Tag Archives: Jeep Commando

Keith’s ride, Part 8: So far, the road ends with a Honda CRV

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

Isn’t it always the way. You start a project and something gets in the way – job search, reading, laundry, and just plain distraction and procrastination.

I’ve been trying to finish off this series of blogs on the vehicles that I’ve driven over the years and there seems to be something in the way each time I sit down to write. I do want to finish off the series, especially since I’m so close to the end. So far, anyway.

But, frankly, I’m not sure it was worth the wait.

Despite that, here it is in all its glory.

* * *

I was disappointed when I lost the Rodeo in the crash. I liked it well enough, it was dependable, it provided some presence and power on the road compared to my previous rides, and I hadn’t been forced to spend that much time and money on maintenance and repair.

Granted, the gas mileage was not great with the Rodeo and over the years I had become more concerned with what the Rodeo and vehicles like it were doing to the environment. I was feeling guilty and a bit embarrassed that I was contributing to a problem that we can no longer ignore. Every little bit done to reduce those emissions will help.

Despite that guilt and embarrassment, I had planned to drive the Rodeo for at least another year before looking for a new ride. I had been trying to pay down some credit card bills and I wanted to direct my money toward that and not toward a new vehicle just yet.

But, alas, it was not meant to be.

Stockton’s mass transit system got me around for a couple of weeks after I lost the Rodeo, but that got old pretty quickly.

* * *

A friend in Vacaville who works with several auto dealerships there tracked down a deal for me on a lease of a 2008 Honda CRV. She had been driving an older version of the model and loved it.

I had always liked the looks of the Honda CRV and the Toyota RAV4, but I could never afford the popular vehicles. They are fairly compact, yet the driver and passengers sit fairly high for better visibility. They were both stylish and dependable, notwithstanding Toyota’s most recent cataclysmic problems.

Honda always seems to hold one of the stop spots in customer satisfaction surveys so I figured I would not be disappointed. And to this point I have not been.

Picking up the CRV was a bit bothersome, I suppose, because the dealership had limited color selection in the model I could afford. Remember, this was before the ugly economy came crashing down around all our heads. People were buying cars, especially brands like Honda, so I knew that getting the color I wanted was going to be hit-and-miss.

I waited at the dealership three hours or so after signing the paperwork, because a dealership employee had to drive to Sacramento to trade a CRV with one at a dealership there for one that was the proper color, sort of a metallic blue. The wait was worth it to get my first ever “new” vehicle. Each of my previous rides had been used vehicles.

On the good side, the dealership took care of returning my rental car, which was nice of them. And the deal was and is pretty good.

After finally getting the CRV, I drove it to my friend’s home in central Vacaville so she and her husband could give it a lookover. They liked it enough to offer me dinner. Well, they probably would have offered me dinner even if they hadn’t liked it.

I believe it was the following day that I first drove it to work and parked under the Crosstown Freeway parking structure across the street from The Record building. I was a touch nervous leaving it out there since The Record is not in the best neighborhood, but it was going to be daylight soon enough and the guard shack for The Record was just across the street.

Later that day or within in a few days – the memory fades soo quickly – we heard scanner traffic in the newsroom that the van belonging to an accused child molester had been spotted on a levy road pullout west of north Stockton, a place where local police are called often because of dumped stolen vehicles. I drove the CRV out to check out the report. It was nice to be driving my own vehicle again after having been forced to drive The Record’s fleet vehicles.

It was a nice day for a ride – sunny, but not too hot, which are rare days in California’s Central Valley in the spring, summer and fall months. Typically, the sun bakes the valley floor and those who dare to tread on it.

The reason for the ride was not so great – chasing down an accused child molester.

Every law enforcement officer and half the reporters in the county were looking for the guy. I seem to recall that someone at a nearby restaurant or a passing boater had reported the van, thinking it had been abandoned. So, it wasn’t a surprise that when I arrived there were at least a San Joaquin County Sheriff’s deputy or two and an equal number of California Highway Patrol officers.

It didn’t take long to learn that the accused child molester had killed himself in his van parked in a turnout at the end of the levy road. Of course, we couldn’t see that from where the police kept the media, but that is just as well. I’m never in the hurry to see brain matter splattered all over the inside of a van.

* * *

There have been far, far more trips in the CRV that were positive and pleasant, trust me. It must have been a few weeks later that trip to the levy road that I took my first real roadtrip in the CRV. Friends and I have been going to this same campground in the Sierra Nevada for the past 20 years or so for long Memorial Day weekends. Actually, the friend who helped me get the deal on the CRV has family living in the area so she’s been going up there all her life.

