In July 31, 2002 I handed over the keys to my beat-to-death Chevy Cavalier – with a failing clutch and a nasty dent on the hood left by the tail pipe of a Ford pickup at about 22 mph – to a sales lady at the nearby Jeep dealership. What I was getting in return was a handsome red TJ with the X package and a manual transmission.
Then my old buddy, Russ, hopped in and lowered the top before we left the lot. The only place to go was my girlfriend’s place to show her the new ride.
Is this part a coincidence? Less than a year later we were married.
We drove it on the honeymoon and every anniversary trip since, including a kayak trip in Mexico where my wife almost rolled it on Mex 15 south of Hermosillo thanks to some cattle in the road.
Then some time later, I was driving solo along a familiar trail just a few miles from the nearest town when the fuel pump failed. Being a Wednesday evening, I had little choice but to hitch-hike back to town, buy a pack of cigarettes for the guy who picked me up, and locate a pay phone in the Los Hermanos bar. The barmaid spotted me as I walked in, and smiled, “Honey, you look like you’ve had better days. You okay?”
“I need a phone and a shot of tequila.”
“Lucky you, I’m one stop shopping for that kind of list. Phone’s over there. You like Patron Silver chilled?”
I called my wife, and made arrangements with a nice guy at the bar claiming to be the local mechanic who was willing to go out to my Jeep in the morning and swap the pump.
The miles piled up – snow skiing in Utah, backroads to Grand Canyon, a guided tour in Canyon de Chelly, Joshua Tree National Park, several journeys to the Sea of Cortes, and random explorations of the blank spaces on a trusty Topo map.
On my way to nowhere memorable (my position, on the other hand, was right here: N33° 31’ 12” W111° 53’ 16”) I watched the odometer counting upward: 99998, 99999, 100000.
Now that I have a daughter, I’m kind of hoping to pass this on to her for the 200,000-300,000 mile stretch. She’ll probably want a Jetta, or something “cute” instead just to drive me nuts. I’m just hoping she’ll take it for a while, however short, and go get some stories of her own to tell.
Related – American Overland Expeditions JK Wrangler
* Published by JPFreek Adventure Magazine – The leader in Jeep and adventure enthusiast publications.