Tag Archives: Grand Canyon

Keith’s rides, Part 4: Cross-country trip in a Caprice Classic, lunch in Wichita Falls and breaking down in New Mexico

[This is the fourth of several blog entries on the cars and other vehicles I have driven. It may or may not be of interest. Enjoy. Or not. It’s your choice. – KM]

I was at Chico State for a couple of years and always was able to make due without a car, either walking to where I needed to be, riding a bicycle or hitching a ride with friends.

 I was nearing graduation when my mother decided to replace her Chevrolet Caprice Classic. For the time, it was a fairly stylish car with quite a bit under the hood. In other words, in today’s climate it would be considered a grandma gas-guzzler.

My girlfriend at the time and I flew out to meet my family in Portland, Maine, to pick up the Caprice Classic with the idea of driving back to California where I would use the car. My father had hired a local teen to give the car a once-over; unfortunately, the kid failed to clean out the air filter and the car died in a dusty town in New Mexico. Several years later, while helping a friend move from Indiana to California, we broke down in the very same town. Go figure!

Except for breaking down and some long days driving, motoring across the country was an exceptional experience and I recommend it highly. We headed down the East Coast for a time and cut through Virginia and Tennessee, both incredibly beautiful states. We then cut down to meet up with friends in the Dallas suburb of Denton where we spent a few days.

We did all the touristy things in Dallas – clubs, rotating restaurant, parks, Book Depository.

We then left Denton and stopped for lunch in Wichita Falls, Texas. Wichita Falls is the kind of place where everyone wears a Stetson or a cap carrying the name of a farm machinery manufacturer. We went into the restaurant, me wearing typical California wear – a tank top T-shirt, surfer shorts and flip-flops – and my girlfriend wearing something equally inappropriate.

Well, inappropriate for that particular diner in that particular Texas town, apparently. I quickly grew uncomfortable when the good ol’ boys at the counter turned in their vinyl-cover stools too peer at us – in an unapproving way – from under the brims of their Stetsons and John Deere caps.

I told my girlfriend we would be eating and leaving as quickly as possible.

And we did.

And we were doing fine moving westward until we broke down. I had to call home for help on that one since the mechanic found about an inch of Maine dust around the air filter and it took a couple of hundred dollars to fix the problem.

Out of New Mexico and into Arizona. We stopped off at Meteor Crater and then spent the night in Flagstaff before continuing on to the Grand Canyon. Awesome! Simply awesome! If you haven’t been, go before they pave it and put in a parking lot!

We then made it to Fresno, California, to visit briefly with my girlfriend’s sister and brother-in-law and we were off to Chico. We might have taken a detour to Napa where her parents lived, but I don’t recall that.

Tip: Every American should take at least one cross-country trip in their lives. Eat Maine lobster, see Boston Commons and take in a Red Sox game, see New York, drive the Jersey Turnpike, see the lush, lush green of states like Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky, drive the interstate in an Arkansas hailstorm, see old windmills in the vastness of Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma, see the Grand Canyon, marvel at the Rocky Mountains, be impressed by the productivity of California’s Central Valley, and dip a toe in the Pacific Ocean. Say what you will about the people in politics or on Wall Street, this is one impressive country, from sea to shining sea.

Once back in California I drove the Caprice Classic for a while, until I was pulled over in Chico for having expired tags on Maine plates in California.

Knowing that it wouldn’t pass California emissions tests – my father years earlier had removed the catalytic converter – I sold the car for junk and moved onto the first vehicle that I personally purchased for myself, a Nissan pickup.

Rides of My Life … so far

Part 1: Jeep Commando

Part 2: VW Bug

Part 3: Dodge Duster

Part 4: Chevrolet Caprice Classic

Part 5: Nissan pickup

Part 6: Suzuki Sidekick

Part 7: Isuzu Rodeo

Part 8: Honda CRV

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Keith’s rides, Part 1: My first ‘status symbol’ was a Jeep Commando

[This is the first of several blog entries on the cars and other vehicles I have driven so far in my life. It may or may not be of interest to anyone other than myself. Enjoy. Or not. It’s your choice. – KM]

Far too often a car is seen as a status symbol, a measure of the total man or woman driving the car.

