November 1, 2010


On the day I learned of the demise of my beloved Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon I found these photos on Craigslist.

Four years ago, when I bought the Crashwagon on a Spring Break visit to Chicagoland, I thought it was one of the most ridiculous and fitting purchases I could make. (I'd been considering an El Camino in Jonesville just prior to the wagon.) Seeing this green machine with the Delorean doors made me feel at peace. Roadmaster absurdity lives.

The Crashwagon is kaput, sold to a man who operates Mule Motor Machines (mulepower > horsepower, he says), and left to linger in surprising clarity in my memory.

My memory is suspect, because of, I suspect, the multi-tasking of college and newspaper work. My memory is not blatantly bad, just some sort of selective. I struggle to place life events in their proper year; my retention of novels lags.

But the Roadmaster is pretty clear.

I think one ride most symbolizes the joy it brought me, but in brief, some memories, and you should share some in the comments as well. I remember:

:: riding solo on the Midland Trail in West Virginia, late at night, listening to Circulatory System;
:: horrific windshield icing on a return ride from Grand Rapids;
:: transporting a boxspring and mattress from Karen's (and the dramatic car length measurement);
:: Hull's Drive-In with Katie, Rivy, and spilled popcorn;
:: gathering bugs in the grill between Hillsdale and Toleo;
:: riding our dodgeball team into the Hillsdale Sports Complex (not true, but we should have);
:: escaping Halloween mud in Kinderhook, Mich.;
:: donuts at Uncle Krunkle's;
:: doing donuts at Dollar General;
:: a blown tire nears Athens, Ga.;
:: a pre-marriage rescue by the Dunns in Elkhart;
:: riding with Patrick The Secret to the tri-state marker;
:: Transporting the Midnight Special, The Narrows, and the Ten and Six;
:: Crashwagon cameos in the one-shot juggling videos;
:: Da Roadmaster foo;
:: nearly running out of gas after the Toledo Art Museum;
:: running red lights at night in Detroit;
:: a new hood emblem;
:: a tail light bull skull with glowing eyes;
:: sparks shooting from the U-Haul chain;
:: spilled barbecue sauce I never cleaned (Katie, you win);
:: and clinging to life on a cliff's edge:

The Roadmaster has carried me to and through Chicago, Madison, Indianapolis, Grand Rapids, Pentwater, Hillsdale, Toledo, Ann Arbor, Arcadia, Cleveland, Detroit, and Windsor; Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, Boston, Charleston, Charleston, Greensboro, Hickory, Charlotte, Charlottesville, Columbia, Nashville, and DC; Athens, Atlanta, Athens, Asheville, Lexington, and Lousiville.

But the ride I really think about was a dreary nighttime jaunt to Ann Arbor. We packed 'er to the gills -- 9 riding in 9 seats, I think -- to see the Dirtbombs (right?) It was rainy, Route 12 (beloved Route 12!) was wet, and east we went. That's why I bought that car, so we could all ride together -- to flea markets, to boat rides, to rock shows, and home.



Blogger Chase said...

Memories that come to my mind most clearly:

- Driving to Chicago with you to juggle with Bruce Bailey, see your fam and go to a White Sox game.

- Madfest.

- A dirt road drive down Half-Moon Lake Road in Hillsdale.

- Jon Dunn driving it to Edinburgh, Indiana to save me after my car died.

- Losing three pairs of jeans to the snagtooth sticking out from the back, passenger-side door.

I rode around in the Crashwagon so much in Waynesboro that a lot of the times I had in it back in Michigan seem to run together.

However, one thing I got to experience on a near-weekly basis nobody else got to:

On the way home from juggling, Tony would take exit 99 off I-64, the Afton Mountain exit. He'd speed up, and then coast all the way down the mountain (which led right into Waynesboro) with the goal of seeing how far into the city we could make it.

I think I was there for the record.

RIP Crashwagon.

November 1, 2010 at 8:47 AM 
Blogger Naomi said...

So sad. That was a great car, Tony. Its ride was so smooth it was a float. My one distinct memory:

Driving w/ the Narrows to their show at the Trumbullplex. Jon was driving, I was sitting next to him, Econ and Evan were in the back. We drove along along 12 as the daylight began to fade.
Suddenly Evan exclaimed, "Holy shit! The moon is huge and really orange!"
Econ: "Evan, that's the sun."

November 1, 2010 at 3:43 PM 
Blogger Tony said...

Chase: How could I forget the coasting? You were there for the record. I think it was 3.7 miles to the Wayne Theatre.

Naomi: I do wonder now about stories of other people driving the car. I know the wagon was maimed after it was parked at the Sadbear after Karen used it for YoungLife (not her fault).

November 1, 2010 at 5:40 PM 
Anonymous Monica said...

Tony, when I found out you drove a wagon, that was the moment I knew we'd be friends. I never knew anyone who drove one as big as the boat I had in New York. I hope you're able to find an ample replacement.

I think the "Aha" moment went something like this:
Me: Tony, you drive a wagon?
You: Yeah, why? What's wrong with a wagon?
Me: I never knew anyone who drove a wagon other than me.
You: You say it in disbelief.
Me: I say it because it's cool. I can't believe it.
You: Ok. (I think somewhat confused and not believing my admiration)
Me:Still can't believe it.

November 2, 2010 at 9:27 AM 
Blogger SC said...

I think I only ever rode in the Crashwagon twice:

As we were leaving Koon, we loaded it full of someone's possessions (maybe Zach's?) and took it over to the Paul House. I remember this mostly because a) it was my first time in the Paul House, and b) when we got back to the dorm Econ was racing the empty room deadline, stacking Saga plates and cups outside the window and raking full drawers into garbage bags. It was raining, and I remember getting into the Crashwagon was such a relief.

The second time was for cosmic bowling, where I saw a Snoop Dogg music video for the first time ("Sensual Seduction").

November 2, 2010 at 10:43 AM 
Anonymous Econ said...

I loved driving that thing. The ride was much like my old Bonneville... a brand which met a different sort of demise this past weekend when GM killed off the Pontiac line for good. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed cruising to Pentwater and Boston and everywhere else.

PS. I hear you on running red lights in Detroit. But only at night? Pssh.

November 2, 2010 at 1:43 PM 
Blogger Lauren Fink said...

For some reason I always imagined it carrying Collegians and cacti - I'm sure it did both, but probably not all the time. Andrew understood long before I did how cool it was - as he drove a huge, boat of an old Cadillac, until it died, and then drove a slightly smaller, huge old Cadillac.
I believe you, Monica and I said our goodbyes after graduation '07 by the back door of the wagon, a fitting place.

November 2, 2010 at 2:28 PM 

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