You awake before sunrise, about 5:30 a.m. Rain from an overnight storm soaked the fallen leaves in the street. It’s a bit chilly outside, and a little foggy, so you put on your long underwear, blue jeans, Red Wing boots, flannel shirt and Navy pea coat.
You fill an old thermos with strong black coffee in anticipation of sitting on a fallen log somewhere for breakfast. You throw a chain into a bucket to bring along, just in case you encounter someone who has gone off the road and needs to be pulled out of a ditch. You slip a Leatherman tool into your back pocket.
Today is not just any day. It’s the day you take delivery of your new Jeep. In my case, it’s a press fleet loaner, a 2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Chief, and I’m receiving it the same week, 77 years later, that Willys delivered its original prototype Jeep to the Army back in November 1940.
In anticipation of the experience, I have unconsciously assumed a more-purposeful mindset. I stand taller and walk with a confident stride, without frivolity or wasted movement. Thoughts seem clearer and sharper. I’m getting my Jeep Face on. When it arrives, I slip into it with all the familiarity of my Little League baseball glove.
I don’t need to read the owner’s manual to figure out how to start it; I just get under way. Strangely, I feel compelled to divert my commute through the winding road of the state forest, though at no time do my wheels leave the pavement.
I resist the strong urge to drive past the marina; it is unlikely that any boats have broken free of their moorings and require my assistance. Nonetheless, I feel I should stop at the farm supply store and get a thick coil of dock rope to carry in the backseat. I cast a concerned eye towards a combine tractor wallowing in a muddy field, but that situation seems under control. No downed trees blocking the road. My sector is secure.
My mind ponders the possibilities of the day. I should tow that old sailboat out of my dad’s barn and start restoring it. I should swing by the Fire Department to see if they’re looking for new volunteer firefighters. Maybe I should adopt an old black Lab from the rescue shelter to ride around with me. These are the thoughts of the Jeep owner.
The Wrangler will receive a major redesign for 2018 – its first in 12 years – which will further evolve the truck from its original concept. Given the hype surrounding the new edition, this 2017 Jeep already feels old – but in a good, familiar way.
I’m wary of change. I don’t even like to update the software on my computer or phone. I’m especially fond of living in the warm bubble of nostalgic memories that a neo-classic car evokes. Too few vehicles can capture your imagination like this Jeep has managed to do for me.
The feelings of identity that we assign to our vehicles are on the wane. Transportation choices are homogenizing. It’s been happening since “badge engineering” blurred the lines of brand and substance. Yet there are still modern vehicles that can put a smile on your face and transport not only your body, but your mind.
Somedays, you don’t have to have an adventure; it’s enough to feel that you are simply ready for one.