Seven years and 200,000 miles

My trusty, rugged Jeep drove its two hundred thousandth mile today. I took the keys to it almost exactly seven years ago.

My parents and I bought this 1999 Cherokee Sport while they were visiting for Trinity University’s “Parents’ Weekend” in 2000, my junior year. I had long been in search for a worthy successor to the 1989 Toyota Corolla GT-S which carried me through all the twists and turns of high school and most of college. My next vehicle needed to be of equally uncompromising capability, accommodation, and readiness. Also among the highest priorities was that the new ride should also be black.

After months of classifieds, dealers, and frustrating online research in an era before cars were really available on the web, I was rapidly resigning myself to something like a Ford Ranger or some midsize practical-but-sporty sedan.

I’d be a lesser man writing today were it not for a fateful encounter at the Red McCombs dealership on north 281 in San Antonio that weekend. Mom had picked up a lead in the paper on a Jeep Cherokee with low miles and premium options. Unlike the teal and pink abominations I had already dismissed, this one met my color specifications.

As I slid into the driver’s seat, I knew immediately. The clear lines of sight all around, the modest but forthcoming displays, the tinted windows, even the factory-option Infinity sound system… the fresh interior and crisp controls were natural extensions of my awareness.

The test drive was quick, precise, capable, agile, energetic, and “rugged” — a word I would often utter involuntarily as I later rumbled over obstacles rural and urban (to the delight of one particular companion).

It has since carried me and many close to me to most major cities in Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, through countless small towns along the way. It has been below sea level and above 14,000 feet. It has been on three islands. I drove it across Galveston during the peak of Hurricane Claudette.

Only four people have ever driven it besides me, for a combined total of less than 300 miles.

It has been towed three times, burglarized twice, and crashed once. It has never left me stranded. I’ve been pulled over in it several times, cited only three times, and dismissed every time. I have slept in it, but I’ve never made love in it; it has always carried me to beautiful destinations more suitable.

I have never been without it for more than nine days at a time. Its key has been on my person nearly every day of my life since it was placed in my hand. Only my glasses have been on my person longer.

A day will come when this trusty Jeep can drive no more. It could be 5,000 miles from now, 50,000 miles from now, or another 200,000. I hope it will be with me for many more adventures, however, because few things have been as faithful a part of my life as this Jeep, and there will truly never be a replacement for the things it has enabled me to do and become.

To end with an appropriate cliché, “Here’s to the long road ahead.”

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