Yes, this is a particularly off-topic post, but behind every great naturalist, there is a great vehicle. We've all seen Jim McCormac's sweet VW Jetta TDI, or Jim Bissell's subaru outback, or Rick Gardner's Hyundai Elantra, right?
The car I drive now, and have since May of 2004, is decidedly unfit for a naturalist. It's a 2003 Toyota Corolla- which sounds plain and boring, until I let you know what has been done to it. The previous owner had the dealer install a supercharger, making it quick as lighting. They lowered the car two inches and put on the 16-inch double spoke wheels that came standard on the early 2000's Celica. The bottom line? It's a sweet car, and it's been amazingly fun to drive all of these years, but it no longer meets my needs.
First of all, I'm a dad now. Fatherhood was quite possibly the farthest thing from my mind when I purchased the 'yota when I was a young bachelor in a new, big city (although maybe that's how things work, if you catch my drift). Fast forward six and half years, and I've got a 19 month old dragging me into the living room as soon as I get home from work, wanting me to play the electric guitar. Although I'd love to cruise around the city with the little guy in his car seat, the Corolla is too low to be safe for little kids.
Second of all- The car is undrivable when we have more than a few inches of snow. Winters in Columbus are hit and miss. That means that the cities here don't invest enough in snow plow equiptment to really take care of things when a big snow event does happen (although I must say the comparatively rich suburbs are great with snow plowing). I'd say we have a "bad" winter every other year, and when we do, the city shuts down for a few days after we get 6 or more inches of snow. When that happens, I'm not going anywhere in my Corolla. Normally that had been OK- I would just take Megan's car to work. But now Megan has a new job where she might have to drive to the University of Cincinnati now and then. She needs her car, and I can't rely on it any more.
Thirdly- I don't have a five mile, one way commute anymore- I have a 30 mile one-way commute. My car won't cut it in winter.
So I'm looking for a new ultimate naturalist vehicle. I have test driven four crossover SUV type vehicles. On paper the Honda Element would be fantastic, except that I just can't get over it's boxy profile, and the drive of the CR-V was too plain for me. I have fallen in love with the looks of the 2010 Chevy Equinox, but it feels like a bigger car than it really is. When I test drove it today, I was reminded of my Grandpa's 1995 Oldsmobile 88. Both General Motors products are great cars, comfortable with a smooth ride, but fun doesn't really factor into the equation with either. We also tried the Toyota RAV-4, a great car despite the recall- I just don't like how the back door swings open and to the side rather than up.
So what vehicle do I keep thinking about? What car did I like driving the most? Quite simply, it's the Subaru Forester. It's understated elegance coupled with a just a little bit of quirk, including a huge panoramic windshield make it quite appealing. It just might be the ultimate naturalist vehicle that I'm after.