An Office With 128,000 Miles

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HOUSTON — In five years and eight months, I put 128,000 miles on my car. I have covered Texas for The New York Times for more than eight years. That means my car — a 2014 Chevrolet Malibu four-door sedan — covered Texas, too.

I blew out the tires one night in downtown El Paso after driving over a piece of metal I didn’t see until too late. A deer’s antlers scraped the passenger-side windows like fingernails on a chalkboard as I nicked the animal on a Hill Country road near Austin. A pebble that blew off a speeding truck gave the windshield a hairline fracture. After the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School outside Galveston, I raced there from Houston. But there was a problem with the ignition and the car refused to shut off, so I left it running on the side of the road while I scrambled to interview witnesses nearthe scene.

Say a prayer, dear reader, for the vehicles behind the bylines and datelines at The Times. The dispatch from the scene of the explosion or tornado or wildfire or insert-mayhem-here was brought to you by Times journalists and their cars.

Sometimes we’re riding in Ubers or cabs or rental cars from the airport, but we’re often in one of the vehicles that the newspaper supplies to domestic correspondents, like my Chevy Malibu.

I call it my car, but it’s really a Times car, managed and maintained by a fleet management company. I drove a different car when I first started covering Texas in 2011. A few years later in 2014, I got the Malibu, and it had been my trusty, dirty, unheralded and exhausted companion ever since.

Texas is so massive, catastrophe-prone and story-rich that covering it adequately requires not only wheels or wings but also a mobile office. The Malibu was mine. A power inverter plugged into the cigarette lighter turned the passenger seat into a cubicle: I could sit and work on my laptop while the car idled and charged the computer. The distance from Houston to El Paso, which I’ve traveled a few times in the Malibu, is 747 miles, the equivalent of driving on a multi-state road trip from Times Square to Plainfield, Ind. It’s best, in other words, to get comfortable, because the road is long, and the state is, too.

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