What a good girl she is. Fiona has clocked up a big achievement: she has now travelled 100,000 miles. In six years and ten months. That's not a record, far from it, and especially not for a Volvo; but few private cars cover such a high mileage so quickly, and in the hands of a retired person too. You don't expect doddery old pensioners to drive much further than the local Waitrose, do you?
100,000 miles, though! It's a definite distinction. It says something about how much I love driving, despite being so notably ancient, and how much I like driving Fiona in particular. After the Achievement yesterday (I'm now in Cornwall) I gave her a special brush-out and wash as a reward - she had got somewhat mud-spattered since the start of my West Country Tour. Now she looks almost as good as new.
Fiona is not the first car of mine to be taken through the 100,000 mile barrier. She has three august predecessors, all of which have Places of Honour in the Melford Hall of Fame:
# My very first car, a pale yellow manual Renault 12TL (JYF 844K) bought from Dad in July 1975. It had done 43,000 miles at that point. It went on to cover 146,000 miles up to its death in January 1981, slain by a stupid young man in a Ford Capri, who pulled out from a minor road in front of me, stalled, and forced a broadside collision. I and my passenger were all right. But JYF was a write-off. Still, keen mathematicians will have calculated that I personally drove 103,000 miles in that car. It took me only five years and six months.
# My fourth car, a blue/grey automatic Nissan Micra (F807 FGT) bought second-hand from a Nissan dealer in July 1989, when only a year old. It had 3,000 on the clock then, and went on to cover 169,000 miles up to its death in August 1999. It went out triumphantly but scarily, its auto gearbox failing just as it was overtaking at seventy on the open road. I did 166,000 miles in that faithful Nissan, in ten years and one month.
# My sixth car - the one that came immediately before Fiona - was a blue automatic 4WD Honda CR-V (S591 ATX) bought second-hand from a Honda dealer in February 2002, when three years old: it was ex-lease. It had already covered 30,000 miles when I purchased it. When traded-in under the government's Scrappage Scheme in May 2010, it had covered 140,000 miles - that's 110,000 miles in eight years and three months.
I have a spreadsheet that tells me that in my solo driving career - I passed my Driving Test on 31st August 1973 - I have till now driven, altogether, 565,000 miles. That's spread over forty-four years, so really it's a modest 12,000-odd per year. But it's still a lot. We won't dwell on how much the fuel and maintenance costs came to in that period. I will however assert that learning to drive, and using my cars to reach all kinds of places, in all kinds of circumstances, has hugely enriched my life. I can't imagine how it would have been if I'd not had personal transport, for the most part in a succession of decent vehicles, some of which stole my heart. I'd say that my motoring experience has, on the whole, been a very good one. It has never been a cheap passtime; but it has always given me freedom, independence, and the possibility of adventure.
So, back to Fiona and the Great Event. Where did it happen? On the A30, travelling westwards to Cornwall from Lyme Regis, between Okehampton and Launceston, south-east of Roadford Lake, with the caravan in tow. Not quite into Cornwall - but not far off! I'd really like to report that as the display changed to '100,000' there was a monstrous clap of thunder, and the sun dimmed, sudden winds from nowhere howled and moaned, jagged lightning flashed and crashed across the sky, a celestial chorus sang, the sky was rent, and a finger came down to give a divine blessing, and a loud Olympian voice said 'WELL DONE, FIONA!'. But strange to say, it was not so. It was actually myself who said 'Well done, Fiona,' as I affectionately patted her dashboard. No drama at all.
Did I take a picture of the mileage changing from 99,999 to 100,000? You betcha:
In fact I took shots at 99,999 miles, and at 100,001 miles:
Yes, yes, I know that the 99,999 and 100,000 mile shots show that I was bowling along at 62mph. But it was sunny and dry, there were no crosswinds, the dual-carriageway road was straight and (at that point) almost empty of traffic, and I was holding the wheel firmly with my left hand. I had really wanted to reach 100,000 miles and then pull into a lay-by within a mile, so that I could photograph the amazing mileage when parked. But there wasn't one quite so close. (100,001 miles is still a noble palindrome, however)
The next 100,000 miles now lie ahead. I do feel that Fiona has entered a new phase of her life, and, while up for many more adventures with me, deserves a whole lot of extra TLC to keep her going. She will get it.