A tribute to the Cars I have owned

My first car was a 1992 Toyota Camary given to me by my father. It looked like a  POS to put it nicely but worked quite well. I cant remember how many miles were on it, but I basically drove it into the ground and then purchased a nicer vehicle for my road trip adventures. The car was this goldish-beige and the light color meant that every single dent, scratch and flaking of paint could be seen clearly. With this in mind I decided to plaster it with bumper sticker “skate boarding is not a crime” or “born free but taxed to death” were some of the good ones along with free stickers from every bike company and tons of punk and ska band stickers that they give you for free at shows. In college I would always find notes on left on my windshield complementing my cacophony of stickers that did a nice job to cover the cars blemishes. Its not that I actually cared about the dents, but it did make it much easier to put a bunch of stickers on it because I had an excuse so the old man wouldn’t burst forth with a bunch of rants about why I should leave the car nice looking, because frankly it wasn’t ever nice looking.

The biggest problem with the car was every part that had to do with the wheels. Ball bearings, cv-joints, axles, tie-rods, shocks, you name it, they all seemed to break, no matter what I fixed something else broke. The engine held up nicely and I got great gas mileage, I think, after all gas was $1.13 a gallon when I got my first car in the summer of 2000. The winter of my first car year was also the first time I had driven more then 1000 miles away from my house. Two friends of mine Chaim Cohen and Jessica Singer drove down to Alabama to Visit Jessica’s cousins and then we ended up in Miami just because. This was my pre-expert long distance driving days and I didn’t think to bring my bike or sleep outside along the way. It was basically driving from city to city and staying in roadside lodges attached to Howard Johnson’s or I-hop. So the only local experiences you got were in gas stations, hotel check-in counter and whenever we needed something from Wal Mart. My second road trip that my trusty beige Camary escorted me on was a solo escapade west to Nebraska and then down along back roads through Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and then back up through Arkansas. This time I brought my bike and sleeping bag, but still lacked the guts to try my hand at sleeping under picnic tables in rest areas due to my fear of the ever present homos in rest areas that feed off of 19 year old boys while they doze in their cars.

Then all of the sudden I had some money saved up from working at a bingo hall and I wanted a new car. I wanted a Honda Accord wagon, but later found them to be quite rare. I ended up needing a loan so to the dealer I went and all of the sudden, shaggy haired me with my baggy pants and skate boards was driving a snazzy 1995 Volvo 850 turbo station wagon. Prior to this I had never even sat in a car this fancy and now I owned one. You would be surprised what kind of car you can get if your willing to settle with 91,000 miles on the thing. I had heard all my life that Volvos lasted forever and this would prove them right. Finally a car in which I could sleep two in the back and haul my bikes around without getting them soaked. I was pumped, and it was stylish and extremely comfy, leather heated seats, dual climate control, 8 speakers- especially good because at the time I was getting more into metal, and it was fast being a turbo and all. Yes it was a rip off to fix, tires were over a hundred bucks a piece for it and the electronic stuff in there was connected to the weirdest things. Luckily the check engine lights and service lights didn’t mean a thing like most other cars.

In the summer of 02 I was able to test out the car and see if it would work for long distance trips. I had bought the car in May of 02 and had put a pretty good number of miles on it already. With a car packed to the brim including two very large downhill monster bikes on the roof we took off for a 1 month, 9000 mile road trip that introduced us to the best mountain biking in this side of the world including Moab-Utah, Sun Valley-Idaho, Burnside park in Portland- Oregon and of course the North shore of Vancouver, Whistler and Kamloops British Columbia and the pink bike park in Calgary. Along with this already insane platter of mountain biking that gets me wet thinking about it we were able to hike in all these areas and also spent some time backpacking in Montana before heading home. My first time out west could not have done without my trusty Volvo wagon.

The years between these major road trips were interspersed with frequent trips to Detroit and New York City each being 350 miles one way, much upstate NY wandering and thousands of miles in the same periods when most folks drive a tenth of what I drove. The next summer and this would be 2003 My friend tall Jason and I went west once again to hike in Montana for a week, we ended up hiking for a few days and driving down to Utah to ride and wander the red rock canyons of the desert, then for the weekend it was Vegas just to check it out. Once again the Volvo held to the rigors of driving with a packed car thousands of miles through sweltering conditions. In Vegas my thermometer read 112 degrees at 2 in the morning.

It didn’t end there and in 2004 my friend Berel and I took the car which was already aging at about 180,000 miles having put on 90,000 miles in about 2 years since I bought the car. We ventured to Montana once again, this time to see the great wonder of Glacier National park and do some good hearty long distance backpacking. This time something went wrong, the engine ran out of oil while driving through the high desert of central Wyoming. How the car run out of oil we thought, we knew nothing about cars and looking back I wonder how the engine was able to work and seize without having any lubrication inside of it. Well we had to drive about 2 hours to get oil all the way to Casper I think. We filled it up and bought some extra oil. Then it ran out again, was I burning oil? Did I have a leak? Well that’s how it went down, dumping pricey full synthetic oil into my engine with a leak. Back home I brought it in to my mechanic who said your engine is shot won’t hold any oil. To which I replied that I would just dump in oil constantly.

