When Your Car Dies at Christmas

Well crap.

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Ho Ho Ho. As we were driving back to Iowa the Saturday before Christmas, my car decided it was time to die. So many swear words were spoken, tears were shed and I was angry. But let’s back up the story a little bit.

Eleanor the Element came into our life in May 2013. The perfect adventure car – plastic and rubber flooring (easy to get dirty, easy to clean), suicide doors which made for great bathroom stall doors when you are running across Iowa, seats that folded up and created massive storage and hauling ability, and overall Eleanor just felt like ME.

I made a post on FB the other day about this car and I cried. I actually cried a lot which is so fascinating to me. It’s a CAR.

But she wasn’t just a car – she symbolized so many adventures taken and life lived. 

  • As I said up above – she was the perfect adventure car and that she did. She traveled all over the country for Tough Mudder events, other muddy races and so much more.
  • She traveled internationally to Canada for Women’s World Cup and camping
  • The week after I got Eleanor she did Relay Iowa – her first of four trips across the state as a support vehicle for our crazy run
  • She drove numerous times to Colorado


Eleanor also holds so many dog memories

  • She was the perfect dog car and loved all 3 of our dogs
  • Took them to many parks, walks, hikes, swims, and adventures
  • She also took them to the emergency vet in crisis
  • And she drove two of them on their last ride and gave them comfort on the way


She drove me to my job every day

  • As I ventured into owning my own business – Eleanor was there to drive me to and from the gym
  • She also carted around so many pieces of equipment for park work outs and more
  • I’m so thankful for her loyal companionship and support

And who could forget the time the UPS box fell on my car and I had to lift it off?? Seriously – how does that happen? You can read about that HERE.


Adventures of Eleanor


I wasn’t ready for her to die and be done – much like a lot of things in life. It came very unexpectedly but there were so many incredible things that happened.

As we were driving down I-35 the check engine light started flashing, the car suddenly shifted into a weird state barely able to drive, and I panicked. More noises started happening and it was clear that we were not going to be able to drive this car anymore.

Here’s where the story becomes pretty incredible and lucky. 

  • We were only a couple miles from Albert Lea instead of being stranded on the side of the road next to a bunch of cornfields.
  • It was warm and not 20 below zero.
  • We took the “wrong” exit which ended up being for the best.
  • We drove down the road until the car was really dying and ended up right smack in front of a Honda dealership/shop.


Even though I was in a panic and already worried about what was next – I was instantly grateful for those things above. It could have been so much worse at that moment.

The dealership was already closed (it was the Saturday before Christmas at 2:30pm) so this made sense. However I walked up to the door and saw a man inside talking on the phone. I waved and motioned for him to come out and he did. I explained the situation and he drove the car to the back of the shop and confirmed that we were not going anywhere with the vehicle. Again – I am so grateful I didn’t have to worry about towing or anything – we were already at a Honda place.

The part I am most grateful for in this story happens at this point. Instead of just saying “oh well” and locking up for the holidays and wishing us the best  – Jim found us a car to drive. He offers us a beautiful 2006 Buick. We transfer all the presents (and the dog) into this car, say goodbye for now to Eleanor and continue on our way to Iowa only an hour behind schedule.

Christmas and the holiday carried on and I learned after they looked at the car that it needed a whole new engine and I decided not to repair it and to get a new car instead.

This was not the time for this to happen.


In all truthfulness – I still owe money on the vehicle loan. I was excited about using car loan money to pay off other debt once the loan was done and driving a loan-free vehicle.

This was not the way it worked. Life had other plans. But here’s what I do know. 


  • I am so grateful for all the ways this worked out that were better than the alternative scenarios
  • I am grateful for the lessons learned about my finances
  • I am motivated in a way I wasn’t before because of being in this situation
  • There are far worse things in life to have happen
  • I am grateful to have so many reliable connections
  • I am grateful for being able to get another loan so I have a vehicle to drive

Eleanor was a great car – she really embodied my personality and I am so grateful for all the fun years we had and the adventures we took. Mostly I am grateful for all the reliable years of transport she gave me.

And even though it felt like a crisis moment – I am reminded that there are always reasons to be grateful, lessons to be learned and it’s never the end.




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