Gettin’ that itch for a new ride

By Steve Estes

I’m beginning to feel the itch for a new vehicle.

It’s not strong right now, but I can feel it there in my fingertips, the urge to feel something a little different beneath my butt than the same old ride I get from the Jeep, and have gotten for the last 230,000 miles.

We put a lot of miles on a vehicle. Not only do we drive two-thirds of the length of Key Deer Blvd., five miles in total length, every day to work, but we have to travel to the inner reaches of Miami weekly to pick up the newspapers.

The Jeep does that for us, has done so extremely reliably for close to eight years, and will probably continue to do so extremely reliably for a couple more.

But the ride is getting routine.

No longer do I have to think about correcting for the swales in the road. My hands make the necessary adjustments without thought.

No longer do I have to think about correcting for the sideways motion of a blustery wind. My hands do that automatically.

This Jeep and I have been best buddies for so long that I barely glance at a parking space and know instinctively that the Jeep will make it into the space between those two parked cars. It never lets me down.

I don’t bother dodging small water puddles. The Jeep is snorkeled right up under the hood. I have to go through nearly four feet of water to drown that motor.

We need a vehicle that has a very tight turning radius because we pull in and out of more than 250 parking lots every week. If I had to stop and back up for even a third of those deliveries, I would have cost myself a transmission, and probably a new vehicle, some 100,000 miles ago.

The Jeep gives me great wear on brakes because it turns so tight we don’t have to use the brakes to stop and turn.

And the vehicle has a monumental cargo capacity, better than any other vehicle of its size we could find when we bought this one nearly eight years ago.

But, we all know that there comes a time when you just hanker for something new.

I’m getting to that point.

Now before you might think I’m getting ready to jump off the deep end and have a full-blown, mid-life crisis, I can assure you I’m not.

Of course, you can ask Holly about that.

According to her, when I had my mid-life crisis more than a dozen years ago, I didn’t rush out and by a cherry red sports car, change my wardrobe, grow a beard, toss over my job, chase young ladies, or spend stupid money.

Instead of a cherry red sports car, I went out and got me a redhead. Her.

So my crisis time has passed.

But I still feel the itch for a new ride.

This itch isn’t connected to thundering horsepower under my butt. This itch isn’t connected to a short-throw, manual-shift transmission and a high, tight clutch that spins tires without effort. This itch isn’t connected to a low-slung chassis with a wide stance that hugs corners like a long-lost grandmother. This itch isn’t connected to a set of air shocks and a set of slicks that give me great traction on the strip or road track.

Nope, this itch is connected to need.

I still need the same things I needed eight years ago when we rented and test drove nearly every small SUV on the market, looking for that perfect ride that hauled a load easily, braked on a dime, turned on a quarter, towed a boat without blinking, ripped trees out of the ground with a chain and some judicious gas-pedal work.

I still need all those things. And I still have a man-crush, love affair with Jeeps.

So the choice for me isn’t going to be how much horsepower I can cram under the hood. The choice isn’t going to be about the smooth ride, or the primo sound system, or the technological marvels hidden in the dashboard.

That’s not to say we won’t test drive some other vehicles. Maybe they have improved on their sub-par performance next to the Jeep in the intervening eight years. Maybe.

No I think my choices are going to be slightly more narrowly focused.

Do I want two or four doors? The last time we bought a new vehicle we had no small kids at home. We do now.

Do I want manual or automatic? Holly made me get an automatic last time because my knees aren’t getting any younger. (I still have that issue.)

But here is the big question, the one that will ultimately decide the direction for my new vehicle.

Do I stick with my love affair for red, or do I give in to my mid-life itch and go for something really outlandish like white?

The itch continues to grow.

My butt is getting numb to the nuances of my current ride.

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