Suby Tales 2010: The Winners
ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY SUBARU!
For the third time, Outside Bozeman and southwest Montana drivers have teamed up to celebrate that most quintessential Montana vehicle, the mighty and stalwart Subaru. This renowned Asian auto has few rivals around Bozeman, and its proud pilots and passengers once again regale us with stories of high romance, grand adventure, and undying devotion to a car that never ceases to impress. Gracing the following pages are some of Montana’s best Suby Tales—along with some stellar photos—as related by those who rightly regard the Subaru as one of the finest—if not the finest—vehicles ever made. Enjoy. To check out all the runners up, click here.
Hunk of Burning Love
A flash of light and an explosion repulsed the quiet of the desert. Billowing flames and black smoke rippled against the towering canyon walls and lit up the midnight sky. Fully unaware of the distant blast and flare, my coworker, Steph, and I were miles away in a slot canyon, deep in sleep. I wish I could say that I felt some odd feeling looming over me that night, some ominous foreboding or horrifying dream, but it was not so. I slept like a rock.
The work week in Zion National Park was much like all the others. We parked my ‘98 Suby under the only available shade at the Lee Pass Trailhead and headed down the dry, dusty trail winding through the pinyon-juniper woodland. Forging our way off-trail through flesh-snagging scrub thickets and leg-devouring flash-flooded mud, our mission was to locate Mexican spotted owls in the labyrinth of slot canyons in the park. After hours of trudging and only hearing our own hoots echo through the canyon, an owl finally responded. Our mission successful and our bodies completely exhausted, we flopped immediately into bed and passed out.
Several miles away, back at the trailhead, my Subaru peacefully and patiently waited for our return. There were no storm clouds that night, no lightning. The heat of the day had passed, and only the midnight stars lit the cool desert. But as the soft light of the morning arrived, a strange scene was revealed.
I awoke refreshed, completely ignorant to two sobering facts: 1) I would never see my gear-packed Subaru again, and 2) we were stranded in the Utah desert. That very day, unbeknownst to us, my Suby would be hauled to a junkyard in some obscure Utah town. We pushed on through the scrub, rocks, and heat; business as usual in search of our next owl. The following day, during a sweaty hike in the searing heat, we entertained ourselves with thoughts of sleeping in a comfy hotel bed and inhaling gluttonous amounts of greasy food after returning to civilization.
As we struggled up the final stone steps to the parking lot, I looked for my beloved Subaru. That's funny, I thought to myself, it doesn't look like it’s here... it must be behind another car. My darting eyes located the tree I’d parked under. No car. I cried out to Steph, "My car’s not here!" After scanning the lot, she entered the same state of bewilderment that had overcome me. My heart sank. In place of my car was a blackened spot on the asphalt. A sign on the equally charred tree read: "Jesse DeVoe, Call Dispatch or the Kolob Visitor Center." At the other end of the lot, I spotted a Boy Scout troop leader who was oblivious to any abnormal circumstance at hand. With trembling voice, I said, "It looks like my car burned up... can I borrow a phone?”
When the previous morning’s veil of darkness had been lifted by a Park Service photograph, a blackened, skeletal frame lay beneath a lone, half-charred tree. The pavement was scorched and covered with ash. Bits of metal and glass were scattered in the brush. Melted aluminum and glass oozed onto the asphalt. The remains of my Subaru sat like the rotisserie-grilled carcass of a chicken, post-devourment by a famished family of four.
What evil creature lurked under the veil of darkness that night? What wicked spirit consumed not just my car, but also my laptop, back-up hard drive, two cameras, wallet, cell phone, many years of accumulated (and expensive) technical gear, and, most importantly, my mother’s homemade chocolate banana bread? Had the Park Service finally exceeded their tolerance for those darned owl researchers? Had anti–spotted owl cronies at long last achieved their vengeance? My Subaru had exploded, and I shall never know why.
Birth of a Hybrid
Associated Press (reprinted by permission from High Country Chronicle)
From aspiring rock bands to the birthplace of Microsoft, the garage—that lowly domicile of cars, pickup trucks, and lawn mowers—has more and more moved center stage of the American Dream. And no tale is stranger than the conception of what may be the ultimate four-wheel-drive hybrid in a Bozeman garage.
The story begins with Nick Edwards, a 30-something Bozeman mechanic, fighting to stay awake while driving home from a visit to his girlfriend in Jackson Hole. North of Old Faithful, Nick pulled over and flopped down across the front seats. Just as he was drifting off, his tan Subaru wagon lurched, then seemed to sigh as it sank down on its springs and began to rock. Nick might have chalked it up to the wind, except that the rocking was rhythmic. He was reaching for the door handle when headlights swept over the Subaru. A boxy old RV festooned with lawn chairs, barbecues, and bicycles—like a 21st-century version of The Grapes of Wrath—veered off the road screeched to a halt. With the lights of the RV illuminating the Subaru, a red haired woman in the passenger’s seat brandished a crucifix the size of a tire iron and shrieked hysterically, while the bearded driver called down the wrath of God. Nick locked the doors and flung himself face down. Before the RV peeled off, however, Nick had deciphered the rantings of the couple, which explained his car’s cadenced shifting. A huge male bison had conceived a passion for Winny, his spunky little Subaru.
