Every good adventure begins with a ride.
In December of 2009 I turned 16 but refused to get my license until the following spring when my dad practically forced me. I knew how to drive, and like most kids where I grew up I had learned as soon as I was big enough to reach the peddles, but I was terrified of failure. Of the potential to make a mistake, and of the severity of those mistakes when you’re behind the wheel. Around the same time I got my license we bought my first, and only, vehicle. Standing tall and proud she is a 2002 silver Jeep liberty. When we pulled into the parking lot of the car dealership in Mt. Sterling, Ohio, I had no idea that my life would be irrevocably changed. A few days later we went back and I walked away with a Jeep key in hand. Little did I know I was carrying the key to my home away from home.
Because that’s what our vehicles are, arent they? Little homes on wheels, little places where we can escape the rest of the world and recede into the comfort of ourselves between here and there.
7 years later my Jeep is still one of my most loyal companions. She has gone through 7 years of changing music tastes, from Johnny Cash to Lincoln Park, Eminem to Hozier, Taylor Swift to Justin Trawick. She’s listened to me belt out every lyric to every Adele song that has ever graced the radio. The speakers have worn down over the years and are at the point where the sound comes out fuzzy unless you turn the volume all the way up and roll the windows down. There’s a giant red stain under the drivers seat from where I once spilled an extra large fruit punch from subway while speeding to catch the bus to get to a soccer game junior year of high school. In the summers during high school it frequently carried the odor of sweaty shin guards and soccer socks, and last fall it carried the odor of a spilled can of fresh sardines from an art project gone awry, an odor you can still detect if you put your face close enough to the passenger side floorboard in the back. Glitter peppers the carpet from my senior thesis show and in the glove compartment you’ll find the only two CD’s i’ve ever carried, one full of Justin Trawick’s music and the other featuring the two songs from the Pokemon: Mewtwo Strikes Back movie.
Over the years she’s held more tears than I can count, always offering shelter to whatever problem became too heavy to bear. She’s held a few make out sessions and a couple naps throughout college, when there wasn’t a spare table in the library. With a V6 engine she doesn’t usually get much better gas mileage than 18 miles to the gallon, but she’s seen the fluctuation of gas prices and made it through the days where it cost $50 to fill her up, and through the days where you could fill up for just under $30.
The passenger side of the front bumper is being held up with zip ties and duct tape from a small fender bender that my dad decided we could fix ourselves, occasionally I have to run over bumps to get the blinker to work and the radiator is being held together with a super glue patch, a memento from the only time she ever failed me, on the side of the road an hour outside of Jackson, Tennesse. This week she broke 187,000 miles on her and if I could drive her until the end of my days I would in a heartbeat. Right now I’ve got the spare tire on my backseat drivers side, as my normal tire has a few plugs in it from running over a large piece of wire and my Uncle Bill patched me up before I drove back to Ohio from Louisiana. That tire as well as the back hatch is currently still covered in good ol authentic Louisiana dirt, and I refuse to get a carwash because I swear it makes me feel a little bit closer to home.
On my latest adventure home I was coming through Vicksburg when my AC crapped out right as it really got hot enough to need it. And maybe it was my sleep deprived state, or maybe it was the result of 10 hours alone in the car, but I suddenly got the giggles. The infectious kind that you catch and cant uncatch and can’t remember why you started laughing in the first place. All I knew was that I had made it. I was just a few hours from home, I had come the whole way by myself, no gps, no naps, no help. Just me in the car in control of my life, taking myself to exactly where I wanted to be. And if that’s not cause enough for uncontrollable giggles, I don’t know what is.
A loyal and fierce companion, I know that our time together is closer to the end than it is to the beginning and I can’t help but to cling onto all of the memories made and lessons learned in those cracked leather seats.