Kana's Chronicles

Life in Kana-text (er… CONtext)

leaning on my original "Scubaru" by Lake Pend Orielle in northern Idaho,1993

leaning on my original “Scubaru”—at northern Idaho’s Lake Pend Orielle,1993

Dad took me car-shopping my Senior year of high school, explaining that although he’d drive the new car for a while, it was intended eventually for my use. I pictured myself in a Jeep Cherokee: four-wheel-drive, room in the back for dive gear and camping kit, a rack on top for my parents’ old orange canoe, and plenty of under-carriage clearance for the treacherous Forest-Service roads I enjoyed exploring. Instead of a Jeep, though, we drove away in a 1990 Subaru Loyale wagon—less expensive (even new), and with the same 4WD, clearance, and room in the back for all the stuff I imagined packing for my upcoming Life Adventures.

As planned, my dad drove the wagon for a couple years, periodically taking me to an empty lot at the edge of town for lessons in driving the stick-shift.  And eventually—once I’d learned not to lurch around the lot or assassinate the engine—he turned over the keys.

Subaru canoe

Set for Adventure, 1996

I’d thought myself clever to come up with “SCUBARU” as a personalized plate—but someone else had beat me to it! With sailing, scuba-diving, and canoeing in mind, I settled on WTRLOGD for the plates… Still, I come from a family that names cars, and this one would always be “Scubaru” to me.

I loaded her up at various times with Forest Service maps, tent and camp-stove, hiking boots, canoe paddles, picnic blanket, books and camera and journal… And over the years my trusty vehicle & I ventured forth to “fill in” the Idaho atlas with tracks of where-we’d-been. A five-foot map of the state hung on my wall, with all my roaming & rambles marked in highlighter pen—and at every opportunity I interspersed those outings with forays to the Pacific coast.

Scubaru proved her worth over and over again. In a blinding snowstorm atop Washington’s Snoqualmie pass, when most of the cars on the road were either pulled over or slid onto the shoulders, I put on my chains and kept right on going. An ice storm in Oregon’s Colombia Gorge encased trees, signs, and roadway in inches of solid ice, but Scubaru crept cautiously all the way to Portland, accompanied by the explosive acoustics of bursting trees alongside the road.

Subaru Sawtooth camping

Camping “off-road” in the Sawtooth National Forest, 1998

After one particularly hairy drive in the Sawtooths (a pot-holed and washed-out dirt road, no wider than the car and without turn-outs for passing—just a sheer drop, inches from the passenger tires) I spotted a warning sign: “NO passenger vehicles.” (Oops. If there were a companion sign at the other end of the road where I started, I’d missed it!) I had to peel my fingers off the steering wheel to pat Scubaru’s dashboard and congratulate her with a heartfelt “Good girl!”

Of course, even four-wheel-drive isn’t foolproof. (Though Dad also taught me not to BE a fool; specifically, not to drive into tricky conditions with the 4WD already engaged—because if you get stuck when you’re in 4WD, you’re really stuck!) Nevertheless, I had to dig her out of a couple spots. I used a snowshoe to scoop a back tire out of a snowbank in the Boise National Forest, and in the Salmon-Challis Forest put my grandpa’s collapsible Army shovel to use, extracting her from a mire of mud where a beaver dam had flooded the road…

Subaru Washington beach

Washington Coast “beach highway,” 1997

When a downpour threatened a planned picnic along the Snake River, I popped open the tailgate and happily set my spread in the back of the car.  Sheltered by the overhanging door, I savored my strawberries & brie to the soundtrack of raindrops pelting the roof. On a couple occasions, with lightning storms too close for comfort in an exposed tent, I folded down the back seats and stretched out to sleep.

On the shore of Big Trinity Lake, I woke one morning to drifts of snow piled against my tent-corners, and had to chip my solid-frozen bacon from the cooler with a hatchet… but Scubaru scooted me safely back down the mountain, heater blasting.

Along the Washington Coast where stretches of beach serve as legally designated “highway,” I misjudged the incoming tide and dashed the last leg with waves licking the tires and wipers warding off wads of sea-foam blowing against the glass. Scubaru served staunchly through many a scrape and adventure.

