He was 24 and I was 19. We took early morning drives in the rich mountainous air of the Albuquerque valley. Warm and chilly all the same. Adventure took hold and we took the hardtop off and installed a bikini top. Chasing a bit more adventure were the splashes and rooster tails from the tires that soaked us in the biting cold of the summer rain. Off highway excursions led us into green pastures ventured only by cattle ranchers and indigenous wildlife. Explorations of God’s beautiful country that you could never have seen on the paved roads. Such is a Jeep life. Even though we were kids, we knew this life was in our blood.
The emerald green Jeep was as if we were traveling to the Land of Oz every time we hopped inside. Whether we were driving on the highway, taking in all the sights and smells, oh the smells, or if we were tooling around and decided to take some detours; life was always that much more exciting in our Jeep. She represented our carefree yet responsible life, the ability to feed our inherent desire to explore, love, be courageous, and appreciate home.
We bid her farewell in late ’99, as we entered a new season of adulthood, transitioning into a true family unit. Adventures were not quite the same without the Jeep. Though we would tool around with baby on board, the wandering was more to ease a fussy baby and daydream of things to come, than just the lackadaisical drives. Soon the joyrides became less frequent, almost ceasing to exist. Our 30s began to take hold. The whirls and enterprises were replaced with mortgages, career aspirations and hum drum of having to adult everyday. What happened to all the whimsy? Flickers of our former life would emerge on date nights, venue junkets and concerts.
Being an adult began to take the toll further, not that we did not love our life, we just were new to what kind of fun to have as parents with young children. Fearful of a new, uncharted path of one child and two on the way, we needed to hang on tight as everything became unexpected. The reality of owning a minivan to haul our ever growing family was a bracing experience. Shock-waves of our new reality became easier and we looked into taking highway adventures of sight seeing and light travels, purchasing the upgraded model with technology was a bonus when we bought the van. While not quite the same as the thrill of the Jeep, taking a left or right hand turn off into the back country at will, but fun nonetheless.
Just when we thought…”this is it, this is as good as it gets” with heavy sighs, some self-pity and a shade of contentment, our mid- and late 30s grabbed hold. Our children began to emerge past what seemed to be the never ending stages of infancy, toddler-hood and parental frustration. Diapers were replaced with under-roos, car seats became boosters and grunts became full sentences and coherency. We began to see light through the darkness of early childhood parenting. Fancying options for date night we bargained for months on a “couples only” sort of vehicle. We wanted something to be fun, OURS, yet practical if need be for those moments we were not in tow with the minivan. Tossing around thoughts of convertibles and sports cars, all reminiscent of our former glory days when we were a two-some, yet wanting the rugged utility of a truck to haul plywood for home renovations or camping gear to get off-road again.
Searching and talking. Discussing and bartering. Bargaining and debating. So many decisions to make when considering the outcomes for more than just yourself. The impact of a mundane adulthood was making me feel uncomfortable, wishing for the blithely days of our youth I did the math of a convertible and versatility of a truck. Really, we wanted a truck for the four wheel drive. We wanted a convertible to enjoy the Arizona winters and majestic views. Put those together and you get a Jeep!
Life finally came full circle again when we bought our four-door Jeep Wrangler in the fall of 2013. Date night adventures became city excursions as I shared the wanderlust of my youth in the city that I love with the people I love. Tour guiding through the rich history of Scottsdale, Mummy Mountain, the Praying Monk, Camelback, the red rocks of Sedona and rich pines of the the White Mountains, the lore and the tales. Top down, luxuriant smells of the desert air, dressed in musk, dust, warmth and laced with the drunken smell of floral, citrus and city dwellers. My kids were no longer enticed by technology but engulfed in the beauty of the world that surrounded them. Short of magical as they took in the sights of their home, my home, our home, they began to see the world in a different lens.
Our first trek off-road was our most memorable, their faces spoke life, exuded through smiles and laughter. Each subsequent undertaking to explore the wilderness of Arizona led to more excitement, knowledge, the same burning adoration to be with nature and each other. We found the love of Jeeps had been passed onto our kids, they yearned for the adrenaline, the peace, the wanting desire to cross into the unknown and the familiar. Such a thrilling, humbling, simplicity of Jeep life for kids, no matter what age.