Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The 98 Jeep Wrangler...End of an Era~

I remember the day I purchased the Black 1998 Jeep Wrangler.  It was a cool, but sunny, early November day back in 2002 and off I went to Lima, not knowing exactly what I wanted, but with as much as $10,000 in ready cash in hand, I planned on coming home with a Jeep, just was not quite sure what year and model I would purchase, 4 hours later I was on my way home with the 1998 Wrangler you see in the photos.  I had retired a couple of months earlier from the Van Wert County Health Department, and had immediately began driving and delivering RVs out of Nappanee, Indiana, and was in need of a "tow" vehicle.  That way I could tow the car behind the RV, which Gulf Stream and Hoosier Transit allowed, and drive it back home, thus saving money from flying, and the pain in the ass of taking a stinking Greyhound Bus...which I had done early in my RV driving days, and didn't like it one bit.

Not a lot to choose from in tow vehicles, at least not with ones that were hassle free...Jeeps and the Saturn cars, were the best of the lot.  I had opted for a Jeep ...I always wanted one, since my Air Force days in Vietnam, where I drove one most days during my LE duties at Nha Trang.  Then later at Tan Son Nhut, where, as a Sgt on Blue Patrol, I would drive a Willys Jeep loaded with coffee, water, and snacks, around to the guys working the walking and entry control points...those vehicles were fun, but dangerous(crazy drivers like me could tip them over in a second of acting stupid)...several AF Cops died in country, not from war injuries, but from showing off, or being stupid in a open roof Jeep.

I had purchased my first self owned Jeep, a 1976 Jeep Cherokee, right before Patricia and I were married....not a wrangler, but none-the-less, that 8 cylinder 4WD would go through anything, and leave my friends GMC crap in the mud...stuck...where I would push or pull them out.....plus it handled great on the paved roads...we kept it through the Radio years in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Kansas, before I finally traded it, worn out as it was, for a 650 Yamaha Bike and some cash.  That Cherokee only got stuck once, during the Northern Wisconsin Blizzard of 1978...I hit a snow bank, and all 4 wheels got off the ground....with Airedales, Rag and Max on board the Cherokee, I jogged a mile down the road in blinding snow, and enlisted a local farmer, who pulled me off the snow bank with his trusty tractor.

That was my only Jeep, until some 20 years after trading it, I purchased the Wrangler....until this past February, the Wrangler was my main mode of transportation.   However,  I always had a back up vehicle, either the Intrepid or whatever vehicle Patricia owned at the time.  In February the alternator went out, the belt melted, and with some other problems, I decided to park it for awhile.  When Patricia purchased the new Nitro(sitting at the dealer as I type, still in need of electronic fixing, talk about pain in the ass), I took over her Pontiac Montana mini van, and wanting to get the 1977 Buick Landau on the road, I decided it was time to part ways, after nearly 9 years, with the Wrangler...yesterday it happened.

My neighbor "kid", being 28 and graduating with Hal, Derek is hardly a kid age wise, but to me they always will be kids.  He had approached me earlier this spring wanting to inquire if I would sell him the Jeep?  A teacher and assistant football coach at Celina High, Derek was getting married in June, and wanted a back up vehicle...I assured him that the Jeep could only be a "back up" ride, it had seen it's best days, but when he was ready I would tell him exactly what I knew needed repaired, and would sell it to him at a reasonable price.  Yesterday with the Jeep back in running shape, well somewhat running condition, it still needs much work, but he can do that over the fall and winter months...we completed the deal, and the Jeep is no longer in the driveway.  It's almost like losing a pet or having one of your kids head off to college, the Jeep Wrangler is no longer in my garage or driveway.

On the Road 2002-2008

For over 5 years that Jeep was my second home, I didn't always tow it on long trips, but anything under 1500 miles it was almost always behind my delivery RV or Bus.   On several occasions, I even would venture it out west...Las Vegas, Dodge City, Yuma, and Salt Lake City, were some of the locations I would drive back from, through storms, rain, snow, hail, lightning, and whatever else Mother Nature could throw at me.  The only time it failed me, was when it wasn't even being driven.  While delivering in the mountains of central Pennsylvania, I failed to properly lock it out of gear, it slipped in while being towed, and the engine was trashed, blowing back through the rear axle, and tossing the passenger side rear tire and wheel assembly over an overpass onto I-81 below...lucky for me and them, it landed on the side of the road and nobody or no vehicle was hit below.   A month later I returned to the local Jeep dealer, with a new(rebuilt) engine and rear axle...some $5000 poorer for the lapse in timing and judgement.  The Jeep however, would continue to roll, for another 7 years without further major problem.

Football tonight at Crestview, a late start of 7pm for a Middle School scrimmage, more scrimmages, back at Lima Perry Thursday and here in Celina on Saturday morning....then late next week the real season "kicks off"...my legs already feel the new movements, much different than baseball, in both legs and back.  But it is what it is...back later>>>>

Photos-Me and the Jeep at AHL's in Lima on that November day in 2002...Neighbor, teacher, high school football and baseball coach Derek, as he takes over the reins of the Wrangler yesterday.  Me, at Nha Trang AB..playing Cowboys and Aliens as a Air Force Cop.  The Wrangler in it's younger days when I was still towing it behind the mammoth and even those smaller RVs.  And finally our first "Jeep"  The 1976 Jeep Cherokee we purchased new...here it is with the Airedales, Rag and Max, at Higgins Lake, Michigan, in the Summer of 1977.

UPDATE:  Speaking of 4 wheel drives...the dealer called, the Dodge Nitro has a module problem...and they have ordered a new part...problem is, this is not rare, because there are 159 others on back order as well...looks like a 10 day to 2 week waiting period...hopefully however, that will solve the problem of "The Ghosts of Dodge Nitro 2008"


FHB said...

I still miss my Cherokee. See one now and then, two door sport, and wish I had another. Will one day.

Harry J said...

Pat say it ain't so, I remember how it felt unloading my Bronco all those years of transporting my K-9 partners in it, I really felt like I was abandoning a family member.....