For a good many years (since 2000, to be precise) I've been driving the green, Subaru Legacy Outback wagon pictured below.
The Outback is, so far as I can tell, nature's most perfect vehicle. It is big enough to haul instruments and the sound system for Boys in Hats concerts or all the gear my family takes camping. It is strong enough to pull my little sailboat. It has a roof-rack that can carry our canoe and kayak. On top of all of this, it still gets pretty good gas mileage, though I'd love to see Subaru come out with a hybrid model. Kimberly and I have loved this car. I've rather enjoyed having a car and a son who are the same model year (1996) and have joked about teaching Ian to drive in this car.
Unfortunately, cars, unlike people, do not improve with age. This past month, "the Roo" started having problems and, on a trip to Boston, overheated. A local mechanic got me back on the road in no time, but I was worried. When I got home, I put the car in the shop and Jeremy, my mechanic at Oradell Citgo, looked me in the eye and, with somber visage, intoned the words I had been dreading. It was time to replace my car.
So, the search for a new vehicle began. I've always been a bit obsessive about making choices. Back when we used to go to the video store to rent videotapes (remember doing that??) I used to feel the need to look at just about every box before picking something. Of course, the search for a new vehicle would be equally arduous.
Over Thanksgiving, when we drove to Connecticut, I looked at every vehicle we passed, wondering if it might be the perfect replacement. The Toyota Prius was too small. The Chevy Suburban was too big. The Volvo XC70 wagon was about the right size, and had all wheel drive -- I figure that, as a pastor, I need to be able to go out in just about any weather -- but was out of our price range. I went to the library and checked out several issues of Consumer Report magazine (overdue fine: $2.70) to see what "the experts" had to say. Eventually, my mind settled on two possibilities: the Honda CR-V and (surprise) a Subaru Outback. During all of this, Kimberly was very patient with me.
I went to the local Honda dealership and test-drove a CR-V, which I liked fairly well, but I knew that Kimberly would have issues with its height, as she dislikes having to climb up into vehicles. That settled, it was time to start looking for the right Subaru. After checking out several dealerships, we found the right car at Bill Kolb Subaru in Orangeburg, NY, where Ross Kelter sold us a silver and gray 2005 Outback. (If you find yourself going there, tell Ross that I sent you. There's money it it for me...)
We love out new Subaru. It has all the features of our old one, plus all of the technological advances that came along in the nine years between 1996 and 2005. Ian is particularly excited that the car has what Garrison Keillor likes to call "butt warmers" and that the back seat has headrests. Kimberly is really pleased that the car is almost exactly like our old one and feels comfortable and familiar, though I'm sure she would have been happier if it had been green. I'm happy that we've got a car that is versatile, reliable and should last us for a good many years, though I'm already wondering what the 2016 model Subarus will look like.