Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | July 18, 2003

Last summer of my 30s

Summer has always been my favorite season. Even all the years I lived in the Midwest, where summer’s allure goes hand-in-hand with wicked humidity, I always liked summer better than any other time of year – particularly winter.

Especially for the younger me, summer must have had a lot to offer to overcome winter’s bounty – snow days, holidays and birthdays. When I was a child, I loved summer for the warm temperatures, the lack of school and the time to devour books. But now that I live in South Valley, summer’s magnificence is magnified by azure skies, low humidity and the long gardening, swimming and convertible season.

I’ve always loved ragtops and have lusted after Miatas ever since they were introduced in 1989. What’s not to love about sweet, sexy, simple two-seater that marked the rebirth of the roadster? The car is inexpensive, reliable and looks oh-so cool.

But the time was never right for me. I owned a VW Rabbit convertible (so old, this car was built before VW changed the name to Cabriolet, then shortened it to Cabrio, then made it extinct in favor of the ghastly Beetle convertible) until its untimely death. With four seats, it was more practical than the Miata, cute in its own squat way, but lacking that Miata roadster appeal.

But now, the fact that I live in one of the best convertible climates anywhere is especially important to me – I’ve finally got my dream car. Just about three weeks ago, I picked up a 1995 Miata in Santa Cruz, making this South Valley summer extra sweet.

Couple the Miata with a recently resprained ankle – meaning my other summer love, gardening, is difficult for me – and I’m splitting my free time between driving topless (you know what I mean) and devouring books. Despite the reduced gardening time, what better way to spend a summer is there?

I had only two requirements for my Miata – besides the obvious one that it had to be within my relatively meager price range – and those were that it have a manual transmission and not be silver.

I don’t mean to offend those of you who proudly drive silver automobiles, but cars done in that color look unfinished to me, and, to my eye, the Miata is particularly ugly in that hue.

This May, as convertible season began to get into full swing, I felt the Miata bug bite especially hard. I really wanted to get an inexpensive, older Miata at the start of warm weather. My husband likes to joke that with my 40th birthday fast approaching – it’s in November – that I’m experiencing my midlife crisis. But if that’s the case, I’ve been having a midlife crisis since I first laid eyes on a Miata at the ripe old age of 25.

Whatever the case, since June 30 I’ve been the proud owner of a completely impractical but absolutely fabulous two-seater. A black stick shift, it’s the polar opposite of my practical vehicle, a white minivan. Even my husband, who never liked convertibles – too noisy, too windy, he said – admits it’s fun. And I notice that whenever there’s an errand to be run – a quick trip to the grocery store, or a run to get his Starbucks fix – he takes my Miata.

Yep, despite my bum right ankle, I’m a pretty happy camper this South Valley summer. After taking my Miata for a spin, I’m happy to prop up my foot, pamper it with an ice pack and crack open a good book.

In just a few days since my latest clumsy ankle episode, I finished “Seabiscuit: An American Legend” and “The Ladies’ No. 1 Detective Agency.” I’ve got a soft spot for female sleuths from Kinsey Millhone to Stephanie Plum to Britt Montero. When I ran across this book set in Botswana, of all places, I couldn’t resist. I’m currently reading “Bringing Down the House,” a true story about MIT students who took casinos for millions using a sophisticated card counting scheme.

Whether or I’m tooling around in my new-to-me dream car or losing myself in a good book, I’m enjoying this South Valley summer – the last summer of my thirties. Midlife crisis? It can’t be, because with my Miata to drive and so many good books to read, there’s no way I’m halfway done.

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