Sunfire, noble steed

2002 Sunfire

Yesterday morning we purchased a 2010 Jetta sedan. It will be ready for us to pick up Monday morning for the first trip of the season to our cottage, appropriately with my two daughters.

My 2002 Sunfire is still drivable but beyond repair. Sometime in the next two weeks we will sell it for scrap. Yesterday when I fetched the insurance slip from the glove box to begin transferring ownership at the Volkswagen dealership, a wave of sadness came over me.

After we finished there and were preparing to leave, I couldn’t find the key to the Sunfire. I had a strange moment of panic until Danny found it on the floor in the salesman’s office. It had fallen out of my pocket.

I don’t remember anything like that ever happening in the past 12 years. I’ve mislaid the key many times, played tricks on myself, but it has never played tricks on me. It is the luckiest, most reliable car I have ever had.

I’m easily distracted and consequently in my youth had a number of minor accidents. There were never any injuries, but that was how three of my old cars died between 1984 and 2000.

With the Sunfire since 2002 I have never had an at-fault accident. Once in 2004 in Newmarket we were rear-ended by a careless teenager in an SUV and pushed into the car ahead. Brenna was with me. We both suffered minor whiplash for a few days. The Sunfire got a new bumper.

Over the years it has broken down at the roadside two or three times. A tire blew. The fuel pump died. I have had to pay for about one major repair per year the past seven years to keep it on the road. This weekend the odometer will tick past 265,000 km.

Now the frame is rusting. It can’t be repaired. The car has become a hazard.

Running Saturday morning errands today I thought of all the places it has taken us.

In its first year, 2002, its first major road trip took me, Marian, Brenna and my boyfriend at the time, Aubrey, on a camping trip to Tobermory and Manitoulin Island. My daughters were 10 and 8. In subsequent years it took us on other camping trips: Bon Echo Provincial Park and Ottawa with both girls, Algonquin Park with Marian, and Lake Huron with Brenna.

In August 2003 it took me and Danny to a gay campground at Turkey Point. It was our second weekend together, our first date. We weren’t a couple yet. We spent some time apart. Steve, a good friend of mine and bartender at the Black Eagle, happened to be there with some friends and I hung out with them one evening. But Danny and I both liked our time together the most. He enjoyed listening to classical music in the car: bonus.

In 2005 the Sunfire took me and the girls on a whirlwind camping trip to the Maritimes. Major stops included Montreal, Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail, Fort Louisbourg, Peggy’s Cove, a visit with my Aunt Nancy in Annapolis Royal and a two-night stay in their cottage, Brier Island, Prince Edward Island National Park, Grand Manan Island and Quebec City. Grand Manan was a favourite for all of us: deep fog, camping on the top of a cliff, hearing whales breach in the night, being wakened by the fog horn.

From 2006 to 2011 I commuted to Fergus in the Sunfire, working as a pipe organ builder for Les Smith. I helped build a large three-manual organ that we installed in St James Anglican Church in Dundas, Ontario. I also helped build a tracker organ that Les later installed in a Vancouver church.

In 2009 I went birding with my buddy Sylvie and the Sunfire made the ferry trip to Pelee Island. It was my first trip to the island, which is visible from the home where I grew up on the north shore of Lake Erie.

In May 2010 I drove the Sunfire with Danny across northern Ontario to attend Unison GLBT Canadian choral festival and visit his family in Winnipeg. On the way back we took some extra time, explored Winnipeg, saw some great birds at Oak Hammock Marsh, and experienced vertigo at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and Ouimet Canyon. It was my first trip around Lake Superior.

In 2012 and 2013 the Sunfire took us to the men’s spring knitting retreat at Easton Mountain near Albany, New York (for our first retreat in 2008 we rode in our friend Ted’s car). Last year on the way Danny and I spent a few days in Prince Edward County and Montreal. MSKR has become one of our favourite events of the year.

The Sunfire was supposed to take us back to Easton Mountain last week, but when it went for an oil change and tuneup a few days before, the mechanic informed me it needed extensive repairs, but certain things could not be repaired and it was becoming a hazard to drive. It was not worth any further expense. Danny and I rented a Corolla for the trip.

That’s all I can think of. Danny, my daughters and friends might remember some other important journeys this car has made.

As Brenna said the other day, “Rest in pieces, noble steed.”

On one hand I deplore our civilization’s dependence on petroleum. I wish we could live without a car, without cars. Going without would present an obstacle to spending quality time with my daughters, who both live two or three hours away and don’t drive. It would be impossible to maintain and make use of the cottage four hours north, which we all love. Living away from downtown, as Danny and I do, would be a hassle without a car. We could not contemplate living out of town, as we would like to do eventually. Car co-ops are a good alternative, though maybe not for the number of medium-length road trips we need to make throughout the year. In any event, we would probably have to rent a car frequently.

Replacing the Sunfire makes most sense to us. In chosing the Jetta, we tried to balance fuel economy, trunk room, safety and reliability with what we could afford. I anticipate it may be an even better car than the last.

Still, it breaks my heart a little. Time passes. Many of the best adventures in my life have involved cars, the Sunfire more than any other. Time together on the road has played an important role in my closest relationships. Now my daughters are women.

And it is time for a new chapter.

Tomorrow my partner and I will make our last little road trip in the Sunfire to join a photography meetup at a local donkey sanctuary. It’s too bad there aren’t sanctuaries for useless cars. If I had a lot of land maybe I would drive it out to pasture, a remote corner, to sit in the sun slowly rusting among goldenrod and wild roses. It would get its long, long overdue vacation. Its body would outlast mine.

2 thoughts on “Sunfire, noble steed

  1. I have a Fiesta as the most economical car . Like you we have to have a car in Harrow. Our Matthew has an older jetta and likes it so I hope you enjoy your new car for many years.
    Have agreat summer.

    1. Thanks, Mrs. Buttery. Rural life is impossible without some kind of vehicle. In my life cars have also played an important role in family life. We enjoyed the Jetta on our first family trip this week.

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