Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Saying Goodbye

I know it's been a while since I posted our big news and I know I should talk about this pregnancy thing (I will soon, I promise!), but right now I need to talk about something else: I said goodbye to a friend today. We knew each other for 20 years and went through a lot together. I remember when we first met: On the drive home I patted the dash and said, "You're going to last me the rest of my life." Oh, did I mention I'm talking about my car? ;-)

I've owned two cars in my driving life: A 1988 Toyota Tercel and a 1991 Toyota 4Runner, both bought new. The 4Runner was an investment I planned to last me a while; guess I called things right there. In 1991 the SUV was a relatively new concept and there were only three comparable ones on the market: The Toyota 4Runner, the Ford Explorer, and the Jeep Cherokee. I first learned about the 4Runner when I worked as an intern at a wildlife refuge in Alaska: my supervisor there had one. (Probably a 1989 or 1990 model.) When my mother came to visit me I told her we were going car shopping; she thought I was crazy but sure enough that's what we did, and she ended up agreeing it wasn't a bad idea. I remember test driving a Jeep Cherokee that was kind of stripped down; the salesman kept saying all kinds of things were available on it, he just didn't have one in stock for me to test drive. (For the record that's a bad way to sell a car. You should always have a customer test drive one with everything on it so they can't imagine buying one without all the bells and whistles they test drove.) Jeeps are also designed for taller people, I found (which I'm not), and I think I had a hard time reaching the pedals. (I don't remember exactly but I'm guessing the Jeep—like my 4Runner—was a stick shift.) When we went to the Toyota dealer and I test drove the 4Runner the salesman there had me test drive a car that was completely decked out, so his pitch was various things were optional and I could get the car without them if I wanted to. Smart man. Japanese-made Toyotas (back then) were also made for smaller people and I had a much easier time reaching the pedals (particularly the clutch) while still being able to drive comfortably. Last but not least my parents had owned Toyotas for most of my life so it just seemed natural that I would own another Toyota. I decided it was the car for me.

So I chose the car while in Alaska, then sent my mother home to CA with the specs I wanted so she and my dad could find it before I came home. You see, I was only going to be home for a week or two before I left for my summer job in NH that year, driving across the country to get there. So if I was going to get a new car I had to get it in that window or I'd have to go ahead and take the Tercel to NH again. (I'd gone to NH the summer before, too, and the Tercel made the drive then.) When my dad first heard my plans he thought I was crazy, too, but like my mom he came around, particularly when they went to a dealer to look at the car and he test drove it to see what it was all about. The way Toyota did things then was you ordered the car with the particular features you wanted, and if the particular dealer didn't have one that fit your specs they found it at another dealer somewhere and traded one of their cars for it. In this case, I was buying the car from a dealer in Ontario, CA, and my car (with the features I wanted) was at a dealer in Palm Springs. I got the car but it was a close call: The car the Ontario dealership was trading for my car was worth more than mine, I think it was, so money also had to be involved between the dealers, and I remember something about Toyota headquarters in Sacramento being involved. All of this happened over Memorial Day weekend so the holiday threw a loop into things, too. I remember a lot of phone calls back and forth with the salesman we were working with (he knew my situation, of course, that if I couldn't get the car in time the deal would be off), and the second he got the go-ahead he called us that he was on his way to Palm Springs to pick up my car. The next day I took off for NH. I remember being told that you shouldn't drive new cars over a certain speed for the first 500 miles or so to break them in. My 4Runner hit 500 miles on the first day.

Since then the 4Runner and I have been all over the United States and into Canada (I lived in Canada for two summers in my younger days), but as I got older and settled down it admittedly got to be a little less convenient to drive sometimes. Driving a stick shift car in city traffic is a pain, and you don't use 4WD much in those circumstances. I almost got a new car in 2004: I'd test drove a Nissan Pathfinder and Honda Pilot and was saving the car I thought I probably wanted—a new 4Runner—for last. But I never test drove the 4Runner: In the midst of looking at new cars I met a certain guy, and I ended up changing my car plans and getting a husband that year instead.

