this is where my story begins about my Ford.

My sister began to help me look for a new car because my mom’s car was totaled. She went out one Saturday afternoon and during her hunt she found an SUV that she really wanted and suggested that perhaps I should just buy her Ford Explorer from her and she would just get a new car. I was SO extremely happy to do this! She saved me from having to go on the hunt, and she sold it to me for a reasonable price, AND I knew that she had changed the oil and had maintenance updates regularly. I was ecstatic!

The truck she sold me was a 1995 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer edition. I was in new, used-car heaven! I used that truck for work for almost 10 years doing massage and then I also started my own Karaoke Company too. The truck carried not only my massage table but my PA system equipment as well! I too kept up with the oil changes and maintenance every time it would beep at me to do so. It was such a dependable vehicle!

Well, over the years, things started to go wrong. It started with the blinker. I had to replace that guy at least 3 different times. Then the electrical started going funky with the headlights. I even took it to an electrical specialist and they couldn’t find the problem. Then the check engine light kept coming on but no one could find the problem with that either. Luckily, I could pass emissions with it on because it was a 1995 and was grandfathered in. Then the sun roof started to leak, and the windows began to act up and kind of have a mind of their own as to when they wanted to work. Lol.

In June of 2011, I decided that I was ready to move to Colorado where I had wanted to live my whole life. I hadn’t been there since 2000 when we had taken my mom’s ashes up to the mountain where she wanted to be laid to rest. So, I began to pack up my house. During this time, I injured my back (I’ll tell you the details on that later). I lived in a townhouse and had to make 1000’s of trips up and down the stairs for packing. It took me two months to finally pack my house up. I was also still working during this time as well.

The time had come for me to finally pack up my truck and head up to Colorado. A friend helped me load it up because I had no idea how I was going to fit everything in it that I needed to take with me; My PA system, massage table, clothes, etc. I rented a storage unit for the rest of my belongings until I could find work up there and could be able to come back to get it all. I was going to go live with my cousin, a different one, who said I was more than welcome to come live in her spare room until I could get on my feet. Well, my friend did an amazing job packing the Explorer and he fit everything inside and on top with tarps, bungee cords and rope! The only place to sit was the driver’s seat, and I had a little hole on the passenger side so I could see the rearview mirror on the outside of the door because I couldn’t use the one on the windshield. Literally, the truck was packed to the ceiling! It looked like I was driving the Beverly Hillbillies truck! Lol!

I headed out on my trip, stopped in Tulsa, Oklahoma where I grew up to visit friends for a week, and then finally made the trip to Ft. Collins. Well, when I got there, I was completely distressed! My cousin’s house was FILTHY! She had 5 cats and 4 dogs, one of which was HUGE and was on steroids and about bit my face off when I walked in the door! I was so freaked out because she had told me over the phone that she was a “clean freak!” OMG! I had no idea what to do! I just knew I couldn’t stay there. So, after she went to bed, I got back in my truck and headed backwards to Colorado Springs to spend the night with my other cousin, her sister, to try and figure out what I was going to do. Needless, to say, I did not unload one thing out of my car because I would have never been able to get it back in! Lol.

The next day, I called my friend back in Tulsa and she told me to just come on back there until I could figure it all out. So, I hopped back in the truck and drove back to Oklahoma. The whole time during this excursion, my low back is in excruciating pain and I could hardly walk! I kept thinking that it would get better but it never did.

I ended up staying for about 5 more weeks in Tulsa, tried to find work there, but couldn’t because it was in the climax of the recession, and had to end up having some friends send me some gas money so I could get back to Nashville because I had run out of money. I was so distraught! It was probably the most horrifying time in my life.

When I got back to Nashville, my back was beyond in pain. I didn’t know if I could even work doing anything!!! I was a massage therapist and a karaoke host! I couldn’t bend, sit, stand, lie down or walk without feeling like I was going to scream in agony! However, what I could do was drive! I had my memory foam cushion in my seat in the car and that was about the only place I could feel okay. So, I decided while I was going to the doctors to find out what was wrong with my back, that the only thing I could do was deliver pizzas. I mean Dave Ramsey always said it was a way to make some extra cash!

I found a pizza store in the more upscale part of town and walked in for an interview. I wanted to be in a safe area, if you know what I mean. The owner pretty much laughed in my face seeing this 50 year old woman wanting to deliver pizzas. He said, “Come back in 45 minutes and we will talk.” Well, I think he was hoping I wouldn’t come back, and honestly, I almost didn’t, but I needed to make some money. So, I went back and he said, “I will try you for this night!” I said, “Listen, I just drove to Colorado and back, I think I can find my way around a few neighborhoods!” It didn’t take long for him to realize what a good driver I was and he ended up hiring me full time! I never let on about my back because I didn’t want to give them an excuse to fire me, but I was in so much pain during this time. Seriously, for about 4 months I could barely walk. I just had to suck it up!

