(Sue and Little George, on the way to the Continental Divide in Colorado)
I've had Little George (I called him that since "Geo" is an abbreviation for George) since 1999. He was two or three years old when I got him, definitely the newest car I'd ever owned. The sportiest car I'd ever owned as well, with the 5-speed, 1.8-litre engine, moonroof and alloy wheels. The kids always hated that I had the 5-speed - they didn't know how to drive a stick and I never made a serious effort to teach them.
(Little George at Devil's Tower, Wyoming)
I took Little George everywhere with me. I drove him to Washington, DC, and the Atlantic coast for his furthest-east trip. Sue and I took him to Thunder Bay, Ontario, and drove a horrible rock road to an amethyst mine and that's as far north as he got. We took him to Colorado in 2008 for his furthest west trip and last October I got him as far south as Austin, TX.
I worked that car probably harder than I should have, but he was up to the tasks. George drove me most of the miles that went in to the field research for my book and then for my talks around the region. He's traveled interstate highways, city streets, gravel and dirt roads, and open range; the only time the little guy didn't make it is when I got him stuck in a foot of mud on a backroad up at the Winnebago Indian Reservation.
(Little George at the Mississippi River, Fort Ripley, Minnesota)
He's got more than 177,000 miles on him today, about the equivalent of driving around the world seven times. He's got a cracked windshield, the paint is chipping, had a couple dings and a little bit of rust around a tire well. The CD player doesn't work and the moonroof is falling apart. Oh, yeah, and he needs new tires. But he's paid for, gets great mileage, insurance is low, and I know him well.
I should give up the ghost, but I think I'll at least ask them at the shop what's the very least I could do to get him road worthy again.