Once I got married I stopped driving the 4Runner as much since my husband's car gets better mileage and he usually drives when we go places. And I was getting a little tired of driving a stick and thought I wouldn't mind finally having an automatic transmission car. Then I got pregnant, and we started talking about getting a new car for me at some point since the 4Runner doesn't have airbags. (I don't know about 4Runners today but a 1991 4Runner isn't a car, it's a truck, and back then they weren't putting airbags on trucks.) Things worked out that we were able to get a new car a little sooner than we'd planned, and a few weeks ago I started driving my "new" 2001 Mazda Tribute. Most people would probably call that an old car, too (which is kind of nice for registration and insurance purposes) but at 10 years younger than the 4Runner it's definitely "new" to me! (Newer than hubby's car, too, which is a 1998. We finally own a car made in this century!)

So all of this brings me to today, and saying goodbye to the 4Runner. When hubby took it for its annual inspection last September the mechanic who inspected it happened to say out-of-the-blue that if we ever thought about selling it he might be interested in buying it. I wasn't pregnant and we had no plans to sell it at the time, but now that we did he was the first person hubby called. Sure enough the guy wanted it, and today we signed the paperwork and gave him the car (in exchange for a fair amount of money). I know I should have taken a picture of it to post here but it all happened so fast I didn't think about it until later. Suffice it to say it's a gray 1991 Toyota 4Runner and it's gone on to its new owner now, only the second owner of its life. I have a feeling he'll treat it well and have fun with it.

I know the 4Runner is just a car and I'm definitely fine with getting rid of it, but it is kind of nice to sit back and think about it for a moment; 20 years is a long time with a car, especially one you bought new. When I lived in Oregon it went back and forth to California with me and my cat. When I got my dog the car was perfect for her: A big car for a big dog. And of course having a big car was always nice since I could carry lots of stuff (something I often did), which is particularly helpful when you're moving back and forth across the country. I should mention that my parents, who both initially thought I was crazy for wanting a SUV, ended up with SUVs themselves 10 years later. I was a trendsetter.

I'm sorry our kidlet won't get to know the 4Runner but I admit the Mazda (which is an automatic) is easier to drive now that I'm pregnant, and it'll be easier to get him in and out of his car seat since it's lower to the ground than the 4Runner is. And the Mazda is still big enough for the dog, though we'll have to see how she does with a car seat taking up half of the back seat.

Now it's onto a new era (hubby's word, not mine): An automatic transmission car and a soon-to-be kid to put in it. At least the Mazda is still an SUV so I didn't have to give up that.

Bye, 4Runner!


  1. "I ended up changing my car plans and getting a husband that year instead." HAHAHAHA!

    Wow. I am so impressed with this story. It's almost unheard of for people to keep vehicles that long anymore, though, my parents always kept theirs until it wasn't really safe to do so anymore.

    I have a Toyota as well. This will be my 9th year with her. She's been a GOOD GOOD car and I'm hoping she's got some Energizer Bunny in her and will keep going and going and going....

    How many miles did you put on the 4Runner in that time?

  2. Oh, and I took your advice and had a Peanut Butter Snickers last night. It made me feel much better. =)

  3. I think the car had about 167,000 miles on it. I drove it a lot in its first decade but much less after I resettled in CA for its second decade of life.

  4. did the 4Runner have a name? My cars always have names :) Back in November I got a Honda Pilot and we plan on keeping it for a very long time. I call it Addison's vehicle and say it will be her first!

  5. :( i understand. it's so hard to say goodbye to a 'good friend' like that. i hated seeing my honda go, it's the car i met hubby in and brought both babies home in. (but i do love my toyota now!)

    on the other hand... BOY OH BOY!!! you're in for a treat. boys are SO MUCH FUN! congrats!

  6. I meant to tell you that the title of this post scared the beegeezees out of me! I thought you were going to quit blogging! =( Glad I was wrong.

    Oh, and I probably won't start until August. Depends on when summer classes at the local community college start, how much they are and if they have any I can knock out before the fall semester.


Thank you for your comments!