Nick had no problem with mismatched lovers (he’d even romanced an older woman with big hair), but he did have to be to work by 8am. Gritting his teeth, he started the Subaru, shifted into first, and eased away. Nick watched in fascination as the enraptured bison, its hind quarters painted cherry red by the taillights, hopped painfully in pursuit. Soon, however, the bison fell away with a forlorn grunt and Nick sped off.
Nick made it to work on time, but the seeds of an idea had been planted. Three weeks later a quarter moon found Nick and a crew of bumblers snatching a bison from a ranch south of Bozeman. Rustling being punishable by prison, Nick has been loath to release details of what happened out there in the sagebrush. Suffice it to say that one of the crew received a concussion while sexing the bison and another’s arm was broken while coaxing the beast into a U-Haul trailer with a carrot.
Back at Nick’s ramshackle two-car garage, the bison (promptly named Willy) was more interested in trashing Nick’s snow machine than in romancing Winny. Fearing the incident in Yellowstone was an aberration, Nick sunk into despair. Until his girlfriend suggested tequila and Barry White CDs.
Nick had no sooner installed a sound system and filled the trough with a 70% mixture of Jose Quervo than the garage began to rock. On March 27, 2010, a veterinarian and a steel worker delivered a healthy Wanda Jean Subalo by cesarean section.
In a brief April 26 interview, Nick reported that “the news is mostly good. Winny’s staples have been removed and she’s healing nicely. The biggest surprise, however, has been Willy. I’d planned to return him to the ranch once Winny had conceived, but after he destroyed my dirt bike when we tried to drag him from her side, I relented. And I’m glad I did. Not only was he attentive during her pregnancy, but in light of Winny’s severe tactile limitations, Willy has provided much of Wanda Jean’s care.
“As to Wanda, she’s only a month old, but it’s clear that she has her mother’s boxy build, eyes instead of headlights, a tail instead of a tailpipe, and functions best on a mulch of gasoline and grass. It’s unclear, of course, what the future will bring. In light, however, of her having hooves instead of wheels, I’m fairly certain that she has inherited her parent’s four-wheel-drive capabilities.
“Thank you for you time. I’m Sorry, but I won’t be taking questions.”
And that, despite half a dozen reporters camped out around the garage, is all we know at this time.
Montana Sporting Rig
It was day three of our annual four-day antelope-hunting trip, and neither of us had gotten anywhere near enough to the two big bucks we’d been glassing for a clean shot. Our mistake was waiting a week after opening day. With the high winds and recent hunting pressure, the speedy goats were on high alert and flighty as hell. We’d tried every angle, every approach, but the herd would bust us before we even began the two-mile stalk from the section road.
I looked over at Matt after our eleventh try and could see the frustration in his eyes. James, Matt’s five-year-old, mirrored his father’s expression and was beginning to question our prowess as masters of the hunting craft. As we walked back to the truck, an idea hit me. The antelope were keyed in on the pickup—it looked just like every other truck that had carried the orange-clad menaces to their flanks for the previous 10 days. “Matt,” I announced, “we need to get my Suby.”
We raced back to camp. My Subaru sat waiting patiently in front of our camp primed for just this type of challenge. “None of the hunters drive those, neither does anyone else up here,” Matt observed. “It’s perfect!” Matt was regaining his exuberance, and the fact that James’s booster seat snugged in perfectly in the back was an added bonus.
In a flurry of packs, booster seat, optics, and rifle cases we shuffled our gear into the Outback and headed back to catch the antelope returning to their evening feeding grounds. Matt had lost the coin toss, so it was my turn to stalk the two miles from the road ditch and down the coulee for a shot. Sitting shotgun, ready to bail into the ditch, I gritted my teeth as Matt cycled through the gears like a rally racer flinging mud and gravel.
We were both firm believers in the five stars. Matt had driven an old blue Loyale until the odometer ran out of numbers to tick through, and he was having a little too much fun testing the handling of my updated Outback model, which was only six month old to me and had weathered a whole guiding season without a scratch. I had no doubts about the Suby’s ruggedness and ability to handle what we were throwing her way, but the occasional rumble of a boulder bouncing off a skid plate was driving my nails deeper into my palm as I white-knuckled the “oh shit” handle. I wondered what my insurance deductible was at these days.
