By Tara Hurlin
Life works in mysterious ways; one thing leads you to another, and when you remember to step back and reflect on how far you’ve made it, you realize you are building a story of your very own. Life as an automotive hobbyist works in a similar way; a stock car can lead to a hot rod, the hot rod can lead to a sport truck, the sport truck to a lifted rig, and then since you have a vehicle with towing capabilities, why not start on a track car or a boat?
Tara and Jake Hurlin have been heavily involved in the hobby of 1950s-60s hot rods and customs, but with living in beautiful Northern Michigan only a mile from a boat launch on Long Lake, the couple realized they had a strong itch to scratch, and it wasn’t from swimmer’s itch.
“I love the fins of the early Cadillacs, and I really wanted to find a boat that resembled the same era of my 1961 Cadillac Series 62,” Tara said. The Hurlin’s scoured online ads religiously for about a year waiting for the perfect fiberglass boat to come their way. After viewing several that were either too far gone for their budget or far too large, Tara fell upon an ad on Craiglist that was simply titled “boat 4 sale”.
“Normally I never click on titles like that, but as the summer passed, I was getting impatient,” Tara said. And with a click of the mouse, the 14-foot 1964 Renken runabout with a metallic-flake green hull and classy, swoopy fin-like stern popped up on the screen. “I was immediately obsessed,” Tara said, “I had to have it.” An added bonus was that it was only a couple miles away from home.
Upon inspection, the boat had seen better days, but it was once loved by a previous owner. It was sitting under trees, uncovered and looking lonely. The gel coat was worn from weather, the windshield foggy and scratched, and the entire boat needed a good cleaning and wax. We grabbed a bucket of water to test the motor, and it started right up on the first attempt. “There was just something about this boat, there was no question in our minds that it was coming home,” Tara said.
The couple paid $800 and took the boat home on its trailer. Immediately after arriving home, Jake and Tara drained the swampy water that had been sitting in the boat, then moved on to a deep cleaning and a brief check of the motor. Once the couple exhausted themselves, they took their prized find to the nearest boat launch. “We needed re-assurance that it would float,” Tara said.
While backing the trailer into the boat launch for the first time in their winter driving car, a lowered Subaru Forester, Tara discovered the first major issue. “In order to get the boat far enough off the launch, the entire rear of the car had to go into the water, and the exhaust pipe was completely submerged,” she explained, “I suddenly started dollar signs floating tauntingly above my head.”
Fortunately, the boat floated, and they even took it for a quick run around the lake, excitedly chatting about future upgrades and making a mental parts list. The most urgent upgrade was the seats. “It has cheap box store seats that caused tailbones to collide with bolts through the cushions,” Tara said, “that was a painful discovery.”
Other upgrades included a glove box, new speedometer, a metallic green flake steering wheel and re-wiring all of the lights. Emergency items were also added. “I asked Jake if we should purchase oars in case we became stranded, and he said ‘Oh no, we will be fine, this boat is fine.’ Low and behold, during that same week we were out on the boat making several rounds around the lake when it sputtered to a stop; the motor took up more gas than anticipated.” Tara was able to lift the gas tank to feed the motor just enough juice to start back up and make it to the boat launch. Soon after, the boat was equipped with oars, emergency lights, a fire extinguisher and a foghorn.
With new interior that matches the metallic green theme, and the addition of a rack that holds a rad pinstriped cooler that Jake sourced from a car part swap meet, the Hurlin’s have been enjoying the boat as-is. “There are always huge smiles on our faces as soon as we launch the boat, and our smiles get bigger as wind and water whip our faces,” Tara said. They take the boat to islands on the lake and anchor to go explore, and sometimes they join groups of boats anchored on the sand bars. “It’s really common for a boater to pass by us, then turn around to talk to us about our boat,” Tara said, “boating is just as much about the people and admiring the great outdoors as it is enjoying the boat itself; it’s the perfect way to get a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life.”
After backing the boat into the boat launch white-knuckled numerous times, Tara and Jake felt another dull, persistent itch. “Using that low of a car on a slippery boat launch made me uneasy,” Tara said, “And we had been discussing getting a vehicle that could tow our modified Mazdaspeed MX-5 to race tracks. The boat gave us yet another excuse to trade in the lowered Forester for something to better fit our needs.”
In came the Jeep, and what followed is yet another hobby interest: overland and expedition, but that’s another story.
I met this beautiful soul through my nonprofit parrot rescue, when she had to relinquish her best friend to me due to a terminal illness. While we were talking, we became good friends over just a single phone call. She called us "soul sisters," and she was a Miata nut just like me. This is her Miata story.
