Nobody told me when I bought my car that it was the state car of the Republic of Boulder.
My first car, at least the first car that I selected after the one I bought from my parents came to a halt in the middle of the street, was an ‘81 Honda Civic wagon. It was a great car. Silver with red interior, the tiny wagon was positively sporty. It didn’t have enough gumption to go much more than the speed limit, but had enough room to sleep in the back, diagonally at least. I drove that car up the California coast one year, all alone, for of the most beautiful trips I’ve ever been on.
I’ve been quite a few places since then, but Pacific Coast Highway from San Luis Obispo (SLO) on up just keeps getting more scenic the farther north you continue. I remember Spike’s Original in SLO where they had over 100 beers on tap. I remember the missions and Pismo beach. I remember giant banana slugs on the campus of U.C. Santa Cruz. School was out at the time so I parked my car in the forest that the lucky students call their campus and spent the night. I remember San Francisco and Sacramento.
One of my most vivid memories, though, is from one evening, while racing the sunset and driving along rocky cliffs with sea-side views, a squall had come off the ocean, darkening the sky and dropping a smattering of heavy drops. I stopped the car along the rode to snap a picture of the rainbow and of my trusty Honda with an old mountain bike strapped to its back and a sprinkling of raindrops decorating the windshield. The golden sunlight lit everything with a vivid glow and I still remember the smile that spread across my face from just enjoying how lovely everything looked.
It was pretty, but aside from that, there really was nothing special about that part of the drive. Still, that smile remained plastered on my face for a couple of hours as I pressed on towards San Francisco. While I wasn’t aware of it then, it’s one of the first times I was truly able to appreciate, well, nothing at all. Appreciating nothing is a satisfying skill that has grown to be a valuable asset in my travels, and I recommend practicing it to everyone.
When I was returning from Europe, I had to do something that I never really done—buy new a car. I drove a car in Europe (several different ones, actually) but I didn’t really choose them all on my own. They were company cars and when I left, the cars stayed. I remembered reading a Consumer Reports magazine back when I still had my Civic and there was only one car in its class that rated higher: the Subaru Wagon! Well that’s it then! So, even before I returned the states, I had already decided to look at a Subaru. Really, I had already decided that’d be my car, but I wanted to give the other cars a fair shake so I didn’t admit that.
What do you know? There were Subaru dealers right here in Boulder! (and in Longmont, Denver, and really anywhere in Colorado—hey there weren’t any in Holland!) I looked at a few cars but, indeed, settled on the Outback Wagon. It was bigger than my original Honda and now the outside was red instead of the inside, but it seemed natural.
Honestly, I didn’t even notice at first. Subarus are absolutley everywhere in Boulder. They’re practically a symbol of Boulder. Subaru owners play games like counting how many stoplights you can come to where you’re the only Subaru. (Answer: not many.) When I rode over a rock in the mountains and mine was making strange noises, lo and behold, there was a dealer right there in the mountains (in Nederland, thanks for the simple fix on a Saturday afternoon, sir.) I usually don’t like bumper stickers much, but I have them on my car just so I can find it in a parking lot; I think Whole Foods must double as a used Subaru lot because there are so many. I’ve never memorized my license plate before, but I have to know mine now. It got embarrassing at some point to put my key in a car exactly like mine and try to figure out why nothing was working.
Now, I’ve grown accustomed to it. I developed a certain camraderie with other cities that are invaded by these cars. Portland had plenty of them; Cincinnati did not. I hear Vermont is over-run by them; I rarely saw them in southern California. Whereever there are loads of Subarus, it seams, there will be nice people and microbreweries. I should probably do a study. Mmmm, microbrewed beer.
That’s why a line of four of them all in row parked along west Pearl Street on this beautiful fall afternoon put such a smile on my face. It’s just such a typical Boulder scene, and with the trees turning bright yellow and the sky so blue, while the weather is still mild, with only the slightest, but delicious, smell of Fall in the air, the smile just plopped on my face and didn’t feel like going anywhere. Of course, it wasn’t any of those things that made me smile. It wasn’t anything at all, really. Like I said, it’s a great skill to learn how to smile at nothing.