“Farewell to a Trusted Old Friend,” column for Aug. 4, 2015

It was the only car I ever picked out and paid for on my own. I bought it not long after losing my first husband to cancer. There was nothing wrong with our old car. It just hauled too many memories.

So I bought a brand new 1999 Nissan Pathfinder.

I wish you could’ve seen it.

I mean, when it was new, before all the nicks, dings, dents and scratches it collected over the years. I’ve collected my share of those, too.

I loved that car. For 16 years, it did everything I wanted, asking little in return. Gas and oil, yes. Tires, sure. Brake pads once. Nothing major. It never broke down or left me stranded. Rare is the relationship any of us can say that much about.

If cars could talk, this one would tell you some stories. All the places we went, things we saw, bumpy roads we traveled.

Once, we spent three weeks driving across country, just the two of us. My grown children made me promise not to drive after dark. But the Nissan let me do as I pleased. Some people thought I was crazy to drive across country alone. But that car was a great companion. It went to sleep when I shut off its headlights, and it was ready every morning to get back on the road like a horse bucking to leave the barn.

When I remarried 10 years ago, the Nissan was just 6 years old. Imagine my recent surprise when my husband said, “We need to replace that car.”

“Why?” I said. “Because it’s 16 years old and has 130,000 miles? Just because it has a few years and miles on it doesn’t mean you need to get rid of it.”

He smiled and gave me a look that said, “Not you. Your car.”

So we bought a new Volvo and passed the Nissan, like a family heirloom, to my youngest child. The boy was delighted. He offered to fly to Las Vegas and drive it home to California.

“No,” I said, “we’ll bring it to you.” A week later we left Vegas in a little caravan. The Nissan and I took the lead. My husband followed in the new Volvo.

All went well the first 100 miles. I had just explained to the Nissan that, as much as I loved it, I was going to give it to a boy who vowed to take good care of it, even though he used to smash toy cars with a hammer.

Suddenly, for the first time ever, the Nissan began to overheat. We were climbing a 4,000-ft. elevation. And it was, after all, 115 degrees. But still.

I turned the air-conditioner off, cranked up the heater to pull heat off the engine, rolled down the windows and prayed.

Have you ever driven across a desert with the heater blasting and the windows down when it was just slightly hotter than the hinges on the gates of hell?

I don’t recommend it.

The good news is it worked. The engine temperature gauge stopped climbing _ as long as I kept the air off and the heat on.

The bad news is there were bug splats on the inside of the windshield. And I looked like the Feral Kid in “Mad Max 2.” If you missed the movie, let me just say it is not a good look.

At a gas stop, my husband’s jaw dropped when he saw me. When I explained why I looked as I did, he insisted on switching cars. I argued a little. Not a lot. Then I drove the Volvo 100 miles in air-conditioned bliss feeling almost guilty.

At the next stop, he looked even worse than I did. So I offered to switch again. He didn’t argue. We kept trading shifts every 100 miles. Finally, when we drove into the fog on the coast, cars and drivers alike breathed a blessed sigh of relief.

The next day, I signed over the pink slip and we left the Nissan with the boy and his family. We were walking up the street to the new Volvo when I heard an old familiar honk. I looked back.

The boy stood grinning, tapping the Nissan’s horn. “It’s saying goodbye!” he said.

I hope they’re happy together.

Maybe his 5-year-old will take me on a road trip in it someday.


  1. Kate Sciacca says

    Sure could relate…. Yes, drove through the Mojave desert with the heat blasting and the windows down for the same reason…. No fun, no fun at all! Just a thermostat issue, silly little inexpensive part…

  2. Loved your car story — We’ve had four Nissans (starting long, long ago). The first was a yellow 210 wagon (which survived an unfriendly encounter with a Camry). My youngest called it the car from hell since it was her high school transportation and refused to die until after graduation (s0ld to a kid as his first car (w/250,000 miles). The second was a Sentra that stayed with us until retired for use as a driveway decoy for trips away (325,000 miles and eventually carted to the junkyard). The third was t-boned by a little old lady running a red light (the car died with <50,000 miles protecting my wife!). Our fourth we've named "Deerslayer" (Three and counting) and has been hit by dump trucks, teenagers and inattentive parkers. It's still going strong at 404,000 miles (but we're looking to replace it with a towable as a travel buddy for our RV. As an aside, I think a radiator thermostat would have cured the overheat problem.

  3. Richard Kellogg says

    As a car buff, I enjoyed your anecdotes about the sturdy and reliable Nissan Pathfinder. The Nissan company must love such a testimonial from a proud owner. However, the balloon burst when you replaced old faithful with a Volvo. All is not lost as your boy can again endorse the Nissan after he has clocked another 100,000 miles. Happy motoring to both of you.

  4. Doris Lee says

    I said goodbye to my 22 year old Camry some time ago. I’m driving another Camry I’ve had for 14 years so far. Really appreciate reliability. It is hard to part with an old friend!! Love your story.

  5. I loved your story. I remember not wanting to part with my Honda CRV. When I thought of all the trips my family made made during high school football games and other activities, then on to Texas A&M in College Station, Texas and all over Corpus Christi, Texas going to weddings, showers, funerals, shopping, work, driving the NJROTC students to events… driving to Houston, San Antonio…I could go on and on. By the time it had 225,000 miles, I had to let it go. Instead of giving it to a family member, we traded the car in for our current vehicle. Loved your story. It was priceless. Thank you for sharing. Sharon Randall -You are the best.

  6. It’s funny that this column it about saying goodbye to a beloved car. This past Sunday, we were involved in a wreck. Thankfully, the only casualty was my 12 year old van. I cried when it was towed away. She served us well, and I will miss her!

  7. Lisa Wonder says

    I absolutely love this! I can relate to every word. My car is my 4 wheeled bestie!

  8. libby nowell says

    As usual, I loved your story.

  9. Beth Fosler says

    I totally feel your pain. A week ago I also had to say goodbye to my Nissan. I sent the following email to my family members who for years have questioned why I kept her for so long.

    Today I have a very heavy heart. I’ve lost a very close and dear friend. I’ve known her for over 18 years. Like me, we were both a little old fashioned, parts failing us and set in our ways. We went everywhere together. We both liked the same music on the radio and she didn’t even complain when I sang along to Christmas music. If I needed help to carry things that were too heavy or too big, she was there to help me, and others, with no complaints. Sadly though, all good friendships must come to an end. There’s no other like her. I feel like I’ve let her down, but I had to let go. It was time. Today we said our final goodbye. I’m really, really going to miss her. Today I traded in my 1994 Nissan Quest for a 2013 Honda CR-V LX. It just won’t be the same, but it will be safer and easier to get parts for. Sadly, practicality overrides sentiment 🙁

  10. What a great story! I’ve worked for Nissan for 16 years and get to drive a new Nissan or Infiniti car each year, so hearing or reading your story brings joy to my heart. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Cute story – gave me a smile!

  12. I liked the way your car said bye to you and started living with new owner . Your son must have enjoyed its company as children do not mind many miles shown in the meter as long as it works and they know it is a precious gift from loved one’s .Like we do not mind using used smart phones which they give to parents when they buy a new one and we enjoy even used one as long as it works . There is no question of payment ,loss or gain as children and parents have some thing to share ,so many other things to share including memories and pictures and love has no trade value . It is priceless . Thank you Sharon for sharing this sweet memory .

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