Sharon Randall: Farewell, faithful Pathfinder

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 8, 2015

It was the only car I ever picked out and paid for on my own. I bought it not long after losing my first husband to cancer. There was nothing wrong with our old car. It just hauled too many memories.

So I bought a brand new 1999 Nissan Pathfinder.

I wish you could’ve seen it.

I mean, when it was new, before all the nicks, dings, dents and scratches it collected over the years. I’ve collected my share of those, too.

I loved that car. For 16 years, it did everything I wanted, asking little in return. Gas and oil, yes. Tires, sure. Brake pads once. Nothing major. It never broke down or left me stranded. Rare is the relationship any of us can say that much about.

If cars could talk, this one would tell you some stories. All the places we went, things we saw, bumpy roads we traveled.

Once, we spent three weeks driving across country, just the two of us. My children made me promise not to drive after dark. But the Nissan let me do as I pleased.

Some people thought I was crazy to drive across country alone. But that car was a great companion. It went to sleep when I shut off its headlights, and it was ready every morning to get back on the road like a horse bucking to leave the barn.

When I remarried 10 years ago, the Nissan was just 6 years old. Imagine my recent surprise when my husband said, “We need to replace that car.”

“Why?” I said. “Because it’s 16 years old and has 130,000 miles? Just because it has a few years and miles on it doesn’t mean you need to get rid of it.”

He smiled and gave me a look that said, “Not you. Your car.”

So we bought a new Volvo and passed the Nissan, like a family heirloom, to my youngest child.

The boy was delighted. He offered to fly to Las Vegas and drive it home to California.

“No,” I said, “we’ll bring it to you.” A week later we left Vegas in a little caravan. The Nissan and I took the lead. My husband followed in the new Volvo.

All went well the first 100 miles. I had just explained to the Nissan that, as much as I loved it, I was going to give it to a boy who vowed to take good care of it, even though he used to smash toy cars with a hammer.

Suddenly, for the first time ever, the Nissan began to overheat. We were climbing a 4,000-ft. elevation. And it was, after all, 115 degrees. But still.

I turned the air-conditioner off, cranked up the heater to pull heat off the engine, rolled down the windows and prayed.

Have you ever driven across a desert with the heater blasting and the windows down when it was just slightly hotter than the hinges on the gates of hell?

I don’t recommend it.

The good news is it worked. The engine temperature gauge stopped climbing — as long as I kept the air off and the heat on.

The bad news is there were bug splats on the inside of the windshield. And I looked like the Feral Kid in “Mad Max 2.” It is not a good look.

At a gas stop, my husband’s jaw dropped when he saw me. When I explained, he insisted on switching cars. I argued a little. Not a lot. Then I drove the Volvo 100 miles in air-conditioned bliss feeling almost guilty.

At the next stop, he looked even worse than I did. So I offered to switch again. He didn’t argue. We kept trading shifts every 100 miles. Finally, when we drove into the fog on the coast, cars and drivers alike breathed a blessed sigh of relief.

The next day, I signed over the pink slip and we left the Nissan with the boy and his family. We were walking up the street to the new Volvo when I heard an old familiar honk. I looked back.

The boy stood grinning, tapping the Nissan’s horn.

“It’s saying goodbye!” he said.

I hope they’re happy together. Maybe his 5-year-old will take me on a road trip in it someday.

Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077, or at