I purchased my Jeep Cherokee Sport brand new in December 1998. She was forest green and a lot more fun to drive than the Grand Cherokee I’d traded for her.
Since that time, she and I have traveled nearly 300,000 highway and dirt road miles. We even mud bogged a few times on the slippery, rain-soaked dirt road leading to Mama’s house.
I listened to many hours of the Tom Joyner Morning Show in that truck, laughing along with Tom and Sybil at J. Anthony Brown’s antics and murdered hits.
I sang along with my favorite songs and listened to countless hours of audio books and sermons.
There were even times when I worked through unresolved issues while talking them out into the voice recorder I kept in the truck for that purpose.
I ran countless errands and racked up thousands of cell phone minutes talking to friends and family during the commute home from work.
I visited many of Georgia’s state parks and lakes, dipped my toes in the Ocmulgee and Chattahoochee Rivers, and walked the shores of Georgia and Florida beaches with nieces, sisters, and friends.
A friend and I took what we refer to as a covered-bridge tour through Athens to Comer, Georgia. One bridge we saw, another we felt.
I visited a Georgia civil war battlefield still haunted by the soldiers who fought and died there, soldiers who continue to march and whose footsteps were so clear that I looked over my shoulder several times to see who was approaching.
I spent five months driving 20,684 miles on a cross-country road trip that took me across the state lines of 27 states as well as the borders of Mexico and Canada.
We drove the Pacific Coast Highway in California and walked along the Boise River as it ran through Boise, Idaho.
We crossed the I. B. Perrin Bridge into Twin Falls, Idaho and saw the spot where Evil Knievel attempted his jump across Snake River Canyon.
We crossed the Pecos River in Texas, Deception Pass in Washington state, the Rio Grande as it ran between the borders of the US and Mexico, and sat on the steps of the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston.
We visited 26 state capitals (I missed Sacramento, California) and spent the weekend in Pierre, the capital of South Dakota, whose grounds were so beautiful and serene that I hung out there not once but three times! I also saw the C&NW Railroad Bridge, the only remaining swing bridge in South Dakota.
Yes, I did a whole lot of living in my Jeep and because I was gonna drive her “’til the wheels fell off,” I expected to do a lot more. I’d even been toying with the idea of a road trip up the east coast, visiting those states I missed on the cross-country trip: Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and Michigan.
That all came to an end, though, that day in late January 2015, a few days before my trip to Abu Dhabi, when parties unknown decided to take her from me. At 8:45 am, she was parked in front of my sister’s Atlanta apartment but by 1 pm, she was gone. The police recovered her, but she is no longer driveable.
With the shock, anger, and grief behind me, I now await the appearance of my next road warrior, the one with which I’ll create new memories, cover different ground, and photograph some new sights. Or perhaps there’s a different, even better plan afoot. Time will definitely tell but until then, life remains grand.