JEEP: Just Empty Every Pocket!
Back around 2007-08, I fell in love. Just like that, just driving down the road. And there she was, in a small used car lot down in Dalton, Michigan. Not real far from where I live. Oh, she was pretty. Dark blue metallic paint that glinted midnight in the hot summer sun. A family heritage that dated all the way back to her grandfather Willys in the 1940s. What was she?
A 2001 Jeep Cherokee Sport, an XJ in Jeep lingo. Square, boxy, perfect. And I knew I had to have her. And not only that, I knew I’d found the brand of vehicle that I could pledge loyalty and love to for the rest of my life. We brought her home, and I named her Eclipse. Partly after an old horse of my mom’s that I rode when I was little, and partly after my favorite book in the Twilight saga (yeah, yeah, I went through a Twilight phase. Didn’t everyone? Don’t lie. You know you did). I loved that Jeep with passion. Nothing was more fun than driving down a dirt road after a long soaking rain and hitting every single mud puddle with glee. She was our main family vehicle, and we all fell in love with her.
And then in 2011 (I’m guessing here), our two kids and I were coming home from a run to MickeyD’s when a car pulled a U-turn right in front of me. With nowhere to go, the car crossing both lanes, we hit it dead square in the driver’s side door. I think I closed my eyes on the impact; I remember coming back to my senses on the side of the road, air bags blown, kids crying in the back seat, and thinking, “Did that really happen?” It did. The Jeep was totaled, but it saved our lives. It basically compacted when it hit the car, driving everything in the engine bay together into a little neat package. Oh, and the guy in the Grand Am? Well, they had to cut him out of the car with JAWS, and fly him by AeroMed helicopter to Grand Rapids, where he almost lost his leg. He got the ticket from the State Police.
I knew I had to have another Jeep. We found a 1994 Grand Cherokee, sky blue, that wasn’t in too bad of shape. A lot of miles, but hey – most of us have a lot of miles. A ZJ in the lingo of Jeepers, we named her Zoey (yes, we name all our vehicles – even our 1985 Travel Villa fifth wheel). By this time, my hubby was also driving a Jeep as a daily driver – Cap, a 2002 Liberty Sport (a KJ). We were a two Jeep family. Zoey lasted me about a year and half, and then hubby took over driving her as she required some special treatment to keep running, and I took Cap as my DD. Zoey went down the road after her engine seized, and along came Dan, our 2006 Silverado, and my hubby’s DD.
But after Zoey left, and having been a two Jeep family, we wanted something else. We started looking at Wranglers, and brought home a beat-up 1995 YJ Wrangler that had lived most of its life up on Drummond Island. With a loud four cylinder engine and square headlights (want controversy? Just ask Jeepers about square and round headlights sometime, but don’t say I didn’t warn you), Shifty O’Jeepers became my hubby’s favorite vehicle of all time. And that’s saying a lot, considering all the vehicles he’s had.
A couple of years after Shifty came home, I got the itch for another XJ. And I found the perfect one: a 1999 red Cherokee Sport with oversized tires and a light visor. She looked like a mini semi truck in her pictures on Craig’s List, and we went to look at her. Just getting back into the driver’s seat of that Cherokee brought back all the great memories I had of Eclipse, and I just had to have her. So Bernadette (named after the spunky little blonde Melissa Rauch plays on The Big Bang Theory) came home to stay, and I know now that I will always have to have an XJ. They quit building them back in 2001, when the Liberty took it’s place for the 2002 lineup. Oh, and we sold Cap to a young girl just finishing up high school, bringing another person into the Jeep family.
Bernadette came from Maryland, a place where the roads remain unsalted, and her body is beautiful. She’s getting her dune flag here in the mail in the next couple of days, and she’s wearing her purple ORV passes across her rear end with pride, just like her Star Wars, Denver Broncos, and Detroit Tigers decals. And when that flag gets mounted, look out! She’ll be hitting the Silver Lake Sand Dunes with her brother Shifty and helping us make even more great Jeepin’ family memories.
Because once you go Jeep, you never go back.