With a little love and care, a Subaru will run forEVER. I drove that one for close to twenty years, and I might still be driving her… But when I departed my first marriage, I didn’t stop to quibble about any of the community-property stuff. Not long after I moved out, the wagon was also absent from her accustomed spot in front of my ex’s house… I never inquired about her fate.

2014: “Kana Girl’s Hawai’ian BBQ” license-plate holder on the NEW (old) Scubaru

Fast forward a few years… My husband started making noises this summer about the red 1989 Subaru Loyale parked in front of our neighbor’s house: I wonder if they’d consider selling it. I countered with “practical” negatives—we work together and don’t need a second car, they’d have posted a sign if they wanted to sell… But Keoni recognized what I hadn’t acknowledged even to myself: my affectionate nostalgia for that whacky wandering wagon.  In no time at all he had negotiated a sale-price, payable primarily in the form of a sizable certificate to our restaurant.

Subaru Scubaru

20-odd years later: the SCUBARU plates!

Next thing I knew, I was slipping into the driver’s seat of a car that felt as familiar and comfortable as a favorite old pair of jeans.

Keoni and our son Kapena are plotting “improvements” to the engine and paint and upholstery… Fixing her up will be a fun family project, but I’m content already. I’m “back” in my very first car, and behind her wheel I’ve come full circle. This time with the SCUBARU plates!


20 thoughts on “Full Circle: At the Wheel

  1. Robert Dwelle says:

    What fond memories! :-)


  2. Kevin says:

    Always awesome to add another car to the family! And the challenge of it being a slight project car is appealing as well. Well done!


  3. Congrats on the “new” car. Looks like you had plenty of great experiences and adventures with the old one. Hopefully you’ll get plenty more with the new one.


  4. I’m glad you’ve driven Scubaru back in to the world of writing again Kana. :) I love the story but …. it’s not a story. What an adventurous spirit and life !!!! THAT I love. :)


  5. Pepper Davis says:

    Happy Birthday Kana! Your lookin’ good for an old lady :D Miss my writing buddy, though …


  6. Ah the memories your first car brings. What a piece of luck. Hope this one lives long and well and makes new memories for you.

    Nice to see you again, Kana.


  7. restlessjo says:

    Love the photo of you spread out up top, Kana! Amazing you’re still here to tell the tale, but delighted that you are. Happy new Scubaru! :)


  8. idahograndy says:

    Long-lived Subarus are clearly a family addiction. Lots of love from your mom in her 22-year-old SVX!


  9. So many memories…I am glad you have reconnected with an adventure wagon and hope you have many great stories about this one!


  10. Pat says:

    Love this Scubaru story!


  11. Mary Ann says:

    That’s awesome! You were meant to be together. :-)


  12. Widdershins says:

    What a wonderful story … May you have many adventures together. :)


  13. Sun says:

    great name and story…Scubaru!


  14. First car = $800 VW. One of the passnger doors used to fall off randomly and incessantly…
    Thanks for Following my Blog Kana, great Bio btw.
    If there are any specific Health or Fitness Posts you’d like to see, pls let me know.


  15. jannatwrites says:

    This is so cool – love the ‘scubaru’ name! Glad you have a car to make new memories and a family project to boot :)


  16. Kana, Suburu couldn’t purchase an endorsement this sincere and compelling. Great storytelling and very likely, continued storytelling!


  17. Dakota says:

    Aw, so sweet! Our family vehicle and thus the first car I drove was a white Subaru Loyale… you’d fit right in here in Missoula, where you’re practically required to own a Subaru (Outback, usually) and a black lab. (They should just hand over an adoption certificate when you buy the car, I swear!)

    We have a Honda Civic that we take places it was never meant to go – I think it declares “I am NOT a truck more often than not, but I confess I’m quite envious of your little “Scobaru!”


  18. You write so beautifully Kana. It’s always a joy to read your posts since nearly all of them touch some part of me like this one has in reminding me of my own past in learning to drive and of having fond memories of that one special vehicle. Congratulations on the new family addition! ~ Rick


  19. MooreG1215 says:

    Do you still have the Subaru?


    1. Kana Smith says:

      No, I don’t—I sold it after my husband passed away…


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