Curbside Musings: 2004 Buick Rendezvous – Meetup With A Deer

2004 Buick Rendezvous. Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois. Tuesday, February 20, 2024.

It was November of 2011, and I was back home in Flint as one of many featured artists participating in one of the downtown art walks held regularly on the second Fridays of the month.  I had never shown my photographs in Flint before, and was hesitant when my friend Marta reached out to let me know there was a spot available for me at the bookstore where she worked.  I had started having prints made for only a few years by that point, but it didn’t take too long before I was won over by the excitement of the prospect of showing some of my images in the city that formed much of who I am.  I selected six of my favorite, framed prints and shipped them FedEx from Chicago to Flint, where I picked them up after arriving by train, later completing my temporary installation at the bookstore.

The former Pages Bookstore. Downtown Flint, Michigan. Friday, November 11, 2011.

That was such an exciting time over twelve years ago.  I didn’t know where all of my photography was going to land or what it would lead to (I still don’t, actually), but I knew I wanted to continue to keep my camera with me at all times and just keep shooting simply out of my enjoyment of doing so.  My friends back home shared in my enthusiasm, which made this experience all the more meaningful.  After the show downtown on Friday, 11/11/11 (a date I will always remember), it was time to have some fun and see some of Flint before I was on that Amtrak back to Chicago after this quick weekend.  At some point, I had made plans with my friend Anna to see some of her favorite spots in the area that Saturday night before a larger group of us were to meet up later.  Anna had a two-tone Rendezvous in beige and light brown.

2004 Buick Rendezvous. Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois. Tuesday, February 20, 2024.

The two of us had just left her sister’s house in the adjacent city of Burton, barely northeast of Flint city limits.  This area is sparsely populated and what some might consider semi-rural.  It was early evening, and daylight was in its last glimmers, casting the horizon with a pink and purple glow.  Anna and I were recapping the details of the art show, the different people each of us had encountered that night, works that were memorable, and basically just catching up when… WHAM!  A deer had rammed into the side of the Rendezvous.  Let me repeat that.  We did not hit the deer.  The deer hit us, on the passenger’s side of the vehicle where I was sitting, and Anna was not driving slowly.  The first, involuntary words out of my mouth were: “Oh, dear.”  Or perhaps, “Oh, deer.”  Phonetically, it came out the same.

2004 Buick Rendezvous. Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois. Tuesday, February 20, 2024.

The damage to the Rendezvous wasn’t horrendous, but the dent, scrapes, and missing pieces of broken plastic were clearly noticeable, as were the bits of deer fur that stuck to the vehicle following impact.  I honestly don’t remember us trying to open the side door to see if it still worked.  The deer disappeared into the woods across the field where this happened (because Michigan), and Anna and I sat there wondering if there was anything we needed to do right then.  Neither one of us was hurt (which the NHTSA would be pleased to know), and there was no damage to lights or the engine compartment, so we just ended up going on our merry way that night – a little shaken, of course.  She and I still text about that deer.  Any time I see a Rendezvous, she’s one person I think of immediately, as was the case when I spotted our featured vehicle almost exactly one month ago.

2004 Pontiac Aztek brochure cover, as sourced from the internet.

I think of the Rendezvous as the Pontiac Aztek that went to Jos. A. Bank clothiers.  At the risk of sounding like a revisionist (as I do remember having commented once that the side profile of the Aztek was similar to that of a garbage truck), I honestly don’t think the Aztek looks bad.  Not in 2024 it doesn’t, where it actually looks current to me.  When it was introduced in 2000 as an ’01 model, there were things I didn’t love about its appearance, but surveying today’s automotive landscape, the only styling trend I see that’s generally consistent across all makes is that which is extreme.

The attractive, prominent “front teeth” twin-kidney grilles of BMWs from even a decade ago have now morphed into giant, bucktoothed chiclets.  Lexuses look like they want to vacuum the road.  I’m not trying to upset anyone who owns or likes the current aesthetic of either of these makes, but I guess my point is that Pontiac did “extreme” about fifteen years before others followed suit.  Maybe it’s also that I’ve just had more time to get used to the Aztek.  It’s a little bit of A, and a little bit of B.

Saginaw Street, facing south. Downtown Flint, Michigan. Friday, November 11, 2011.

South Saginaw Street in downtown Flint, Michigan on the night of the art walk.

The Rendezvous, by contrast, was a conventionally attractive crossover that arrived for 2002, one year after the Aztek.  Largely based on the same GM U-body minivan platform that dated from ’97, it offered useful technology like the available all-wheel-drive Versatrak system which was intended more for weather conditions than off-roading, an optional third-row of seats which had not yet become the norm for vehicles in this class, and various tech-centric features in the cabin like ports for electronics and a trip computer.  Our featured vehicle is a front-drive CX model with the 3.4 liter V6 with 185 horsepower.  With its four-speed automatic, it was rated by the EPA at 17 mpg city / 24 highway / 20 combined.

2004 Buick Rendezvous brochure page, as sourced from the internet.

Style-wise, the Rendezvous incorporated many cues that were distinctively Buick, including an oval-shaped front “mouth” grille, and a rear taillamp panel which closely resembled the styling of the concurrent LeSabre.  It wasn’t perfect-looking from every angle, but given that it was born of minivan roots, Buick’s first “truck” since 1923 didn’t embarrass itself with what it was wearing… like the Aztek did at the time.  The Rendezvous was successful, with almost 345,000 sold over six model years, with production ending in 2007.

2004 Buick Rendezvous. Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois. Tuesday, February 20, 2024.

One measure of this vehicle’s sustained popularity before essentially being replaced by the larger Enclave for ’08 was that calendar-year sales stayed consistently over the 60,000 for four consecutive model years between ’02 and -05, including a spike to 72,600 units for ’03.  By contrast, Pontiac moved a grand total of only 119,700 Azteks in its five model years between ’01 and ’05, never breaking the 28,000 mark for any individual calendar year.

The front of the CIBC Theater was a perfect setting for this Rendezvous, and a welcome reminder of my friend Anna and the evening in the greater Flint area when a myopic deer decided to side-butt her Buick.  If anything, that experience made me more vigilant to the possibility of something leaping in front of my moving vehicle when I’m behind the wheel.  Defensive driving is essential, even when it involves wildlife.  I’ll be happy with no more unintentional rendezvous with deer, ever again.

Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois.
Tuesday, February 20, 2024.

The brochure photos were sourced from the internet.  The night shots were taken in downtown Flint, Michigan on Friday, November 11, 2011.