Can a Mercedes be Amish?

Most people who live where I do (a Chicago suburb) have their own motorized vehicle. At the house next door the neighbors operate six passenger vehicles including four compact cars and two enormous SUVs.

However, in a vain effort to reduce our carbon footprint to the size of a baby shoe my spouse and I share one vehicle. Oh sure, back before retirement she used to have a car of her own, a small blue Honda that we later gave to our youngest when he graduated college. This had become a family tradition, so he was expecting it and even helped pick it out a couple years before it became his. It has since been sold and replaced with a Toyota pickup more suitable to his Colorado lifestyle.

That has left us, since 2011, with my car, a black Mercedes C280 with 4Matic drive system and “limited” cargo space. We have been making-do with this car ever since. Because I also eschew gas-powered lawn equipment in favor of a rechargeable electric mower I have become something of a freak-of-nature in my environment: a suburban guy with only one engine.

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Not as clean as it should be

Back before 2011 we used to visit a particular area of Wisconsin that was becoming heavily Amish, and we learned that a typical Amish farm was allowed one engine, but no electricity. It wasn’t difficult to spot an Amish farmhouse as you drove country roads—there were no lights on at night and they had wash hung out in the daytime. No pickup in the driveway. But the one engine came in handy—it was usually a tractor engine mounted on blocks with a drive belt that could operate any number of pieces of machinery, all allowed as long as they weren’t electric. The engine was always installed in a barn or metal shed away from the house.

One engine to run your life keeps things simple. My spouse and I go most places together anyway, or we can walk or ride a bike. Or I drop her off and pick her up if it is somewhere close.

The car is now 10 years old and has more than 200,000 miles on it—not particularly unusual these days, and it has always been something of a badge of honor for a Mercedes to run a lot of miles. They used to give out little medallions that an owner could mount on the radiator grill. I don’t do that. But I do use the car a lot. I like road trips & prefer driving to flying to get somewhere distant. In April we drove it to New Mexico and back. And it pretty much knows the way to Florida all by itself.

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Road tripping: Route 66 to Santa Monica California

The backseat now stays covered with a blue & white patterned mat that represents a futile attempt to keep the leather seats from being scratched by dog claws. And there are quite a few little minor dings around the interior. The white primer on my elbow rest came off with Windex and a little scrubbing.

But the car still does a great job on a road trip, averaging about 29 MPG on the highway, and performing admirably in any variety of road conditions. That’s the 4Matic, the Mercedes version of 4-wheel-drive. My previous car had been an earlier model Mercedes with rear-wheel-drive. This meant two sandbags in the trunk that stayed there all winter and into the spring (it’s a well-known jinx to remove your sandbags too early), and one year they stayed there until the next winter rolled around. Those were a hassle, especially since the battery was in the trunk. Below the sandbags. I like 4Matic much better, as the handling is superb in both rain and snow, and you never have to worry you’ll be stranded.

Because my spouse can’t come and pick me up.

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