Thursday, March 11, 2010

Part 1: A decade later

CCR's Someday never comes plays on Ruth's aged Alpine speakers. Fogerty's voice is cranked to a decibel which is most likely damaging my eardrums. I justify this reckless behavior the only way I know how by opening the sunroof and donating half the volume to the cold, clear afternoon. We bomb down highway 395.  I can feel she is feeling young today. We are headed home from a weekend ski trip near Kelowna B.C. I lean forward caressing her dusty black dashboard with my open hand. A random ritual I recently developed to express gratitude for all places she has faithfully, safely, slowly taken me over the last ten years.

Ruth's original name is Mercedes Benz 300 CD (coupe diesel). I know. Horrible name, right. However, it is important to take note of the CD. To spot an old beat up Mercedes Benz on the road is not difficult but I dare you to find a 2-door coupe. They're rare, very rare. Just like Ruth.

Her name was an obvious choice.  In 1980 my great aunt Ruth bought the car band new in Manhattan and faithfully drove it all over NYC and Long Island where she lived for many years. When my great aunt grew into retirement her and the car found a new home in Palm Springs. As she grew increasingly frail, the decision was made for her and the car to live near relatives in Calgary, Canada. The year was 2000 and with a short conversation about being too old to drive my great aunt offered me her car. I graciously accepted her generous offer, thus commencing my 10 year relationship with a car. Yes, I used the word 'relationship' to describe my history with this car.

During the early part of our courtship, travel consisted of endurance rides back and forth from Portland Oregon to Spokane Washington. I attended the University of Portland and Ruth provided reliable transport during all those fall, winter, spring and summer breaks.  But following graduation in 2003 our relationship entered a difficult phase. I started taking extended trips aboard. Leaving Ruth for long periods of time to sit in the garage.

Then, in the fall of 2004 I made the bold decision that Ruth and I would begin anew in San Francisco. The trip would be long, the hills would be the steepest in her life, and the chance of success unknown.  We made that trip together, she proved herself worthy. Running those Bay Area hills with as much speed as she could muster. Although sometimes, we would begin a hill only to quickly realize reverse was in order as it might be asking too much of her fatigued five cylinders. Once I landed my job in the city it became clear that a car was a luxury I couldn't afford and had to again return Ruth to her spot in the garage back in Spokane.

Fast forward a few years later. My time by the Bay fizzled out, then of course more travel abroad. All the while Ruth collected dust in the garage. It wasn't until a book (On the Road) written by the famous beat writer Jack Kerouac connected me to an idea that would prove to be the greatest adventure Ruth and I would ever take. The plan was simple. Drive Ruth from Spokane back to her childhood home on Long Island, via San Diego.

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