A huge chunk of sagebrush squealed down the passenger side as Matt banked the car around a curve in the county road and bounded her onto the muddy, rutted, and gumbo-slick section road. James squealed with delight in the back at this newfound source of joy as his father tested my new car for new off-road applications. “This is awesome,” Matt giggled along with James. “What a great car, man!”
“Get ready to bail!” came the call from Matt. It was time. He popped the Suby into neutral, cranked the wheel, and reefed on the e-brake. The Outback swung in an arch, coming to a stop in a shower of gravel and mud. I jumped swiftly from the shuddering Subaru and crouched in the ditch. By the time I had grabbed my binoculars to glass the antelope I saw Matt blasting my car back toward the main pullout, where he and James would watch the stalk.
I glassed the antelope herd, expecting to see nothing but white butts bouncing toward the horizon. I was pleased to find that the herd had not noticed the Subaru at all, and were quietly feeding on a long sage flat next to a wheat field. Because of the “Subaru Sneak,” as it was later dubbed, I was able to stalk and belly-crawl in close enough to the herd to take a nice buck. As for my Suby—well, several adventures, thousands of miles, and numerous “honey do’s “ later, she’s still running strong. Now with two nice antelope, a pile of birds, and a couple of deer to her credit, I can honestly say that my Subaru is the best all around “sporting” rig I’ve ever owned.
It was a trip to the Bugaboos. Those who are climbers will know it. My psycho girlfriend (who was great in other areas, which is why I kept her around) couldn’t leave on time and had to be back early, so my buddies left without us in Sandy’s Suby—meaning I had to drive my Honda CRX, six hours behind schedule. Once into Canada and on the 40-kilometer dirt road that leads to the trailhead of the Bugs, I hit a gigantic pothole. Hondas are not known for their ground clearance, and therefore, one oil pan and engine later, I was stuck with a psycho girlfriend in the dark (and this time her better qualities failed to surface), with a seized motor, only a short distance from the Bugaboos and all their glory.
Around 5am another car came along and gave us a ride to the trailhead. We met up with Sandy and Steve and made the hike up past the Cain Hut to Applebee Dome. Since the Honda was dead and the psycho girlfriend couldn’t take it back to the states, our trip was cut from seven days to only four. After weather and one successful climb of Pigeon Spire, we piled into Sandy’s Outback and headed for home.
We were cruising along, windows cracked to take in the awesome thunderstorms. The fan was on full blast to circulate the air; it had been five days since we’d showered. We came up behind a cattle truck, the ones that haul the beef to slaughter, with all the holes in the sides. Sandy, looking to pass at every moment, was right on the truck’s ass. We started going around a left hand bend, when lo and behold, one of the cows at the very back let loose with a shit shower that was so perfectly aimed at the tiny hole in the side of the semi, that it gave me new respect for bovine intelligence.
The Subaru was instantly smothered with shit. The hood and the windshield completely covered. Everyone was screaming. Sandy hit the wipers only to smear shit all over. And then it hit us. The Suby had a hood scoop for the air intake and with the fan going full blast… well, you get the picture. The stench was only second to that of rotting flesh and the smell of death.
Eight hours later we arrived back home and now, every time I smell a cow turd, I think of Sandy and his Subaru. As for the psycho, we broke up shortly thereafter. Bitch.
The Silver Bullet
Bewilderment lingered as Micheala and I rounded the last bend back to my ’82-Baru wagon after a little after-work Nordic skiing on a cedar-flocked Humboldt hill. Confusedly, I queried, “Did you leave your window open?” A chill shooting up her spine, she replied, “Uh… no.” She viewed the once-sweet ride parked over there, a Trinity Alps trailhead center stage, sun setting in the background. The most fun four-dubya-dee rig ever earned sat catawampus; the left-rear flat-tired. The windows were definitely down… and out, and scattered all over the seats and soil like so many road diamonds littering the USFS gate area.
Still drawn forward, zombie eyes on the odd vehicle (my high-school ride was a Vee Dubya, so to my mind a Suby is already an odd vehicle—a VW squareback with the body picked up and put back down, another driveshaft bass-ackwards for what designer Ferdinand Porsche would call “mo gripschen.” But I digress.)—right pole plant, push, ski kick, glide, repeat left. Says I, “What the #*@!? Look at what they shot!”
We had no reason to imagine that the dozen shotgun-loud shots that we’d heard 15 minutes earlier wouldn’t be aimed at clay pigeons or a beer can, or even a makeshift target of some expensive brown and white sign. I guess my li’l ol’ grey mare’s license plate and sideview mirror was more like the movies. “Whoa, whoever just did this is unlikely to be kind and friendly folk,” I observed. “They might still be around! We should make like sheep herders and get the flock out of here.”
