"That happened to my friend," Geoff said. "His car engine died at only 40,000 miles. It was a total piece of crap."
"What kind of car was it?" I asked.
"A Geo Prism," Geoff said with thick disgust.
"Oh," I replied quietly.
"So what kind of car do you have now?" he queried.
"Um, a Geo Prism. It only has 31,000 miles on it now."
There was a long silence. "Well at least you can get 9,000 more miles out of it," Geoff said.
Five months later, Geoff and I hit the road for a three-month, cross-country road trip that would push Geo's odometer to nearly that number. We left the car parked at a campground in central New Jersey while we spent three nights in Camden, selling hemp jewelry at series of Dave Matthews concerts to fund our travels. When we returned, our campsite was lined in police tape and a tangle of sycamore branches rested in the exact spot where Geo was previously parked. As it turned out, Geo was under those branches. A freak windstorm blasted the campground and dropped a 30-foot tree on top of my car. By the time the state park service removed all of the branches, a fair chunk of the roof was caved in, but surprisingly no glass had shattered. We drove the car across seven more states and three Canadian provinces in its semi-smashed state. Months later, I finally took Geo into a body shop to be fixed. But the frame was permanently bent in a way that let large quantities of cold air and rain stream into the interior, and the radio antennae never worked again.
That car came along on many of my earliest adventures — weekend camping trips to the high mountains and remote deserts of Utah, often venturing far off the beaten path. We once drove Geo down Hole-in-the-Rock Road, a 62-mile dirt track that leads from Escalante, Utah, to pretty much nowhere. We bounced on washboards for 30 miles, and then the road condition really deteriorated. When large boulders started to appear in front of us, I implored Geoff to turn Geo around. "This car wasn't built for this kind of road," I insisted.
"Oh, it's fine. Four-wheel-drive is completely overrated," Geoff said, right about the same time a piercing "crunch" vibrated from the undercarriage. "Uh," he paused. "But clearance is kinda good."
In 2005, Geo, Geoff and I moved to Homer, Alaska, yet another odometer-choking trip of 3,200 miles. We resided in a cabin on a bluff that was 1,200 feet higher than the sea-level town. That winter, our cabin and quarter-mile-long driveway was frequently buried in what turned out to be more than 300 inches of seasonal snowfall. Shoveling that much snow was all but impossible, and my bad habit of sleeping in often forced my hand when it came to car commuting versus "riding" (pushing) my bike to work. Few roads along Diamond Ridge were ever plowed on a timely basis, so I became quite good at riding the clutch and gunning the gas strategically to maneuver out of the tightest, deepest spots. Coincidentally, that was also about the time Geo's clutch started to slip. Nearly five more years would pass before I bothered to replace it, and even then only because putting a new clutch in Geo was still the cheapest way to shuttle all of my belongings from Anchorage to Montana.
I continued to defy Alaska vehicle conventions by taking on all kinds of tasks in all kinds of weather in my two-wheel-drive gutless wonder of a sedan. I used Geo to haul furniture, bikes and tires through driving snow on marginal roads. In 2006, we moved 700 road miles away to Juneau, Alaska, known locally as the place where cars go to die. Despite 90 inches of annual precipitation that turned other cars to rust buckets, slicked the roads throughout the winter and summer and, thanks to the car's bent frame, soaked the interior until I found mold growing in the trunk — Geo just kept motoring along.
The road trips and moves, of course, continued. In 2009, Geo went as far south as San Francisco, east to Salt Lake City, back and forth across Utah and back to Juneau while I prepared for the Tour Divide. In 2010 we moved to Anchorage and traveled all over central Alaska before loading the new clutch and hitting the road south to Montana. The clutch was the only major part I ever had to replace in that car, besides tires, brakes, and a rear window broken twice by thieves.
And now I'm going to give it away. It is time. The odometer reading of 192,000 miles puts it about 152,000 miles past its life expectancy. The interior, ravaged by years of bicycle hauling and wetness, is starting to fall apart at the seams. The engine struggles with most workloads now, the previously awesome gas mileage has dropped quite a bit and the tires are so bald that even heavy rain is frightening. It's time, but that doesn't make it any less hard. I'm going to miss the old car. Goodbye, Geo.