It happened. It finally happened. It’s official. I am car free. #carfreeMB, says the Bike Coalition.
If you didn’t know White Lightning, let me revisit her our life together for you.
She was my first and only car. My dad brought her home for me when I got my license in Maryland at age 16. She was a 1999 Toyota Corolla. White on the outside. Grey on the inside. She had a cassette player and no USB plugin.
She drove my brother and I to and from high school. She took me to countless swim practices and swim meets at 5 a.m. She’s been to more pools than I can count.
She came with me to college, where she lived off campus for three years with me and endured numerous blizzards with grace. She drove me from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore every day for three months when my brother was in the hospital. She took me to work every day when I lived in Ocean City and lifeguarded on the beach. She saw many bonfires and reckless summer nights.
When I moved to San Diego, she was shipped across the country to join me on my new adventure. She lived with me in Pacific Beach, where we had designated parking spots, and in Mission Beach, where we did not. She acquired a lot of parking tickets in Mission Beach – like, a lot. We moved to three separate places in Ocean Beach together, getting parking tickets almost never.
She took me to North County San Diego almost every weekend to surf Swami’s or Cardiff. She took me to La Jolla Shores for early weekday morning paddle outs with friends. Those are some of my favorite memories, with some of my favorite people.
Recently, she took me to San Francisco to visit my family, and we stopped at Yosemite on the way. We camped, alone, for two nights, and explored the beauty of the natural park together. She took me on a surfing road trip with friends and my sister through Santa Cruz, Big Sur and into Malibu, where I slept in her for four days. She took me to San Onofre many times for spontaneous surf adventures and a handful more times back to Malibu for family time with the brother and sister and a few surf sessions sprinkled in.
Time and removable surf racks had done a number on her. Their resting place on the roof was permanently smeared black. The inside where they tightened had cracked the door seal and it was peeling off. Surf wax stained the top of the trunk and the roof – as well as inside the car in certain places. There were bubbly rust spots and the windshield had two large cracks in it from the sun. You couldn’t put the drivers-side window all the way down, or it wouldn’t go back up for days. (That was a sneaky one.)
She collected bumper stickers, earning me the affectionate title “Bumper Sticker Bolton” at Mixte and amongst friends. Some of my favorites included a state sticker from my friend Gwen when she lived in Montana, one that read “4.0 and perfect at Hammond High School,” one that read “Curbside” – the name of a friend’s band in High School, and a Shaper Studios logo that Trevor slapped on one day when we were surfing, which took me at least a month to notice. It had a sticker of a surf shop called Atlantic Shoals in Fenwick Island, Delaware, that I loved, and a cracked and peeling sticker that read, “Party Missile” inside of a rocket to represent the brand Party Missile Handplanes.
And of course, there was a very simple Hub + Spoke sticker.
If I’m being honest, she stank like wet wetsuit almost all the time. I like to think the collection of surf air fresheners and the “2011 FIBP Lifeguard” parking pass dangling from the window cancelled it out.
There was nothing I enjoyed more than waking up early on a Saturday morning, plugging my phone into the cassette tape cord and putting on good morning jams as I loaded my longboard onto the roof rack and meandered up the coast, windows down, sipping coffee, on my way to surf North County logging waves.
White Lightning meant a lot to me, and I was ready to let her go. I didn’t cry as I watched her get towed away, choosing instead to remember all the good memories above. I feel grateful for everything she enabled me to do for the past 11 years, and all the freedom she gave me to live my life on both sides of the country in places I love. To grow up. To make friends. To seek out surf. To go on spontaneous adventures. To explore whatever my heart desired – whether that meant camping alone in a national park, seeing a new city, driving my friends home from a wedding in the middle of the woods, kissing a musician or taking a new love to catch a plane. We went through a lot together, and there are stories that will forever live in that car.
Too many for a blog post.
To everyone who experienced the White Lightning glory days with me — thank you. It’s not the car that was special, it’s the people who shared all of these times with me. Without all of you, it’s just a piece of metal on four wheels with at least 16 coffee cups lost inside it. You made it remarkable. You made it memorable. That’s why I’m not sad she is gone. Because I still have all of you.
So… bike ride, anyone?