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What if an odometer could take its own picture at 200,000?

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Mark Rutledge


By Mark Rutledge

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Last week, during the daily commute along the ever-harrowing Interstate 81, I pulled into the emergency lane for two brief but important stops. One at 199,999. Another at 200,000.

I wanted to share the momentous odometer readings with the previous owner of the car I was driving. That might seem silly, but I bought the car from friends and I wanted them to know it was still rolling some 50,000 miles later.

“Go, Go Volvo!” I wrote under the photos in the text message.

The car is 18 years old and my friends gave me a good deal. There was some concern on their end that the transmission or some other vital organ might fail after the sale. I enjoy letting them know that the machine is still providing a valuable service.

Otherwise, however, 200,000 miles is not so newsworthy anymore. Modern engineering has made that particular milestone commonplace. But it was not always so.

My first car was the 1965 Chevy Impala that had been our family sedan since I was barely too tall to stand in the bench seat on a hilly road without bumping my head. Seatbelts were hardly optional.

Somewhere in my mother’s house, there are snapshots that my father made of the Impala’s odometer rolling to 100,000 miles. Who knows where he had to pull over to get the shot.

By the time the car was passed to me, it had maybe 140,000 miles, which seemed like a really high number at the time. And it was. That car hauled the family and a pop-up camper on family vacations near and far.

There are pictures of the Impala at stops along the Lincoln Heritage Trail in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. For years, I could give book reports on our 16th president without reading a single page.

The car took us to New Mexico, up Pikes Peak, and on countless trips over the Smokey Mountains between Tennessee and North Carolina. In 1978, I sold the car to a guy working at Hillcrest Exxon in Johnson City for $150.

I know the Impala kept puttering along for at least a few more years because I’d spot it on the road now and then. I knew it by the faded Pirateland Campground sticker still in the back window.

All of these miles traveled came to mind recently while my friend Paul Lockhart was giving me a lift to a repair shop to retrieve my 1996 Chevy S10 pickup. It’s the last vehicle we have that my dad used to drive.

“How many miles are on that truck?” Paul asked.

“Two-hundred and fifty thousand,” I said.

“That’s nothing.”

Paul can say that. He drives a 1986 Ford pickup with 432,000 miles and counting. I would like to be with him when it hits 500,000. But what if it’s not a safe spot to pull over? How tragic would that be?

Someone eventually will invent an odometer that can take mileage-milestone selfies and post them on Facebook automatically.

Even while the car is driving itself up Pikes Peak.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.