SUVs, CUVs and my day as a low rider

Published 10:20 am Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I raised five kids in the second and third rows of a 1997 Chevy Suburban. When we finally sold it, there were 394,000 miles on the odometer, permanent car seat indentions in the leather, and the remains of a science experiment gone bad in the cargo area. I pitied the new owner should he ever look under the floor mats.

The truth is, I didn’t like that Suburban too much at first, which meant my husband had his work cut out for him when we brought it home from Yazoo Motors and backed it under our carport (well, what we could of it).

“How am I going to drive this land yacht?” I whined, ungrateful minivan lover that I was.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“You’re going to love it,” my husband said confidently, peering under the pristine hood (again). When I didn’t say anything else, he looked up to find me and a measuring tape gathering proof that the carport would need an extension.

“In this case, more is just . . . well . . . more,” came the redirect. My husband looked over at our children, who at that stage of the game were probably hanging from some rafters. “And their legs –” he said, pointing for emphasis, “You do realize they’re only going to get longer?”

Now for those of you who don’t know, a comment like that can get a mom’s attention faster than all the advantages of chrome detailing, rear air, and a towing package combined.

Leg room. Elbow room. Space.

Yes, my husband had pulled out all the stops and was whispering sweet nothings in my ear.

I took a moment and looked at those little legs, all four pairs, and had flashbacks of a recent trip to the beach. That’s when one of our boys (the one with math trouble) had suddenly developed the ability to measure to 1/100th of an inch — if it involved his personal car space.

Leg room. Elbow room. Space.

Hmmmm. I could feel myself warming to this new half-ton family addition. Maybe “land yacht” had been a bit harsh.

Before long, I was completely on board and could park a big rig with the best of them. We had room to change diapers and catcher’s gear and bad attitudes (if needed). There was even room to set up a monitor and an Xbox for a long trip to Disneyworld, back before family vehicles came equipped with DVD players. So what if my SUV got 15 miles to the gallon? It had a mega tank that would hold 42.

That was then, though, and this is now. My current ride is a hatchbacky thing known as a crossover utility vehicle (CUV), which is really code for SUV wannabe. Recently the CUV was in the shop, and I found myself driving a spare Sentra that has made its way onto our automobile insurance policy. For those of you far removed from the world of dated compact cars, let me draw you a picture: they are the size of a roller skate, with about as many features. Naturally, my main complaint about the Sentra was its nearness to the ground. I felt every bump on the road.

“That’s ok,” my husband was quick to counter. “Since you save so much on gas, there’s more padding in your wallet to offset it.”

My day as a low rider had other revelations, too.

The first one came at our rural mailbox, which I couldn’t reach.

The next came at the bank drive-through window, which I couldn’t see into.

But it wasn’t just about new perspectives. There was something dangerous that happened in that prone, low rider position. I noticed it when a song we liked came on the radio. Daughter No. 2 did, too.

“Did you really just do that motion with your hands?” she asked in embarrassment.

“What motion?” I asked, completely obvious. “Are you talking about this . . . “

That’s when I noticed my sweet child had slunk deep into her seat, almost into the floorboard.  I was, however, too busy to ask what she was doing down there. An SUV had pulled out in front of us, and I had to lay on the Sentra’s horn. Hard.

Emboldened by my low-riderness, I also wanted to roll down my window and look up (try to) at the SUV driver and say, “Hey, land yacht! How about sharing the road?”

I didn’t say it, though. I didn’t even roll down the window. But I sure did think it — really loud. Right before I called our mechanic and checked on the CUV.


Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at