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Editor’s Note: Joe Schneider, 37, is the agency principal at the Joe Schneider Agency. Here, he recounts the story of his first car.
My dad bought my first car – a 1984 Renault Encore – from one of my sister’s friends for $250. My dad was always looking for a good deal (and this wouldn’t be my last cut-rate car from him).
It was by no means my dream car at age 16. I grew up in Virginia, outside of Richmond, and I felt lucky just to have a car, lucky to have that freedom.
The car was a 4-speed manual, and I remember putting it in reverse didn’t entail moving the stick shift to the right and down like it should have been, it was to the left and up. There was a lot about this car that was a little backwards. The ceiling was just exposed foam—years of driving had worn out the cloth and it had been ripped out. So my friends and I made it into a sort of yearbook; we’d carve our names into the ceiling foam. After months of etching, it all just started to flake off and pieces would get in passengers’ hair, like bits of snow.
To really personalize my wheels, I decided to do some updating. I put in my own stereo with a tape deck and speakers, since, for me, driving to music was a must. I attempted to tint the windows but quickly learned that there’s a reason you hire an expert to do tinting for you.
We’d pack the car with friends and drive 10 miles through the Virginia countryside to get to our ultimate destination, the mall. Occasionally, we’d go to the big city of Richmond and cruise the strip, but we spent most of our time at the most happening place in town, the McDonald’s parking lot.
I rode my first car hard and was lucky that it lasted 12 whole months. One day, it inevitably stopped running. We were cruising down a country road, coming down a hill and the motor just stopped. The car rolled to a stop, and that was all she wrote.
For the $250 investment, it was well worth it, and I learned a lot from that car, like how to diagnose problems with cars – a valuable skill that I have used on every other car I’ve owned. I also practiced my stick skills, learned to change the oil, install brake pads and a stereo, and change quite a few tires.
My dad found a few more good deals after the Renault— a 1983 Cadillac Seville in need of a new transmission, a 1980 Volvo manual 4-speed, and an old police car—but, it’s true, you always remember your first.
We want to hear your first car stories! What was the make and model of your first car? How old were you when you got it? Do you remember anything special about it? Tell us your story in the comments section below.
Allstate Agent Joe Schneider and the Joe Schneider Agency are based in Chicago. Address: 521 W. North Ave., Chicago, IL 60610. Phone: (312) 787-0221
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Some people call it hoarding. I just call it smart. Devastating natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the Asian tsunami, and the catastrophic earthquake in Japan have awakened many to our vulnerabilities. Add to that a teeter-tottering housing market, jittery economic climate, and large swaths of unemployed Americans, and it’s no wonder there’s growing interest in emergency preparedness (and stocking up on emergency disaster supplies) among families.
Here are four emergency disaster supplies you should store up—hoard, if you like—to better face the unexpected:
Whether for cooking, driving or heating, a backup supply of fuel sources is a necessity (if you have a generator, you know how vital a fuel supply can be). According to the American Petroleum Institute, gasoline can be safely housed in approved containers of less than five gallons each and rotated through every few months. Gasoline should be stored in capacities of 25 gallons or less, should be stored at room temperature, away from sources of heat and ignition, and in a building separate from the house or place of occupancy. Diesel fuel is an even safer option when it comes to storage. If you have a propane-powered grill, good news: Propane is one of the easiest and safest fuels to store. A supply of seasoned wood is also a necessity if your emergency plans include the use of a fireplace, wood-burning stove or cooking over a campfire.
Emergencies and gourmet meals aren’t exactly compatible, but you can still eat well when the power goes out or grocery shelves are bare. Just store foods that do not require refrigeration: items like tuna, dried fruit, granola bars, peanut butter, jerky, and V-8 juice provide energy without any preparation. Few people feel up to the challenge of cooking hearty meals when a crisis hits, so the simpler the better.
A few additional items to consider: pudding cups, seeds and nuts, packets of instant milk, and MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), which can be purchased online and in emergency supply stores. By the way, if you store canned food, don’t forget to also keep at least one manual can opener at the ready!
Light Sources and Batteries
It’s surprising how many emergencies bring power outages with them. Earthquakes, thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes are just a few ways that nature can take down power lines, plunging homes and businesses into darkness. Have a supply of flashlights (LEDs provide the longest battery life), headlamps and lanterns along with plenty of batteries.
You can also bring solar pathway lights indoors when the sun goes down. Be careful about using candles with open flames as a light source, though, especially with young children around.
The most basic of the basics, clean water becomes more precious than gold when it’s unavailable. You’ll need stored water for drinking, cooking, sanitation, bathing, and, at some point, laundry. (Yes, neither storm nor sleet nor dark of night will put off the need to do laundry for very long!)
Store plain tap water in cleaned out 2-liter soda bottles and stock up on cases of bottled water. If space allows, larger water containers can be store outdoors.
In addition to water, be sure to also have at least two ways to purify water. Unscented bleach is a good option: it takes just eight drops of bleach to purify a gallon of water, 16 drops if the water is cloudy. But be forewarned: bleach has a shelf life of just one year, and begins to lose potency after just a few months. Buy a new bottle every six months and begin using the old one for laundry and cleaning purposes.
Another easy way to purify water is to boil it, but this requires a fuel source. Plan ahead if you choose this option. A third easy alternative is the SteriPen, which uses UV light to purify water, a system that has long been used in hospitals.
Lisa Bedford, author of Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst Case Scenarios, also blogs at www.thesurvivalmom.com. She believes there is power and peace in being prepared.
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- How to Choose the Right Generator – Allstate Chicago
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