Two Weeks Spent Driving in a Car
turned into thick fields
of hay transforming into rows
and rows of bales and the lush green
became dry in Montana, oil wells
sprouted in Wyoming disappearing
into the corn, trees came
back in Michigan finally
breaking to accommodate
This was a poem I wrote about my 5,634 mile road trip from Palmer, Alaska to Atlanta, Georgia, for which I had purchased my 2002 Ford Taurus SES. Driving cross-country is like compressing time in that it’s hard to define distinct periods—everything runs together.
And, now that my Taurus has defined “mechanical issues,” to put it politely, I find myself going back to the summer of 2005, the eve of my first cross-country adventure, and wondering how did I get here? Everything seems to run together. The first weekend home from finishing college, my parents and I went out to a dealership to “just look” for cars. I had a small purse to spend after taking out student loans for my fourth year of college. It is one of my only glory stories, which you’ll probably hear several times from me in my and your lifetime, of how I negotiated the price of my Taurus. Through a bad move, I had let the salesman know that I had $8,000 to spend. He told me he’d ask the finance office if there was anything out on the lot I could get for that price. Coming back, he told me there were 3 Tauruses out there that they’d “work really hard to get down to my price.” I didn’t budge. I looked at him squarely in the eyes and said, “Look, either you can get them down to my price or you can’t. There’s no use wasting my time or yours.” He scurried off to the finance office. And scurried back. They could do it.
A few months later, my mom and I were on the road to Atlanta. Singing along to our mix CDs, eating M&M’s and visiting family.
Then, I was in Atlanta for 2 years, making it the best I could: going to school full-time and working at Borders 3-4 days a week. I remember early in my Southern tenure, walking out of Borders into the hot, sticky night and heading towards my car to go home and thinking, “I’ve done this myself—living in a big city, owning a car, putting myself through school.
But after school, it was back in the car, this time alone, to Portland, Oregon where my Taurus served as my rock. That car was my way to get to the airport to fly out for interviews, a mobile storage unit and the driver’s seat was the most comfortable chair I owned.
I drove to Cincinnati, Ohio once I got a job there. Despite the generous relocation money my new employer offered me, I only ended up using half of it—enough to cover gas and motels—because everything I owned fit into my car. For the first 6 months of that job, I’d jokingly threaten my jesting manager that “I’ll just pack up my car and drive back to Portland!” For my first 2 years here, I didn’t want to own a piece of furniture that wouldn’t fit into my Taurus.
So, it came as a stinging heartbreak when my husband called me and told me that the cost to fix the car was very close to the Kelley Blue Book price it. How did a really good, solid car that never broke down on me when I was driving cross-country solo (and probably the most vulnerable) have such a problem? Maybe it’s not that big of an issue. Maybe with another car, valued at a different price, I’d make the repair. But, as I told my husband as we discussed our options, we didn’t need a mechanic’s advice; we needed a financial advisor’s counsel.
This car symbolizes my twenties—my willingness to hit the open road with a loose plan. The reliability, the ordinary, the comfort of knowing you can go, if you so choose. But, it’s not the car that has defined this time. Nay, it is I who have defined the car and steered it in the direction I wanted to go.
Bye, Pinkley. You have been a good car, a constant companion to my adventures. As we come to this financial fork in the road, it’s time for us to part ways. I have no regrets about ever owning you and even though you are a little worse for the wear, you have never let me down. You are the glory story of my twenties.