We've all had favorite possessions. Things that we enjoyed, perhaps even treasured. Things whose value to us outweighed their cost. For me, and for many men, one of the things we often treasure is a vehicle.
Ben Sollee wrote a song about this fascination, comparing Americans to ancient cultures and their burial habits. The main lyric is "In America, they'll bury us with our cars." And I find a lot of truth in it. I've had my fair share of vehicles over the years, some of which were just transportation, a few of which I really enjoyed and two of which I considered special. Not just possessions, but friends. I traded the first for the second, a little less than ten years ago.
That first was a Chevy S10 pickup that I bought with just under ten thousand miles on it. It is the closest I've ever come to owning a new vehicle. I loved that truck and it was my clear favorite, but when I became a father I knew its two-passenger days were numbered. When my son was an infant, it worked for a while, the car seat pushing my wife against me, but not uncomfortably so. But when my daughters arrival was drawing near, I began to look. I hung on for awhile, having acquired a second car and keeping my truck for when it was just me...but I knew it was a temporary solution.
So I traded my S10 for a Nissan Pathfinder. I figured here was a way I could still have "my truck" and yet also carry all the needs of a two kid family. And I did. My Pathfinder carried us to Padre and Charger games, to little league practice, to fencing, to Disneyland. It had hot chocolate stains in the back seat, and melted crayon that never completely went away, and memories of laughter and even fighting. It was the truck that had "Go PVLL!" painted on the back window when my son made his first All Star team.
And it had memories of all the friends and loved ones that have surrounded me for the last ten years. Sitting in the drivers seat, I could glance to my right or over my shoulder and remember people I love and care about sitting there. It crossed a country with me.
Over the last couple years, its been showing its age. The repairs began to mount and the creaks and leaks grew. But I still loved to drive it. I loved the power, loved the way I could feel the road. And it proved itself capable of handling the snow and rain of my new home.
Sunday, its time ended. Ironically, it wasn't because of recklessness on the part of the driver (I've been known to enjoy speed too much) or a mechanical failure. It was just blind and dumb bad luck. Turning a corner with a slight bank on a cold morning, there was a bit of invisible ice. The road is narrow, the kind of road where you hold your breath when a big vehicle passes and your mirrors almost trade high fives. I turned into the skid and my faithful friend kicked herself back. But just as it seemed that we had escaped, disaster.
Reconstructing it with photos and memory, I figure my right rear tire slipped off the pavement. And there just happened to be a depression there. The tire spun and when it hit the blacktop at an angle, over we went.
We skidded about a hundred feet, maybe a hundred fifty, with the disconcerting and surreal experience of riding with my head at three o'clock instead of twelve. The pavement of the road grinding the passenger side mirror down, the window unbroken.
If not for the trees, I might have just ended up with a need for some pounding, paint and a new mirror. Or maybe the frame twisted when we went sideways. I'll never know. Because we did hit the trees, wedging in beneath one, the branches crunching the drivers side fender and bumper into the engine compartment. I hung there in my lateral perch for a moment, marveling at the unusual angle, thanking the seat belt and cursing chance.
I crawled out, just in case the liquid dripping was more than water (it wasn't.) Then I lamented having only brought one glove. Like I said, the morning was cold. I called Alessia, let her know what had happened and that I was alright. Called work and told them I wasn't gonna make it in. Then I had to watch my faithful friend suffer the indignity of having a tow truck winch her out and back to her feet.
She was cranky in her old age, nineteen ninety-four having been awhile ago in truck years. She was closer to two hundred thousand miles than one hundred. And the truth of the matter is that we were going to part ways soon no matter what. I couldn't afford to keep fixing the same things again and again.
But she went out protecting me. I don't have a scratch, or even a bruise. None of the windows broke, the seat belt did it's job and none of the interior panels bent. I'll enjoy having a newer, more reliable, quieter vehicle. One with less of an appetite for gas and repairs.
But I'm gonna miss my old friend.