An expensive car denotes success. Or, at least, it symbolizes money, whether it be old money or new.

A compact car, economy car or one that is broken down denotes failure, hard times, a lack of resources, when perhaps it really should symbolize a concern for the environment or thriftiness.

An expensive car denotes confidence and financial freedom.

A compact or economy car denotes insecurity and frugality.

An expensive car denotes virility.

A compact car … well, doesn’t.

Far too much weight is put on the type of car or vehicle a person drives.

I have had a couple of cars and other vehicles since the time I took driver’s education at Ashland Community High School in the late 1970s. None are particularly spectacular and most were either hand-me-downs or used vehicles.

But they are the rides I have had over the years.

Here’s a multi-part drive down the memory lane that are the rides of my past.

Jeep Commando

The first vehicle I was able to claim as mine was a Jeep Commando. So, I suppose the Jeep Commando – descendant of the vehicle that helped the Allies win World War II and took generations of woodsmen into the backcountry – is my first status symbol. I’m not sure what that says about me, but there it is.

OK, I really couldn’t “claim” the Commando since it belonged to my parents. It was used for plowing the driveway in the winter and woodland excursions in the spring, summer and fall.

Living in the Deep Dark Woods of Northern Maine means long, dark, cold, snowy winters. The driveway to my family’s home was a fairly long piece of gravel and shale, especially if you were using a shovel or snow scope to clear it after a significant snowfall.

Add to that, fairly steep front and back stairs from the house to the driveway, and you have some pretty significant snow removal going on.

You can imagine how pleased I was when my father brought home the Commando, complete with a small plow on front. I don’t recall where he purchased it or even if my mother had a say in it. All I know is that seeing that rig meant a little less work for me and my aching back.

It also meant I had a ride to various extracurricular activities – soccer, baseball and basketball practices and games, mostly. It is about 11 miles from Portage to Ashland and trying to catch the activity bus was a large hassle, so I was allowed to use the Commando from time to time.

I don’t recall the model year of the Commando, but it had a removable hardtop – in other words, it was a convertible – and pretty fun to drive around. I recall that my Dad ended up getting a broken down Commando for parts for the one we actually used, which he painted a metallic gray and added a blue softcover for the summer. He also added a rollbar, which was pretty cool.

According to Jeep-Commando.com – yes, there is a website – the Commando was manufactured from 1966 to 1971. Here’s a bit of what can be found at http://www.jeep-commando.com/.

Because of the short time of production, the Jeep Commando is a rare, hard to find Jeep. A lot of people say the Jeep Commando looks a lot like the International Scout and the Ford Bronco.

In 1966, Jeep, then owned by Kaiser, launched the Jeepster Commando to compete with the Bronco and Land Cruiser. The Jeepster Commando was available only in three models: a convertible, pickup truck, and a wagon (like the Jeepster, this was a really cool looking vehicle in my opinion). The (Kaiser) Jeepster Commando stayed in production until 1969. In 1970 AMC bought Jeep from Kaiser, and then in 1972 AMC shortened the name to just Commando and changed the grill design to look more like that of a Bronco, but it didn’t catch on. The Jeep Commando was taken out of production in 1973. Check out The American Jeepster Club for more on these cool Jeep spin-offs.

I don’t recall when or how or why my parents got rid of the Commando. All I know is that I enjoyed driving that thing.

Rides of My Life … so far

Part 1: Jeep Commando

Part 2: VW Bug

Part 3: Dodge Duster

Part 4: Chevrolet Caprice Classic

Part 5: Nissan pickup

Part 6: Suzuki Sidekick

Part 7: Isuzu Rodeo

Part 8: Honda CRV

Gun OK may not last long in Acadia | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Gun OK may not last long in Acadia | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.