Death of the road trip? 

The reaper at the pumps

click to enlarge Photo by Dave Buzzard
  • Photo by Dave Buzzard

Big Red Betty

She’s had many names, Betty has, but she’ll take this one to the scrap yard. A 1998 Honda CRV, four cylinders and decent fuel efficiency, I bought Big Red Betty used in Ontario. She came to me a pristine, mud-toned red, the 185,000 km logged on her odometer representing no burden to her performance.

But that was then. Shortly after purchase, I sat behind her eyes, sent obnoxious music vibrating through her mechanized biology, and pointed her headlights northeast, the beams eventually to fall upon the spruce-flanked gravel roads of Labrador. And from there back to the two-lane shotguns of Nova Scotia. And then across the Cabot Strait to the crater-strewn stretches of Newfoundland. Next, like a javelin tossed by some colossal juggernaut, across the whole country, arching over the Prairies and tearing through clouds gathered round the Rockies, finally piercing the stony soils of 100 Mile House, where boredom quickly unstuck my spear and sent it tumbling end over end to Squamish. All this sustained by the meager pittance gained from the newspaper business – and supplementary loans from the family unit.

I owe a lot to Betty, no doubt. I’ve tossed my whole life into the back of her britches more than once. And when roofs were scarce, I found shelter and succor behind her dashboard or under a blanket next to her frame.

But all that meandering has taken its toll. Big Red Betty’s back window has been smashed out, and her body still carries the scars from duct tape used to fix poly across the jagged hole. Her indicators come on for no obvious reason. If I don’t start her for a couple days, she needs to suck off another man’s woman just to get her juices flowing again. Her catalytic converter rattles like snare wire. I got crazy in her guts with some red spray paint. She’s all covered in dents and her bumper’s falling off thanks to stalling on it with skateboards. Her rear beams are bent and her driver’s side door won’t open from the inside. Nor will the window come down. Sometimes, when I switch her from park to drive, her tranny makes a desperate thunk, and I know she’s not long for these roads. Her odometer is pushing 250,000 and she doesn’t mind whinging about it.

See how Betty holds my hand? See how she strokes my knee? I took her door panel off once, then twice, trying to get the window to come unstuck. Lost some screws while I was at it, and now her interior handle hangs from the housing to my thigh, mess of wires making it so. I give the handle a squeeze on the way to and from work.


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