Roadtripping the national parks in my Forester

Since its purchase in 2006, my Subaru Forester—named Betsy—has been a constant companion in my quest to visit every national park unit. The vehicle has transported Kim and I on some of our best road trips, whether that’s our Great American Roadtrip in 2007, our wedding post-wedding roadtrip in 2008, or many others. There have been a great many memories produced in the vehicle—the mystery rodent that chewed through our backseat fabric in Glacier, attempting to sleep on far too thick of air mattresses in the back of the vehicle at a random rest stop somewhere in California, or enduring a gauntlet of 70mph wind, dust, rain, hail, and snow on a drive to Utah with my kayak strapped to the roof for the very first time, to name a few.

Last week, I took what is probably my last national park road trip with Betsy: a long overdue visit to Chaco Culture National Historical Park—one of the first places we had intended to go once we got it. It was a last minute change of plans that had me take the Forester on that trip, but it was great to bring her out one last time, and especially to a remote park that requires a significant drive on dirt roads to access.

With 175,000 miles on her, and several significant repairs I’ve been delaying, and only one long national park road trip to the Pacific Northwest remaining (I’ll fly to the northeastern parks from now on), she’s likely finally retired from her road trip career. While I’d love to do some more long roadtrips with her, I’m also happy shuttling around my kayak and mountain bike around the state. Thanks for all of the lifelong roadtripping memories.

 

Roadtripping without our Forester

Our Forester in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

It feels like we’re being unfaithful.

In less than 72 hours, Kim and I will be departing on another of our national park roadtrips. It’ll be the first time we’ll be roadtripping sans Forester since we got her. It feels a little weird.

It’s the right decision to leave her at home – she’s in need of new tires, struts, and her check engine light has been blazing for a month or two now. And we’ll save some serious gas money on the trip, too. But we’ve created enough memories with her that it’s odd to plan a trip in a different vehicle.

Not that it’s been uncommon for us to take a trip in a borrowed vehicle. Our first trip together, to Las Vegas in March 1997, featured us rolling down Las Vegas Boulevard in my dad’s Cadillac (we didn’t even own a working car back then). We borrowed Jessica’s old – well, I forget what it was, but it was old – car to get to Mt Rainier National Park in 2002. And we’ve put nearly as many highway miles on my mom’s Highlander as she has. We enjoyed roadtrips in our Altima years ago, but even then, we often opted for my mom’s SUV.

This time, we’re borrowing my dad’s Prius (thanks Dad!). It’ll save us about $300 in gas on the trip, and well, its check engine light isn’t on. But it won’t be without its challenges. Our favorite cooler doesn’t fit in the trunk, and I’m not even sure our backup cooler will. It doesn’t have an auxillary jack for the iPod, or amazingly, even a cd player (I guess we’re back to using those cassette tape adaptors). It “features” golf-related bumper stickers. Worst of all is that we won’t be able to add to our (incomplete) collection of photos of the Forester in national park units. Or capture a shot of the odometer as it digitally rolls over to 130,000 miles. Or…well, you get the picture.

It’s funny how attached you can get to an old friend…

Fun with time lapse


Above is a time lapse video I made on Monday night with the aid of an external webcam and a couple of friends (thanks Terry and Victoria). After a failed attempt to drive up to the summit of South Mountain (closed due to an accident) and a longer drive out to the Bush Highway and back, we tried driving through Old Town Scottsdale and past ASU to Mill Ave. The resulting video, which starts slow but gets better, isn’t too bad for a first day’s attempt. I’m hoping to do another test or two before deploying the time lapse webcam on our upcoming roadtrip and at our wedding reception.