Tuesday, September 29, 2009

In memory of a Volvo Wagon

We had to put the old girl down last Thursday. Actually, not sure if it had the personality of a girl or boy. Probably a boy since it was Jimmy's car. But the event was a relatively sad day. Not really sad sad (thus the relatively), because it was just metal and plastic and rubber and...ok, i'll stop there...but it happened during a week that was already blech, that saying goodbye to the hunk-o-junk was just another little notch in the way the week had been going.

And by hunk-o-junk, i mean it in the most affectionate way. lots of memories in that car. After 14 years and 223,334 miles, it took us to a lot of places. Humor me if you will as I stroll...or should i say cruise...down memory lane. Grab a soda and prepare yourself for a long one. Or just skip it if you want. I promise, I won't hold it against you.

To say that Jimmy researched the heck out of which car to buy would be a gross understatement. He spent at least 6-8 months determining which car would be best for his needs. When he was deciding on the Volvo wagon, I flat out refused. I hated wagons. Wagons were ugly. But I tried to be reasonable, talked to my friends and cousin about it. I knew it wouldn't be my car, but I would have to ride in it, and I didn't want to be seen in a stupid family car wagon. We were barely 27 years old, not 35 with 2 kids. My friends reasoned with me, told me it was Jimmy's car and wagons weren't that bad. Besides, it's a Volvo so it'll last a long time, long enough for us to have that family with 2 kids and a dog. Joke was on us on that last part! haha.

So in October of '95, I relented and we bit the bullet and bought the wagon.
There's Jimmy inspecting and falling more in love with every inch of the car. That red Grand Prix next to it? The reason Jimmy needed a new car, the lemon with faulty breaks, that left him/us stranded 4 times in as many years, once in Portland while on vacation.

That evening, we had to show it to our dear friends, the Bowens. Ed worked with Jimmy so heard for the past 6-8 months which car Jimmy was researching and which one he finally decided on. And I'm pretty sure Angie helped me through the trauma of owning a...gasp...wagon. That night, we picked up another good friend Jimmy worked with, Jeff, and drove through San Francisco to Marin. Against my better judgment, but Jimmy thought it fine, we drove through McDonald's and ate burgers, fries and soda IN the brand spanking new not even 7 hours old car. Now, we love Jeff, but he had a tendency to...spill, and not even notice. I could tell you about the time he lived with us in Southern California and spilled sprite on our carpet and since it was clear, he didn't think it needed to be cleaned up because it would dry like water. It never occurred to him that the sugar in the soda would be sticky and be a magnet for dirt. This is our Jeff, one of our best and closest friends, who we love and let eat in our brand new car. Love you Jeff!

This was the Volvo's 2nd trip to Tahoe in its first 5 months. The first time Jimmy took it to Tahoe, I stayed home. It was a boys trip. On their way home, the roads were super icy and I'm sure you figured the rest of this story, the car ended up in the ditch next to the mountain. It was less than 3 months old and acquired its first noticeable dents. This trip in March of '96, I tagged along with the boys. No accidents.

We put a lot of miles on that car in 1996. In May, we drove to Frisco, Colorado to spend a long weekend with Jeff at his family's condo in the Rockies.It was an unforgettable trip. We took the Volvo all the way up to the Continental Divide at an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet.

A few weeks after that, we took drove cross country to Jimmy's brother's home in New Jersey. We drove from California, though Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and finally arrived 5 days later in New Jersey.
Most nights, we camped on the road at KOAs to save money. We were in West Liberty, Iowa here.

On our way back to California, we decided to drive though Canada, mostly on the Trans-Canada Highway. From New Jersey, we drove through New York, into Ontario spending a few days in Toronto. Onward to Winnepeg, Manatoba. Then to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Edmonton, Alberta; the Canadian Rockies from Jasper to Banff; ending in Calgary, Alberta before driving through British Columbia back into the US via Washington, through Oregon and back home to the Bay Area, after 6 weeks on the road.

Obviously we spent a lot of time in the car that year. This trip certainly was the most memorable because it was so long and we explored areas we had never gone before. Along the way, we were stopped twice for speeding. Once in New Jersey, an hour before arriving at Jimmy's brothers house. The next time in the Manatoba plains. Both times, our California license plates got us out of tickets. All through Canada, we got many thumbs up. Once, just outside of Edmonton, a car with 2 young men, younger than us at the time, pulled up next to us and told us to roll down our window. We did and they said "California, eh? Cool!!! Don't go into BC. BC sucks!" Very funny and memorable.

In April of 2000, the volvo saw it's first serious accident. We were in San Francisco on a spur of the moment trip in. We were driving down Van Ness when a car made an illegal left turn into us. There was a sign facing him that said "NO LEFT TURN." But he was a tourist from Thailand and couldn't read the sign. It happened so fast that we were already pushed across the street onto the sidewalk when Jimmy said "this is gonna hurt". He thought he said it BEFORE the car even hit us. He thought he said it when he saw the car coming at us. But it didn't come out of his mouth till we were stopped on the side of the road. It took 3 months and over $14k to repair the car. Thank goodness for insurance, especially since the tourist was driving a rental and they didn't cover jack, even though it was his fault. Thank goodness for witnesses, too. It took us a while to do spontaneous trips into the city after that. I was ok, but Jimmy had a concussion and linger effects from the accident for over a year.

