I don’t remember the exact date of the purchase, but I do remember driving my new Volkswagen home with the sunroof open and the windows rolled down. I didn’t care that I had a car payment for the first time in my life: in exchange, I’d gotten freedom. Or at least the illusion of freedom.
The bright blue color would not have been my first choice. But it was an extraordinary deal — a factory car with only 3,000 miles and a matching $3,000 discount — that was too good to pass up. And so it was that I acquired the VW Golf Smurfmobile (also known as “Guido”).
At least once or twice each summer, Esteban and I would load Guido improbably full of camping gear and drive far out of town for a long weekend. Sometimes we’d car-camp at Banning State Park …
… and other times we’d drive as far as we could up Lake Superior’s North Shore.
I loved taking road trips in the Smurfmobile … the radio tuned to some small-town station, Esteban dozing next to me, our dog Arrow’s grinning face in the rear-view mirror. We had countless adventures together, our little pack of three. Twice we even went to Chautauqua, New York — and back.
For a time, I took a second job as a stable-hand in exchange for riding privileges.
I loved the crunchy sound the tires made on the otherwise-deserted gravel roads. And although my Smurfmobile looked tiny next to the other girls’ farm-sized pickup trucks, I didn’t care. I loved Guido because it felt solid, like an adorable neon-blue tank. This was especially reassuring in the winter when the risk of skidding into an accident (or a ditch) was all too real.
Although it didn’t have great traction, the Smurfmobile got me through 14 Minnesota winters.
But those winters exacted a price: The chemicals that remove snow and ice from the roads also removed some of the bright blue paint. In spite of the Smurfmobile’s frequent baths, corrosion eventually set in.
A couple of weeks ago I was alarmed to find a rusty chunk of metal sitting under my car. I couldn’t identify it, but I was pretty sure it looked important.
There were other problems, too. The transmission was becoming increasingly balky — and if it was below zero, the reverse gear would simply disappear. I cancelled many an engagement last winter because I couldn’t back out of the garage.
And then, last week, I noticed a new noise. “It sounds like there’s a woodpecker under the hood,” I told my longtime mechanic. “I think I have a loose belt.”
He called me two hours later with the bad news. “The belts are fine,” he said, “but valve one is shot, valve four is close behind, and you need a new camshaft.” He could rebuild the engine, he said, but it would cost $2,500.
I cried when I called Esteban to give him the news. I felt stupid, but he understood. “There are a lot of memories in that car,” he said. “Still, it’s just a machine. And it’s time to let go.”
I haven’t decided yet whether — or with what — to replace the rusty, trusty old Smurfmobile. But Esteban is right: It’s time to let it go. So this morning I’ll clean out the glove box, and this afternoon we’ll go test-drive some new cars.
I’m not looking forward to having a car payment again. But I’ll admit I’m once again looking forward to the call of the open road.
Props on keeping your car this many years. It’s sad when a good one that you got to drive for a long time finally meets its time to go.
A lot of my friends keep their cars only for two or three years, but I prefer to extract every last possible penny out of mine. Let’s see how many years I get out of my new Subaru. 🙂
I remember my ’69 Mustang Mach I. Man that car could fly: I remember racing that motorcycle through Wisconsin….
You had a Mustang Mach 1??! Wow. I’ve never had a car that hot — and probably never will. (Though I’ll admit that my new Subaru is pretty sweet. I’ll give you a ride next time we meet up for dinner. 🙂
I had a hard time giving up the Pontiac Firefly that I drove across Canada/the US (and drove around here for a couple of years afterwards). I know how you feel…..
You drove across Canada and the US? Wow, Fiona, that sounds like quite an adventure! I can imagine how hard it would be to give up a car that must have been so full of fond stories. But as my husband pointed out yesterday, “You may have to give up the car, but at least you get to keep the memories!” So … here’s a toast to our beloved departed Pontiac Fireflies and VW Golves. 😀
Aw, this is such a sweet ode to your trusty blue Smurfmobile! I was always sooo happy to see that car, because it meant we were getting together for a hike or food and wine and a great visit! I love how how used the life of the car to measure parts of yours. I always feel sad when a car’s era ends, too. Sweet post!
How sweet that you came to associate the Smurfmobile with an impending adventure, Pam! But soon you’ll be associating a black Subaru with an impending adventure … and a student at Newgate Vocation School will learn how to rebuild a Volkswagen engine … and in a few months some other lucky person will buy a trusty, rusty little creampuff that answers to “Guido.” So it’s all good.
Ave atque vale, Guido! I understand the wrench of saying goodbye to a trusty old car. We like to keep ours as long as possible, too, and of course they do twine themselves into your family memories. We still fondly remember the first car of our marriage, a Subaru Imprezza which brought me safely back from hospital after the birth of our first child. I can still hear the bang when it later got written off by a speeding bus while parked outside our flat. 😦
Anyhoo, I am glad to hear that you have joined the Subaru tribe! Nothing better for dealing with winter roads (and off-roads) in our experience: we’ve had one ever since that first one. Your Smurfmobile did an amazing job in coping with your epic winters, nonetheless. He did you proud.
Oh, dear DB … leave it to you to salute Guido in Latin! (To which he replies, “Gratias tibi.” 🙂 I’m so sorry to hear about the sad fate of your first Subaru Impreza, but relieved that you weren’t in it at the time of the bus-crunching. Hopefully the speeding offender was well insured? And on a brighter note, I’m so glad to see that I’m in such good Subaru-owning company! I will still be sad when I donate the Smurfmobile to the car-repair school on Wednesday, but I’ll admit that the anticipation of having a new car will make it just a tiny bit easier to say goodbye. By the way, Esteban suggested that I may wish to avoid naming the new car. Ha!
There is not a better feeling than the first car…it is a piece of freedom, and this post is excellent!
Thank you, Dalo 2013! You are right that cars represent freedom, in a way. I sometimes wonder if that is why so many Americans are obsessed with them.
I think you may be right. Whenever I get back to the States, one of the first things I do is take a road trip…a feeling of freedom.
Ah so sweet! My very first car was a second-hand VW, but I sold it to my brother to fund my travels to Europe. He gave me much more than it was worth, and so my trusty VW gave me the freedom to see the world, or so I thought at the time. I was more attached to the 1975 Bedford Camper Van my love and I bought to travel Europe. Our beloved Bernie died a horrible death when a bunch of teenagers decided to make a fire in him and he burnt from the inside out. But that’s a story for another day, I’m waffling on here. Happy driving in your new beloved car. Have you given him a name yet?
OH NO!!! Poor Bernie!! What a sad story, Rochelle — and what a senseless end to your trusty camper. People can be so mean sometimes … 😦
But on a brighter note, I absolutely *adore* my new Subaru! It’s such a pleasure to drive that I find myself inventing excuses to run errands and give my friends lifts. I’ve also already had an opportunity to test it in the late-season snow and ice, and I can tell you already that next winter will be 94% less stressful. (There’s still 6% stress from the other people on the road who drive too fast for the conditions. 🙂 But nope, I haven’t named him yet. Though right now I’m leaning toward “Goat,” because that car can climb anything. 😀
Sounds just about perfect to me! 🙂