Suby Tales 2008

Suby Tales 2008

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Yup, this year’s Suby Tales contest is officially over. We announced the winners in the spring issue and held an awards ceremony in April where southwest Montana’s proudest Suby pilots ate, drank, told their tales, and scored cool swag. But like the engine within this most stalwart of Asian autos, the Subaru celebration motors on. That’s right, it’s time for yet another round of Suby adventure, complete with cross-country road-trips, Subaru apartments, and backcountry breakdowns. So sit back, relax, and enjoy these vicarious rides.

When I met my Suby (named Sue Bea) it was love at first sight. Maybe it was the far-superior gas mileage she got compared to the Explorer (exploder) I was trading in. It might have been the dealer encouraging me to spin some doughnuts while on the test drive. It could be her sick dual-tone paint job and six-CD changer. It was as if we were meant to drive together.

Of course we tested our limits. We met in Winter Park, CO and had some adventures. There was the time we decided to pretend we were a real rally team, took the turn a little too fast, and ended up in a snow bank. On another evening before a full-moon ski when our friend Aaron decided to test his Suby's limits, we tried to pull him out of a few feet of snow. For future reference: a Sport cannot tow the much larger Legacy.

We had our road trips down to Crested Butte to shred the gnar. From Grand County Colorado to Grand County Utah (that's the greater Moab area) for some climbing. Up to Yellowstone where we fell in love with the Northern Rockies. We even drove all the way to Cleveland for my little sis's high-school graduation.

Sue and I did not truly bond, however, until we came up to Montana for the summer. After my first job didn't work out, we moved to Bozeman and scored a job on the Gallatin. True, many folks make the commute daily between Big Sky and Bozeman. But when your home in Bozeman is the tight quarters of your boyfriend and his roommate's graduate housing pad, there isn't really enough room to be there during the work/school week. I decided that making car payments is like paying rent, so why not move in?

My first day driving down to Big Sky, planning to spend the week in an Impreza Outback Sport, I was a little nervous. I now understood why two years earlier, the car dealer had steered me away from the sedan model. When I started meeting my co-workers one of their first questions was always "where are you staying?" "In my car," I'd answer meekly. "Oh! You're camping! I camp too," was a common response. (Or, "I used to live in a Subaru.")

There are a select few people who understand what it is to live in a Subaru. The mid-summer jealousy of our friends with vans and pickups is nothing compared to our off-road traction (necessary for stealth camping). I can't imagine driving cross-country or even cross-Rockies without a Therma-Rest bed set up in the back. Who cares that we almost got kicked out of Joshua Tree because no one could find me to move my car (I was sleeping in it). The raised eyebrows from friends and family back east or in Jackson made me giggle. Really, I don't think there is anything wrong with my friend Corry (who lives in a nice maroon Suby) and me sharing a bottle of wine under a bridge. And yes, if I have any say, my Montana license will list the Subaru as my address. I looked it up, if you are “homeless” in Montana and can get it verified you can list your address as the place you actually live, house or not.

The truth is I love waking up with everything I need within reach. The freedom to go climb whenever, where ever because all my gear is with me is unbeatable. Home is always within walking distance after a long night at the Half Moon. Hot tub? I'm in, swimsuit's right here. What? My job doesn't actually start for another week? Yellowstone/ Tetons/ Indian Creek, we're already packed!

I know that no matter where I am, if Sue is there I am home. I'm counting the days until guide training when I will pack up the storage unit and move back in.
-Sacha Charny

Car camping in the Uinta Mountains seemed like a brilliant choice one ovenlike summer weekend. Ned, a coworker and local, provided beta on a secret hot spot. Pink-fleshed fish finned patiently, eyes bulging upward to better savage our flies floating oh-so-seductively on the mirrored lake surface—it was the image my newest best buddy painted.

“You can drive there, yeah in your ‘Bru, bro, no problem,” Ned confided. “The trail ain’t that bad, man, it goes right to the lake. Your outfit’s got four-wheel go, right?” he added, hitching his thumb in the direction of our gray Legacy wagon.

