RIP Eggplant, 2000-2015


Word came from the mechanic this morning that it was time to take my world-weary Volvo wagon — known, loved, and cursed by all who knew her as “Eggplant” — off life support. Eggplant is, shall we say, baba ghanoush. But in the way that our material belongings often seem to mediate our lives, it can’t help but feel like the end of an era.

I bought Eggplant from parents in Vermont in 2011, and immediately headed back across the country in her, driving solo through northern New York and Ontario to the Upper Peninsula, to Minneapolis, the Badlands, the Absarokas in Montana, Spokane, and then home to the Rose City. Seeing Mt. Hood gleaming on the skyline 90 miles out from the sagebrush steppe of the Columbia Plateau, five days of driving behind me, is one of those exhilarating memories I’ll always link with the uniquely American rite — and great privilege — of the long distance road-trip. Eggplant was with me for the next four years, putting in hard miles across the West, quietly resting between trips. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say Kate and I owe our relationship in some part to that car, with endless hours of conversation in her, both en route to the mountains and as angsty Reed students listening to Elliott Smith at midnight in some rainy Portland warehouse lot.

To paraphrase Taylor Swift: like any great love, she had her flaws. Her doors didn’t lock. Her undercarriage was mostly rust, birthright of any northern New England vehicle. She was home to several generations of mice. While sound in engine, her circuitry and brakes left much to be desired, often leaving those of us who loved her in the lurch. One particularly notable failing occurred last September, when, as I ran Pine to Palm 100 in southern Oregon, her alternator gave out on Kate at 3AM, high up a narrow dirt road on Mount Ashland. It necessitated a lengthy and implausible extraction, something I probably won’t live down for the next decade. For my part, I was not always the best owner. I once lost her sole key on a run high in the Elkhorn Mountains outside of Baker City, Oregon, prompting a 3+ hour tow to the nearest dealer in Boise. I accidently cut her brakelines with ill-fitting chains in a panicked attempt to extract her from 2 feet of unexpected, unplowed snow. Last winter, I unceremoniously abandoned her for 6 months on a dirt lot in Gunnison, Colorado, frequently the coldest town in the lower 48. But that’s love — you give what you can give, and take what you can in return.

So rest well, dear one. May your roads always provide obstacles that exceed your limited clearance, your interior always be messy enough to suggest there’s nothing worth stealing inside, and your radio always be tuned to generic country. Go gently into that good night.



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