That’s a lot of miles…for anyone or anything. They weren’t all good miles. There were certainly some bumps (and flat tires) along the way, but it survived to see the end. But before I talk about the end, let me think about what has happened in that 100,000+ mile journey…
104,293 miles ago…
I had a lot more hair (a lot more). I was still in college, about half way through what turned out to be a (unplanned) 5-year stint, and I was working as freelancing at a local TV station, making web sites and web apps.
I was dating my future wife. We had been together about 2 years at that point, both living at home. She had just graduated a couple months (about 1500 miles) prior. She had managed to dirty up my brand new car before even I could by somehow spraying ice cream onto the interior roof. Those stains remained there until the very end.
In short, life was pretty simple and pretty great. I was younger, had a good job, a hot girlfriend (just for the record, she’s still hot), a head full of hair and no real expenses. I could do anything I wanted at that point, and I guess I did, with the two constants being my woman and my car.
My two cars prior to that were hand-me-downs that had lived long lives in their own right, but I couldn’t consider them “mine” really. Getting a new car is a big deal, in my opinion, especially when you’re 22-year-old and the most significant thing you own is a video game console and a computer. Hell, I even needed my mom to co-sign for my car because I pretty much had zero credit. I didn’t know what that meant at the time but it didn’t matter, all I knew is that I had my own car and it was new.
It was an Hyundai Elantra GT – the GT meaning little more than leather interior. I couldn’t tell you why I picked that car…actually, I can, it was cheap. I think the sticker on it was $14,000 and that was a ton of money…even if it translated into only being $250/month. It was my introduction to debt but I was pretty happy. It had a working air conditioner and a CD player…a factory one, none of that after-market cassette-to-CD business. The gauges glowed blue at night, which I thought was pretty sweet in a very Tron sort of way. My previous car was an ’89 Celebrity with zero glowing parts…but it did have bench seats.
Mile after mile, that car became more mine and it showed. Stickers, air fresheners, dashboard Buddhas…I made it mine. And mile after mile, that car saw my life change for the better.
96,293 miles ago…
My girl and I were both graduated and moved in together into an apartment. It was a cement bunker that qualified as “cozy,” to say the least. It was the first time either of us had lived away from our parents, and we never looked back. Thinking about it now, I’m realizing neither her nor I have ever lived my ourselves. I don’t think I missed much.
I was still working at the TV station but now I was a full-time employee with benefits and everything. She was on her way to becoming a teacher.
88,293 miles ago…
We had enough of the apartment life and bought a house…and suddenly, life happened…and more debt. I had a house, a girl and a car…and hair…life is good.
80,293 miles ago…
We got married. My friends filled my car with balloons for the reception, and then following day it took us all the way to Memphis, Tennessee. And for reasons that will go untold here, drove us back home less than 24-hours later. Actually, lets talk a bit about that because my car deserves some credit.
We decided on Memphis for our honeymoon (best we can remember, it’s because it was a close drive and we didn’t have a lot of days for a proper vacation). At that point my car was still pretty new. Drove well and was rather comfortable. It was reliable, to say the least. The drive south was pretty easy, especially since this was way before GPSes and internet phones. Our maps and directions were printed out…and I had even saved them to a text file and put that on my iPod mini, just in case.
But when we got to Memphis, it all went wrong. Without going into too much detail, our experience there was so bad that we fled Tennessee after being there less than 4 hours. No one got any rest, not even my poor little car. So there we were driving out of Memphis after midnight when a hurricane showed up. Yup, Hurricane Dennis decided to work its way north at the same time we were. So there we were in torrential rain unable to see 20-feet in front of us, in the south, in absolutely darkness. No one told me the South didn’t have any lights on their highways. But remember that iPod?
Thankfully my iPod was charged because we needed the directions to guide us in the pitch blackness and rain. I was dead tired and my wife was in tears, both of us kinda fearing for our lives (and not to mention really pissed off). But my car kept us safe and kept on truckin’ right through the storm until we got to Someplace, Kentucky at around 3am after finding a Holiday Inn. We slept for a few hours, then kept driving until we got home. It was the first, and last, major trip my car would make.
Then shortly after that we got a dog, Colby, and I then learned the joy of taking a dog on a car ride. Head out the back window, wind blowing his ears back with his nose in the air smelling everything imaginable. I loved taking him in my car and see that happiness. I took him with me all the time, even if it was just to the store and back. It was something we both loved…and something I miss dearly.
56, 293 miles ago…
We got another dog, Roxi. Colby was getting fat and lazy. Jenny and I were both working full-time and away from the house for 8+ hours a day with Colby being home alone. He needed a buddy. And I then got the joy of watching 2 dogs with the ears flapping in the breeze.
By this point I had left the television station to go work in radio. I’m still not sure if that was a downgrade or an upgrade, but it was fun all the same. Fortunately, the radio station I worked for was owned by the same company that owned the TV station so I was in close contact with all my co-worker friends while making new ones to extend my broadcast family. The wife, she was finally a teacher.
24,293 miles ago…
I suddenly found a baby seat in the backseat of my car. Yup, we went and had a kid. My car was getting very crowded and really started to show its age. Okay, well, even by this point it was an “old” car but I could tell it was aching.
By now I had also left the world of news media behind. After 7 years in television, 3 years in radio and 2 years in print, I was done. I left for greener pastures and I actually found them…and discovered they paid a lot better too.
4,000 miles ago…
Despite there only being 3 people in our house, by this point there were 7 creatures living there. Three humans, 2 dogs, 1 cat and a turtle. Now my car wasn’t the only thing getting crowded so we (finally) bought a new house and moved…and my car came with me. It was the third move for my car and now more than ever was it feeling old (that made two of us).
16 miles ago…
I knew the day was coming soon but it still felt sudden. I was going to look at new cars without much intention to actually buy one, but I knew the possibility was there. Even though I know I needed a new car badly, that didn’t make it any easier spending a bunch of money and going back to monthly car payments. By this point my car had been paid off for 8 years or so. I wouldn’t say I was sad to see my old car go…despite everything it had been through, I didn’t feel a ton of emotional connection to it. It’s car. It’s a utility, little more…but, like I said before, buying a new car is a big deal but somehow this didn’t feel like a big deal.
Perhaps my car deserved more of a send off than it got. One last drive around the outer belt…one last late night cruise with the radio blasting. But that’s not how it went. By all rights, my car shouldn’t have lasted this long. I remember when a friend asked what car I would get next, his wife spoke up and said, “the same one!” And she had a point. This car had lasted 13 years…if my new car lasts as long as my old one, I’ll be 47-years-old.
And you know, that’s one thing I didn’t think about…now or then. When I bought that car I didn’t expect it would last so long. That it would see me through my 20s and most of my 30s. I’m not expecting this new car to last until I’m almost 50, but it might…and I think I’d be okay with that. I guess if any car can last more than a decade you should be happy.
So with a new car, a new house and a small kid…it almost feels like a life, Level 3. Everything is new but I’m a little smarter, a little older, a little more tired and a little more bald (okay, a lot more). Looking back is always fun but looking ahead is always more exciting.