Friday afternoon, the kids excitedly lugged our gear out to the car. Although not packing for our usual windsurfing/mountain biking/ready-for-anything-excursion, they did follow the standard protocol of piling the wagon high with gear. Rods and reels, a float tube, bicycles, a huge tent, and food and drink were bungeed to the roof rack—a rubber-shod, first-world beast of burden. Completing the scene, we pointed our overloaded outfit out of town, resembling a fun hog version of the Beverly Hillbillies; albeit no curvaceous Ellie Mae riding shotgun or Granny cackling at the passersby.

We climbed steadily on old logging roads, often referring to our crisp, new Ashley National Forest map to navigate the maze of trails. After many dusty, shock-thumping miles, we were less than a mile from our fishing Shangri-La when we came to a creek ford. The tumbling waters looked to be a foot deep or better but with a solid rock bottom. So close! I told the boys to keep their feet up and gunned it. Water toyed with the hood and played against the driver’s door in midstream, but another blast of gas shot us out of the creek’s cold grasp and onto a steep incline. Made it! But our joy was brief.

Churning up the grade, the little wagon’s progress quickly faltered and then came to a halt. I jumped out and ran to the passenger side. Not one, but two pancaked tires smiled back at me as creekwater poured off the car. A closer look showed that the sidewalls were ripped out; the front tire sported a devastating six-inch gash, and the rear a tear about half that long. I slumped on a rock to ponder our options: less than a mile from our destination of Chepeta Lake, marooned at nearly 10,560 feet above sea level and about 30 miles from an oiled road; a service station maybe twice that distance; and no friends to rope into a rescue. My clunky, early-day cell phone blinked wanly, telling me sorry, no service for you.

The boys rigged their fly rods and blithely headed off to fish in the creek while I literally circled the wagon. Mentally checking off the available gear, I realized that I had my bicycle pump along. Both tires had come off their rims. Quickly, a plan took shape: Take the oversize inner tube out of the float tube and stuff it inside the rear tire; cut a large patch or "boot" out of the ruined front tire’s sidewall and use it to cover the smaller two-inch rip in the rear tire; and then air the tube up with the little pump. Getting the rear tire bead back on the rim with the tire iron and a screwdriver took some doing. Coaxing the boot patch to stay in place until the tube pressure held it took some very choice language and a piece of salvaged electrical tape off the trailer hitch wiring. Many, many bicycle pump strokes later, the tire came up to sufficient pressure. I bolted it on the rear and the little spare donut went on the front. The MacGyvered patch job wasn’t much to look at, but it held. The Suby swam back to a campsite on the home side of the creek after we filled in the tire-ripping rut. The lake would have to wait.

The boys provided a fresh-caught trout breakfast in the morning. We aired up the tire again and cautiously limped down the mountain. As we regained the highway and began to roll homeward on smooth pavement, I heard the rear tire pop. A later check showed that the roughly cut, thick sidewall boot had worn multiple holes in the oversize replacement float tube. Bent, but not broken, we caught a ride back to town in the next passing car. Lesson learned? Be prepared, or as Mr. Mac himself might have said, “Don’t leave home without nuthin’.”
-Tom Pick

My Subaru Legacy wagon was responsible for the nine best consecutive weeks of my life. Hands down, no comparison.

My girlfriend and I took a cross-country road trip that covered 15,968 miles, 31 national parks and monuments, 26 states, and four weddings. While I have had better individual days, nothing of a similar duration even comes close. And it is entirely due to the fact that my old (1997), well-worn (177,000-ish miles at the start of the trip), and generally abused (25,000 miles is a minimum before a car wash) Suby took its biggest dose of punishment yet and didn't have a single thing go wrong with it.

It all began at the start of the trip. A girl with three-foot-long dreadlocks and a scruffy hippie boy got through customs twice without a single hassle going from Michigan to New England. It certainly wasn't the passengers who checked out as alright, so it must have been the car.

My faithful wandering machine continued its impressive performance in Death Valley National Park, on July 13, which was a Friday. The girlfriend melted, but the car never once overheated or acted as if it noticed the well-over 120-degree temperatures. On the way to the Horseshoe Canyon unit of Canyonlands National Park, we had to convince a cow to get off the road. When the cow failed to move, we fearlessly rolled past it (just barely, the road was rather narrow), knowing that if that walking hamburger even flinched, we could probably move fast enough to avoid a huge dent in the side of my dear car.

