It’s a Jeep thing

For nearly a decade, this little Jeep took me nearly everywhere I needed to get as a runner.

It took me to trails, to races and to running stores.

It took me to expos, to pasta parties and to starting lines.

It took me the doctor, to the physical therapist and to the emergency room.

It took me to the woods, over and over again.

And it always got me back home safely.

Now it’s falling apart. It’s parked in my driveway. The frame is badly rusted, and the underside is busting through, like a hernia.

I have no idea if I will ever drive it again. The engine is rattling. The gears won’t shift. The stuff underneath is about to hit the pavement.

But I can’t say goodbye. So I’m going to leave it in my driveway until I figure out what to do.

It’s hard to say goodbye to this old buggy.

It was more than a set of wheels.

It was almost my running partner.

It got me where I needed to go, every time, and with a lot of fun.

On nice days, I took the top down and let the wind blast through my hair. I felt 20 years younger.

More than that, it was part of the family. My two boys loved to ride in the Jeep as much as I did. They practically grew up in it.

Here’s a picture of them in 2006, a couple of years after I bought my Jeep:

And here’s a photo six years later, in 2011:

But not everyone in the family was a fan.

Mrs. Trail Boy called it my midlife crisis car. She didn’t like to ride in it, except for very short trips. She thought it was too bouncy. After a half-hour, she would feel seasick.

She also thought it was the most impractical car we ever owned. It had almost no storage space, a tiny cabin, and it took forever to raise or lower the top. It also got terrible gas mileage and was expensive to repair.

She was right. It was all those things.

But it was also fun. And you have to have a little fun on this earth.

I bought the Jeep second-hand in 2004. It was three years old, still shiny, with lots of promise.

I bought it after my boring, 11-year-old Toyota Camry died.

I was sick of driving dull cars. I wanted a something a little rowdy, a little restless.

I wanted a Jeep Wrangler, nothing else. Like the automaker says, it’s a Jeep thing.

I told all this to Mrs. Trail Boy.

She looked at me like I told her I wanted to quit my job and become a matador. After all, I was in my mid-40s, with a wife and two sons, and a mortgage and a responsible job.

But after a couple of weeks, she got used to the idea. A man in his 40s has to do a few things before time runs out. As Mrs. Trail Boy told me, a Jeep would be cheaper than a mistress.

So I jumped at the chance,  found a good deal and did it.

I never regretted it. It was my fun car. And it was also my everyday car. It took me to work, to job interviews and even to a funeral.

About a year ago, the Jeep began to show its age. I had to sink more than $1,000 into it for all kinds of engine and power train stuff.

Then the trunk door got bent and wouldn’t close. It cost another hundred or so to fix that.

Then I began having trouble shifting gears.

I thought it was a clutch problem. But the mechanic gave me the bad news: the frame was rusted and falling apart. The guts were falling out of the bottom.

The price to fix it: at least $6,000.

“I would only do this if you’re really sentimental about this car,” he said.

For a few days, I considered it. But then I came to my senses. This is a 12-year-old car. Things are going to keep falling apart. I wouldn’t be able to depend on it.

So I parked it at the end of the driveway and began looking around for another car.

I looked at lots of car websites. I hit six or eight dealerships. I took lots of test drives. I almost bought a Mazda.

But I just couldn’t. The Mazda was just a car.

I needed a Jeep. It was in my blood.

I joked that I would buy another Wrangler. Mrs. Trail Boy, who drives a compact Toyota Matrix, gave me the look of death.

She wanted a bigger car that could take us on vacations. She wanted a roof rack. It would be nice, she said, to get a hatchback that could carry a sofa or a ladder if we needed it.

So we compromised. I got a four-door hatchback with a roof rack. And I got a Jeep.

It’s a Patriot, the smallest SUV that Jeep makes.

I picked it up yesterday, and parked it at the end of the driveway. Next to the Wrangler.

I hope they keep each other company. Until I figure out what to do with the old buggy.


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