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    Posted May 12, 2014 by
    Baltimore, Maryland
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Visited all 50 states?

    The Little Engine That Could


    The summer after I graduated college and before heading off to law school, I planned the adventure of a lifetime with my long-time childhood friend. We decided we were going to make a trip across country, from New York to California. We spent a few weeks planning and brainstorming which states we wanted to visit, what friends we would stop and see along the way, and points of interest.


    Once we established a very flexible itinerary, we just needed our mode of transportation. We only had enough time to drive one direction so our options were limited. We both owned cars, but how would we get them back from California? We looked into renting, way too expensive. We looked into car shares, but this did not allow us to be flexible. What we settled on, a $500.00 purchase on Craigslist.

    We named her Tina, she was a 1995 green Volkswagen Jetta with over 250,000 miles, an odometer that did not work, a gas gauge that did not work, and a tailpipe which was just hanging on.  She was a beauty! We put another $100 into the car to get all the lights and blinkers working properly, and then we set off on our adventure.  Many doubted we would make it past Buffalo, NY, everyone except for Tina.


    We traveled from Rochester, NY to Chicago, Illinois, up to the Badlands of South Dakota, through the winding roads of the Black Hills Forest. She kept us dry from the fascinating thunderstorms on a hot summer day in Minnesota. Tina saw the world's only corn palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. She saluted Mt. Rushmore, saw Ole Faithful blow her thunderous hot steam, the snowy mountain caps of the Grand Tetons, buffalo grazing on the prairie lands of the Midwest, moose having lunch in Yellowstone National Park. She earned a bumper sticker at Wall Drug. We made our way up to Montana, where we encountered snow in the middle June.  Tina never missed a beat. She huffed up the rolling hills and would catch her breath on the way down, making sure to work up enough speed to make it up the next hill with not a lot of rest in between.


    We treated her with love and respect.  Every bump in the road she felt, we felt it too and would cringe when the tires touched the wheel wells, the car filling with fumes of burnt rubber. At night we covered her up with a tarp because if Tina got wet, she had trouble starting the next morning until the sun dried her out.  We kept her full of oil because she had a small leak, but nothing stopped her.  We knew if she broke down, we would break down too, our bond was strong.


    Her strength was tested on a long drive from Northern Montana to Portland, Oregon, over a thirteen hour drive, but the sight of Mt. Hood gave her an extra boost until she could rest safely in a parking garage for a few hours, while we shopped around Portland and enjoyed micro brews and tasty burgers.

    From Portland we traveled south to the quaint little hippie town of Sabastapol, California, Tina fit right in. The great redwoods of Northern California reminded us how young and small we are in this great big world when we met a tree named Colonel Armstrong who stood 306 feet tall and was over 1,400 years old.  Then it was time to get our sophisticated drink on as we traveled to one of the world’s most premier wine regions, Napa Valley. Tina’s windows were down and the bright green vines filled the air with aromatic scents of sweet grapes.


    Our time with the Teen Machine was soon coming to end, it was bitter sweet.  We reached Oakland, California where we called a donation company to pick Tina up on the side of the road, removed the plates, and said our goodbyes.  She was our most faithful and reliable travel companion.  Staring at a West coast sunset, we had made it without a single car trouble. She was the little engine that could when everyone else said she could not.

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