On the way back from Horseshoe Canyon, the Suby again performed admirably, weathering a Utah summer monsoon 40 miles from the highway, and never once hydroplaning on the flooded road or sinking into the mud.

When we got to Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, the Suby again proved its usefulness by ensuring a false sense of security when a bison herd surrounded the car. Not only were we eye level with the huge animals only a few feet away, we think that being in a small car with good handling was a good thing, since we had watched the visitor safety video in Yellowstone and were thus properly terrified of these bison and absolutely intent on getting through the herd at the first opportunity.

Without my Suby, I never would have gotten myself into those situations, which would have been a shame, and more importantly, I might not have gotten out of those situations, which would have been a bigger shame.

It was an absolute trip of a lifetime, and that car allowed us to roam through desert hamlets, north-woods burgs, and the forgotten towns of the high plains while taking in the natural splendor of our country, the great symbols of our nation (we stopped at John Wayne's birthplace AND Monument Valley. Who would have thought that a man such as that was born outside of Des Moines, Iowa?), the cultural variety of our shared heritages (we were in Bozeman for Sweet Pea 2007, and all the talk about not having pins this year aside, that was a really, really, really amazing event), and the sweet simplicity of down-home America. It might not have been an American car, but it helped us to see our country in ways we could not have without an all-wheel-drive wagon, and my girlfriend and I are better Americans for it.
-Brian Colleran

I was driving north on the Redwood Highway in northern California with three girlfriends when we spotted a hitchhiker. At eighteen, we had little fear of the outside world, little concern for the consequences of picking up suspicious hippies, and a real knack for getting ourselves into strange situations.

Upon sighting said hippie, I jerked Karyn’s green Subaru, named Lola, off the blacktop and onto the shoulder, barely missing him lurking under the towering redwoods. He was crouched in the shadow of the ancient trees holding a piece of cardboard on which he had written his hoped for destination—“Ashland.” Fortunately, he moved pretty quickly when I careened toward him.

Maybe it was because of his sudden movement to avoid the car, but that’s when the monkey jumped off the hippie’s shoulder onto Lola’s unsuspecting hood. We all kind of jumped, not expecting a monkey on the Suby, but tried to act cool. He called himself Cloud (the man, not the monkey) and he was headed to Oregon for the Shakespeare Festival. We were going only as far as Arcata, but offered him a ride.

Cloud and the monkey squeezed into the backseat between Erin and Holly (his body odor quickly filled the whole car), Karyn rode shotgun and I continued driving, all windows down. The back of the Subaru was loaded with camping gear, food, and whatever else four teenagers needed on a week-long road trip. Free from our parents, a fresh high school diploma hanging on our walls at home, we wanted to make the most of the summer before heading our separate ways to college.

Picking up a man and his monkey seemed like a good idea at the time. “Why not make the trip interesting,” was the question Holly posed. We didn’t let her forget it later when things actually did get interesting.

I’d never driven with a monkey before (or since, for that matter), but they like to bounce around the car and pull hair. They don’t mind pooping on your friend’s lap. This monkey was small, but annoying. I was pretty focused on the primate and keeping my hair attached to my head when I saw the red lights in the rearview mirror. I was upset, but Cloud was the one who started freaking out.

The cop did the standard routine: “Why are you in such a hurry? Do you know how fast you were going? License and registration, please. Why is there a monkey in your vehicle?” We didn’t want to say we had picked up a hitchhiker—that’s illegal in California—so we claimed to have met Cloud at a hostel and had agreed to give him a ride.

The cop, suspicious for some reason, asked to search Lola. I figured, why not? It’d more of a hassle for him to go through all our stuff than anything else. Might be kind of funny, I thought. That’s when Cloud got as agitated as his monkey.

Of course, the cop found some weed in Cloud’s bag and we all thought we were going to jail, but he just took Cloud and the monkey away and let us go with a speeding ticket. Lesson learned, he figured.

That night we pitched our tents in a bar, later we crashed a college party and skied on sand dunes, we found out that Lola could not be driven in loose sand, but Cloud was the last hitchhiker we picked up that week. Lesson learned.
-Melynda Harrison
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