As I walked to my car from my apartment to gather the last of my belongings from an aging 2005 Saturn Vue, I couldn’t help but get a bit emotional.
This unassuming, reliable Blue SUV that had been a part of my life for 10 years was now essentially just a pile of scrap, relegated to junkyard status, all in a matter of fewer than 48 hours.
“I can’t do this!”
Those were the words vehemently declared in 2011 as my mom patiently tried to teach me how to drive clutch in the empty parking lots at the North Carolina State Fair Grounds.
I was having trouble accelerating out of first gear without the engine stalling; a common challenge for new manual drivers. I tried at least 10-15 times before I lost it. I got out of the car, slammed the door, and yelled.
QUIT YELLING! 😂
We surmised after the fact that I may have actually been in third gear and didn’t know it; another common newbie mistake when you don’t pull the shifter far enough to the left before pushing it into 1st.
After finally completing the task, she put me on a hill. A steep incline makes it harder because as soon as you lift your foot off the brake and engage the clutch with your left while giving it gas simultaneously with your right, you’re already drifting backward. The steeper the hill, the harder it is to get moving without stalling out.
This time it didn’t take long at all. I passed with flying colors and was hooked.
I loved driving manual.
Learning is frustrating, but it’s rewarding. It’s fun. It’s a challenge. It’s uncomfortable. It’s foreign. It’s one of those things that completely gets you out of your comfort zone and forces you to grow and adapt to an unfamiliar situation.
When I got good enough to switch gears in my old elementary school parking lot (and after a lot of yelling from Dad xD), I remember driving with him along the 2 lane roads behind our old house on Freemont Lane.
It was terrifying.
“Oh My God, there’s a car!”
“You’re doing fine, bud.”
“What if we have to stop?”
Driving stick is literally like learning how to drive for the first time, only it’s much harder. There’s really no safety net. You can’t just pump the brakes and be done with it, or press the gas and go. Shoot, you can’t even turn the engine over without pushing the clutch in first.
“I have to what? I have to push the clutch in with my left foot before I even start the car?”
Yup. For new drivers, this can also be fairly intimidating; especially if you’re used to just turning a key and hearing the engine rumble. That extra step may not sound like much until you actually have to do it for the first time as a complete noob.
In the beginning, there’s a real possibility that you could stall out in the middle of a busy intersection. And I did. It was embarrassing to the absolute max.
It’s almost like learning how to play guitar. Most people look really, really silly trying to get their fingers in the right spots and strum at the same time.
“My fingers hurt!!”
What was that?
“My fingers hurt.” 🙁
Well, now your back’s gonna… never mind you know the rest. 😂
Driving stick is really no different. It’s about as awkward as playing guitar for the first time, only in this case your life is on the line! Oh boy! Where do I sign up!!
Your feet are conflicted about what to do next just as your hands and fingers are while trying to transition from chord to chord. It’s true brain floss in every sense of the word.
When coming to a stop, you can either downshift as you’re de-accelerating or just put it in neutral and brake. The latter is much easier and quicker when you have to make sudden stops. Plus most people get lazy. Who wants to downshift all the way to first every time you have to slow down?
Of course, you actually have to shift while accelerating, and that’s the kicker.
Learning how to simultaneously push the clutch in with your left foot, switch gears with your right hand, and accelerate out of each gear with your right foot on the gas in rush hour traffic isn’t for the faint of heart.
But, once you get it, it’s like riding a bike. You never really forget.
I’ll never forget the Vue
Even as much as I enjoyed it, driving this car wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows. There were times when I got completely frustrated with Old Blue (like the time his shifter snapped and I was stuck in the middle of the road in broad daylight), but he was always there for me. It was almost like being in a healthy, give and take relationship. It’s not always easy, but you’re truly invested. You care about the other person. You love them. You can rely on them through thick and thin.
I could always rely on Blue to get me from point A to point B, and after all, isn’t that the goal?
Blue spent the early part of his life in Michigan and somehow ended up here in Raleigh, North Carolina down at Auction Direct on Glenwood Avenue.
He was just a wee lad at 6 years old when I got him in 2011, but I’ll never forget the memories.
10 years in the grand scope of the universe isn’t a lot of time, but in the life of a strapping young man it can certainly feel like it.
Blue was with me from 2011 – 2013 during college as I drove the 5-hour trek to and from Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC; oftentimes giving my best friend Emily a ride as well.
He was with me during my time in the bakery at BJ’s Wholesale from 2012 – 2015, and he was also there for my stint at Strawbridge Studios from 2015 – 2017.
I relied on Blue for over 1,500 Uber Trips spanning the better part of the last 3-4 years, from 2017 – 2021 as I type this.
I’ve kept air in his tires while also changing/rotating them when necessary.
I’ve washed him and kept him clean. I’ve vacuumed and shined his interior more times than most people would have given his age. I’ve replaced a few flats and went through the frustrations of being stranded longer than I would have liked. Blue even seized up in 2015 on the way back from a beach trip and I had to replace his serpentine belt and idler pulley. Not a fun experience. If you’ve ever been driving and the steering wheel froze, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
My dad has helped me with him on many occasions as well, from replacing misc. parts, to helping me learn how to change the oil, to changing brake pads/rotors in freezing cold weather, and anything in between. He’s been jumped and had his battery replaced many times. He’s been through good times and bad.
