My old 2004 Jeep Liberty/Renegade died on me a couple weeks back. A heartbreaker for me, I loved that machine despite its never-ending issues. The transmission went on it, so I took it in and paid the shop $800 to take it all apart to properly diagnose the issues. The service manager described it as very nearly a catastrophic failure, a sheared valve and all its metal pieces were inside the machinery. The oil pan was completely rusted through as well. They told me the cheap fixup with rebuild parts would be around $4600 range. To fix it properly with new parts would have been in the $6000-$7000 range, and there were still and other rust-associated problems lurking. It had lived in New Jersey the first 10yrs of its life so rust was becoming an issue. It was a great little machine though, I loved it.
Great story behind it too. We bought it off a male dancer/bodybuilder, who had just came off tour with Pink. When I met him I thought he had to be an athlete or rockstar or something, just the vibe and the build of this guy. His girlfriend told Tanya while I was out on the test ride that he had just gotten home from a year long tour as the lead dancer on Pink's tour. We looked him up when we got home and there he was, the lead man in Pink's video 'Try'! I just bought this guy's jeep! Very cool! Anything associated with Pink has got to have great mojo, cause she's a top notch Lady. I kept my promise to keep her name, Lady Liberty.
I was in a tough spot. The Jeep was apart at the dealership, I couldn't fathom the money and the time I would have to spend without a vehicle looking for someone to fix it cheaper, and it couldn't be driven, so I had to let 'er go. Lady Liberty was gone. The wreckers paid me $400 for it. A total loss. That was really heartbreaking.
One week later, I was driving around in a rental on a sweltering Saturday of car searching. After looking at a whole bunch of really crappy vehicles in the $3000 range, the Universe responded.
I refreshed the Craigslist search for one last time and turned up a newly posted 2006 Jeep Liberty! Black, just like the one I had lost. 2 years newer than my old one and only 125,000miles for $2800. I could not deny the Universe had placed this squarely before me, so I bought it on the spot. Pretty cheap Jeep, and very obviously not very well taken care of. In my excitement about this find, I didn't bother checking the oil or tire pressure before bringing it home. The next day, it would take 3.5quarts of oil to reach the 'safe' zone on the dipper. The tires had about 20psi pressure, where they should have been at 35psi.
The jury is still out on whether this was a worthy purchase, or if I'm an idiot with a big red Dunce Cap on my head for purchasing the same freakin' money-pit vehicle that I poured everything into maintaining for the last 3 years. This one is in pretty rough shape, and dirty like no vehicle I've ever seen, but no rust. It has been a Las Vegas vehicle all its life, dry as a bone and creaky. The paint is completely eaten through on the roof and hood from 11years of baking in the sun. They had kids, and a dog, and he was most likely a contractor or some other dirty job, because the interior is, in my opinion unsalvageable. It has a crazy amount of dirt, oil, and whatnot soiled into the seats. There are crayons melted into the back seat fabric. I have already steam cleaned the seats, but most of that stuff will not come out. I think the seats need to come out to be cleaned properly.
I knew there'd be costs associated with getting this thing in good running order. The first thing was the brakes and tires. There were no brake pads left, and that caused a lot of damage. So a full brake job was done, and the guys at BrakeMasters informed me that my front shocks were leaking, and the stabilizer bar was broken off. I knew something was not right with the vehicle cause it felt like a tent on wheels on the highway. I OK'd them to fix all of it, and went even further and told them to go ahead and do a full fluids flush. Knowing that the previous owners didn't take care of this vehicle, I wanted to start as fresh and as safe as possible. That was a very expensive garage visit, hitting me just over $2800 in repairs. Four new all-terrain tires cost me $800, plus other parts and stuff the Jeep needed are now around the $4000 mark. Jeez, I'm really feeling the sting of that Dunce Cap right now. This has effectively put me in the poor house until January, and it has killed my plans for a trip East this fall. Was it worth it?
My early assessment was that I may have made a wrong decision. Perhaps an emotional one. I am a very emotional decision maker, which lately has been wrong a lot of the time. But what was I to do? The Universe put this Same-Black-Jeep before me and said "Here y'go Troy, we can't watch your torment any more." You just gotta listen to the Universe when it speaks to you like that, right? I mean, what are the chance that this Jeep comes back to me like that? I always follow an obvious sign like that for better or worse. You never know how it will turn out. Maybe these initial major fixups will be it and Number2 and I will live to see 225000miles together. I really hope so.
At its most basic level, I love this vehicle. The size is nice and compact, the ride is stable and whippy, very responsive and very powerful, and its ability to actually do some off road stuff and get out there is pure freedom. I was not ready to give up that freedom, not just yet anyway. But you pay for that freedom, it comes at a cost.
