I wish I could have afforded to keep "The Freedom Mobile" but nothing lasts forever. Here's a final reflection, originally published in the Durango Telegraph, January 2012
I’ve waited until the last minute to compose these words. Not because I’m slacking off, but because I caught the flu during a trip up in Salt Lake City, Utah for the Winter Outdoor Retailer Show. For the past couple days I’ve been laid up on the couch, unable to write. This morning, as my deadline is staring me right in the face I feel much better, grateful that this nasty bug seems like it’s going to pass.
Even though I do feel better starting to write something feels like I’ve never written before. It feels like this bug has attacked some brain cells, in addition to the other havoc it has wreaked on my body.
So as I was working through this post-sickness writer’s block, I decided to look though last week’s issue of the Telegraph online. Since I was out of town last week, I hadn’t seen the paper yet. The title for Missy Votel’s La Vida Local “Germ Warfare” caught my eye. As I read through her comical take on the flu season I felt grateful that my bug seems like it wasn’t going to stay around for as long as it does for some folks.
Anywho, after that dismal introduction, what I wanted to write about this week was cars, specifically The Freedom Mobile, my graffiti-ed, red, white and blue 1988 Mazda that I recently replaced with my dream ride, a Subaru Outback.
Before it was Freedom, it was just a car I bought for a thousand bucks. I drove that thing all over, from Mexico to California, even before we spray painted it. It was reliable and got great gas mileage. I lived out of it for months at a time, camping, climbing and devising systems to get around that pesky 14 Day Limit rule. One of the most hilarious antidotes happened when my Dad was taking a look at my car, and opened up the flap under the trunk. To our surprise, there was a plant growing out of some dirt that had found its way down there. Further investigation revealed a bag of beans I’d bought in Mexico slipped down there, and so had a patch of dirt. Yes, this car was fertile.
The patriotic, spray-painting was inspired by the 1969 American road movie, Easy Rider, with Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda, where they travelled the country in a red, white and blue motorcycle, donning the clothes of the same color. I’d already put some 40,000 miles on this car, and figured it would last maybe another year or so, why not graffiti it up?
When I painted the car I was living in Gunnison, gainfully employed, and I could have easily afforded a new ride. Instead I decided to spend my money on things that seemed more important at the time: gear for the outdoors. I had two bikes that were both more valuable than the car itself, not unusual for a mountain town resident.
When the economy tanked my job got cut to half-time, and I was ready to move on from Gunnison. I packed up everything I owned into The Freedom Mobile and hit the road. I knew I was moving to Durango, but wanted to take a big road trip first. I’d planned the trip with my buddy Dave from Telluride, and at the last minute his truck blew up. We’d have to take The Freedom Mobile.
We drove into Utah, to Red Rocks in Las Vegas, over to Joshua Tree, California and over to Yosemite. Now well over 200,000 miles the Freedom Mobile just kept rolling. Never mind that every single warning light was lit up, and it made weird clicking noises and smelled like leaking antifreeze. All over the American Road we got positive responses, my favorite, a woman sitting passenger in a truck who passed us in Utah, hooked up to breathing oxygen, she looked at us, and gave us the biggest grin I’d ever seen and two big thumbs up.
At the end of that trip I just prayed it would take us back to Colorado. I scored a house sitting gig in Durango that would start soon, and had to meet the owners of the place. They lived in a plush home in Durango West 2, and upon seeing the car remarked, “it looks like it’s been through a war.”
Every time I thought the Freedom Mobile was going to die, it just kept going. Nothing lasts forever though, and as winter was approaching I considered getting a new ride, something with four-wheel drive to be a little safer in the snow. I started looking around, and really started getting serious when my friend and mechanic, Andrew Kubik took a look under my car and said, “You need to get a new car.”
Andrew helped me find a 2000 Subaru Outback, with a mere 150,000 miles. To me it feels like a new car, and drives like a dream. The first question my parents asked me was, “you’re not going to spray paint it are you?”
I ensured them that I wasn’t going to, much to their relief. I do still love the concept of art cars though, and there’s nothing like someone rolling up next to you at a stoplight and giving a big smile. There are some cool art cars in Durango, more than I’ve seen in any town in Colorado. I even met a lady in Telluride one time who organizes an art car parade in Houston, Texas, apparently the biggest in the world; who would have thunk it?
In the end I quit while I was ahead with Freedom. It could have easily broken down somewhere out in the Utah desert (that became the furthest I would take it after the big trip), but it didn’t. When I got the new Subaru my friend Katie Brown asked me if I was going to miss the Freedom Mobile. I replied, “definitely not.” I’d taken Freedom so far I was just glad it didn’t leave me stranded in the middle of nowhere.
I’m more excited about where the Subaru will take me; it’s a good feeling to have spring around the corner, and to have a new ride. But, for now, I’m headed back to the couch to nurse the rest of this sickness.