I like Jeeps. Have since I was a kid, even though I never drove or even rode in one until I bought my first in 2007. A 1995 model, she was intended to be a “spare vehicle” — something to drive on the weekend, or when my pickup truck was in the shop.
Coincidentally, 2007 was the last year that I had any “spare” money. The economic crash of 2008 and some poor career decisions have not been good to my net worth. The spare became the primary vehicle a few months ago.
When I say Jeep I mean “Wrangler,” the vehicle in the photo above. It’s based on the military work-horse that moved U.S. troops from Point A to Point B in World War II. The first commercial version became available in 1944 and was dubbed the “C.J.” which stood for “Civilian Jeep.”
Other models are available under the name Jeep, including one that looks something like what we called a “station wagon” when I was a kid. Another is a puny little car-like thing called a “Liberty.”
Patrick Henry once said “Give me liberty or give me death!” Well Pat, if I had to drive a Liberty I reckon I would give death some serious consideration.
The real Jeep is a no frills vehicle. Pretty basic equipment like manual transmission, no air conditioner (at least in mine), vinyl seats, and a heater that will roast a chicken in five minutes or less. Easy to work on, a big plus for a man like me who is admittedly mechanically challenged. And they make so many after-market accessories that a Jeep can be customized to reflect any individual’s personal taste.
On the flip side they are drafty, noisy (with or without the top) and ride like a buckboard wagon on the highway. As the Redhead is fond of saying “Let’s not take the Jeep — that thing will beat us to death.”
But they are sweet as granny’s tea in the woods. They go up, down, around, or through almost anything you encounter.
What I didn’t expect when I bought that first one is that Jeep owners apparently consider themselves to be some sort of family. I never meet a Jeep coming or going in which the driver does not give me a wave. And of course I wave back. Don’t know when or why this came to be. I suppose it’s just a Jeep thing that you wouldn’t understand. I’m still not exactly sure that I do.
I’m not bothered by the gesture. In the Alabama of my youth, country folk always waved when their vehicles met. It was a nice custom, one that I wish would make a comeback. A polite acknowledgement of the kinship of mankind, a time when folks didn’t ride around angry and self-absorbed. No texting or web surfing while driving. No cursing at other drivers. No obscene gestures. No road rage.
Sadly my trusty old ’95 bit the dust a couple of months ago. A college kid with a cell phone and a short attention span pulled-out in front of me. I didn’t even have time to hit the brakes. Thankfully neither of us were hurt, but both vehicles were total losses.
The bright side was that the insurance company paid me nearly a grand more than I originally paid for her. Try to pull that off with a Prius.
The replacement is a 2007, so I’m slowly making progress toward the present. At this rate I may get a current year model sometime around 2050.
Time marches on, or bounces along if you drive a Jeep.
So if you’re looking for me today you might check an old Alabama back road. I’ll be the one in my “new” old Jeep, grinning and waving at any of my extended family along the way.