Still stunned, but now in autopilot flight mode, we released our XC skis and tossed them through the ex-rear window. I popped the engine hood thinking, “Thank God this isn’t a Beetle, she’d be dead.” I grabbed the space-saver spare tire off the top of the gopher treadmill (aka engine) and did a Dale Earnhardt NASCAR pit-stop tire change. Simultaneously, Michaela was picking up car parts—mirror, license plate, et al—and evidence, in the form of a PBR empty. Of course, they didn’t even leave one full for our trouble; they are unkind and unfriendly. That done, I inserted an ignition key-type screwdriver and she fired up right away.
Air blew cold around us, lights glowed sparked and dimmed, tempered glass nuggets hailed after potholes dislodged them. A passing log truck driver and other motorists gave our twelve-gauge slug-and-steel-shot, Bonnie-and-Clyde quad-runner lots of elbow-room as we limped home.
Tulsa del Mar, the closest Redwood Coast town (to the conversion site of my $1,500 car into an aluminum colander) had an Oklahoma-born sheriff. Upon reporting the firearm crime to McKinleyville’s best he asked and I quote, “Well, was it a purdy car?” With no evidence and no witnesses, I got a 15 minute investigation and a good luck. Millions drink PBR.
Behind the redwood curtain it was a non-eventful news day, so the reporter-at-large came by Laurel Tree School to help out my “civilian investigation.” Front page of the Eureka Times-Standard, dude! Looks ghetto.
One $50 window-parts car, two black aquarium silicone hole sealant tubes, and three months later, four of my art students and I were caravanning through East L.A. en route to the Mayan Pyramids in Mexico in the econo-bus they named “The Silver Bullet.” Again, inner city motorists gave us lots of elbow room. Oh, look Pedro!
Fast forward 80k miles and countless adventures from the Pacific to the Rockies and the 1982-Baru 4WD wagon that gleamed stellar Consumer Reports bubbles is semi-retired in a Jackrabbit Lane log-cabin timber yard. Has she bit the silver bullet?
It was the summer of 2009 on a rainy Thursday in Bozeman. A spontaneous road trip landed me, my boyfriend, and Ruby The Suby down in the Grand Tetons. After nearly hitting bison, avoiding maniacal drivers from California, and watching elk dance on the courthouse steps of Mammoth, we looked forward to settling into our warm tent. But even that proved to be a battle. Ruby began the climb to our favorite secret spot in the Teton Valley, but deep mud ruts caused by the rain almost sent us plummeting over the edge. Ruby was nervous but she trudged on, finally reaching the top. Our beloved tent spot had been flooded, but Ruby soothed our nerves with some Widespread Panic and two cold ones in the front seat. We fell asleep to a gorgeous view of the mountains, looking forward to tackling their terrain the next day after a good night's rest in the Suby.
On the morning of New Year’s Eve, 2009, my girlfriend and I woke early with plans of shredding over a foot of fresh powder at Whitefish Mountain. We organized our gear, packed it into my trusty 2005 Subaru Impreza WRX, and proceeded to drive the full hour required to get from her father's house (in Kila, MT) to the mountain.
The roads were exceptionally icy on this brisk morning, but I was confident in the AWD capabilities of the car. I came around the last corner before the entrance to a secondary highway, and noticed a highway patrolman with his lights off. He had pulled off the road into the driveway of a small restaurant. About 75 feet from the driveway, I noticed his reverse lights come on, but was sure that he had seen me and was not going to back up into the road until after I’d passed. Unfortunately this was not the case, as he quickly reversed out into the road, directly in front of me.
I slammed the brake pedal and heard the anti-lock braking system working overtime. We slid uncontrollably for about 30 feet before T-boning the officer’s patrol car. At that moment, I felt that the officer would be angry and find a reason to cite me for the accident. This was also not the case. He got out of his car, asked if we were alright, and immediately apologized. Three other officers arrived to assess the damage and file a report, and ended up citing the officer for an illegal reverse maneuver. They told me to take my car to a body repair shop and that their insurance would cover the damages, which ended up being around $5,000.
After the early-morning fiasco, my Subaru was still drivable (barely), but the officer's patrol car had to be towed away. We managed to drive up to Whitefish Mountain before noon for a half-day of skiing with plenty of epic powder still available for slashing. The next day, we bandaged up the Suby with bailing wire and drove it back to Bozeman, fighting against the unaligned wheels the entire way. The car has since been repaired and now looks and drives like it’s brand new, courtesy of the Montana Highway Patrol.
There they were, plain as day, two parallel tracks slicing up a mound of asphalt in the right lane of I-25 just north of Colorado Springs. The arc of black shavings behind the pile revealed that the top had been recently blasted off by a bumper. Farther up the road, skid marks appeared and snaked dangerously north for 50 yards more. This evidence, gathered while I crawled by the scene in dense traffic, led me to the only possible conclusion. The story I’d heard 10 minutes ago was, it seemed, true.
