Well folks, there are times when people say “it’s the end of an era”. It’s usually when some long-term sports dude retires, or a long running TV show goes off the air. Or even a favorite restaurant closes down.
Now I have no idea how long an era is, officially that is, but boys and girls, this week marks the end of an era for me. Almost 19 years ago, a younger Mountainstroh bought a brand new, 1997 Ford Escort Station wagon. This week, 313, 000 miles later (no exaggeration) it had its last ride.
I don’t want any of y’all to think I pampered this car. I will tell you right now, it was there for damn near all of my biggest adventures, both the wins and the fails, and, as the title says, it always got me home.
In the mountain climbing days, every weekend it would drive me to the trailheads of my favorite climbs. Wind, rain, sun or snow that front wheel drive beast would get me along the dirt roads to start my hikes.
I know for a fact some of the roads we traversed were NOT for street vehicles. However, this old car was a mountain goat, picking its way around the biggest dips and handling washboard roads like they were highways.
More importantly though, no matter how wrung out or tired I was from the climb or ride
The car got me home. It would always get me to the nearest place with coffee, and then head on down the road. I might be stretching the truth a might when I say there were times I swear it drove itself.
Shoot, 5 years ago this month it proved how tough it was. I easily had over 200000 miles, when the snowstorm of the decade hit.
I left work at the Holy P at 3. By 3:15 I was in downtown Seattle. 8 hours and 15 minutes later, I traveled the last 16 miles home. Cars were dying right and left. Some were getting stuck, others spun into ditches, and buses jacked knifed. The wagon and I? I read my Kindle, and inched along. I had no problems, aside from having to use some empty Diet Mountain Dew bottles in the back seat a time or two. It was a very versatile car. I passed the last broken down car at 1115 and I got to the house at 1130 PM.
It was showing its age though. The air conditioner gave up the ghost years ago, as had the rear windshield wiper and defroster. Only 3 of the windows opened, and the dashboard lights have been out for so long I can’t remember when I had lights. My check engine light was on for 6 years straight until it finally burned out. It was lucky to get an annual oil change, hadn’t been washed in 8 years (again no lie) and had one tune up in that same time. It also lived on Arco gas, cheapest in town!
However, it still got 30 miles to the gallon, and could carry my bike anywhere.
I will admit it did not like traveling 70 mph any more, I couldn’t get the left headlight to stay on, and it had a bit of a man musk inside (Michelle calls it a funk!), but after 18 years you get attached to things.
Yep, no matter what, the old guy got me home, but I will tell you, Tuesday night was nip and tuck. It had been trying to overheat the whole way down to Federal Way, but once there it seemed to settle down. After dropping the Manchild off after dinner, I started home, and all hell broke loose.
That poor car sputtered and tried to die no less than a dozen times in the 36 miles home. I would just get up to speed, and get a mile or two, and it would cough and lose power. I was using every trick I knew with this car to keep it going. A time or two, I was down to 30 mph, and inching over to the shoulder with flashers going, when the beast would find its second wind (or 20th!) and power back up to speed again.
I was white knuckled and praying to gods of all Fords that I would make it home. Sure as hell, I made it to the exit, and limped it to the repair shop a mile from the house. I just sat there for mile taking a few deep breaths. After the walk home, luckily there was wine in the house, I needed it after that ride.
The next morning, Michelle and I talked and we agreed, it was time to pull the plug. The Manchild and I drove it home to the house last night, its official last ride, and I will start cleaning it out tomorrow. Next week, I will have him hauled away, and he will do what I hope to do when I bite it. His parts will help keep other Escorts on the road for a few more years.
So today, we got Michelle a very nicer used SUV, and I will take her Volvo. To make it official, I moved the frog.
This cast iron frog has lived full-time in each and every car that was mine since I my first when I was 16. It was in a pile to thrown out one day, and I remembered that frog being around since I was tiny. On a whim, I put it in my car and the rest is history.
The Volvo, Frog, bike and I have a lot of adventures still to come. But I will remember that wagon fondly, it was a chick magnet, just ask Michelle!