An Ode to Goldie

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?

The author and her dad, Ron Hicks, with Goldie in Austin, Texas in February of 2004. All photos courtesy of Meghan Hicks.

Junebug the Border Collie in Goldie and on the way to a trailhead for a run in west Texas, March 2004.

Goldie in Colorado’s Sawatch Range, June 2005.

The author’s mom, Sharon Hicks, camping with Goldie in Montana’s Bridger Range, August 2006.

A massive bull elk and Goldie during the 2007 fall elk rut in Wyoming.

Goldie moving from Wyoming to California in the fall of 2008.

Encountering some curious rules while road tripping in the Big Sur region of California, October 2009.

Goldie and the open road, fall 2012.

Camping in the Sawatch Range of Colorado in the summer of 2015.

More Sawatch Range camping, summer 2016.

Goldie after an unusual west Texas snow squall, January 2015.

Hauling 100-year-old barn wood and Ikea cabinets to install in our Utah cabin, February 2016.

The author with Goldie after a long run in the snow in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, February 2017.

Camping in Bears Ears National Monument, Utah, September 2017.

Getting ready to cache water ahead of a five-person, four-day bikepacking trip in Utah, fall 2018.

Goldie at Molas Pass, Colorado, December 2020.

Meghan Hicks

is's Managing Editor and the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running.' The converted road runner finished her first trail ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places.

There are 12 comments

  1. Tony Mollica

    Very cool article! I dig the reference to the fiercely steep learning curve to adulthood. I’m 62 and still negotiating that curve.

    Good luck on your future adventures!

  2. John K

    I didn’t have Bertie, my aging Ford Cortina, for anywhere near as long as you had Goldie. But he had been in my girlfriend’s family and I was the one who finally drove him to his grave – a scrapyard in South London. By then, I would joke about the hole under the passenger seat, and how my passenger was supposed to stick their legs through the hole, to run, helping the car keep going, because his engine was about shot by then. My last inspection, my girlfriend’s dad and I had to weld one of the wings back onto the chassis as all the riveting and bolts were rusted through. The inspector pounded our repair with a rubber mallet, and we watched as a huge pile of rust poured out under the wheel. But the wing stayed on, and he let me pass “for just one more year, but don’t ever bring this car back here again!”

  3. Ric Moxley

    just bought my own gold-colored ’94 4Runner, no name bequeathed it yet. :)

    Great story! Yes: our car, if it’s one that represents who we are, becomes more than metal; becomes an extension or outward reflection of what we do, what we believe. May its next owner value Goldie as much as you did!

  4. Barth Z

    Your father Ron and you in Austin…precious. I have a similar pic of my daughter Allisa and I standing by the Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs next to my 2004 Malibu in 2005. We took a quick July trip from WI to challenge her legs on a run down the Barr Trail after cogging it up to Pikes Peak as her introduction to my mountains of youth and Pikes donuts. Boo brought us back the next year to do it again and eat fondue at Mona Lisa’s. Wonder if our signed wine bottle is still there. Boo must have caught a mountain virus in Manitou. Boo was given to Allisa upon her HS graduation, where she used Boo to move with her equally talented long run husband to the mountains of Pittsburg. After mastering those Squirrel Hills in no time, they let Boo pull them back to Colorado Springs to live in the 3 PM shadow of Pike not far from her first intoduction to rarified air. Never have I had a more pleasant loss and gain.

  5. Doug K

    Goldie is still in phenomenal shape..

    We bought a 98 Sienna minivan in 2002, since the adventure-mobile Econoline could not carry two child carseats.. I gave up in 2018 at 300 000 miles, there was a months’ worth of maintenance work to be done.

    Epitaph for my Subaru, at link from my name..

  6. Jeff Gambrell

    What a touching reflection about something that played such an important role in your life for many years. Thanks for sharing those thoughts and pictures.

  7. Jill Homer

    Aw, I loved this essay. I think many of us had a car like this in our lives. Mine was a 1996 Geo Prism, purchased in 2000 with $5,300 of pretty much all of the cash I had from working through the summer after I graduated from college. That was the most bare-bones sedan there was; it had a tape deck, no AC or power steering. And it took me all over the country. I think I once figured out it visited 32 states in its illustrious career, including three full trips from the Lower 48 to Alaska and back. A tree half-crushed it once in New Jersey, I crashed it into a parked car in Salt Lake City, and thieves broke the window three times. Finally, in 2012, it needed too many repairs to pass safety and emissions in the state of California, so I donated it to the Breast Cancer Foundation. But I swear, one year later, I saw that car driving down I-280 with California plates. It had these tell-tale paint scars after the tree repairs, and they were still there. It heartens me to think Geo might still be out on the road.

  8. Meghan Hicks

    Thank you so much for all these comments. I love hearing these car-people-adventure-life stories.

    Tony, it seems that the curve flattens only a little bit throughout life, doesn’t it? The great blessing and curse of being human in such a dynamic world, I suppose!

    John K, oh, Bertie, you were a great car. I so loved reading about how you kept her going for so long!

    Ric, oh, wow, enjoy the ride with your new-to-you 4Runner. What an adventure it will be!

    Soren, thank you!

    Barth Z, thank you for sharing Boo’s story. And, your last sentence summarizes life, doesn’t it?

    Doug K, a high compliment, thank you so much. I so enjoyed reading about your Subie, what a good car.

    Jeff Gambrell, thank you so much.

    Jill Homer, Geo! I remember this car and when you finally moved on to your Subaru and how it was hard for you, too. Here’s hoping Geo lives on!

  9. Ed

    Have a link to where you are selling it? As the current owner of a 2006 Runner and with a son about to start driving, I’m in the market. It would be fitting to bring it back to Austin.

  10. Andy M

    I had a 1992 Honda Accord. It was an absolutely great car, but it was a piece of junk. My favorite car of all times, I would still happily trade my much newer Honda for it. I had one working door- the one on the passenger side, no heat or air conditioning, no windshield wipers, flooded once due to a big storm and looked like a golf ball from the hail damage, and the car got totaled once and i bought the salvage title and had it for another 6 years. Started every time, never broke down and ran like a champ! It got me through high school, college, many mountain adventures, and more trips from Fort Collins to Denver than I can count or remember. It was a sad day to let it go!

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