I’d been turned highway detective by a mysterious phone call, during which my friend, Blake, quivered out the details of a far-fetched near-death experience. The call ended with, “Get out here, man. The Suby just soared.”
I jumped in the car and headed north out of town. Slender orange cones forced me into the left lane soon after I’d reached highway speed. I slowed to check each asphalt pile for tracks, spotting the one in question just shy of Blake’s exit. The evidence was irrefutable, my conclusions inevitable. The Subaru had flown a distance that would’ve made the General Lee honk jealously. The old girl had been in the air before—I’d been in the passenger seat—but this was an unprecedented flight, 40 feet or more. My mouth hung agape until a horn blared from behind and I accelerated to the off-ramp.
The Subaru, already a legend in our small circle, lazed there in Blake’s driveway as if nothing had happened. She was an ’81 wagon, plastered with Grateful Dead stickers and rusting a little through her orange paint. But as I parked and walked over, the Suby seemed to radiate a new power, one that belied her age and experience, a nascent glow that I was sure would mythologize her even more.
In the year we’d been acquainted, the Suby and I had enjoyed many grand adventures—skiing, climbing, mountain biking, and just rallying around Colorado with Blake behind the wheel. Though she was cutting her fourth set of tires, breaking in a third oil pan and second clutch, she’d never let us down. I loved her Dukes of Hazzard paint job, the soft orange night-time glow of her interior lights, her burnt-oil sunflower seed aroma, the way she growled around corners, whined in reverse, and got all silent when she was in the air.
A surge of emotion pulled me to her front end, where I knelt to inspect her bumper, check for damage. I flicked a few chunks of asphalt from her grill, cleaning the seam around the passing lamp we affectionately called “the winker.” Somehow, everything seemed normal.
Blake answered the door, peered over my shoulder at his car, and waved me in. “She looks fine,” I said. “But you don’t. Need to sit down?”
“Can’t,” he said, “I’m way too amped. I would’ve called you sooner, but I was shaking so bad it took me five minutes to get my key in the door.”
Then came the story. Blake explained that he hadn’t taken the interstate in a couple weeks and that he thought he needed to cut through the cones to get to his exit. “It was crazy, dude,” he said. “I swerved over and saw that pile of shavings right away. I tried to get back into the left lane, but there was too much traffic. Then the pile was right in front of me. There was no way I could brake in time, so I held on tight and braced for impact.”
“Then what?” I prompted.
“Well, then I hit the thing. Launched me straight up. I was flying, man, higher than I’ve ever gone before. The car started leaning to the left, the side I was on, which makes sense, I guess. I looked over, and there was the roof of a Caddy below me. That was the craziest. I was pretty sure I was going to die.”
He took a breath, then continued. “But the Suby landed it. The left front tire hit first and the car slammed sideways as the other front tire hit and then the back ones. I just kept spinning the wheel until the fishtailing stopped and I was going straight again. I don’t know how I did it. Messing around in the mall parking lot paid off, I guess.”
“Dude, the Suby’s amazing,” I said.
We were both staring at the car.
“No one’s ever gonna believe this,” I said.
That was more than 15 years ago, and maybe no one will believe it. But if there’s one place in the universe where there exist readers capable of understanding an exploit like this, it’s Bozeman.
The Legacy’s Legacy
Cars are like books, life partners and art, when you see the one you are supposed to be with you know immediately. I knew when I first saw my 1991 Subaru Legacy in a used car lot in Seattle I was destined to own it, for better or for worse and it has played a pivotal role in my life since.
The car I had been driving prior to purchasing my 1991 Subaru Legacy died after a long battle with a faulty transmission. The nature of my work required I have access to a vehicle and it was imperative I replace my previous mode of transportation as soon as possible. My salary as a social worker for a non-profit organization left me with limited options for purchasing a vehicle, however. I knew I was going to have to take a huge gamble and try my luck with a used vehicle in the 2-3,000 dollar range. Vehicles in this price range are almost always either too good to be true or on their last legs. I knew my only chance to get lucky was to look for a car from a manufacturer I could trust.
There are few certainties in life. I believe the intrinsic value of and solid craftsmanship of a Subaru is one of them. My family has owned a Subaru since I can remember. My first car was a Subaru. I learned drive a manual transmission and the value of four wheel drive in winter weather in a Subaru.
While contemplating my predicament and hoping for a miracle I happened to glance over at the lot of a used car dealership I had driven by at least twice a day for a year. There in the lot, looking at me longingly was a midnight blue 1991 Subaru legacy. It was love at first sight.