And so the kook with the leaky engine opted for the simple yet pain in the ass option of carrying around 10 gallons of advanced auto parts generic 20/50 oil in the rear of his car. Every 300 miles or so the oil would be checked and replenished. My mechanic thought I was nuts and just said I should replace my engine. No way man, this is fine, besides I never have to get an oil change again. It worked quite nicely I think, albeit ghetto. Besides my oil leak and tons of scuff marks from things I have hit like trees, or rocks that fly up I had this massive dent. Though it wasn’t really a dent, you see I was on my way to East Coast Terminal a rather impressive skate park in Binghamton from Albany when I switched lanes without checking my blind spot. My rear door behind the driver connected with the front wheel of an 18 wheeler, which with its enormous lug nuts had ground out my door and permanently attached it to the wheel well preventing me from opening. Besides me thinking it was awesome I got praise from folks everywhere on having the coolest dent ever. At this point I decided it was time for bumper stickers. I decided on politically offensive ones just because of all the Bush election stuff that was going on at the time. I of course being a non-party affiliate went for both sides of the coin really confusing folks.

So anyway the Volvo besides the oil leak didn’t give me many gripes. The windshield cracked and needed replacement. The rear shocks went bad from all the dirt road driving, tires were pricey. Besides that the only major gripe was the brakes, yes the brakes had to be replaced many times, every 25,000 miles it seemed. I lost all braking power when the rotors ran out in Bozeman Montana in 2004 and had to use low gear to help with the stopping. The car itself was pretty maintenance free, I figured the folks who ad before me were probably rich and did all the incremented service stuff before I got it thereby keeping the car in great shape, on top of this a 5 year old car with 90,000 miles is nothing.

While still owning my trusty Volvo I got the stupid idea that I wanted a big redneck truck for off road purposes. I bought a 1986 Ford F-250 for $800 off the side of the road, from a very sketchy white trash dude. The truck was spray painted red, right down to the shocks, it had a scene on the back window of wolves howling t the moon, and it had 36 inch tires which could roll over anything in its path. Unfortunately the transfer case was busted and the 4 wheel drive wouldn’t work, but all I wanted was clearance for some rock driving or driving over gravel piles in construction sites which I readily did.

This red behemoth took forever to start and woke up everyone in the neighborhood during this grueling process. It had a 5.7 liter V8 and the whole block shook when you pumped the gas and tried to get it started. That carburetor gave me loads of trouble, but the frightened looks on the highway and from scared suburban mothers were worth it. T was the ultimate in white trash, the tires were so big you needed a small latter to get into it and the car made so much noise, no one bothered to tailgate the thing. I watched the gas needle go down the second I started the thing, and even though it had two tanks it was never enough. I mainly drove it in quarries and muddy constriction sites with piles of stuff to roll over, I would drive up and down curbs and into ditches and all sorts of random things on the side of the road just because I could. Then it became a pain in my rear and since I liked the kidney cars song I donated it to them.

The last major trip I would take before it was time to say goodbye was also around the 10,000 miles in one month mark. This time my buddy Danny from Detroit accompanied me after quitting his job to Mississippi and California, the last two states I needed in the lower 48. This time my car was at around 210,000 miles and it held up very nicely considering the oil leak. We just dumped tons of oil and yes I know the ground water suffered immensely from oil the oil that leaked out of the 5 inline that was under my hood. This time for some reason, oh yes I know why, we took the car off road. We were searching for some Ghost towns in the South west along route 50 in Nevada, nicknamed the loneliest road in America, and I would venture to say the nicest. Well we had decided that the double tracked mud roads were doable as well as the 2 foot deep creeks with churning water in them. We always made it over whatever the old mining roads threw at as, but being only May the snow cover eventually stopped us and forced us to hike the rest. We did get some great pics and left the car covered in a thick layer of mud to which we received many stares from the locals in Ely Nevada where we spent a weekend. Mud is like a prize on a car, because it takes guts and lots of work. My car was front wheel drive but fairly good clearance so sometimes the rocks scraping the underbody scared me, but nevertheless we were usually on some one way road on top of some cliffs. That was the Volvos final road trip and a good one it was.

In late September of 2005 my car died, and I didn’t want to spend the $400 it cost to fix the fuel pump among other things. It was time for a new car, actually it wasn’t, but I wanted one. I wanted four wheel drive, and I wanted to try my hand at a manual transmission. Thanks to Craigslist.com I was able to sell a 1995 Volvo wagon with external damage, a leaking engine, a dead fuel pump, and with 232,000 miles or $500, which went into the pool for my next car.

I settled on a 1999 Subaru Outback, my first new car. Though it wasn’t as fancy as my Volvo by any means, I was excited about having a stick shift and all wheel drive. Of course I had no idea how to drive the thing, but after a day or so I got the hang of it and immediately decided that I would take it offroading and took off to find some muddy double track trails. I got stuck in a ditch because I couldn’t get it into gear fast enough and them stick cars roll back when you shift into first. But it was good times. 

This car is my current car having been bought on September 29th 2005 with 163,000 miles, high miles baby. This past Friday January 12th the odometer hit 230,000 miles, I guess the trip to Alaska helped get it that high. This car has been the most fun I have ever had mainly because of it being a manual or maybe because I can fishtail the thing with its all wheel drive. The problem is that buying a high mileage car leads to risk and I have done some major repairs. Small repairs are a thing of the past. With this car I have replaced the engine and the transmission. You see Subaru’s maintain their oil pressure until there is no more left, meaning that the oil light doesn’t mean low oil, it means no oil. And all of the sudden your engine is seized, that’s the way it is. With regards to my transmission, I have no clue what happened there, since manuals are supposed to last forever. Despite these two major repairs that pushed have doubled the cost of my car, I love the thing and am grateful for it.