Totalled: The long, illustrious life of Blacky the Pathfinder | AspenTimes.com
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Totalled: The long, illustrious life of Blacky the Pathfinder

Mark VonderHaar
Mark VonderHaar
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Today my car exceeded 300,000 miles. That’s almost 500,000 kilometers. The insurance industry declares a car to be totalled when it would cost more to fix the vehicle than the car is worth. On my car that would happen if the radio broke. I have little desire to keep it or drive it anymore, but in the 11 years I’ve owned it my car has been exceedingly dependable – sitting behind a tow truck just once, only to be let go when the tow operator found out I had no intention of paying for its release.

“Blacky” has taken me to 30 states and burned at least 17,000 gallons of gas. It has gone to Crested Butte and back via Schofield, Taylor and Pearl passes at least twice apiece. Blacky has towed a boat a combined total of at least 2,000 miles. At least five people I have never met drove Blacky for a prearranged shuttle. (Who knows what kind of shenanigans took place then.) Aspen Times photographer Paul Conrad even took it to California and back.

Many members of the animal kingdom look forward to the demise of this overachiever. Blacky has killed, maimed or otherwise disturbed deer, elk, bear, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, coyotes, cows and various unleashed household pets. It even took down a magpie in midflight. I wasn’t aiming for any of these critters; they were looking for trouble.I took good care of the ’88 Nissan Pathfinder and I thought it might outlive me. That changed five years ago when Blacky tangled with a semi on Independence Pass.

They said “totalled.” After a fusion of American parts to the Japanese front end, I said “driveable?” If anyone wonders what it takes, besides gasoline, to make a vehicle go this far, then let me tell you what I’ve put up with for the last few years. Virtually all the fluids leak, except the washer fluid. The driver’s door is mangled to the point of near-uselessness. Two of the windows are now made of cracked Plexiglas. The windshield is so buckled as to be unrepairable. The gas gauge is broken, so I play a constant guessing game as to how much is in there. The tape deck broke a couple of months ago – TOTALLED.Now I seek a way of divorcing Blacky, parting ways with the most reliable vehicle I will probably ever own. It’s tough – you see, the cruise control still works.


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