I remember like it was yesterday the first time we saw Rhonda’s car. It was late spring of 2000. She had been wanting a Sebring Convertible since they first hit the street a few years previously. We’d test driven one or two and she’d decided exactly which color and options she wanted, but at the time they were just beyond our reach financially, so it remained the subject of hopes and dreams, Then one sunny day as we were running errands, we spotted her car sitting on a rental car sales lot. I mean, it was her car, equipped exactly as she desired and in her chosen color. We stopped and looked. The price was still a stretch. But I said, “Honey, this is your car. We have to buy it.” And four hours later, it was sitting in our driveway.
That was 16 years ago. It’s been a tumultuous relationship. It is a Chrysler, after all, and it has therefore treated Rhonda to more than her fair share of trips to the repair shop. Oh, nothing major like a transmission failing or a serious engine problem, just a continual string of little things that would turn on the Check Engine light and make it temporarily undriveable. But like the mother of an occasionally troublesome child, she looked past its shortcomings, focused on its attributes, and loved it deeply.
Unfortunately, there’s no room on a 37 foot sailboat for a Sebring convertible. And at 16 (probably 17) years old, it was time to let it go. No sense in trying to leave it with a family member to care for. So last week, we listed it on Craigslist. Naturally, hilarity ensued almost immediately, since Craigslist was involved. Calls from numbers with California area codes offering to purchase the car sight unseen if we’d just give them our bank account information so that they could wire us the money. Uh huh, sure. A 15 year old kid who claimed he was looking for his first car. Can a 15 year old even legally own a car in Florida? Beats me. But I didn’t even have to ask Rhonda if that’s the type of home she wanted for her old friend.
Then later that afternoon, I answered a call from someone who said he’d been looking for exactly that type of car. Claimed he’d been trying for quite a while, but couldn’t find one in decent shape at a reasonable price. He said he was working that afternoon, but he wanted to know if he could send his brother over to check it out for him. And so we found ourselves a few hours later huddling under umbrellas in the middle of a downpour while the brother examined the car. Not the best weather for evaluating a convertible, although we could show him that the top didn’t leak. He gave the car a thumbs up, and shortly afterwards his brother called to tell us he’d be by the next morning with the cash. Oh, and shortly after he left, the rain stopped, naturally.
The next morning, we met the purchaser. I guess you could say he was about as close as Rhonda was probably going to get to finding the “right” buyer. He wanted the car as a weekend, sunny day driver. It would be entering a life of semi-retirement, keep washed and waxed and out of the weather until the conditions merited a topless driving day. We struck a deal, shook hands, and turned over the keys. He drove away. And Rhonda cried.
It’s funny the emotional toll that preparing for this Life On The Hook™ has sometimes taken. I would say that while not quite as traumatic as having to euthanize our cat, as described in A Hidden Cost Of Cruising, for Rhonda it was right up there with selling the house. She really loved that car.
But with the Sebring off to a new home, we’re now down to just 1½ major challenges that still tie us to the pier. The first is my truck. We still need to haul a few more things about, so I’ve been reluctant to list it for sale, but it will soon have to go as well. And the half? Well, we still have this little matter of a 10×10 foot storage unit we’re paying for that is almost, but not quite empty. It wouldn’t prevent us from sailing away, but it’s a $125 a month bite out of the cruising budget that we’d rather not have. But it seems that the smaller the pile of items remaining to be possessionally triaged, the harder it seems to be to finish the job.
One last thing. You know what the funniest part of all this was for me? We had two adult men examine Rhonda’s car for purchase, and neither of them ever opened the hood to look at the engine. Yes, it sounded nice when started and it ran and drove well. But never even looking under the hood of a 16 year old car? Seriously, who does that?