Hopefully, by now, you are all excited to take your Alaskan road trip, and do I have a deal for you! Of course, you can fly up here and rent a car from one of those boring rental car agencies at the airport, but you want to look like an Alaskan, not a tourist, right? Consider renting my Subaru, because the only way to see the real Alaska is through a cracked windshield. The four of you who used to read my column are already quite aware of the features of this fine vehicle, but for the new guy who didn’t turn to the next page as soon as he saw my byline, let me fill you in on what is in store for you.
This is an Alaskan Classic. It’s not what you’d call a chick magnet outside of Alaska, but it runs great. It has been redecorated by a Great Dane who did not feel like being in a car when he was working on this project. None of it is structural, but the duct tape on the door trim is clearly not a stock item. He also has added a layer of dog hair to every surface, including the ceiling. If you want to rent the car, I can get the dog hair out of the upholstery, but the ceiling dog hair is there to stay.
The windshield has the requisite cracks. There’s only one on the driver’s side, that one across the bottom you get when you turn the defroster on at 40 below, so you won’t get the full effect, but your passenger will feel like s/he is looking through a bowl of spaghetti.
It’s got an authentic Alaskan car smell since I also have a Labrador retriever. If you are planning a winter road trip you might not fully experience this feature since the wet-dog-infused water in the carpets will be frozen, but it’s always there. In summer it’s comparable to a teenage boy who has discovered Axe Body Wash, but in winter it’s definitely more subtle. Last week, the Great Dane jumped in the front seat and popped the top off a bottle of shampoo. The shampoo leaked out onto the passenger side floor, so the car currently smells like coconuts. It’s quite nice and if you like it you can add more shampoo when the smell starts to fade. I can let you know what kind I use.
One look at the exterior and people will surely think you are a local. No one in the history of the automobile has ever put their car into reverse anywhere near this thing without backing into it. It’s like it has its own gravitational force and it sucks cars into its side. And front. That headlight that is all smashed still works but it throws light up into the trees. It’s good for spotting owls.
The tires are good, actually, except one, currently the rear passenger side; that has a leak, and you have to put air in it every 7-10 days. I’ll lend you my compressor—you can fill it on the fly. The engine burns oil but it’s a Subaru and they all do. And it makes a clicking noise when you first start it when it’s cold out and you are driving down a hill but that goes away in a minute. It doesn’t do it on uphill starts. I’ll give you $25 off the rental price if you can figure out why it does that.
Every Subaru wagon built since the beginning of time has had the struts that hold the hatchback door fail and you have to use a stick instead. Except this one. Those things have never failed. The clip on the hatch handle has to be operated manually, though, but that’s easy since you’re not holding the hatch open with your head while you do it. There is a recall for the roadside bomb on the passenger side (also called a Takata airbag) but no one ever rides over there so I never took it in. Maybe make sure your passenger has good health insurance.
Car rental prices in the summer in Alaska are in the $100+ a day range but no one in their right mind is going to pay me that, so we can talk about what your pride is worth and come up with something workable.
You can rent it for as long as you like because I actually bought another Subaru in March. I never drive it because this one still runs great. It’s like an old boyfriend. I’m never going to commit to the new one until I get this one out of my life. Maybe if you have it, I’ll try harder. That goes for the car or the boyfriend, but that’s a whole ‘nother article.