In the spring of 2010, I was faced with a pretty tough financial decision to make. The car I was driving, a 2004 Saturn VUE had a clear transmission problem that would not be a cheap fix. I wasn’t carrying that kind of cash at the time, so I made the more financially irresponsible decision. I just bought a new car. I mean … isn’t it just easier to make payments on a loan that is way more than the repair then pay cash? Come on! Not only that, from the moment I had the concept to buy a new car to the moment I drove off the lot was probably not more than three hours. I mean, I did a little research in the months ahead, had ideas of what I wanted, but it was probably the biggest impulse buy of my life.
That day I bought a 2010 Toyota RAV4 Limited edition. I got it for a pretty good bargain as well. At the time Toyota was getting a lot of heat over safety issues, and there were constant reports blowing up problems withe accelerator. I wasn’t bothered by that, simply because Toyota is so highly considered for their ability to solve quality issues that they quite literally invented most of what the rest of us are doing every day. What it did mean is that those Toyota stores weren’t selling cars … so that car should have gone for 20% more than I got it for. It was still nearly half the cost of my Kansas house, but that is Kansas where you can get a mansion when you supersize a happy meal.
Yesterday, my RAV4 broke through 100,000 miles and is arguably the best major purchase I had in my life – second only maybe to my Alaskan house, but the RAV4 far surpassed that house in longevity. Now before you start scratching your head why I would take the time to blog about a car, anyone who knows my history over the last seven years can guess that the car has seen an awful lot itself. Just think of it from where it has been. Later this month, it’s going to get tagged with it’s forth state’s plates. I’ve shipped it twice as part of relocations, both times taking a boat either to or from Alaska. With me as a driver, it has visited nearly forty states. I have made drives from Massachusetts to/from California five (5) times! It’s driven through New York City, up the mall at Washington DC, and through crowds on Hollywood Boulevard. It’s been down the muddiest of dirt roads in Kansas, up the mountains of Colorado, and so deep into the Alaskan wilderness that the roads close nine months out of the year.
All that time, and I haven’t really had a problem with it. The suspension has seen better days; and I have had a faulty tire warning light since about mile 25,000; but otherwise I’ve had little trouble. The only time I needed to do any repairs was an epic night on the first day of a massive road trip to the east coast, when the battery called it quits and I ran across most of Missouri and Illinois on the alternator until I pulled off, bought a new battery, and installed it at midnight in Vandalia, IL (in a Wal-Mart parking lot that was way too busy of a hangout for a Friday night at midnight, but I guess that tells you something about Vandalia, IL).
Don’t get me wrong, he is far from perfect condition. I do call him a he, because from the moment I picked him up it was clearly a car that liked the rougher conditions. Pretty early on, I did well to scratch him up on gravel roads getting geocaching crazy. The first real scratch was so typical me — a coming hailstorm, and I pulled it high on my driveway to avoid dents, and didn’t see my garbage can too close until it left a nice long line down the side. I tore up the rear passenger wheel well when I wasn’t looking behind me well enough and backed into The Strugglebus (the infamous RV I had in Alaska). There’s a pretty big dent in the back bumper when I had to do what I had to do to get out of my parking spot in Boston during the epic 2015 snow storms. But what really puts it in rough shape can be blamed on something with four legs and the desire to hang his head out the window. Auggie always had the back seat, and it is awash with dirt from messy paws, tipped over water cups, and plain old shedding. That hanging his head out the window … you can tell by the doggie nail scratches circling under the window.
Truth be known, it was my safe harbor for most of the last two years. While I often brag about the 200+ nights I spent in hotels each year, a small percentage of that was traveling by air. When I moved to Boston, the odometer was at 55,000 – so in just a little over two years, I nearly doubled the mileage. When I left the pup in the car (safely harnessed in, windows down, water available – so don’t get all snippy) it became his little cave during work days; and the rest of the time it became mine as well.
The RAV4 carries a lot of memories with it. Some that are bigger than this blog can handle, and some you won’t get me to share. But I can remember so many great moments. Sitting in Harpers Ferry, WV following a fantastic hike. The smell of rotting ocean after a fail at dip netting. Hanging out of the back in Laconia, NH cooling off from a rough day at work with colleagues. Preparing our packs of drinks to haul into Salmonfest. Looking down at a little pup in the passenger seat that I am taking home for the first time – and as the fear of the unknown was in his eyes, he throws up on the seat.
We broke 100,000 yesterday on the road back from a great weekend in Temecula – ironically, in a parking lot of PetSmart (because everything is about Auggie). I broke through that limit pretty hard, as the day became a house hunting trip – totally nearly 300 miles by the day was over. I hate to jinx it, but he’s doing pretty good at the moment – good enough to hope that there is still a few good years left in him. Just because of the condition of everything, I would likely donate him than try to sell him off or trade him in when that time comes. With luck, that is still down the road a long way.