He’s been to more places than I can count, from the beaches at Cape Lookout via Ferry, to Morehead City and Atlantic Beach, to Cape Hatteras National Seashore, to The Museum of Design in Atlanta, Georgia, to Long Island, New York, to Falls Lake and Jordan Lake here in North Carolina and many more places.
He took me everywhere. He’s traveled the old Goethals Bridge from Elizabeth City, New Jersey into Staten Island, to the Verrazano Bridge from Staten Island into Brooklyn, the George Washington Bridge from Manhattan into New Jersey, and the Queensboro Bridge from Queens to Upper East Side of Manhattan, among others (photo galleries at the end).
He’s been fixed or in the shop a mere 4 times in 10 years; a true testament to Saturn’s staying power.
To put it simply, I never took old Blue for granted.
He was the last of a dying breed. A memory of a time and place in Saturn history that’s now a mere afterthought.
Saturn discontinued the Vue after 2009’s final installment, but the car had a long track record of being one of the most reliable vehicles you could purchase. It was their best-selling model for a reason, and I still see them on the road to this day.
Blue was one of the good guys.
He had personality and character.
He was rare and unique. There weren’t many cars on the road like him, but he did meet his soul mate in 2019.
At the time, I was struggling financially. I had just gotten him fixed with mom’s help, but it was a dark period. I remember praying that I would stumble across someone who could help me as I needed some money badly. Something, anything to help get me by, keep the lights on, and pay the bills. It’s not easy working for yourself sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
So I’m driving one day on an Uber trip and this girl is kind of blocking me from backing out of a parking space. As she jogs to the window I’m thinking “Oh my God what do you want. What’s going on here.” xD
It’s one of those things that completely catches you off guard and happens very rarely.
Lo and behold, she’s a fellow entrepreneur with her own business driving the exact same make, model, and color Saturn Vue that I have! Her name was Sumer Sparrow. She may as well have been some secret character from Donnie Darko or something.
You really can’t make this stuff up. Seriously, what are the odds of her just moseying up to my car for no other reason than to introduce herself and comment on the Vue? Who does that?
NOBODY, THAT’S WHO!!! xD
She was definitely a unique specimen. Long story short, I do some odd jobs for her here and there over the summer and I’m able to get by. God really has a sense of humour, yeah?
Since then, I’ve driven the car with no issues, but my dad had been urging me to get the ball rolling on finding something new. Something more reliable. This was around summer of 2020.
More reliable than old Blue? He’s one in a million!
Blue ran really well for the better part of the last 2 years up until recently. I started hearing some faint grind/thump noises on startup and thought maybe the starter needed a replacement.
Instead of continuing to drive it as I normally would have, I brought it into the shop immediately.
“Don’t worry Blue, we’ll get through this just like we always have.”
But this would prove to be the final nail in the 16 year old SUV’s coffin.
Initially, it was to be an $1,100 fix.
“No worries old buddy. I’ll gladly pay the amount if it means we get to spend more time together. You’ll be good as new. You’ll see.”
But that didn’t happen. When the mechanic at the shop called me back the next day (presumably to tell me Blue was ready), he had other news:
“I’m really sorry to have to break this to you, but your car is a safety hazard and needs to be towed out of here.”
I can’t say I was surprised. If I’m being honest, I felt it was a long time coming.
Blue simply reached the end of his life cycle. His time was up. He’s no different than any of us. There comes a time when we’re beyond fixing; beyond repair.
In every car, there’s an engine mount that keeps both your engine and transmission in place and it’s bolted to the car body or frame.
In Blue’s case, everything keeping him together was falling apart; he was almost completely rusted out and corroded due to his early life on the salt-infested roads of Michigan.
On the underbelly of the car, both sides of the frame/mount were almost completely hollowed out; as in, his guts were being held together by essentially nothing but a thin piece of incredibly damaged metal.
I’m fortunate to have brought it in when I did because otherwise, I may not be typing this right now.
It was so bad in fact that when the mechanic lifted it up to work on the original issue, he told his crew “We have to stop right now.” Imagine being uncomfortable to the point where you can’t even keep the car off the ground and feel even the slightest bit okay about it.
Blue and I had a good run, but all things must pass.
In the Greek Orthodox church, they have a saying when people pass away. Most of the memorial service is spoken in Greek, but at the end, they alternate a few times from Greek to English, with this closing remark:
May their memory be eternal, or,
Είθε η μνήμη τους να είναι αιώνια.
Blue’s last day was a special one for me. His sendoff felt right. It felt appropriate. I knew deep down that the timing was perfect, and I have God to thank for that.
As you can probably tell in some of the pictures (below), the days leading up to his last one were fairly dreary and somber. It rained on and off for a week or 2, and I was beginning to wonder if the sun would ever come out again.
On Monday, March 29th, 2021, all of that changed. We couldn’t have asked for a better morning.
Sunshine, blue skies, and perfect 70-degree weather are what Blue and I deserved for our final moments together, and what bittersweet moments they were.
I thought of all the great times we had together and traded some laughs with the nice fella who towed him away. When I asked him what he was going to do with my dear friend, he just chuckled:
“You don’t want to know, trust me.”
I left it at that.
Before leaving, he asked me if I wanted one of the small circular pieces inside the hub cap containing Blue’s iconic Saturn logo. Of course, I did. Blue was special to me and it’s only right I have something to remember him by.
So with that…
Rest In Peace Old Blue, aka Old Reliable, aka True Blue Stu. I will never forget you.
Blue’s early days
Blue’s final days
Blue’s last day – 3/29/21