Exploding sunroofs and time travel

By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Reader Staff

I very rarely indulge in extravagances, but when I bought an almost-new car in 2020, I decided that I wanted a sunroof. There was no logical reason for this decision, only a desire for something fancy and different, which nearly killed me once I let it sink in. Nonetheless, I’ve enjoyed having a sunroof.

Flash forward two years, and that indulgence came back to bite me.

On our way home from a four-day honeymoon road trip through western Montana, my husband Alex and I were about 10 minutes out of Missoula when a sound like a gunshot went off over our heads. We pulled over on the highway and discovered that a portion of the sunroof had shattered, and with no rock or other debris as the obvious culprit. Luckily, we’d had the fabric interior cover closed when it happened — otherwise, we’d both have been covered in glass shards.

We borrowed a broom and dustpan from some roadside campers, cleaned up the mess and called our insurance company. We contemplated driving the remaining three hours home, but discovered pretty quickly that the now-exposed fabric topper on my car wouldn’t withstand speeds over 35 without acting like it was going to fly open.

Plan B came as a suggestion from one of the insurance representatives over the phone: limp the car back to Missoula to the nearest auto body shop and ask them to “crash wrap” the roof with a special adhesive plastic supposedly capable of withstanding highway speeds. It took us nearly an hour to travel the 13 miles, but we made it, got the plastic applied and arrived home in Hope after about four hours on the road and with the help of two rolls of duct tape purchased at a gas station in Plains, Mont. As it turns out, crash wrap withstands speed better than rain, and Montana has plenty of the latter to offer in June.

As I write this, my car sits safely under cover, waiting for the specialty glass replacement to arrive in Sandpoint.

As rural people, we depend on our vehicles more than most. This is especially true of people in the far-flung reaches of Bonner County, who commute to work daily or to run errands several times a week. 

I, for one, love to drive. It is when I do my best thinking. Behind the wheel of my car is my happy place and, without that resource, I’m left to depend on others for rides or forced to stay home. While that may not be the end of the world, it is certainly an inconvenience.

That’s why I’m thankful that my mom’s old car has been available to get me from place to place.

It’s a mid-size SUV from the mid-2000s with three rows of seats and boasting more than 200,000 miles. There isn’t anything technically wrong with it, aside from the mixed CD stuck in the stereo. All in all, it drives and runs great, and the CD is actually pretty good.

It is understood that the closest humans get to time travel is with speed. Of course, the best examples would be by rocketship or even airplane. For us Everyday Joes, motorized ground travel is a more common occurrence, and when considered in the grand scheme of human history, cars remain an incredible advancement.

It is this thought that crossed my mind on one of the first truly summery days this past week, driving the well-loved mom car home from the office. The Pack River flats shone bright blue and there were no clouds to be seen. With the AC on the fritz, I drove with all the windows down and the stereo up loud. 

The mixed CD, crafted by my baby sister out of music that she learned to love from her three older siblings, featured a song I spent much of my adolescent years screaming at the top of my lungs. I seized the opportunity and, much to the dismay of the fishermen within earshot along the shores of Highway 200, I sang my heart out.

Life has changed a lot since my mom bought that car. We are a far cry from the days of family road trips to Arizona; strapping my older sister’s college mattress to the roof and going through the McDonald’s drive-thru on the way to take it to her in Moscow; or singing along to Christmas carols on the way home from Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents’ house.

Still, the combination of the song, the summer and the sticky, cracked leather seats took me back in time. I look forward to having my extravagances back but, in the meantime, maybe the past was pretty extravagant after all.

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