At age 16 and barely licensed, I drove my mom’s car, an aging, mouse-brown Chevrolet sedan. When I was 18, my parents bought me a used Dodge sedan of my own. When I think of those cars today, I think of cruising the suburbs with the windows down. Of driving too fast down our town’s quiet streets to make curfew at night. Of playing country music loud and singing along. Of that fiercely steep learning curve that is young adulthood.
When I was 24 and in February of 2004, I bought a 2002 Toyota 4Runner from a car dealership in Minnesota near where I grew up and run by a family friend. I used mostly my own money but pretty much all of my dad’s negotiation skills. I was living–and running–in Texas at that time, so my parents road tripped my new rig to Austin to hand over the reins and to cheer me on in the Austin Marathon. We met on the city’s downtown streets, and I can still conjure up how I felt when my dad gave me the keys. This vehicle, a high-quality, used SUV capable of taking me everywhere I could dream of going, represented passage to adulthood.
I come from a lineage of tinkerers, fixers, and hold-on-to-ers. Both sides of my family, the Cooleys and Hickses, are People Who Fix Things When They Break. We keep our possessions for a long time, we use them well but caretake them better, and we grow connected with them along the way. Through this, we develop the kind of sentimentality for these inanimate objects that’s generally reserved for living things.
It is in this vein that, on those streets of Austin, my mom affectionately announced that the 4Runner had already acquired her name on their road trip south, Goldie. It is also in that vein that we fast forward to now, to the waning days of 2020 and to a wintry, blustery Colorado. I look out the window and what my eyes see is a still regal Goldie sitting solid amongst it all.
After almost 17 years of adventures together, I am placing Goldie up for sale. I’ve spent the last six weeks preparing her for the next stage in her journey. I’ve done little things, like giving her a last buff and wax and installing replacement sun-visor holds because one of the old ones shook loose and disappeared. And bigger things like a tune-up with the local mechanic and chasing down the wiring issues mice created while Goldie sat at a trailhead last summer. This toiling is also my way of expressing gratitude for what has been a most incredible adventure.
At the end of the day, Goldie is just a metal box and that gorgeous Toyota engine, a straightforward machine whose job is to get you from there to here. But from there to here, from my 24-year-old wide-eyed self in Texas to this 42 year old now midway through life but still only halfway wise to how the world works, is a very long way.
Goldie has pulled U-Haul trailers containing all of my possessions as I’ve moved around the U.S., seeking new professional ventures. Her cargo area is exactly as long as I am tall, and has made the perfect place to sleep before hundreds of big days out in the desert and mountains. She’s hauled family and friends and dogs and backpacks and dogs wearing backpacks to the most beautiful of places. She’s taken bikes and running shoes and boats quite literally wherever I’ve wanted to go. She’s been my refuge, where I’ve sat out huge storms and what I look for through the trees when I know I’m nearing the trailhead and the day is almost done. She’s hauled the construction materials we’ve used to help make the houses we’ve bought our homes. A lot of iRunFar’s race coverage is courtesy of the fact that she can get to places that many vehicles can’t.
Goldie’s the car that safely brought a few friends and I off a mountain in California’s Sierra Nevada when an unprecedented amount of snow fell in a few hours of skiing–the scariest drive of my life and the most proud I’ve been of her. She’s where I woke up to the news of my dad’s sudden passing, and where I then sat and screamed and pounded the steering wheel because I had no idea what else to do. After shuttling my dog and I to endless locations for runs and hikes, Goldie carefully cradled Junebug to her final resting place. And she’s the car in which Bryon Powell and I drove to elope on one glorious December day.
When I think of Goldie, I think of my mistakes, my victories, my tragedies, and my dreams. I remember her as my steady steed in a sometimes bumpy world. I recall how she’s so surely carried my loved ones and I along this beautiful, tragic, circuitous, and totally unpredictable journey that is life. Goldie, thank you for the ride.
Call for Comments
Do you have an enduring relationship with a vehicle or another important inanimate object? Can you share about it?