Call me cold-hearted but I’m not going to miss much when I’m gone. I’ll see my house, my cats, my friends and family soon enough. In fact, I’m looking forward to not seeing them all for awhile. Part of the fun of traveling is getting away from the familiar places and people. But there is one thing I am going to miss very much. Something that once I leave I will never see again.
My 1994 Saturn SL1.
If you know me at all, you know I love my beat-up, messy, old car.
I first got it in the winter of 1997, on the eve of a cross-country trip. I was on my way from Boston to Los Angeles to live for 6-months and needed a car. She was my first car, and aside from that trip we have driven cross-country and up and down the east coast numerous times. Over the years she has gotten dings, scratches and a few cracks, but she still purrs like a kitten (okay, a very loud kitten) when I start her and still gets the same gas mileage (40 mpg) as she did when she was new.
We’ve lived in Massachusetts, California, South Carolina, Connecticut and New Hampshire together, and we did it all without air conditioning, a CD player or a passenger side mirror. We also lived together that long without any major accident or break downs.
I always knew I could rely on my car to get me where I wanted to go.
The only time something went really wrong was when a piece of something fell into the engine and made a horrible noise. I managed to drive it to the shop, over 45 minutes away, and the mechanic seemed really surprised because the type of breakage can usually ruin an engine. But I wasn’t surprised, that’s just the way my car is.
And lest you think I’m being overly sentimental, just think of how much money this car has saved me over the years. Sure, I’ve had to get new brakes, mufflers and belts over the years, but what car doesn’t need typical repairs? The yearly registration is only $50 and insurance is under $500. I’ve also never had a car payment to worry about.
I’ve always said the only way that I would ever get rid of my car was if she was somehow totaled. Over the years, I’ve watched friend after friend replace their cars every 5-6 years (sometimes even every 3 years!), but not me. When I fantasize about winning the lottery I don’t see myself getting a new mini cooper or Prius. I see myself giving my favorite Saturn a total overhaul. (And perhaps a deep cleaning.)
But I’ve talked a lot about getting rid of stuff, and when it comes down to it, a car is stuff. Very important stuff (especially when you live 15 miles from the supermarket and have no public transportation) but it’s stuff nonetheless.
Also, being inactive for a year won’t do my car any favors. She’s survived being idle for 8 months back in 1999 when Ryan and I traveled around the world the first time. But she was only 5 years old at the time and could handle it. Now, at 15, I’m afraid a year would do too much damage and it’s not worth it. It’s like when your favorite pet is sick, you want to put her to sleep before she feels too much pain.
Once I made the decision, a few months ago, I stopped with the upkeep. She needs new brakes, the odometer stopped working (right before I hit 200,000 miles darn it!) one of the tires is leaking brake fluid and the check engine light is almost constantly on. (I think I need a new EGR valve.) For any long trip I’ve been renting a car to spare her the miles and ensure that she’ll last throughout the summer.
Now my only question is what to do with her? I know I could sell her to a junkyard and get 250 bucks for parts. But it seems a little cruel (like selling your pet to the butcher.) I could also try to sell it to an individual for more money. (Blue Book value is $620 and she has new tires and a new exhaust system) But, selfishly, I don’t really want anyone else to drive her. I was also thinking of possibly donating her. I’d get a nice tax write-off and I would feel good giving it to a charity, but of course I wouldn’t earn any money.
Whatever happens, I know that we only have a month left, and we’ll spend plenty of time together. I also know that when we get back we’ll get another car, and I’ll like it, but no car can replace my Saturn. This is the car I’ll speak wistfully about to my grandchildren.