April 11, 2014

J Is for Jeep

While in my heart of hearts I prefer public transportation, by necessity I have had a number of cars over the years. Most of them were hand-me-downs — cars that either belonged to family members or came as part of a package deal when I got married. But for two cars, I was able to research and participate in the selection.

The first was a 1997 Saturn SL2 back when Saturn was making a terrific car. The decision to buy this car, for me, had more to do with practicality. It was a highly rated car, shopping for it was a pleasant experience, and at the time, we could afford to pay cash. The car lasted until 2010, when it finally gave up the ghost. It was a good car, but for me, it was merely transportation.

From 2003 to 2010, we lived in Las Vegas. We moved there after living in San Francisco, where a car was more of a pain in the ass than a necessity, and Portland, where one car was a bit of a luxury, but not absolutely necessary (and two cars would have been excessive). Both cities had usable public transportation so we used the buses, subways, and light rail because it was easy and convenient.

Las Vegas was a completely different story. There are buses, but they run infrequently and only cover a small fraction of the city. Additionally, the high temperatures make walking to a bus stop and waiting for a bus uncomfortable, and sometimes hazardous, especially for a redhead (that would be me). So, two jobs in the family equals two cars.

My husband really liked the Saturn, so he kept that car. It was up to me to pick out the new one.

When we moved to Las Vegas, in an effort to extend the life of the car, we made a decision to use the aging Saturn locally, but to rent cars for any out-of-town trips. On one of those jaunts, a trip to Los Angeles, the car we originally booked was not available, and the rental company offered us the Jeep Liberty as a substitute. I have back issues related to a 2003 car accident, and long car rides always aggravated my back problem — until that trip to Los Angeles. I had no discomfort at all.

So when I researched my new car, the Jeep Liberty Sport factored high on my search list. I spent a month going from dealer to dealer, testing a variety of small to mid-size SUVs. None were as comfortable as the Jeep for me. The Jeep had a couple of negative comments with Consumer Reports: Seat too high for easy entry, and the V-6 engine was a gas guzzler. Well, I'm almost 5 feet 8 inches, so I had no problem sliding into the car (and getting out was a breeze). The gas consumption was an issue, but was trumped by the comfort. Also, it was a piece of cake to load groceries as there was no bending involved. My back loved that car.

In my late 50s, I finally experienced true car love.

A year or so after I bought my Jeep, I signed on as editor of a local lifestyle monthly magazine. The job required that I travel through the desert to Bullhead City each month to have the magazine printed. The trip was a breeze in the Jeep. And, as it was so reliable, I never had any real anxiety about possible breakdowns.

We took it on all kinds of out-of-town trips. We went to Laughlin and Mesquite, Nevada, on a regular basis, and took a trip to St. George, Utah. We even took the car on a major road trip to Boise, Idaho, via Salt Lake City and returning by way of Reno. Always comfortable, always reliable — and somehow more fun than the average car.

When we left Las Vegas for San Francisco in 2010, I sold my Jeep. Because I had babied the dang thing — servicing every three months at the approved dealerships, fitting the car with a chrome grille and protective spare tire cover, clean interior, and a close to ding-free exterior — it held its value.

While I was perfectly fine with the concept of selling it, I was unprepared for how much I would miss my Jeep. I honestly don't miss owning a car, in general. (After all, the annual expense of owning one in the U.S. translates to a yearly trip to Europe or South America.) But I do miss that particular car.

It was fun while it lasted.

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