I guess it was inevitable. I just never imagined it would happen a week before Christmas, practically right here in my own backyard on Salt Spring Island.
Yes, the ride is over for me and Blue Yota, my 1992 4×4 Toyota pickup truck. It has been 11 years since I signed the transfer papers and took ownership of a tried and true vehicle that, even back then, had already put 400,000 kilometres on the original engine. In the intervening years, I have added another 200,000 klicks, for a wondrous total of over 600,000 km, and just assumed we would be rolling along together until both of our bearings seized up for good.
Fate, as it usually does, had another plan for us. On this Wednesday before Christmas, just as I had finished off my holiday shopping and had Blue Yota packed to the gills with groceries and gifts, I made the mistake of driving right into a police roadblock smack dab in front of the school board office on the main drag. The off-island cops were out in full force, aiming their radar guns and cameras at all oncoming traffic travelling in both directions, and directing the unlucky ones amongst us to pull over onto the shoulder of the road.
At this point, I should mention that Blue Yota is not in the immaculate condition she was in when she rolled off the assembly line a quarter of a century ago. The passage of time along with the ravages of rain and ice have taken their toll. Plus, since my acquisition of Blue Yota, she has never been coddled inside a garage. In fact, the Driftwood’s own Best of Salt Spring Island publication had this very year published a photo of yours truly standing alongside Blue Yota. The caption that is printed beside the photo reads “Best Use of Duct Tape on Salt Spring.” As many of you readers may have witnessed, I have invested big bucks in rolls of blue duct tape to cover up the disappearing metal as it rusts away from the body of Blue Yota.
A few thoughts race through my mind as I pull over to the side of the road and wait for the uniformed officer to stride over to my window (luckily, the one that still rolls up and down). Have I been speeding? This is highly unlikely as only four of the six cylinders of the engine are still producing compression and I usually have to take a good run at any kind of uphill grade to make sure I make it to the top. Am I wearing my seat belt? The answer is a definite yes because the retractor spring on the belt had broken a long time ago and if I left the belt undone, it would cause the buckle to possibly fall out the door, drag along the ground and create an extravaganza of sparks as it scrapes across the asphalt.
Is my vehicle registration and insurance up to date? I’m pretty sure my papers are in order but will I be able to find them among all the other flotsam and jetsam that currently occupy my glove compartment? And then again there is a lingering memory of having once driven another truck whose plates had been expired for over three months before I discovered my oversight.
I take a quick glance at my cracked side view mirror as the officer strides up from behind. The look on his face is one of someone who has just hit the “motherlode.” He is practically salivating with excitement. He asks to see my driver’s licence and registration and then takes a stroll around my truck while waiting for me to produce the documents. When he returns to my window, I ask him if I have been speeding. He assures me that I have been driving well under the legal speed limit but he has a question for me. He wants to know whether it is the tape or the moss that is holding my truck together. Without smiling.
You already know about the layers of duct tape I’ve added to the body of Blue Yota to hold the few unrusted parts together. The moss to which the cop is referring comes as a result of all the loads of soil, straw, leaves, firewood and manure I have hauled over the years in the bed of my trusty Blue Yota. What I have achieved, in effect, is the perfect natural ecosystem for mosses and other organisms now classified among the 12,000 species that make up the bryophyte division of the plant kingdom. My pickup truck has turned into a science project gone insane as one life form after another pile up in layers and compete for dominance in this ecological reserve on wheels. I am certain that if I could get the funding, I could convince one of the major universities to do an archaeological dig on Blue Yota and perhaps discover a new theory to explain the origin of life in our solar system.
I am about to answer his question by jokingly claiming that it is both the duct tape and the moss working in combination with the rusting metal that is giving my truck its longevity, but a quick read of his face tells me that he is not in a mood for comedy. I hand over my documents and watch him as he takes them back to his cruiser for verification. He probably doesn’t want to know about the family of mice that has taken up residence in the cab of the truck, so I deftly slide the mousetrap under my seat.
After about five sweat-filled minutes of nervous waiting, I can see the traffic officer slowly returning to my truck. He returns my documents and hands me a blue slip of paper titled “Notice and Order.” He informs me that I have 30 days to take Blue Yota to a Designated Inspection Facility for a full structural integrity inspection and get all the necessary repairs performed. Perhaps there is the slightest glimmer of victory in his voice.
That’s why you are reading this obituary to Blue Yota. I could probably buy a brand new Lamborghini for less than it would cost to purchase all the parts it would take to make my trusty old pickup street legal again.
Nobody asked me, but it’s hard to appreciate the irony of all those long detours I made these past years as I drove Blue Yoda down the back roads of Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula to make sure I didn’t have a “close encounter” of the legal kind. All those crafty twists and turns only to be nabbed right here on my home turf.
So, the time has come for me to surrender my plates and park Blue Yota somewhere in our “back 40,” where she can complete her return to nature, along with White Lady, Red Devil, Beastie and all those great old beaters that roamed the island in the days of yore. I guess it’s time to start my search for a replacement. Perhaps something built after the year 2000?
Bye bye Blue, you good truck you.