Yesterday I traded in my beast of an SUV – the chariot (if I may rhapsodize so over a mere vehicle) that has carried me all over the country in the past 13 years. She was a brawny gal (even though she was muscle-bound and powerful, I have always thought of her as a “she”) and she ate up the roads of America mile after reliable mile. Like any aging queen, though, she began a downhill slide eventually, passing the 220,000-mile mark recently and weathering one too many winters of cold mornings and salted roads.
As ridiculous as it sounds, I am incredibly sad! Her cozy interior was my second home in my daily life and my front-row seat for the travel show I watched from her windows over the years. My maps (remember those?) were stashed in the side wells, my pens and scissors and grocery bags and Band-Aids all had their storage spots, and my muscle memory knew the locations of every signal, radio station, and compartment. I kept her clean, inside and out, and more than a decade in, she still drew admiring glances from the car salesmen loitering outside the dealership when I brought her in.
As much as I love jetting miles away from home to an exotic foreign land, I still relish a good road trip more than almost anything. I know we Americans are laughably attached to our cars, but for me the appeal is the freedom – to go slowly, to pull over and marvel at fields of grain or tumbling streams, to stop at a kitschy store and stay as long as I desire, to pack all my favorite foods and drinks and consume them whenever I want, to sing aloud at high volume, and to take way too many pairs of shoes and all the big stuff that won’t fit in a carry-on suitcase. I loved my car not as a possession but as the vehicle (literally and figuratively) for my wanderlust.
From her home in Chicago, my girl carried me on trips to New York City and the Northeast, to Texas, Florida and the entire Southeast, on a huge loop out west through nine Northern Plains states on the way to Montana and back, throughout the Great Lakes region, on a handful of excursions to Georgia’s coastal islands, and on scores of trips straight east to the Mid-Atlantic states and the eastern shore. She was welcomed along with the relatives she carried to Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Georgia, Virginia, Missouri, and Colorado.
A little sister in the Toyota line-up has taken her place in my garage today – the smaller, lighter version of my sleek, dark beauty. I don’t know yet what her first long-distance destination will be, but I look forward to the next several hundred thousand miles aboard. But for now, it’s so long and farewell to this lady!