Fourth Annual Holiday Road Trip: The Bobcat Edition

Four years in Philly means four road trips home for the Christmas - New Year week. This year had an excellent twist: I bought a friend's Ford Mustang! We flew in Christmas Eve and immediately picked up the Mustang. It had been a few years since I had seen the car, but knowing my friend, I was confident it would be in great condition. Take a look at this car and try to convince me it's seven years old:

Beautiful! I was amazed at how new it looks, how free from wear, scratches, and dings it is.

How I wish I could end the story here.

The thing I have learned about road trips is that there are always factors I can't control. On this summer's trip to Minnesota, it was the stand-still traffic in Western Pennsylvania. On the NJ - MN trip back in college, it was the bad weather in Ohio. This time, it was the wildlife on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, four hours from home.

Sudden vision of an animal. Thump. Sinking feeling.

"What was it?" Andrew asked.

"You hit a deer, I think. You hit a deer."

"I didn't even see it! It couldn't have been a deer."

"Well it was a little one, a baby or a female."

"It wasn't that big."

"I guess it could have been a really big dog."

"It was just a flash of fur."

The car was still moving forward, no bad noises. Nothing rattled, nothing squealed, both excellent signs. If you've ever driven the western stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the dark, you'll know that stopping is a very bad idea. It's all hills and unlit curves, experienced at 70 miles per hour. I first drove it in a Budget rental van four years ago, a night I consider The Scariest Drive of My Life. We were supposed to make it to Philly that night, but my poor nerves couldn't handle the drive. We ended up in a lousy motel room by the side of the Turnpike where I twitched and kicked all night, dreaming that I was plunging off a cliff.

Since the Mustang seemed intact, we decided to drive the eight miles to the next rest stop. We pulled into the edge of the rest stop parking lot and got out to assess the damage. Andrew broke out the flashlight and we turned it on the front of the Mustang to find the left half of the bumper was peeled back under the car. Oh, man. But I've had bumpers replaced before. That's what they're for, after all. They keep the rest of the car from getting damaged. Not so bad, not so bad.

Andrew crouched down to see if there was any damage to the undercarriage. "Oh geez," he said, "it's still under there."

Indeed it was. It wasn't a small deer and it wasn't a dog. It was a bobcat, the Nice Man from the gas station informed us as he hauled it out from under the car. We killed ourselves a Lynx rufus, identified by its cute ear tufts. Dead cute ear tufts. We'd dragged the poor thing 8 miles and now abandoned it in a snowbank.

I'm about to show you a picture of it. (It's the non-mangled side.)

Right below this text.

You have been warned.

Poor thing. It was probably the mother of an even cuter bobkitten and we killed it. It, in turn, killed our radiator, condensor, and front bumper, Nice Man #2 from Ron's Collision Center informed us this morning, meaning no Mustang for several weeks. Unfortunately, we were still 4 hours west of Philly. After checking with Amtrak and Greyhound, dragging our rolling suitcases back and forth through the streets of Johnstown, PA, we decided to spend the day at the library until a one-way rental car became available. God bless free WiFi at the public library.

The car, a Toyota Carolla, had Quebec license plates and a speedometer with predominate kilometers rather than miles, which made for a confusing couple of minutes. During the drive I put our friend, the former Mustang owner, on the speaker phone and broke the bad news. He took it like a champ. It's good to be home and I look forward to being reunited with my new car in about a month.