I bought the car that day. The dealer was a man whose name I could not pronounce and whose linage was proudly represented by the name of dealership, which was Babylon Auto. I knew the story he told be about an old women owning it and only driving it to the store was the same story he probably told everyone who bought a car from him but I believed him because we believe everything when we are in love. He told me at least ten times during our transaction that is was “good car”. I should have known by the veracity with which he insisted the car I was buying was “good car” I was taking a leap of faith. As I drove the car from the lot I knew it would either not make it a week or it would be the greatest car I will ever own.
I concluded after purchasing the car the first logical course of action was to drive straight to the nearest repair shop. I made an appointment to have it inspected top to bottom.I learned after it was inspected the repairs would cost as much as I paid for the car. There was reason to be optimistic, however. The car received the service center’s highest praise. It was according to the repairman, in spite of its need for a few major repairs, a “good car”.
After paying for the repairs and swallowing my urge to demand the salesman pay the bill I was able embrace the feeling of owning what I knew in my heart to be a “good car”. This fact would be proved in the coming years many times but once in particular.
Upon returning from a late night expedition to backyard barbeque in honor of a successful production of my sister’s theater company I parked my Subaru in a temporary lot in order to avoid driving around late at night looking for parking spot. When I went to move it in the morning it was gone.
I thought I had either lost my mind, parked it somewhere else or it had been towed. The logical explanation would have been it had been towed and for once I hoped that was the case because I was not ready to accept senility and could not fathom why anyone would steal a 1991 Subaru Legacy.
Much to my dismay the car had not been towed and I was not crazy. It had been stolen. I was again faced with the burden of buying a car and knew the odds of gambling on another used vehicle and winning were extremely slim.
After two months traveling by bus around the city it became increasingly difficult to do my job effectively. The frustration of having a prized possession, which was so essential to my survival stolen, began to detract from my enthusiasm for living in the city and I moved back home to Montana. While on the chair lift at Big Sky, five months after my car was stolen, having long ago made peace with it’s loss I got a phone call from the Seattle P.D. telling me they found my car.
When I saw my car again I was overjoyed but felt a sense of reluctance to embrace its return because so many dramatic changes had occurred in my lift since it was stolen. It had been abandoned for at least three months before the Seattle P.D. located it. The Seattle climate had caused an intense mold growth in the interior and the battery was missing but it was in one piece. The installation of a new battery allowed my to drive it back to Montana and a thorough detailing restored it to its previous glory.
This 1991 Subaru Legacy made it 13th trip from Seattle back to Montana in January of 2010 and is still running as good as new today. Its theft was unfortunate but I am grateful for its occurrence because it was the catalyst that brought me home.
No Go For Subro: New Year’s 2010
Lindsey Holmes & Ryan Ebersberger
The excitement was building for weeks after we reserved the 4-Mile Forest Service Cabin on the Boulder River for New Years. A romantic evening and a few fun-filled days out of town, just the two of us. This was the first overnight adventure and New Years we would have as a couple. Every detail was planned, down to the appetizers for New Years and the activities we would enjoy. We packed a good amount of food and booze into Ryan’s 95’ Subaru legacy, Subro. In theory, we could drive within hiking distance of the cabin.
A few days prior to New Years we called in to the Ranger Station to check on the roads. “The road is in pretty good shape but it does get icy three to four miles from the cabin,” they told us. Sweet. If it came down to it we could just snowshoe in with all the goods on our backs. We were going to make it!
We left early on January 30th so we had plenty of time to get to the cabin and settle in. The weather was not bad, and we were stoked to find pretty good roads on the way up. I have to say that we were still a little nervous of this seemingly small, easy trip because we just don’t have the best luck. Ever.
Higher and further we drove back into the woods. About 4 miles from the cabin we came across an icy portion that extended at least a hundred yards. It was sketchy, but we saw a few tire tracks going right over it to the other side. “Should we put some chains on?” I asked. “Nah, this looks fine if we drive nice and slow…..it’s the Subro baby,” Ryan responded. This was the turning point.
A few seconds later we heard a CRAAAACK and felt the car fall into a hole. How were we supposed to know there was a small river under the ice!? We hopped out of the Subro to check out the damage. The whole back left tire was submerged in the icy, water filled pothole. Realization set in that we weren’t getting anywhere easily. Oh, and of course there was no cell service.
Sitting, waiting, wishing for some help, a guy coming from near the cabin drove right past us over the ice. Thanks buddy! We decided to get out and walk. We trekked for a few miles and noticed a couple walking in one of the Christian Camps (shout out to Camp On The Boulder). They were incredibly kind. They let us use the office phone to call AAA and hang there to stay warm while waiting.
Like 4 hours and a Champaign bottle later the AAA wrecker arrived at the scene. The guy informed us that he is up here all the time bailing people out. He figured this would be a quick fix. He checked out the Subro and attached the cables to wench us out.
