When I was little I was obsessed with anything I could get behind the wheel of. I daydreamed about dirt bikes and go-carts and desperately wanted something of my own.

My dad was a hobby enthusiast, and together with my brother and sister, we built rockets and flew RC airplanes. He used the tiny two- and four-stroke engines on his models to explain the inner workings of the combustion engine. It was all well and good, but to me there was no greater thrill than to be in the driver’s seat.

I think I was around 11 years old when I asked for money in lieu of presents that Christmas. I answered an ad in the Iwanna for a single-seat go-cart “not running.” We met at the Arby’s restaurant off Highway 321 and I paid $60 for it. I had my mother take me to Patrick Beaver Memorial Library for small-engine guides and a Briggs & Stratton manual. I decoded the serial number to learn the engine was from 1968.

I did get it running, I stripped it, painted it, and proceeded to tear up the neighborhood. I flipped it so I could buy more projects. I redid a handful of go-carts and minibikes as a girl. They’re not very complicated, but it was such a great experience to tinker and problem-solve. There is such a sense of pride and accomplishment in turning wrenches and hearing an engine fire up for the first time in a long time.

I hope that my two daughters will share the same passions I do. Or, at the very least, a practical understanding of mechanics. Doing something as simple as changing the oil in your car can build confidence and make everything else seem less intimidating.

I’m no grease monkey, but I’m not afraid to get hands-on and tear something apart.

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Hickory resident Sara Rhyne was featured in the Hickory Daily Record as part of an earlier photo essay on a 1963 Mercury Comet she restored.

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