I’d been dreaming about a van trip to Utah for several months. In early autumn, I decided that I would take the Old Lady, my 1970 Volkswagen van, out to Moab for one last hoorah before I put her to sleep for the winter. I admit, I had been ignoring the signs: the loss of power on short inclines; the increasingly strong smell of exhaust; the chugging and the lurching; the sputtering starts. Even though I got the Old Lady tuned up in September, she wasn’t running well, and I was in denial about it until my friend Dermot and I started off for Moab—and then had to turn back after only 10 miles.
Had it been me alone, I probably would have kept driving until the Old Lady broke down on the side of the road, or until we limped into some no-name small town with a toothless mechanic. Dermot, however, persuaded me to stop so that he could check inside the engine compartment. He about passed out from the fumes, and he held up a soot-colored index finger to convince me that the van was really in no condition for the trip we had planned.
Reluctantly, I helped shuttle gear from the Old Lady into my newer, speedier steed, a Subaru Outback. Sure, the Subaru’s fast and reliable, but I’m the kind of person who thinks that trips are more about the journey than the destination, and without the van, I knew it wouldn’t be the same kind of trip.
By the time we hit the canyons, I had stopped sulking…
…and reveled in the bliss, the buzz of a wide-open road.