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It's really a Jeep thing

  • Brandon Taylor and his 1997 Jeep Wrangler Sahara ended their relationship this fall.
    Brandon Taylor and his 1997 Jeep Wrangler Sahara ended their relationship this fall.
Published November 28. 2009 09:00AM

I recently got out of a six-year relationship. It just wasn't working out. We had different views, and with the price of gas taking roller coaster dips, those long drives we used to enjoy became quite expensive. And while our love had started strong, it faded as the years passed. I don't blame either one of us some things just aren't meant to be.

Moving to China was the final blow. The distance would have made it impossible to continue our relationship. The only thing I regret is not properly saying goodbye. But now it's too late. Last month, my dad sent me an e-mail. My parents had cleaned out the interior, turned over the keys and sold my Jeep.

The choice to part ways with my Jeep had been in the making for some time. While a fun ride with the top down in the summer and a reliable vehicle with four-wheel drive in winter, for long distance travel the Jeep just wasn't practical.

The story of the Jeep and me began during my junior year in high school. After making the case that I should have my own car, my parents gave in. They made the mistake, however, of allowing me to choose what kind of car to get. Not knowing the difference between one auto and another, besides colors, I decided that I wanted my first car to be a Jeep.

One of my high school friends had a pretty cool Jeep and my dad's last three cars have been Jeeps, two factors that played heavily on my decision. And while I wasn't sure if a Jeep was necessarily a "chick magnet," I knew that it was a tough looking vehicle that meant 4-wheel drive and the potential for off-road adventures.

When we bought the Jeep, gas was a little less than $1.50 a gallon. I remember filling up the tank for about $20 and just driving around Tamaqua and the outlying areas. A typical summer afternoon might include taking the roof off, driving out to Heisler's for a milkshake and mini golf, then driving down toward 209 and finishing the day in the Tuscarora area.

As each summer saw gas prices spike, the joyrides declined in frequency. Two summers ago, when prices reached close to $5, seriously straining my wallet, I was hesitant to take my Jeep out at all. The honeymoon had effectively ended.

I began picking out each and every flaw the Jeep displayed. It was poorly insulated and took too long to heat up in the winter. It had terrible suspension and shock absorption, making even the tiniest pebble on the highway feel like a boulder on an off-road trail. It wasn't as young as it used to be and needed constant mechanical attention. And it most definitely was not a chick magnet.

While I was at Penn State my freshman year, my parents had done a good job taking care of the Jeep. My sophomore year, I brought the Jeep to campus. But now that I am living abroad for a year, having four cars for three people (my brother can now drive and has his own car, too) made little sense.

The decision was made the Jeep would be sold.

My dad kept me updated on the Jeep sale. A few buyers had shown an interest but eventually backed out. Then one day, I saw an e-mail from home. "Good news, sad news" it read on the subject line. Someone had bought my Jeep.

I was somewhat relieved. The money would pay off one of my college loans, leaving me with less debt to worry about.

But then an empty feeling came over me. My Jeep was no longer my Jeep. The first car I called my own now belonged to someone else. Would they take care of it? Would they keep it clean and secretly take it off-roading as I had a few times? Would it be loved?

I was later assured that the buyers were the perfect new owners for the Jeep. My mind was at ease.

A few days after the sale, as I was walking out of the Beijing Review where I work, I noticed something unusual sitting near the complex entrance: a red Jeep with the iconic Jeep lettering printed on the side. It was a different model than mine, but the fact that a Jeep something I had yet to see in China was sitting, almost waiting for me, as I left work seemed a bit odd.

I see the red Jeep with the big letters sitting there everyday after leaving work.

Since I rely on public transportation to get around Beijing, I really haven't thought about what kind of car I'll buy when I return to the States. It'll probably be something smaller, sleeker and maybe energy efficient, like my brother's Scion, which is most definitely a chick magnet.

But whatever my new set of wheels may be, it will never replace the memories of my first car. The trips with the top down, doing the "Jeep wave" to other Jeep drivers and the satisfaction of gazing upon a spotless, shiny green exterior after a wash made me realize the relationship between a boy and his 4-wheel love really is a Jeep thing.

(Brandon Taylor is a language consultant/foreign expert for the Beijing Review, an English language weekly newsmagazine in Beijing, China. He is a former correspondent for the TIMES NEWS. Read Brandon's blog at http:// www.btay200. He can be reached at btay200@

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