If These Wheels Could Talk...
By Julie Gagnon Prior
Some folks call me a “pack-rat.” I personally prefer the term “sentimentalist.” I tend to hold on to items that have meaning to me. Most often this doesn’t create an issue because the items are small and fit on a dresser or a shelf. However, this isn’t the case with my 2003 Honda Odyssey.
At the time I was looking for a vehicle, I had two small children, and their safety was the most important factor. Because I wasn’t rolling in money, quality, maintenance, longevity and other attributes were critical. To research, I purchased three publications that reviewed/rated used vehicles. I created an extensive Excel spreadsheet that had columns for each criterion, and values (from the resources) were entered accordingly. Using that data and a little bit of math, I determined that the highest scoring van was the 2003 Honda Odyssey.
When I purchased the van, it had 40,000 miles on it. It now has almost 270,000 miles and is very tired and just wants to rest.
It really makes me sad though. This van has been such a huge part of so much of so many lives. Can’t I keep it forever?
She carried my children to daycare, doctor appointments, school, and family events.
She was the one who patiently endured my kids learning to drive.
As they got older, I am sure she was squealing with enjoyment when they learned how to do donuts (backwards because of the front wheel drive), practice sliding in snowy parking lots and going places not meant for a van — while we pretended she was a Jeep.
The seats came out easily, and we learned just how much you could fit in a van. Once when transporting a dirt bike in the van, the bike tipped over. I hadn’t shut off the fuel, so the carpet became soaked and had to be removed. She never complained about that.
She carried several whitewater kayaks and stinky gear back and forth from Massachusetts to Ottawa. Put the seats back in, and she’d carry friends to Montreal or the Penobscot river in Maine. Most recently she carries a plethora of tools, a sleeping bag and pillows, and lots of doggies around the Islands.
On the dash, it says 270,000 miles. But that number is so minuscule in the life mileage that she has traveled for me, my family and friends.
She actually... yes my van, is a very dear friend.
Last week I began facing the fact that I need to find a stronger, younger friend to carry my tools and all. When I heard about a decent pickup truck in Alburgh for $1,200, I made plans to go the next day to check it out.
As I drove to the location, it occurred to me that the area was familiar. I was particularly tickled as I drove by a friend’s marina shop, a friend I hadn’t seen for a couple years. Planning to stop by on my way back through, I continued down the road but wasn’t seeing the pickup. I was told it was parked by the road with a “for sale” sign on it. Eventually I stopped at a house where I saw some men tinkering in a garage. I asked them about the pickup, and they told me that it belonged to their neighbor across the road. Looking closer, I saw the pickup was parked by the house and not by the road. Still planning to go knock on the door to inquire, I asked the guys if they knew Roger, the owner of the marina. They laughed as they said yes and then shared that the pickup truck was his daughter-in-law’s. I had to chuckle as I marveled at the fate of the situation.
It turns out the truck had sold the night before. I was a bit bummed, but it paled in comparison to the excitement of possibly seeing Roger. When I pulled in by his shop, he came out and couldn’t quite figure out who I was. After I gave him a couple of hints, he figured it out and laughing said, “I didn’t recognize you. I have only seen you in dirty work clothes and you are dressed so nice!”
He also said that it’s just coincidence that he was there. He is hardly ever at the shop. With that, he asked me to come in, sit down and talk.
Wow, he blew my mind! I had only ever talked with him while I was working and he is really Carl’s friend. I’m a tag-a-long friend. Roger was extremely interesting and insightful, and the conversation just fueled my interest in this older, hard-working, Frenchman.
Explaining to him that I submit pieces to The Islander, I asked him if I could write down some of what he was saying. He was happy to oblige and quite proud (rightfully so) of passing on his thoughts.
I feel the best way to share his words of wisdom is through quotes that I pulled out of the visit.
“A day with no challenge is a bad day. Now why? Because challenges make you better.”
“There is no such thing as ‘can’t.’ ‘Can’t’ is an easy way out.”
“I wish they had a semester in school for young children to learn the meaning of respect. Some kids are addicted to drugs because they loose respect for themselves and fall down. Respecting yourself comes first. Then you can respect others.”
“When I go places, I smile at people. I say hello. I start talking and then they are happy. I start talking, otherwise nothing happens.”
“I was talking to a man and asked him, ‘how’s retirement?’ He answered, ‘It’s the pits.’ People need to keep busy. People need to have purpose.”
Just a small sampling of Roger’s comments. I wish I could go back today and just listen and learn more!
When it was time for me to leave, we said our goodbyes and I hopped in the van. On the drive home I marveled about the coincidences within the last hour. My van, which has taken so many on so many journeys… The same van that I am dreading saying goodbye to…
She has so much class and character that even when she was bringing me to a check out a possible replacement, she brought me to yet another heartwarming, random encounter and experience.
Nope, she isn’t making it any easier to let her go.
Maybe I can keep her just a little longer….
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Julie Gagnon Prior
Julie Gagnon Prior resides in Grand Isle with her partner Carl and their 5 dogs. Prior has been battling Lyme Disease for several years, which she