We were too stuck. Next, he decided to turn the wrecker around so he would have more room to pull us out. This narrow icy road was not going to let that happen. He immediately got stuck facing the river. So now we had the Subro and the wrecker stuck in this mess. Everyone got pretty uneasy at this point and the clock was ticking down to New Years. It was about 9:30pm when Mr. AAA decided to wench the wrecker using some trees for leverage. The wrecker kept sliding closer and closer to the river’s edge. He then put chains on to help and we threw dirt and rocks under the tires so they could grip better. No go. Finally, he instructed Ryan to get into the wrecker and reverse while he was using the gear in back to pull it. It worked! He was able to position the wrecker to pull out Subro.
All said and done it was 10:30pm when we got unstuck. We gave Mr. AAA a big tip so he could go wind down with a few beers. Ryan and I headed down the hill disappointed but thankful we got out of there. The rest of the night consisted of celebrating at a sleazy Big Timber motel. Truly a New Years to remember!!
P.S.: We had to take Subro back to Big Timber to get Ryan’s wallet that he left at the motel! Nice.
The Golden Subaru
The Golden Subaru has rolled many miles in its day, and given its various owners many an adventure. It has been a vital part of travel and life since 1990, and somehow has gathered over 336,000 miles in its life, but shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.
My days with the majestic vehicle began when I was 9 years old. I remember being awed by its humble ways, and the soothing, identifiable rumble it made upon starting. When I first saw it, it was sitting peacefully next to an ancient teepee in the wilderness of the Yaak Valley. My family clambered out of the old blue Suby, which was nearing its last days. After paying the $1,500 for Goldie, we opened the squeaky doors, and drove on into its promising future.
The four years that I happily rode in the backseat (kicked out of shotgun by Superman, our dog), passed quickly, until my dad allowed me to attempt driving it.
I felt the connection between Goldie immediately, and fell in love with the beast when it did not stall the first time I struggled to balance the clutch and gas pedals. That summer, my Uncle BJ came to visit from Austin, and within a few weeks, he taught me to drive Goldie like a pro. We cruised all about Montana, going to Yellowstone and Glacier, and many other wilderness oases, collecting nature specimens, such as bark, turtles, tree limbs, and rocks, until he re-christened it The Metallic Turd. It maintained its appearance fairly well, until we were driving through a remote section of southern Montana, and were broadsided by a deer.
We had been cruising along quite peacefully, listening to The Cranberries cassettes, hands out the window, when the deer leapt out of a ditch, and into Goldie’s side. I remember its coarse fur passing through my fingers, and before we even knew what had happened, it was over.
Surprisingly, neither the deer or the car was seriously injured, and it bounced off, unharmed, and scampered back to its field, and we drove on. The only damage done to Goldie was the shattering of a portion of the windshield. The passenger side windshield was cracked into hundreds of small cubes, but somehow stayed together.
Now, driving along on a sunny day, the light hits the windshield, and looks similar to a kaleidoscope. For this reason, the Golden Subaru’s city cruising days are over, but it has many adventurous years of frolicking about more remote parts of Montana to go. Goldie, with the trippy windshield, bungee-corded trunk, and stick shift glued down with popcorn flavored SPAM, has been an irreplaceable component to my childhood.
’92 Baby Blue
It was my first time.
Like any teenage girl, I was nervous. The fact that I had just climbed out of a lake and was in my dripping wet bikini didn’t help the fact that I felt self-conscious and a bit awkward.
“What is that?” Yeah, that was my smooth opener.
It was baby blue, as blue as those boy’s eyes behind the wheel. The stars on the front grill meant nothing to me, but they looked good. They looked like fun. They looked like the twinkle in that boy’s eyes.
“You wanna take it around the lake?” Hell yeah. It looked semi-dangerous and exotic.
I slid into the passenger’s seat and we were off on a ride I’ll never forget—my first ride in that 1992 baby blue Subaru.
Maybe it was the combination of wet hair drying in the wind from the open window. Maybe it was the feel of sandy-bottomed heels kicked up on the dashboard.
Maybe it was lying in the back with the hatch door up, watching the sunset over the lake.
Whatever it was, I was in love.
That boy and I, we became friends. That car and I, well, we became a lot more. Over the years we went back and forth to college together, the boy, the baby blue car, and me. We partied, we spent summers at the lake, we camped under the stars, we hunkered down with the heater on full-blast after rained out hikes, and we drove, and drove, and drove.
One winter, we took that 1992 baby blue Subaru to Bozeman, Montana. The boy loved to kill some power. I loved to drive around town. It felt like a match made in heaven, that Subaru smoothly sliding over Main Street, the Bridgers in the distance. Those stars on the grill, they were aligned. I was home. I was alive.
The ’92 baby blue died shortly after returning home from that magical time in Bozeman. It was too much for it to leave the mountains of Montana behind. A little bit of us died with that car. The boy moved to the big city. I moved to Bozeman.