So last Saturday, I had to know if it was worthy or not. I had to test it. So on my new tires, new shocks, new stabilizers, I decided to take it for a test ride in the desert to shake the livin' shit out of it! Give it some good punishment to make it fail if it was gonna fail. The destination was Primm, Nevada, which sits on the California-Nevada border. The goal was to go to the Lotto-Store on the California side of the border to purchase a Powerball ticket, which was up to $68 million for Saturday night's draw.
I took the old Las Vegas Blvd highway out of town, and promptly got off the pave and onto the dirt trail that runs along the old highway. If anything went wrong here, it wouldn't be a long walk to the road to get help. I got the 4WD in control and started picking my way along. The tests came all day long for Number2 and the little Jeep kept on winning! The clearance is a little low, so the deflection plate on the bottom took some good abuse, but once I knew what I could and couldn't go over I was better able to plan my route, or just get out and move the big rocks out of the way. The 4WD was awesome! I love that.
I so wish I would have taken my camera, but I forgot it. I also forgot my cellphone, which was really stupid. I picked my way all the way out to Jean along this dirt road, and then crossed the major highway to the other side and picked up another trail out to Primm. These roads crisscross the deserts all over the place and aren't maintained. Its very rough in places, and challenging in some. You have to be careful. It took me 3.5hrs to get out to Primm, normally a 30min drive.
I got some food at the station at Primm, and lots of water for the return trip. I'd seen this other road further up the landscape which was closer to the mountain's edge, and I wanted to take that one back. By now I was fully confident in the vehicle, and super happy about that and just feeling a little euphoric that maybe this wasn't a bad purchase at all. The Lotto store had several hundred people in the lineup for tickets, so I said fuckit and headed back out. I climbed a nice little mountain overlook and parked to eat, have a beer, listen to the wind whip through the power lines and watch the thousands of cars pass far down below on the highway.
I had a good sunburn on my 'window' arm, and now the sun was in the late afternoon came in the exact same way it had in the morning, so I needed to keep my arm out of the sun. I also had a piece of meat or peppercorn or something stuck in between two molars in the back which I could not for the life of me dislodge, and that bugged the hell out of me for the next 3hrs of slow, desert picking! Dental floss is now in the Jeep-kit.
This road was a service road for underground wires, or lines or something. It was slow going the entire way, as these roads aren't really maintained so you never really knew when a surprise washout trench would claim your front tires. It had a lot more technical considerations, places where deep washout ruts were cut through the path, which probably wouldn't have been a problem for bigger, higher clearance vehicles. In several places I needed to get out and build up my line with rocks to get over it.
And then came the ultimate Sign... the Universe speaking to me again. I saw it long before I got to it, this bright orange sign out in the middle of nowhere, a marker on the service road line that is of great significance to me. There it was, the bright orange sign that read '575'.
Here's a weird little tidbit about me. The number 57 has been a recurring number throughout my entire life. I know this, because I have been actively keeping a journal for the past 30yrs to study the Life of Jones. This number has presented itself in so many odd situations that it can no longer be considered coincidence. I've come to see this as some sort of Universal signpost, a sign that I am somehow on the right path. That's what I believe anyway.
A bizarre example, I joined a hockey team in Ottawa. As a new player to the group, I was given the only available set of shirts that they had... the number 57. It became a pretty funny dressing room joke before every game when the officials came in to get everyone's name and number for the scoresheet. They went around the room, everyone had normal hockey numbers until they hit me. Around they went: Josh Blah-Blah #10, Jim Blah-Blah #16, Jake Blah-Blah #4... Troy Jones #57, which always drew amusement from the room because it was so out of sync with everything. Somehow, there was football player who had chosen this number back in the day, and now it became mine. At this point in time, I had already recognized this recurring number in my life, but those hockey jerseys really hammered it home that this was no longer a coincidence. It continues to happen. A more recent example, I was given a random sign-in code when I started working at my high security job: #575. The list goes on and on.
And here it was again, way out there in the middle of nowhere, the Universal roadsign, 575. And no camera to document it. Ah well, its for me to know anyway.
I finally made it to Jean, fully sun bleached and dry, the Jeep covered in fine desert sand. I'd had enough of the desert for the day, just about 100miles I think. I called Tanya from the gas station to check in with her. She was OK with me going down to Mickey's to shoot some pool and have a couple beers to bask in the afterglow, so I headed back into town for some suds. What a great day!
I am so friggin' happy that the Jeep was so awesome in the desert. It still has a few issues that I need to deal with, but I think (I Hope) we are done with the major fixes for now. She is trail worthy and that was very important to me. Now, will she stand the test of time. Please, please do....
Thanks for reading.