174,000 Miles with the Lancer

British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and West Virginia. Every state and province you visited…

This is a short story about 174,000 miles with my 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer OZ Rally Edition.

I can still vividly remember the day I said hello…

As my senior year of high school came to a close and the day I would be off to college loomed, I knew the days for my 1981 Chevy Silverado were limited. “The Caucasian Warrior” more than fulfilled her duties as a part time shuttle for my brothers and me. Her days of tearing down country roads with my foot on the peddle were coming to a close. Always thinking one step ahead, I began to devise a plan for my next mode of transportation.

All of my friends were getting brand new shiny cars for college. Of course, I also needed a brand new shiny toy. Having used all of my money to fill those wants and high school desires of mine, I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I needed my parents help.

I began researching cars on the internet and quickly fell in love with the 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer OZ Rally Edition. Costing about $17,000 before tag, tax and title, I knew it would be a stretch. I put pen to paper and figured out how much monthly payments would be over the course of five years. I did my homework on interest, gas mileage, speed, safety and anything else I could get my hands on. I needed to be ready for my parents, especially my dad.

My proposal to my parents included brochures from the dealership, all of my research and an ask for help. I asked my parents to help cover half of the monthly payments. After much discussion, visits to several dealerships and a test drive, my parents surprised me on the day of my senior prom with a brand new yellow 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer OZ Rally Edition.

I had never felt so loved, appreciated, or surprised than I did in that moment. My parents made me believe they were off finding a loaner car I could use to drive my date to prom. As the hours wore on, I began getting nervous. They were nowhere to be seen and I needed to begin getting ready.

As my anxiety began to rise, my friend Brian stopped by and asked if I wanted to go for a ride. Of course, I obliged. Cruising around our small town for a while, we eventually pulled into the only car dealership left in Frederick. Now, this place was a Chevy, GMC, Buick dealership. I knew something was off when I saw a bright yellow Mitsubishi Lancer sitting on the showroom floor. My anxiety immediately turned into fear. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be here. I thought I was ruining my parent’s surprise.

After a whole lot of coaxing, I walked in and got the surprise of my life. My mom, dad, and brothers were hiding and jumped out saying congratulations and showering me with love. It was one of those moments I will never forget as long as memory continues to serve me.

I can still vividly remember the day I said goodbye…

After 14 years, 174,000 miles, and criss-cross journeys across our country, the Lancer was beginning to show its age. The yellow paint had been dulled by the sun. There were some careless scratches and missing paint on the bumper. The interior held my musk. The ceiling fabric held the remnants of a Dr. Pepper can that exploded in the Texas heat. None of that drove the final nail into the coffin of the Yellow Wizard, though. It was her transmission. It was beginning to slip and would make a fearful sound when approaching 60 MPH on the highway.

When I priced a new transmission, I discovered the transmission was worth more than the actual car. I knew what that meant. My journey with the Lancer was coming to a close.

After a familiar pattern of research, I settled on a 2016 Scion iM. I love my new car but it doesn’t compare to the Lancer. I cried in that car. I loved in that car. I moved across the country in that car. I screamed, cussed, and listened to countless hours of music. Through its windshield I saw the world and saw the world open up before. I became a man inside its metal frame and discovered myself. It was more than a car and saying goodbye was more difficult than I could imagine.

As I pulled away from the dealership in a brand new car, I couldn’t help but feel as if I were leaving behind a piece of me. My only hope is that Lancer got the new transmission she so badly needed and she is helping some other kid make new memories.

Be good to each other,

-Nathan

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