Every so often we find ourselves in the same place, that boy and I. We throw one back for the old baby blue Subaru and reflect on all the lessons we learned and the memories we made cruising in that car. We both can’t bring ourselves to own another Subaru. How can you replace something that has meant so much to you? It defined our lifestyle and enabled so many of our life changing moments. I wouldn’t want to share those memories with any other Subaru. Neither would that boy.
It was my first time, my last time. My first love, and my last love. Thank you, 1992 baby blue Subaru.
A Tale of Four Subarus
Tara K. Alfonsi
The Year: 1992
The Subaru: A 1989 Outback
“Mom,” I huffed, “this is so embarrassing.”
“Nice grocery-getter!” taunted one of the most insolent boys in my class.
I sneered a retort as I popped the hatch on my parents’ forest green Subaru Outback. As an awkwardly permed 4.0 student on the unglamorous Knowledge Bowl and cross country skiing teams, I was enough of a dork on my own. Being picked up by my mother in a boxy station wagon only boldfaced my nerdiness.
“Why do we have this stupid car?” my 13-year-old self whined. “I hate Subarus.”
“When you start driving, you’ll wish you had one,” replied my mother. “And we wouldn’t get to Bridger every year without one.”
“We look dumb,” I sulked, tossing my Fischers and worn red JanSport in the cargo hold. Climbing into the backseat, I perked up as a familiar song came on the radio. “Hey, is that Richard Marx?”
The Year: 1995
The Subaru: The Very Same 1989 Outback
“Munger Trail, here we come!” exclaimed an uncharacteristically enthusiastic Jen, turning up the cassette and harmonizing.
We were seventeen, high school juniors, and I had inherited the detested 1989 Outback. I still hated it – publicly. But, now that I’d had to dig more than one reckless teenaged friend out of the ditch, I appreciated the wagon’s nimbleness in snow. And, even though some of the guys I dated presented their own crude ideas for the potential utility of the cargo hold, I loved having the extra room for gear.
Mom was right.
It wouldn’t be the last time.
The Year: 1999
The Subaru: A 1988 XT6
“…Of the cross I bear that you gave to me, you, you, you oughtta know!” Jamie and I screeched along with the well-worn CD. For my first car, bought and paid for with my very own money, I had – yessiree – chosen a Subaru. A “vintage” 1988 XT6, Subaru’s attempt at a sports car, it was a glossy, cherry red and rode on air suspension struts that cost about $300 each to replace. I know this because one by one, they all died on me, and the car rode lopsided until I socked away enough cash from my part-time retail job to pay for them.
Not that I cared too much. What throws you when you’re 20?
“Play it again!” yelled a voice from the cargo hold. It was Tracy, painfully fresh from one of those Alanis-esque disembowling college breakups. “Repeat! Repeat!”
The Year: 2002
The Subaru: 2001 Forester
Beaming, I pulled into my parents’ driveway, lept out the driver’s side and sprinted up their porch.
“Guys! Come out and look!”
I was 25, and I was rolling in the dough ($35K – a small fortune!) after landing a job as an advertising copywriter. I had just signed a bank loan for a gently used 2001 Subaru Forester. Red with grey trim. In the cargo hold, a leather folio and a hot pink pair of Brooks Adrenalines.
I had arrived.
I called the car Felix. For five years, we explored together. State parks. National forests. The Minne-apple. And out west, three times – twice to Bozeman, once to Jackson. (On the second Bozeman junket, the cargo hold doubled as a bunkhouse.) Each of these trips marked a transition in my life, and the open road helped me heal.
She wasn’t my best friend, exactly. More like my therapist.
A few tanks ahead of the 150,000-mile mark, it happened. I was on the way back from a camping trip on Lake Superior’s North Shore. My ever-brooding significant other was driving.
At a stop sign, Felix died. I was unperturbed.
Half a mile later, she died again. We pulled over.
We didn’t even need to pop the hood to discover what was wrong. Felix was losing her lifeblood all over Highway 61. Coolant.
Her tank was empty.
She would not recover.
A few days later, my relationship died too. A check engine light had been flashing for years, but you know how we try to ignore the subtle danger signs … right up until the coolant’s on the ground and the engine’s seized up.
The cargo hold held five years’ worth of memories.
As I cleaned it out, I cried.
The Year: 2009
The Subaru: A 2009 Forester
In late 2009, I found myself on a very familiar interstate. In a shinier Forester. For a more promising reason.
Not running away. Running … to.
In the passenger seat was the only person I’d ever clearly seen a future with. The one great non-Subaru love of my life.
On the radio was “Midnight Train to Georgia,” occasionally sung into a banana.
And, in the cargo hold, our skis, our bird dog, and a dream.