Automotive soul mate found in a Mazda Miata
By Tara Hurlin
There comes a point every car nut’s life when that person catches sight of a vehicle that just moves them — without even being in the driver’s seat. Perhaps it’s the design, the curves and lines that carve out its character, or maybe it’s the way the engine purrs, or how the seats hug you just right. Carole Roderick in Toledo, Ohio is one of those car nuts, and with just one test drive, she found her automotive soul mate.
“What can I say? I fell in love with a car,” Carole began, “It was a 1990 Mazda Miata, and it was not a practical purchase, nor was it a necessary purchase, and it was not a planned purchase. In fact, on the day we met, I didn’t even know what a Mazda Miata was.”
Carole unexpectedly fell head-over-heels when she stopped by a dealership for an oil change on her brand new Wolfberg Edition Volkswagon Jetta. “I only owned the Jetta for few months,” Carole explained, “This car was a very nice, quick handling vehicle.” While waiting at the dealership, she ran into the salesman who sold her the Jetta, and like any good sales rep. would, he offered to have her test drive a new vehicle while she waited. “He said it was a cute little sports car, and being the car nut I am, I told him ‘get the keys and let’s go!’” Carole exclaimed.
As they walked out to the front lot, Carole caught eye of a cute white car sporting a huge pair of sunglasses, and it was smiling back at her. The convertible top was already down, so the salesman removed the sunglasses and tossed Carole the keys as she hopped excitedly into the driver’s seat.
“The car fit like a glove,” Carole gushed, “it was perfect in every way.” She turned on the engine and off they went to a beautiful parkway located close to the dealership.
Carole has had a few cool cars in her lifetime, such as a Ford Mustang 2x2, a Mercury Cougar, a fully loaded and fast Grand Prix and a couple Corvettes, but none of them could compare to the way the Miata handled. “I know the sales rep. was talking to me during the test drive, but I wasn’t listening to him,” Carole said, “I was in my own world, exhilarated and happy to be behind the wheel of this amazing little roadster.”
When they returned into the dealership, the salesman asked Carole what she thought of the car. “It’s mine!” she gushed, “I’m in love with this car, so get me financed and you can follow me home in my other car, and I’ll drive you back, okay?”
“He seemed to be in shock but then again, so was I,” Carole said, “It was a totally insane purchase on my part, but also the best car purchase I ever made in my life.”
The responsiveness of a Miata is awe-inspiring when you are behind the wheel. Whether you are on a race track, road touring or just driving down to the store, the minute you put your hands on the wheel you know you are in for an unforgettable driving experience.
“It is incredible how once you get in a Miata and drive it, it just seems like it is a part of you,” Carole said, “it’s like wearing a glove; the fit is perfect every time.”
Driving through mountains in a car can be nerve wracking thanks to the steep banks with sharp turns and no safety rails, not to mention most cars don’t do well in high elevations. Carole was always nervous about making the beautiful scenic drive, until she bought her Miata. Her trip through the Smokey Mountains was pure joy.
“Let’s talk about control and the ability to move quickly: the Miata’s response time was fast around any maneuver and shifting gears made handling the steep inclines and declines seem effortless,” said Carole, “The experience was truly amazing and you are sure to reveal the biggest smile that will fit on your face.” Heed Carole’s advice: Every Miata owner should take advantage of the treasure they have and make a trip through the mountains.
This car was a true inspiration and a huge part of Carole’s life. She was one of the first women to drive a Miata on the Indy 500 during the first ever Midwest Miata National in 1992, and she spent many of her years driving in club and race events.
Carole has fond memories of participating in the Miata Nationals, and one thing in particular stands out. “I will simply call it the Wash Rack,” she said, “after a full day of playing in the sun and dust — or rain and mud — everyone was focused on cleaning up their Miata before taking care of themselves.”
During each event, everyone took note on where the closest cash washes were. “It was inconceivable for any of us to leave our Miata looking dusty and dirty in a parking lot,” Carole explained, “so we would wait in a long line of Miata’s to get them cleaned up for the next days’ event.” Out came buckets, brushes, soap, wax, vinyl cleaners, dust rags, shammies, towels and window cleaner — everything that could fit in the little trunk space — to start the clean-up ritual. “It takes great skill and speed to accomplish this ritual in a reasonable length of time,” Carole said. Then, finally, with their cars back in showroom shape, the group could have their hot shower and dinner — often a little later than initially planned. “Everyone just loved their Miata, so until the cars were cared for, all else could wait!” Carole exclaimed.
Aside from finding a home for her beloved companion parrot, the decision to part with her Miata was one of the most difficult decisions Carole had to make when her doctors diagnosed her with a terminal illness. “I scanned potential homes as if the Miata was a living, breathing thing — because to me, she was,” she explained, “That car was something special and it brought me some of the best memories of my life.”
Fortunately Miata lovers are easy to come by, and the car found a perfect home with someone who will cherish her for another 25 years.
This is where I will be posting any random thoughts or writings, along with articles I have written that haven't been published on an online external link elsewhere.
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