Friday, August 9, 2019

A September update

At the start of June, I was doing an oil change underneath my beloved 233,000-mile"Adventure Mobile."

On my back, I looked up and noticed a catastrophic amount of rust on the frame, so bad I could put my entire hand through it. My heart plummeted. I knew that was it. The time had come, and for the sake of safety I needed to say goodbye.

I’ve bought and sold a few cars over the years, but I honestly didn’t expect it to be that difficult and hard for me to get rid of this one. I credit the fact that this small black wagon has been with me through some of the best and triumphant peaks in life, and also the hardest and unsure. For six years and 127,000 miles, I relied on that 2005 Saab 9-2x to get me to both where I needed and where I wanted to go, and the thought of it being absent felt mortifying. “But come on, Robby, it’s a just car,” I kept telling myself, looking for excuses to shake the sad feelings I had become overwhelmed with after taking insurance off of it, hypothesizing over how much it would cost to fully fix, and then accepting that it’s dangerous to drive. This was an important car for me, so here's a tribute.

I learned that it could serve as a refuge of warmth during my first solo camping trip in the north woods of Governor Thompson State Park back in late October 2013. It was possible to spread out across the middle row in a sleeping bag, even being over six feet tall.

I learned patience when it came to repairing things big and fixing things small. Some things on this car were easy DIY tasks, others were cumbersome and a journey For example, having to remove the entire front bumper just to change a burnt-out headlight, was harder than installing a new alternator. 

I learned that I wouldn't have been able to spend the six most important months of my life in 2014, moving to Colorado and working a seasonal job teaching outdoor education and recreation at YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch. I packed the "Adventure Mobile" to the gills with my skis, snowshoes, a laundry basket clothing, rock climbing gear, a cardboard box of books, and camera. My dad joined me on the three-day drive to Granby, riding shotgun. We spent hours together telling stories, laughing, talking about my next chapter, and admiring the country as we headed west. We both wanted to check out Badlands National Park, my first ever national park exposure. I remember my dad and I driving through the late night, with no cell service, and no other light but the glow emitting from my car's headlights. We were lost somewhere outside of Lusk, Wyoming. On the way, I started blogging again, and called my blog From shuttling me to 5:30am dogsled trail grooming with a snowmobile in temperatures far below year before the sun rises to nights out in nearby Winter Park with my fellow transient, vagabond-ish best friends all in Colorado for the same reason as I was: self-discovery. 

I learned that this car made me feel free. Whenever I wanted to, I could hop in the "Adventure Mobile" and drive far and wide to explore a new type of wilderness I've lusted to experience. The "Adventure Mobile" was my entryway into the great outdoors, racking up thousands of miles traveling to state parks and national parks that ignited my soul.

I learned how to buy a car on my own, haggle on the price, and the importance of paying off a bank-issued auto loan as soon as humanly possible. This 2005 Saab 9-2x was my first real new-to-me car purchase after graduating college and I felt so proud the first day I drove it home from the dealer.

I learned that all wheel drive is fun in the snow and the only way to go. It never failed me, like when I pushed through a terrifying white-knuckled descent down steep Rabbit Ears Pass in Colorado during a blizzard. The "Adventure Mobile" proved the stereotype that a station wagon is the greatest vehicle for ski trips.

I learned that after a while, it didn't matter if I accidentally scraped it against a bunch of brush bombing down a narrow dirt road or if I dropped a canoe on its roof while attempting to lunge one up atop the roof rack alone. The practicality of a station wagon is the best. I used it constantly, folding the seats down to haul around outdoor gear, bulky car parts, and my stuff between apartment moves. 

I learned in 2016 how to live out the back of it on a ten-day drive across the Badlands and Blackhills, by myself. Driving all day and into the night, then crawling into the back of it and spreading out in my sleeping bag. Brewing morning coffee with the hatch open and watching wildlife go by, staring up at Devil's Tower while preparing lunch, or catching the slow sunset flooding the sky at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, in desolate North Dakota. Living simply, consciously, and curiously on the road wouldn't have been possible without the "Adventure Mobile."

I learned that I could drive for hours, and hours, and miles, and miles on end...get to my destination, turn around, and still smile looking at it. It was the best car I ever owned, and even in writing this a month or two later, I miss it dearly. I can't recall a time I didn't feel grateful for this old black Saab, even as it surpassed 230,000 miles. It just made me so happy.

And I learned that it was okay for me to cry while giving it one final wash an hour before driving it to the dealership where I handed over the keys. It's fine to have emotions attached to some inanimate object, really. Sure, the "Adventure Mobile" was just a car, but I can confidently say it honestly helped land me where I am today, played a key role during some of my life's biggest, critical transformational stages, and aided me in following my many passions including my love for nature.