But we've made lots of memories in that car.
Many trips to S. California and Las Vegas to visit family.Trips back through the Mojave Desert where we met in high school and fell in love.

Countless trips exploring the Sierra Nevadas near our hideaway...

The subject of a few silly creative photos:
In Carmel.

May 2008 would be its last big Road Trip.We drove 13 hours to Sedona, Arizona. Spent a few days exploring the most beautiful desert I've ever been in. Drove another 13 or 14 hours to Southern California to visit friends and go to our niece's college graduation. Then drove the 6 hours back home to the Bay Area. It was only a week, nothing like our 6 week adventure 12 years prior, but another memorable time on the road in the wagon.

That summer however, it started showing signs of its age. We had to repair the radiator and put in a new transmission. It was also time to replace the tires. But before putting all that money into a car that old, Jimmy did a lot more research into a replacement car. He needs a car that can haul a lot of stuff. The boy plays hockey 2-3 times a week and has to fit his goalie gear in the back. He needs a car that can tow. He wants a car that gets decent mileage. He needs a car that fits his long legs and is comfortable and fun to drive for several hours at a time. He concluded that for his needs and for the value, it would be better to repair rather than replace. I couldn't argue with him, because even after those first 2 years of complaining about how ugly the car was, it won me over and I loved it, too.

Before the year was over, we'd have to put a little more money into the car. We were in Orange County, spending some time w/ Jimmy's brother and family. You know how "they" say never leave your GPS on your dash? Yup, we became a statistic. Thankfully, all they stole was the GPS, more valuables were in the car. But it was a classic "smash and grab" theft, the boys barely stopped their car to grab the GPS. Another car down the street was also broken into and the neighbor next door heard and saw the boys do it. Didn't report it or tell us when it happened during the night, but did when the police came to file a report.

But after replacing the window, the wagon didn't give us a bit of trouble. The window incident happened last september, so we still had another year of fun with it.
With the new transmission, it easily towed the boat up and down the steep mountainside.

And when we got the Rhino, it wasn't phased by having to tow it up the mountain to elevations over 8000 feet.

In fact, it seemed to have renewed spunk and energy.

Until one day last week, when it accidentally met the back end of a Nissan Altima.
The damage may not look too bad. Thankfully, both Jimmy and the other party barely felt the bump. But on a car this old, the needed repair of the radiator and hood alone, totals the car.

So we had to say good-bye and thank you to a car that took us many places, was a lot of fun to drive, and gave us lots of memories.

Despite all my hemming and hawing, I'm so glad Jimmy bought that car. There couldn't have been a more perfect car for him...us...for the past 14 years.


Ragged Around the Edges said...

A fitting farewell to an old, reliable friend.

Anonymous said...

What a great story! I work for Volvo in the UK and I never fail to be impressed by how much Volvos get under your skin. When I started at the company, in the same year you bought your 850, I too got an 850 as a company car. It replaced my old Vauxhall Cavalier and I absolutely loved it. So much so that I'm looking for an old 850 T5R to keep in the garage for old time's sake! I now drive an S40 and an XC60 and I guess the fact I'm still working for the company is testament to the product!

Thanks for a great story and I hope you don't spend too long away from the Volvo 'family'! All the best, Kevin

Anonymous said...

Awh...bye bye whitie...it was nice knowing you. - v

Angie said...

almost brought a tear to my eye!

rosemary said...

Sniff, snork...Madeline you told such a great story. AND I had the privilege of riding in the back seat!!!!! So, what's the verdict on the new car???

Shammickite said...

I'm crying!
Especially when I saw that little bump that finished it off. Poor white Volvo.
I drove my Volvo for 21 years! Erik the Red Volvo (DL Wagon) was officially a 1981 but he came to live with us in October 1980. He initially had some starting problems, but after quite a few visits to the Volvo Hospital, he came out with a brand new set of wires and never gave any more trouble. He had a new (actually refurbished) transmission fitted, new starter, new other stuff over the years, and when he became too old, rusty and unreliable, I sold him to a chap I knew who was going to use him (or his still usable organs) for ice racing.
Loved that car to bits!
In fact, YoungerSon has had two Volvos since, and I know he'll be getting another one when he can afford it.
Bye bye white Volvo.... RIP!

susan d said...

They did a great job repairing it the first time. I want a Volvo!!

How many miles altogether now?

Ginnie said...

I read every word of this, Mad, and loved it all. Good for you having the ability to tell this wonderful story of a...car! Many people can't give such important milestones on their relationships, so CONGRATULATIONS!