Upwards over the mountain


Bear with me, but I’d like to take a moment to give a small tribute to my little 2009 Subaru Forester. I’ve had her for just over a year, and as 2012 nears its end, I thought it’d appropriate (if a bit weird) to reflect on this past year through the prism of my first car.

Throughout college, I didn’t have a vehicle. I lived in a city with essentially free public transportation (student perk), and I couldn’t justify the cost (either to me financially, or by way of environmental impact) of having a car that I didn’t really need. Sure, I sacrificed some personal freedom and convenience, but I never really minded it that much. I never had to really adapt from any other situation, since during high school I used my parents’ car sparingly, and never really enjoyed doing so in the first place.

After I graduated from the UO, and finally got a job over here in Bend, my parents decided to buy me a nice used car as a graduation present, making good on a half-decade old promise, now that I would actually need some sort of reliable personal transportation.
I needed a vehicle that had decent gas mileage, but was sturdy and rugged enough to handle nasty winter roads and a bit of bumpy backwoods driving. Subaru’s contingent of crossovers seemed like a perfect fit, and in November of last year I became the proud owner of a silver Forester.

I’m not big into cars and big, mechanical toys. I’m not one of ‘those guys’ and I’ve never been (I’ve always been far more interested in living, organic machines, heh). But I do understand the sentimentality people have associated with material things in their lives, and I share the ability to ascribe ‘personalities’ to inanimate objects. I can anthropomorphize cold, lifeless hunks of metal with the best of them, so when I first saw my car in the garage when my parents brought it over with them from the Portland metro area, sensing its ‘character’ and naming it came pretty naturally.

I named her Sagan. Sleek and silver, and cut clean with distinguished aire of scientific orientation. She ran like a watch; tight and accurate. Clinical. Precise. But underneath that cool chassis was a brightness and humming energy. She glided effortlessly along the late autumn country roads when I first took her out in Baker City. This was a car that liked running, this was a car for seeing things in. Exploring things in. 
She was equipped with a moon roof, and was thus inherently tethered to the heavens. She could let the universe pour itself inside of her as she moved through it. So, obviously, Sagan was the proper choice for her name, and I knew it instantly. Only the name of one of our age’s most treasured and passionate scientist poets would have been appropriate.

After I moved to Bend around the first of the year, and the snows eventually began to cease as Central Oregon transitioned into spring some months later, I was finally able to start taking her out into the wilderness with me on day hikes. I kept careful watch over her in the beginning, and I learned quickly what types of rocky, dirt roads and grades she could surmount and what types were too harrowing.
From April through October, she served as a faithful companion, and dutifully served as my portal into the unfathomable beauty of the Central Oregon Cascades during the warm months. Sagan was there when I scaled the great plateau at the confluence of the Crooked and Deschutes Rivers. Sagan took me to the base of isolated Mt. Hager, where I had an eye-opening cougar encounter, and she traveled through punishing heat and dust to the top of Paulina Peak, overlooking the entirety of the giant Newberry Caldera. Sagan endured torrential June downpours on my stubborn, miserable forays to Marion Lake and Blue Pool in the Upper McKenzie rainforests. She dodged wayward cow herds on our way down to Trout Creek Bluffs, and slowly edged around rocky, unstable mountainside roads so I could trudge to the top of Triangulation Peak and spy icy-topped Seekseekqua through the dank keyhole of Boca Cave. Sagan and I have cut across the alien, jagged lava plains of McKenzie Pass numerous times, and descended sharply into the wet, glacial valleys that house the legendary Proxy Falls and hidden, emerald paradise of Linton Lake. Sagan flew through the sandy, volcanic highlands surrounding the extensive Cascadian lakes, and allowed me to swim in the idyllic, glassy waters of Waldo Lake and Vivian Lake in the humped shadow of Diamond Peak. Sagan took me to the base of South Sister, and provided me the privilege of torturing my body all the way to the windy summit of Sister Charity herself, where I looked down on the quiet of more of my state than I ever thought possible.

In the late summer, Sagan even took me, in the dead, still dark of early morning, many miles from home and down to the most beautiful location in Oregon; Crater Lake. At four in the morning, illuminating the uninhabited black stretches of 97 South, we soared on, the electronic, frenetic fluttering of Kuedo streaming through her speakers. I exposed the glass of Sagan’s moon roof, and let Orion watch us as we climbed to the top of the broken and transformed volcano, Mazama, long before the rest of world had woken up.

Earlier this week, I thought that I was going to lose Sagan after some serious sounding noises suddenly starting shuddering out of her engine. Did her last maintenance attendees fail to check the antifreeze? What about oil? What was wrong?
After much freaking out on my part, and a tow truck and fifty-one dollars later, I found out that for whatever reason, Sagan had a block of snow and ice that accumulated around her exhaust, causing the grinding, odd noises.

Sagan has been a great companion so far on this journey I’ve been taking this last year, and if she were a person, I suppose I would owe her a lot. Either way, I’m thankful for what I’ve been able to accomplish and experience because of her, and I hope that when the ice thaws and winter’s grip loosens in the uplands several months from now…we can find new wild spaces to visit.