It’s tough to say goodbye to old friends — especially those who’ve had to endure you singing Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive” at the top of your lungs more than once. But all things have to end sometime and that’s what’s happened with me and my beloved Honda CR-V, affectionately known as “The Moonbuggy.”
After 12 years of hauling me, my family, band equipment and one ill-advised pallet of sod around, the MB finally reached his limit recently. Longtime readers of this column may have noted the occasional mention of my Japanese friend who has racked up 131,000 miles. Given that those are Mobile street miles, they’re actually equivalent to 350,000 normal or “smooth” street miles.
It was the brutal streets of this town that broke the camel’s back — or the CR-V’s suspension to be more accurate. About a year ago the boys at Griffith’s Service Station started telling me it was getting to be time. It wasn’t unlike a vet telling you a grizzled mutt is nearing the end of the line. And like someone with an aging pet, I just kept pumping more money into the MB’s undercarriage as if he might one day wake up spry, undented with his Lagniappe stickers restored to all of their electric green glory. It was not to be.
I can’t say our relationship started out that great. The MB was the result of two things that apparently don’t go together — infants and convertibles. Up until my son was born I’d been a ragtop man for many years — I’d had three.
But as my wife got pregnanter and pregnanter (I think that’s the term), and my boy’s birth got closer and closer, pressure began to build to get rid of my clunky teal-colored Chrysler LeBaron (translation — The Baron).
I think most expectant mothers have read some manual that says convertibles will flip over if a baby seat is in the back seat, or that young children will fly out of the car if it’s going over 30 mph. Whatever the reason I was told it was time to get something “safer” or more “grown up.”
I’ve never really been much of a car guy, so I don’t carry a rolodex of cars I’d like to have, and I sure wasn’t paying much attention to SUVs. But an ad in the newspaper got my attention. It said there was a CR-V for sale for $15,000 with just 1,500 miles on it. I figured the mileage was a typo and it was really 15,000 miles, but still a steal for a one-year-old car.
I went out to see it and was told the mileage wasn’t a mistake. The gentleman who had purchased the car got sick shortly after buying it and just parked it in the garage for a year. The thing was essentially new! I figured it was a great score — until I looked at the color. Most people describe the color as “blurple,” a mix between blue and purple. Honda calls it “Electron Blue.” Either way it was gaudy. But it was so cheap.
Coming off a teal LeBaron, I wasn’t really jonesing for another ugly colored car. In fact, I’d already had a history with an even more purple “blurple” car in high school. But the price was too sweet. Besides, people would get used to it, right? Twelve years later I doubt I’ve gone more than a few days without someone making a crack about MB’s goofy color.
I missed my convertible immediately. Driving a “grocery getter” was just boring and MB’s little four-cylinder was no match for the V-6 I’d given up. It was a little emasculating, but you make the best of things and move on. I slapped the moniker “Moonbuggy” on him just to have a little fun with the generally small and light look of the car, and it stuck.
The MB came on the scene just a few months after Lagniappe started publishing and I was immediately glad to have that uncool hatchback and tailgate for hauling around the 5,000 papers we were printing then. The Baron would have blanched at such duty and papers would have blown all over the road if the top was down.
When Hurricane Ivan hit town I had driven up to Montgomery to stay with friends. My family headed further north, but I was concerned because we had an entire issue sitting in our office undelivered, waiting for the storm to end. As soon as the winds died town to tropical storm strength I jumped into MB and headed south.
We were the only ones on I-65 driving into Mobile, perhaps a sign of mental illness. But I remember feeling somewhat adventurous and safe in the old MB as we drove home. At that moment MB earned my respect. Yes, he was hideously blue and looked like something you’d drive to the old folks home, but MB wasn’t afraid to haul me through 52-mph winds. Of course, being Japanese, he thought he was driving through a typhoon, but I let him have his fun.
For some reason, despite being a color you could see from space, MB collected dents. The first was in the middle of the day during Bayfest. It looked like someone kicked the hood then butt-dropped into its center. Other dents weren’t as big, but there were many and I was only in the car for two of them. MB apparently had enemies.
One strange thing I noticed was that other drivers of the same color and model CR-Vs weren’t the friendliest lot — at least not compared to teal LeBaron drivers. The teal LB drivers all waved at each other like long-lost relatives when encountered out on the road. “Hey, your car is a teal Chrysler LeBaron, too! I thought I had the only one.”
Fellow electron blue CR-V travelers never waved back. They seemed bitter. Hardened by life. Probably living alone.
There was also the matter of MB being so recognizable that it seemed like I was just advertising my whereabouts. I often thought it would be fun to slap some Lagniappe stickers on the other blue CR-Vs around town and let those grouches run interference for me.
So the other day as I was buying a new car I looked out the window, saw my old buddy and felt a pang of sadness. MB and I have been through a whole lot together, but no car can outlast Ann Street.
I haven’t decided what to do with MB — sell him, donate him or possibly fix up his suspension and stick him in a garage. After all, my son is only about three years away from driving. I think his favorite color is blue.
THE GADFLY BY LAURA RASMUSSEN
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