Spending a slice of summer in Rhode Island was always the goal. With the 91 Why Street project more or less complete, our family dreamed of warm lazy sand filled days followed by nights of deck time. And to get around our South County beach town, Diana, Kéa and I had always dreamed of free wheeling a Jeep with no top. We looked, but never seriously, at picking up a used ragtop Wrangler or CJ for the house in RI.
Fast forward to 2020. Lives the world over ground to a sudden halt, or worse, their end. We’ve weathered the storm reasonably well. Jobs moved into the home, school came through a broadband network, and we did the best we could. Oh, I almost forgot. My NCAA Ski Team was cut. I spent the better part of five months clawing back through various methods. None of which more daunting than raising $628,000 in three of those months, all while managing a full college athletic program remotely from a home office. With a lot of time at home and conversations about what we’d like to do when life returns to some kind of new normal, our trio dreamed of bombing around with the wind in our hair.
As vaccines rolled out, and it appeared likely that we may someday jump a flight East, I opened Pandora’s box. Looking for vehicles on-line is incredibly stupid. It’s a magician’s game. You only see what the seller want’s you to see. And I saw so much more. I saw a means to an end. I saw a road trip down the Oregon coast. I saw access to mountain bike trails throughout the Southwest. I saw this beautiful blood orange Jeep with no top, the girls enjoying a birds-eye view from beneath the roll bar cradling surfboards, and a summer road trip across the back roads of an America I had never experienced.
I bought the Jeep in my sleep. Literally a dream. It took no time to call the dealer in Bellingham, Washington, ask a few questions I already knew the answers to, buy an airplane ticket, and make one of the worst investments of my life. The salesman picked me up at the tiny regional airport. I jumped behind the wheel and drove to the lot to sign papers. I never got the Jeep’s manual transmission into 5th or 6th gear, but I was pretty sure they worked. A slight grindy metallic clunk from under the chassis? Not a problem. This thing was gorgeous. And soon it would be…All. My. Problem.
We had a little cash from not traveling for 15 months. The decision seemed harmless at first. It’s a 2009 Jeep Wrangler X. Low miles. Perfect paint. A three inch lift and 35 inch tires. It fit into our price range as long as nothing major happened. With only 68,000 miles on the frame it would be easy to put a for-sale sign on the window and flip it. I wrote a check, received a set of keys and temporary plates, and set a course for SEA-TAC. The plan was to park it in long term and catch my evening flight back to Anchorage. It had about a half tank of fuel, but I decided to fill it up before hitting I-5. After topping off the tank, I put the key in the ignition and pushed my thumb forward to fire up my first leg of freedom. I’m excited to finally be on the road.
Nothing. I turned the key and I got nothing. Not a click. Not whir. Not a breath of life. Dead. Many things are going on inside my head at this point. I’m still excited, but not the way I’d like to be. The loudest thought I have is “Are you F*@#ingh Kidding Me?!” I immediately called the dealer who descended on the 76 service station in a matter of seconds, as I only made it 500 effing feet from the dealership before the damn thing broke. This would be the first and easiest fix of my journey east. A loose battery connection from removing the defunct winch from the front bumper. Of course! Servicemen got under the hood, made a few adjustments and again I was on my way.
About 20 miles north of SEA-TAC I begin to feel a slight vibration in the steering column. Even the side view mirror blurred my return view, and I decided to make a pit stop. I looked under the chassis, not that I could ever identify any potential issue or remotely think about fixing it, but I’m a curious guy and you never know. If something was a amiss, I certainly didn’t see any signs of trouble. I pulled back on to the highway, the vibration went away, and I parked our beautiful new used not somebody else’s problem in the long term lot. In 18 days, Diana and I will return to start the next leg from Seattle to San Francisco down one of the most scenic coastal highways in the world. US 101.
This is the next blog series illustrating bad decision making surrounding 91 Why Street. It will take me a while to get you caught up to speed. But believe me, when you find out where I am and why I’m here, you’ll understand that I have plenty of time on my hands. Stay tuned. One again, I’m here to make you feel better about yourself through my own astounding ability to seek out misguided delusion. Enjoy.