So, now I have a job, but wasn’t making that much money because gas was so high (I was making about $15-$20 after gas for every shift I worked), and I was only getting about 16 miles to the gallon in the Explorer going up and down these huge hills in this area of Nashville, and I’m couch jumping, and it was the middle of winter, and there were just some nights that I had no where to stay! So, I ended up pushing the seats down and making a bed in the back of the Explorer with a tiny mattress that I had, and piled blankets over an electric blanket that I could plug into the lighter so I could keep warm. I would park in the back parking lots of hotels or apartment complexes and tuck towels and clothes into the windows so that no one could see me in there sleeping. I was homeless for 8 months! I was literally in hell!

Somewhere during this time, I called an old high school friend who lives in Texas and is in the oil business near the end of November and asked him to please buy me a 6 month membership to a fitness center that had a swimming pool because that was the only thing I could think of to do to help give myself physical therapy. After about three weeks of swimming in the water of the pool and sitting in the Jacuzzi letting the jet pound on my low back, on my birthday, December 8th of 2010, I finally got some relief! I was at work and just noticed all of the sudden, OMG, I can walk without pain! But I was not, and will never be completely cured or healed. The pain continued to come and go but it was better!

Finally, I think in February of 2012, after the long application process was completed at Musicares, which is a company that helps musicians without health insurance and is affiliated with the Grammy’s, I received a $1500 grant for treatment for my back. One afternoon, as I was leaving the Chiropractic office, I heard on the radio that the temperature was going to drop below freezing that night, and this was one of those days when I had no where to stay but in my truck (I bet you are wondering at this point why I wasn’t staying with my sister. Well, we had “parted ways” a few years after the death of my mother; Long story; Not going into it all). So, I called up the mother of one of my friends who had offered me some of her airplane miles previously if I ever wanted to fly out to Colorado, and I asked her if she had any hotel vouchers by any chance that she could generously give me. I was in tears and told her my predicament. She was mortified and immediately got me into a hotel. An angel had landed in my life! Thank you Jesus!

She kept me in hotels with a roof for about 3 months until we could find an apartment complex that would accept a cosigner because my credit was not up to par. I found a roommate who was a truck driver and said he would split the bills with me. Things were looking up until after about a month, he skated on me and left me hanging with this two bedroom apartment that I couldn’t afford by myself! Why did he skate you ask? Because he borrowed my truck to go to Wal-Mart one day when he was in town and the serpentine belt broke, and he opted to JUST DRIVE IT WITH NO WATER back home without calling me to see if I wanted to have it towed!!! I was so mad at him because my truck was my lifeline! I went out to look at the truck and saw the belt hanging underneath and thought to myself, “He has blown the head gasket for sure.” The temperature gauge was all the way in the red!

Who pulled through for me to get it fixed? My friends mother again! $600 later, we discovered that the air conditioning pulley had seized up and the belt snapped! Luckily, after they replaced the pulley, it still ran! Can you believe it? A few days later on the highway on my way home from a gig, it started overheating again. I pulled over immediately! Another friend, who was a mechanic from the Navy, came out and met me on the highway at 3 a.m., and luckily it was just a hose that needed to be cut and reattached (some sort of overflow valve busted). He brought a bunch of bottles of water and fixed it all up for me with his pocket knife! Can you say surrounded by angels?

What else could happen at this point, I thought to myself?

I finally found another roommate, finally found some steady karaoke gigs, and here I am today!

Oh, and my back? After X-rays and MRIs, the doctor has diagnosed me with degenerative disc disease. Two of the discs in my low back are basically non-existent! To this day, I still have daily pain and am applying for disability. But I am not complaining because at least I can walk around somewhat, but with a cane now when I have to go to the grocery or be on my feet for long journeys.

The point of this whole long story is that my car, my truck, my FORD EXPLORER saved my life! She has over 262,000 miles on her, and I’ve had to have her fixed on many occasions for this or that or the other thing, but she’s still running! She has water damage on the inside from the sun roof leak, I have to change the headlight bulbs about every 2-3 months and I have to leave them on bright so they’ll both work and in the summer time, the windows don’t always want to work, but I’ll leave a little crack so some air can get in (I don’t even want to tell you about the day they wouldn’t roll down and I was delivering pizzas and it was like 100 degrees outside and the AC fan quit working, which my friend and I fixed in the dark!), and her front ball joints need replacing, but she is still with me! She is still running! She still gets me back and forth to work, to the grocery and wherever I need to go.

I wanted you to know how grateful I am to your company and for making such a dependable truck! My Dora, the Ford Explorer! (a name one of the kids gave her at the pizza place)