My Pygmy Wonder Car

by Anniel10/26/15

A breathless news reporter said a few days ago that Honda is claiming a new model that is guaranteed to get 40 miles to the gallon. It kind of made me laugh because I have a Pygmy Wonder Car, a 2003 Toyota, that gets between 46 to 47 MPG on the open road, and about 43 MPG in town.

We bought the Toyota new at the end of 2003 when all our children were gone and driving them around was over. The car now has only 51,500 miles on it. Bear says he hates driving my Pygmy car, but I don’t think he’d trade it, not even for a new Mercedes. Is our Toyota a fluke, or are there others that do as well?

Before the Pygmy Wonder Car, I drove a Honda Civic that was a real mountain goat on snow and ice, particularly on hills. It never needed chains and seemed indestructible, but Bear decided I needed a new car. We went to look at new Hondas, met a salesman, and returned home to think it over. The salesman got in a snit and wouldn’t talk to us when we went back to buy. I guess he didn’t think we were serious. The Audi dealers were even worse, so off to Toyota we went.

My Toyota is good for Alaska driving conditions and we never kept mileage on it until we had occasion to make a trip to Whitehorse, Y.T., five years ago. We gassed up in Anchorage, carefully recorded the mileage in a notebook and took off early one morning. Bear always drives with a light foot, at pretty much the posted speed.

We drove to Glennallen, pulled in to gas up and Bear gave me the new mileage. Now I know I’m not a great mathematician, but I thought 47 MPG had to be a mistake. I looked at Bear and said, “Eleven subtract four is seven isn’t it? And ten subtract six is four?”

He looked at me like I was nuts, so I handed him the notebook. His eyebrows shot up and he muttered, “That can’t be right.” He handed the notebook back to me and drove off looking perplexed.

We had to drive over some rough road reconstruction through the Tazlina area, where a strong earthquake had destroyed several miles of pavement. We figured that Tazlina would be a real test of the car’s mileage.

When we crossed into Canada we were unable to find lodging and began to see all our old inns and lodge stopping points were closed due to the economic downturn. We gassed up at Haines Junction and the hard math began – we had to convert gallons into liters before figuring our mileage.

That night we finally pulled up a steep dirt road and had to sleep in the car. It was the end of August and got chilly so I sat awake most of the night. Towards morning the northern lights came out to keep me company. Then we drove the few hours into Whitehorse. Our son’s family had not yet arrived to meet us, so we decided to do some serious sight-seeing. I can now say that I have stood on the marge of Lake LaBarge where they cremated Sam Magee.

Our son and his family finally arrived and we all stayed that night in a nice hotel in Whitehorse. On our way home we stopped at Kluane Lake where I recounted to our grandchildren that Bear had married someone else and ripped the cosmic curtain while I was on my first visit to the Lake. I’m not certain what their reactions were. We also stopped along the way and found some ripe Nagoon berries. Everyone picked and ate berries for over an hour, but we mostly all just enjoyed the scenery.

We stopped a night in Tok Junction, and the next morning we met the man who calls himself “The Mushing Mortician.” He’s a twit who owns a string of Alaska Funeral Homes, keeps huskies and runs the Iditarod dog sled race every year. He broke his leg last year and had to drop out. He has never placed in the race at all, but uses it for advertising. That morning in Tok he had a truck and trailer with some sled dogs in it parked out in back of the motel and was letting the overjoyed kids pet the huskies. Not exactly the wisest thing to do.

We were back to using gallons for accounting purposes, but still feeling unsure how close we were to the actual mileage. We pulled into Anchorage, filled the tank and figured out that we really had gotten over 46 miles to the gallon for the entire trip.

Just to make things even nicer, we later we got notice of a refund on a gas and convenience store purchase because the Canadians had pegged their side of the exchange rate too high.

With all that going for us, why on earth would we ever sell the Pygmy Wonder Car?


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4 Responses to My Pygmy Wonder Car

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I was surprised to see that Lake LaBarge was real, so I checked on wikipedia. It’s actually spelled LaBerge, but of course in standard British that would be pronounced LaBarge. My high-school geometry teacher was very fond of “The Cremation of Sam McGee” and read it in class (though I’d already read it in a previous English course — the same course in which I read “The Ransom of Red Chief”, “The Eletelephony”, “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”, and excerpts from The Caine Mutiny and David Copperfield).

    • Anniel says:

      In all my trips to Whitehorse I hadn’t realized how close to the marge we were. It was kind of exciting to get acquainted with the area. The town has a very international flavor. Many Europeans fly in for guided moose and bear hunting tours.

      I love Robert Service. “Bessie’s Boil” has to be one of the funniest poems ever written.

  2. Rosalys says:

    “The salesman got in a snit and wouldn’t talk to us when we went back to buy.”

    This “salesman” needs to find another line of work!

    Of all the cars I’ve had, the first one and my current one are my favorites. The first was a ’66 Falcon wagon (actually my mother’s car, but I used it a lot.) I had a horse so a wagon was good for lugging around horse stuff; and in the summer, when the flies were thick as fleas at the barn, all I had to do was roll down the rear window, as well as the windows in the front, and blow them all out as I drove home. It was just super reliable and I named it The Blue Roan.

    When I graduated college and got my first job, I bought my real first car, a ’70 Mustang, from my boss’ sister. it was the worst car I ever had. The suspension was horrible on that thing and I hated it; when I married, it was better than my husband’s car, so we kept and got rid of his old rust bucket. The Mustang was not reliable. The best thing about that car was that it was a Mustang, and so was salable in any condition. We finally sold it for $400 to a man who wanted his son to learn how to fix up a car. He could be sure that when he fixed that car he would know everything possible about car repair!

    My current vehicle, an ’01 Honda CRV, is probably the most reliable car I’ve ever had, and so I love it. I’ve had it ten years and I hope it lasts another twenty!

    • Timothy Lane says:

      My current car is a Chevrolet Cavalier that I bought 20 years ago. Naturally, there are a few problems (the air-conditioning doesn’t work, and we need to put in more power-steering fluid), but it still works. Whether we can afford to replace it when it finally goes out is an interesting question.

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