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I get a kick out of driving in ice and snow here in Homer. Just before I moved  from Atlanta, I bought a 2004 Subaru Outback–I’ve named him Silver–that someone had just  traded in for a new one at Continental Subaru in Anchorage. Matt and Sam flew up to handle the paperwork for me, then rode him back down the Sterling Highway to await my arrival.

About every other car in Homer is a Subaru and many of them are silver, so it’s not unusual to come out of a store and find Silver’s identical twin, or his fraternal Forester twin, parked in the next space or close enough to throw me for a loop. A time or two I’ve mistaken someone else’s car for mine, started to get into it, wondering who put a pair of muddy Carhartt coveralls in the passenger seat or how the heck a big dog got into the cargo space.

Silver came with a set of good studded tires, so in late September I took him over to Alyeska Tire to get those put on. With these tires and coaching from family and friends, I have plenty of confidence in riding Silver regardless of road conditions. We take things slow and steady, with no sudden braking or turning. Right now streets and roads are grooved with icy ruts, and he slips in and out of those. For less than a breath, I’m out of control; then those tires grab hold and we’re steady again. “You’re a good old boy,” I tell him. With about 132,000 Alaska miles on him, Silver is a little long in the tooth. But his windshield isn’t cracked yet, like about half the cars out here, and he’s sound mechanically. Come May, I’ll take him over to Star Wash for a bath.

In Atlanta I rode the streets and highways in Lil Red, a ’98 VW Cabrio that had only 21,000 miles on her when I bought her in 2005 from a meticulous dentist who kept her garaged and wanted to thin his herd of red cars to make room for more. Lil Red looked younger than her years, and I cared for her faithfully, though I couldn’t offer her the comfort of a garage. And did she ever serve me well. Every week day, Lil Red carried me to work through a stampede of SUVs, tractor trailers, tanker trucks, delivery vans, and every imaginable species of motor vehicle that could squeeze through the I-75/85 Downtown Connector canyon.

Lil Red could hold her own on ice and snow, too. One January when I was headed to Southwest Virginia to spend the Martin Luther King long weekend with my friends D.D. and Henry, Lil Red climbed right on up those steep grades at Sam’s Gap, outside Asheville, without a bit of hesitation. Another January day in Atlanta, when the streets were icy enough to cause school and business closings, she carried me up hills and down, around and past stumbling SUVs, to get to my sacred hair appointment. I told her, You go girl.

I rarely took down Lil Red’s convertible top because of all the traffic and exhaust fumes, but  a couple of hot afternoons, coming home from a day at work that had left me feeling like someone’s pack mule, I let down Lil Red’s top and we rode  home, barrel racing around the SUVs and tractor trailers, the BMWs and the Mercedes-Benzes. That’s when Lil Red’s 2-liter engine, her race horse heart, really kicked in.  Yeah, you go girl.

I did sometimes ask her to become a work horse. Top down, she hauled a few large plants and shrubs across town, and once an antique farm table that had to be loaded right-side up, legs wedged across the seats. Lil Red looked like she had a wooden top. We inched our way through Atlanta side streets to make it home. Stopped at a traffic light smack dab in the middle of town, I noticed a couple of Mexican men in a big-ass pickup truck in the lane next to me. They were looking down on me and Lil Red and laughing. Loco.

A couple of weeks before I moved to Homer, Lil Red went to live with D.D. and Henry at their home on the banks of the Holston River’s south fork. With their various dogs, horses, and goats, Lil Red’s living a life of sweet semi-retirement, no longer ridden hard in conditions that she wasn’t bred for. Instead, in warm weather, D.D. rides her into town for her regular tennis match and to do errands that don’t require heavy hauling. You go, girl.

Copyright 2013-2014 Genie Hambrick

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