The Valkyries. Legendary daughters of Odin, the ones who convey the warriors they choose to Valhalla and also appear often as the lovers of heroes. These majestic shield maidens honor those who have the courage to fight and endure, and this is a part of the story behind why I named a 1992 Camaro Z28 Valkyrie.
Valkrie is also the title given to my character Rayden Valkyrie, featured in the novel Heart of a Lion. I can say without reservation that Rayden is my favorite character to write and embodies the kind of code that I embrace. It is in honor of this character and what she represents (and what I represent) that I named this car Valkyrie.
The full story behind this car goes all the way back to the later part of 1991… at a time when I truly thought I had found the one that I wanted to marry with all my heart. I won’t go into the details, but the situation involved a great shock and a major heartbreak followed on my part, and resulted one of the tougher trials of my life.
Following the breakup, I felt a pain like no other I had experienced in my life at that time.
I was driving an S-10 Chevy Blazer during those days and I took the Blazer and the money I had intended to spend on the engagement ring for her (and I was going to give her one helluva engagement ring, a few thousand bucks worth of one) and simply did something some might think a little crazy… I bought the shiny new 1992 Z28 sitting in the showroom of the Chevy dealership on Richmond Road in Lexington.
It definitely was love at first sight with that burgundy 1992 Heritage Edition Z28 Coupe with the 5.7 liter 350. It was as if that car told me I deserved better than what happened and she would carry me proudly.
I will also mention that at that time I was still playing baseball and was in the best physical shape of my life. But that is a piece of fact that factors in later in this story. I digress… now back to the Z28.
Driving that Z28 in the ensuing months, in a manner of speaking, gave me a lot of comfort. The type of car it was and the manner it came to me resonated strongly with my spirit, celebrating strength, independence, and a little rock and roll flair. It gave me a real lift to get behind the wheel, helped me keep my mind off things often, just rolling down the windows, cranking up the music, and letting that car fly.
It took months and months for the pain of the breakup to finally ebb, but that car was with me day in and day out, and in so many ways reminding me of the concept of moving forward. Keep moving forward, and Onward and Upward, are two mantras/themes I hold to heart. When you walk a road that has gone far differently than you hoped, and had a lot of pitfalls and deep pain, the only thing you can do is keep moving.
Life went on, and eventually I moved on to other relationships, even if the scar from that experience was a big one.
Fast forward to years later. I went through a period of losing both of my parents, which were the biggest blows I have ever experienced by far. In addition, I lost two very dear cats during the same time zone, and in my world cats and dogs alike are family, and these two were very special to me. That was piled on top of the tremendous blows I suffered losing my parents. It was the heartache of losing family again and again and again.
It is the only way I can explain why I let that car go and sit for several years. I just went into a kind of tunnel, maybe a kind of survival instinct, but that lovely car just sat and suffered with the ravages of weather and time. I hate having to acknowledge it now, as it seems so simple in hindsight to have been able to maintain it, but I really pulled back in many ways as I struggled with the ache and pain of watching my family whittle down until only myself and my sister were left.
About 18 months ago I “woke up” in a manner of speaking, at least in some areas. I decided to restore myself and began a path of physical conditioning and diet changes that have currently resulted in over 170 lbs lost and a drop of 8 pants sizes. Despite setting upon the physical path, and embracing martial arts again to a full extent, I ended up running into some major heartache over the past year, some of which was on par with the level of pain I felt back in 1991.
I went through a very difficult end to 2014, only to come into a situation where I truly felt the sunshine in my heart again. The smile I had then was one that reflected genuine happiness. But I went through another unexpected heartbreak not too deep into 2015. I managed to do much better than I did in the fall, simply because I new how to survive, I knew the things that had helped me pull through the storm in the fall, and I kept on my path and held my head high as I had nothing to be ashamed of. I knew my worth, and took strength from that.
In the spring, as I reached a point where I had made tremendous strides in a physical sense, I looked over at that Z28 just sitting there in my driveway and it about broke my heart. A part of me spoke up loudly, and I felt that if I had undertaken a path to restore myself and maybe reach a point where I was better than I had ever been, in the wake of tremendous heartache, I should bring that car back all the way…to return to me during this time as good or better than she had ever been before. It seemed only fair.
Therefore I did embark on a quest to bring her back and restore her.
I decided to name her Valkyrie, in honor of my favorite character as a writer. Rayden Valkyrie embodies resilience and determination, to the core, and this is what that car represents to me. The choice to keep moving forward. The strength to keep moving forward… onward and upward.
That car called to me, to become that visible reminder again to remain strong and forge ahead in the face of the storm and gray skies overhead.
The mission centered upon one goal: to bring her back better than ever. And I did. It took several months, new tire rods, fuel pumps, sway bars, struts, battery, brakes, a set of new injectors, new wheel covers, new tires, a full array of fluid changes, mechanical adjustments, a new dashboard, a new paint job, even new floor mats and a new stereo system, and many other elements involved.. But the end result is that she looks and runs better than ever, without question.
Valkyrie first came into my world during a time of storm and bolstered me, a time when I was at my physical best. She had returned to me now, during another time of storm, a time when I have reclaimed my physical best. The parallels between the beginning and now are profound.
Setting my eyes upon her reminds me that I need to keep fighting, be proud of who I am and keep my head held high. There’s a spirit of defiance in her, to not get beaten down by the world and celebrate being independent and free-spirited. When I get behind that wheel, roll those windows down, crank the music up and let her fly, I feel a boost in my own spirit.
She’s back. I’m back. We’re both fighters. We are both moving forward. Onward and upward.
So you see, Valkyrie is not just a car … she is a very important part of me and everything I am about.
Fly fast and free, dear lady Valkyrie… I can’t thank you enough for being in my world when I needed you most. Your knight is back and stands by your side.