I admit I haven’t thought ahead too far about this week’s column.

Some things have distracted me, including the need for a new – or rather, a replacement vehicle.

The power steering pump is starting to go, and with my car having more than 200,000 miles on it and other repairs recently made, car dealership friends from the Quad Cities are recommending not putting the money into my car.

That white Ford Fusion has served me well. No major problems until about now – only an air conditioning compressor and adjustment on the brakes – but as with all cars, they eventually wear down.

It used to be, once upon a time in the 1970s if a car made it to 100,000 or so miles, that was a major accomplishment. I’m guessing people didn’t quite drive as much back then ... only about 12,000 miles or so a year. But still, getting six, seven or eight years out of a gas-guzzling vehicle was quite a badge of honor. Maybe you’d get more if you maintained it well, such as changing the oil every 4,000 miles (rather than the 7,500 or 8,000 that some manufacturers recommended).

I look back at my dad, who had some cars I vividly remember. I was a bit young to remember the car he had when I was born, a green 1966 Chevrolet Impala hardtop coupe. The only thing I can half recall was when Dad traded the vehicle for a light blue 1975 Chevrolet Caprice, that somehow this 3-year-old kid wouldn’t leave his old vehicle. But I’m guessing that’s how all 3 year olds are, right?

I think Dad told me once the old green Chevy had just short of 100,000 miles on it. My guess is – as I don’t think Mom remembers and Dad passed away 20 years ago – the car began having serious mechanical issues and he tried to squeeze just a little bit too much out of it.

The ‘75 Chevy had a few options that – like many other new car buyers of the time – were new to us. Air conditioning, cruise control and an AM/FM radio for starters.

And so come the late summer of 1983, when there was about as much life out of the 1975 Chevy that could be had – a fuel pump and a new cooling system were the most recent repairs – it was time to trade again.

The new 1984 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale coupe was literally right off the showroom. I think I even suggested it to Dad, since it had the novel items more and more cars were coming with. Things we take for granted today, like power windows, door locks and seat, and rear window defroster. Dad wanted to be a bit frugal but eventually he test drove the car and apparently liked it enough.

That was the last new car he bought. He did get a few used cars afterward, and he drove my grandma’s car after she stopped driving, then bought a used 1993 Cadillac Sedan DeVille. Which he drove with pride until the day he passed away.

In any case, I’ve not got my new car yet. I’m hoping by the time the next column is written I’ll have a new car in my possession.

I’m sticking with the Ford brand for now. This time, the goal is for an all-wheel-drive Escape or perhaps an Edge. The one I’m looking for might have new items. I’m hoping so ... at least a factory navigation system and possibly heated seats.

Definitely has to have a power seat. Must have a power seat. Except for my very first vehicle – a dark blue 1984 Chevrolet Impala sedan – all of my vehicles have had power seats. Even when learning to drive in that ‘84 Oldsmobile, and each of the driver’s education cars I drove ... all of them had the power seat. I like the flexibility and the value it adds to the car.

Sometimes, it’s the little things.

Back to the sports front, some notes:

  • As of this writing, six teams still stand. (This will go to press by the time the first of the final two Elite Eight games reaches halftime.) Of those, only No. 11 UCLA is a double-digit seed, after a year where double digit seeded teams seemed to have the upper hand.

Kind of strange that the Bruins are a Cinderella team. They were in one of the play-in games and have kept on winning. Within my lifetime, John Wooden had the Bruins on top of the college basketball world.

  • Speaking of UCLA, longtime fans of college basketball in Iowa may recall the name Rick Wanamaker, who was native to Marengo, where I worked for seven years.

Wanamaker played basketball for Drake and was on that Final Four team in 1969. He was best known for being one of (reportedly) just seven players to cleanly block a shot made by one of UCLA’s best players ever. Some guy named Lew Alcindor, who went on to be better known as Kareem Abdul-Jabar.

Wonder if they ever caught up with each other?

  • Michigan and Baylor have so far saved face for two of the dominant leagues this past winter. The Wolverines, of the Big Ten, were yet to play UCLA late Tuesday, while Baylor will represent the Big 12 as they punched their first ticket to the Final Four since 1950.

Wishing both luck.

  • I don’t know too much about Indiana’s new coach, Mike Woodson.

It appears he has some NBA experience, with stints for both the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks, and he ran roughshod as one of the Hoosiers’ best players ever.

But to me, it’s been a mixed bag as far as coaches who transition from one level to another. A few are successful. A generation ago, Barry Alvaraz made the move from head coach at Mason City to turn Wisconsin into a national powerhouse.

But I think of Tim Floyd, and later Fred Hoiberg. Both Iowa State coaches who were very successful but when they moved to the Chicago Bulls it was in the end a case of biting off more than they could chew.

Although no specific examples come to mind, I’ve seen the reverse be true as well. Ergo, college coaches moving to high school, or professional coaches getting into the college ranks.

We’ll see with Woodson.

To reach Brian Rathjen, send correspondence to or phone (712) 243-2624.

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