This post is about the Jeep. You can keep your fancy BMWs, your Lincolns and your Mercedes. Don’t put me in a vehicle that has bells, whistles, seat warmers, cameras, or anything else. It’ll all go wasted on an unappreciative heart. Allow me to roll my own windows down and lock my own doors and I’ll do just fine. No, I don’t need a mirror up under the visor and you can keep your expensive electronics and bluetooth equipment. Other people love all that stuff, and that’s all well and fine, I just don’t need it.
I prefer a ride that allows me to feel the road or path or muddy trail beneath me and lets me get over and through it like a champ. I prefer my vehicle not to need ‘updates’ over wifi to keep functioning. Mud and dirt are badges of honor meant to be left on for weeks at a time. Scratches from branches and thorns or those scrapes from that ‘barely wide enough’ space you misjudged are all part of the story. The cracks in my windshield (thank you, Arizona gravel landscaping!) and the decals bragging about my trapeze school or proving my love for all things sugar skull are bits and pieces of my life. They are an introduction to who I am. Just as some other woman will fondly and gently tell you about the stones in her Mother’s ring, I have cracks, dirt, and blemishes on my Jeep. On the inside of her there are other things that further give the Jeep MY personality. There’s Rubicon sticker, a remnant of the time I had to replace the control arms because the ones that were on it were shot. Attached with medical tape (I’m a nurse, that stuff is always handy!) to the spot just above the rear view mirror there’s a shell casing from when I went shooting an AR-15 for the first time. And there’s this ugly but harmless stain in the upholstery on the passenger seat where my cat’s food spilled and I didn’t clean it up well enough. At your feet you’d find my Jack Skellington floor mats caked with hard, dry mud and littered with stones and debris from all over the country. Under those mats you’d find an assortment of twigs and leaves that blew into the vehicle on various outings that I haven’t had the heart to remove yet because they all remind me of a place I’ve been. Between the passenger and driver seat you’d find an impressive sturdy steel locking console, memories of the time that some homeless guy in Chicago decided to get into my wide open Jeep, rifle through everything, and leave it smelling like pee. He didn’t steal anything, just got in, looked around, and, I assume, fell asleep and peed all over himself and my vehicle. (Thank you Roger’s Park!) There’s a set of jumper cables just in case, and a ‘go bag’ that lives in there too, full of warm clothes, flares, fire starting stuff, a flashlight, and a thermal blanket and some good quality snacks and 2 bottles of water that I rotate through, also, just in case. There’s a tire gauge for when I need to air down to get better traction over certain terrain (think: MOAB!). There’s a cat toy that always makes me smile and some foreign change rattling around in the change holders that remind me that I’m not a sedentary person. On the back spare tire is my bike rack so that I can take my bicycle with me everywhere I go. There’s a new tow-kit attached underneath and in the space between the back seat and the rear door of the Jeep you’ll find an adjustable hitch so I can tow small things around when I move from place to place. The soft top is stretched out and easy to get up and down thanks to the piles of stuff that I once strapped to the top of the vehicle to get around as a travel nurse. There’s a tiny rip in the spot that sustained too much pressure from that parcel as I was driving from Phoenix to Washington.
Me, the Jeep and the cat all stopped at Zion and Bryce Canyon on that trip. Another time we all slept a night in the Grand Tetons in that Jeep on top of all of my stuff so that we could wake up in a beautiful place. So many memories…
Maybe you noticed the name of this post is Launch. I’m guessing I’ve painted a pretty rosy picture of me, the travel nurse with the Jeep and the cat. Well, I all things in life change. On January 18th of this year (2017) that Jeep was stolen from the hospital parking lot while I was at work. It was such a shock to my system, everything about my ability to be free in the US and travel from job to job was taken away just like that.
Obviously the first thought I had was to try and replace it but finding a comparable Jeep in good working order wasn’t going to happen for what the insurance paid out. I looked through hundreds of car websites and realized that I didn’t want to drive anything but a Jeep.
Along the way I lost my job (I’ll be writing about that soon, you’ll be able to read first hand why this was the best thing for me) and currently my cat is getting sicker and sicker. The life I was living was slipping away bit by bit and I was watching it slide away.
So I decided to quit. All of it. I decided to take the loss and make it a win. The Jeep, the nursing, the cat, the USA. I bought an affordable little motorcycle, scheduled myself for a hip replacement that I desperately needed, (you can look forward to that rant coming too) and decided that I’d start over with that Jeep money instead of jumping back into the same life.
Now here I sit, I’ve just booked tickets to see friends in Chicago, then Florida, and finally to Cartagena, Colombia where I will start my journey with a 5 week intensive Spanish course. And from there? Who knows.
Ironically, I’ve never felt more free.