Last week, I handed over the keys to my 2005 Honda Pilot to my younger sister. It was an emotional moment, because my baby sister is now old enough to drive. It was also emotional for me because I was saying farewell to an old friend. Call me sentimental, but I have a tendency to get attached to inanimate objects, and it was hard to say goodbye to my trusty companion.
The Lone Ranger had Silver. Thor had his hammer. I had my Honda Pilot EX-L.
My Pilot was the first car I ever bought on my own. It was the car I drove to college, the car that I used to help numerous friends move, the car that defied gravity on a steep and ill-advised passing maneuver on a one-lane desert road. It was the car I took down to Oak Creek in the summer and the car I packed with friends for a drive to the Grand Canyon at 4 a.m. to watch the sunrise.
It was the ultimate road trip machine, including recent trips to Canada and the Oregon Coast. I loved that you could fill the back with camping gear and escape into the wilderness at a moment’s notice. It was perfect for our week-long, 1,800+ mile trip to Yellowstone with American Gods playing on CD.
It had the world’s loudest and least effective windshield wipers (which wasn’t an issue until we moved to Washington) and it was old enough to come with a cassette tape deck, which was only used once to play the Complete James Bond Theme Songs.
My Pilot was reliable. It never got stuck, never broke down, and never failed to start whether it was -13 degrees or 113 degrees (except for that one time at a fancy hotel when the battery and alternator died simultaneously and the valet had to jump it to get it to the parking lot…that was embarrassing).
From the faded pirate bobble head on the dashboard to the NAU decal in the back window to the mysterious scratch on the back bumper that I still can’t explain, it was and is a great little SUV.
It’s strange how a metal box on wheels can exert such a pull on the human heart, but it’s undeniable. My Pilot is a testament to the power of good design and engineering to build a thing that not only serves its intended purpose — to get people from point A to point B — but to feel almost like a living thing. Everything about it, from the rev of the engine to the feel of the steering wheel imbued it with personality.
Perhaps that’s why cars have held a special place in the American psyche for over a hundred years. We care for them, we collect them, we fill them with memories. We spend so much time with them that it’s hard not to feel a connection with our favorite machines.
And while it’s sad to think I won’t be climbing behind the wheel every day, I’m glad to pass it on to someone who will appreciate it. Because at the end of the day, the best thing a machine can be is useful. It’s time for it to retire to warmer climes. There’s a poetry to the fact that in the process, it will complete a 100,000-mile round trip to the city and state where I first test drove it 10 years ago. Now it can help make memories for my sisters.
The road is long, but I have the feeling its journey is just beginning.
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Jonny Eberle is a writer, photographer, and filmmaker in Tacoma, WA and is currently in the market for a new chariot of mythic proportions to fill with memories. You can read his short fiction on Creative Colloquy and follow him on Twitter.