Picture a lovely California spring day, mid-1990s. I headed up to the Sierras with a friend in a 1982 Plymouth Reliant K car to meet up with my boyfriend and his fraternity brothers at a rock face they liked to climb. We’d missed them at the original spot and had to come back down the dirt, one-lane road that snaked up the hill. I carefully tried to ride the stiff ridges left by more adequate cars along a muddy stretch. I felt the K-car start to sink to the side, slowly becoming mired in the muddy grooves. Dusk was near, and in the interest of not becoming bear appetizer I jumped out the car, mud rising past my ankles (there went my white Keds), and had my friend slide behind the driver’s seat. I pushed as she hit the gas, the car eventually lurched out of the sticky mud, and I landed face-first in said mud.
Fast forward to my first new car, a 1995 Ford Escort GT. A friend and I decided to hop in the hooptie for a spontaneous road trip to Monterey. I found a brilliant shortcut across the Coast Ranges on my non-AAA-quality road map that should get us there in no time. When the road quicly turned dirt, I just kept on going. And going, with clods of hard dirt banging against the bottom of the car. Until the road was washed out, at which point we had to turn around and go back.
And I also can’t forget the time when I was reporting from near Campo, Calif., at the Mexican border, plowing through the dirt not-quite roads in a 2003 Camry when I heard someone following me in the desolate area frequented by drug traffickers and had to peel rubber to lose them.
In short, I have a long, illustrious history of taking vehicles into places they just aren’t built to go.
So when it came time to trade in my 2007 New Beetle convertible — first step was getting over the emotional attachment to Herbie, who brought me to the East Coast from L.A. and even had a stint in Denver where he got fitted with Blizzak tires — I decided to give in to my adventurous nature and get a car that could make it over a speed bump without bottoming out.
Since making my purchase Friday, I’ve been high on new-car smell. Or that could be the United Auto Workers reefer.
Say hello to the Jeep Wrangler that will never get stuck in border brush, will intimidate crazed DC drivers, and will never get lost in the fog. This the 2013 Moab special edition: Gecko pearl coat with dark saddle leather seats, shift-on-the-fly 4WD, 3.6-liter V6, foldable or removable rear seat, Kevlar-reinforced off-road tires, steel bumpers, premium softop that can open all the way or just as a sunroof, and all the hill assist and descent goodies.
Inside, there’s a 6.5-inch touchscreen GPS system with satellite radio, plus a 40GB hard drive to save songs and hands-free calling, with voice recognition software and complemented with a premium Alpine sound system. There are more touches like a vehicle information center with tire pressure display, how many miles until empty, etc. And random goodies like deep storage compartments, automatic headlights, illuminated cupholders, USB ports and power outlets, and more.
First Jeep, and I’m in love. Even if some stoned/smashed Chrysler worker put it together — the coverage on the car was enhanced by the dealer, including 6 years bumper-to-bumper, unlimited powertrain, and an extra coverage plan including tire and wheel repair and/or replacement, on-site windshield repairs, dent and ding repair, and key replacement.
Probably because of my occupation and being around Washington too long, when I saw “Moab” I thought not of Utah, the actual namesake of the special edition, but “Mother of All Bombs.” So naturally, the new ride gets a nickname fitting for the defense secretary most associated with the MOAB: Rummy.
Rummy’s first task was a Friday night trip into DC, where I ironically took this gas guzzler (17 city/21 highway) to an NPR (I’m a regular guest) Christmas party. Even though it was held at a poetry slam bar with eco-friendly cocktails and sustainable wine, Rummy was a hit and the NPR folks gushed over my new warmongering baby.
On Saturday, it was time to try out the car in more than just the urban jungle. I drove west to the George Washington National Forest, where the GPS system helpfully got me lost on a narrow, bumpy dirt and gravel road — with a locked gate at the end, so I had to reverse nearly a quarter mile to get out of there. By the time I was headed back, I really felt like I’d “broken in” the Jeep as it had a much easier time with the high-speed highway hills. Of course, this isn’t a fast-lane car to begin with. But I get to drive over stuff.
I quickly learned about the community of Wrangler owners when random strangers in other Jeeps started waving at me. As far as the community closer to home, the puppacita seems to enjoy the new car, as well — she’s a smidge closer to actually being able to see out the window now. If she stretches.