For some reason, one lost from my porous memory, I was unable to make the extended part of the trip. But I figured I could drive up for at least part of a day.

I took off from Stockton much later than I had planned, which was a bit of a miscalculation since I decided to use a loop that I had mostly not driven before.

I headed out of Stockton on Highway 4, a mostly two-lane ribbon of asphalt – sorry for the cliché description of a plain, old road – and into the Sierra Nevada. Up in to the mountains and through towns such as Cooperopolis, Murphys, Arnold and the Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Dorrington, Lake Alpine, and over Ebbets Pass. It is a truly beautiful winding road through some very scenic trees, mountains and valleys.

After going along the East Fork of the Carson River for a while, I turned onto state Highway 89 and up and over Monitor Pass. It is another beautiful and scenic stretch of road that goes up and over Monitor Pass into a valley where the West Walker River flows. I then took U.S. Highway 395 south – through or near places such as Coleville, Walker, Topaz Lake – to Bridgeport, a lovely and historic ranching community.

I turned onto Twin Lakes Road and to Annette’s Mono Village. The place is set back on the eastern short of the upper of two lakes. In many ways, it fits what I imagine a ’50s-style camping resort looked like, with a log cabin for a restaurant and bar, regular barbecues for guests and other family friendly events, and a place to buy bait and beer. There are areas for tent campers and various areas for campers with travel trailers and RVs, and there are lodges and motel-style rooms.

From the campsite you can hike into the Hoover Wilderness located in the Inyo and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests. Trailheads located in Virginia Creek, Green Creek, Robinson Creek, Buckeye Creek, and the Little Walker River provide access to trails within the Hoover Wilderness.

This is the U.S. Forest Service’s rather conserve description of the Hoover Wilderness:

“Bordering Yosemite National Park along the Pacific Crest and falling away to the Great Basin to the east, the Hoover Wilderness is a spectacular piece of the Sierras. Soaring peaks, glistening lakes and lush meadows are just some of its awesome spectacles. The headwaters of the East Walker River can also be found in the creeks of the Hoover Wilderness.”

It is much, much more beautiful than that.

Bodie State Historical Park, Mono Lake, and Mammoth Lakes are within easy driving from Bridgeport, as are other scenic areas.

But this roadtrip did not include hiking, visiting ghost towns, or visiting lakes, briny or otherwise. I was here for a very quick visit, but it was the trip itself that was the goal.

With a touch of envy, I hiked from the parking lot of Annette’s Mono Village to the “usual spot.” For years, we had selected the same spot to camp, one slightly uphill from restrooms and shower facilities – yeah, I know it isn’t exactly roughin’ it – in the shadows of jagged mountains and a huge dead sugar pine. That’s where I found the usual suspects and I hung out for a while visiting with friends that I usually see only on this annual trip.

But I didn’t stay too long, despite every effort by my friends to persuade me to stay overnight. I wanted to complete the loop and get back to my own bed. I had taken off from Stockton much later than I had wanted and the trip up into the Sierra had taken quite a bit longer than I had anticipated, so I needed to get back on the road.

For the return portion of the trip I turned off just shy of an old California Department of Transportation yard onto state Highway 108, also known as the Sonora Pass Highway, which took me near the U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center. I have a feeling the men and women assigned to the facility were getting a much needed and much appreciated holiday weekend barbecue – I could see the smoke and smell what had to be delicious burgers and dogs. And long lines of marines lining up for chow.

Soon after passing the base, I began the steep, winding incline. It is an incredibly beautiful, scenic and dangerous road, made more hazardous when drivers of oncoming vehicles attempt to take their half of the road from the middle, which happened several times.

But the trip through the Sierra was well worth it. There are few places quite like the Sierra Nevada for raw scenic beauty.

This leg of the trip took me through the Sonora Pass and down into or near the Sierra and Mother Lode communities of Dardanell, Wagner, Cow Creek, Bumblebee, Strawberry, Cold Springs, Long Barn, Sylvan Lodge, Mi-Wuk Village, Confidence, Twain Harte, and Sonora. Then it was onto state Highway 49 – yep, Highway 49, as in 49ers, in Mother Lode gold country – to Angels Camp and then state Highway 4 through Cooperopolis and back into Stockton. It was a long day.

* * *

I took several shorter roadtrips after that, usually involving meeting a friend for golf or simply to stretch my legs, as it were.

Those trips ended about a year ago, unfortunately. I could no longer justify the cost of such trips after I was laid off. I do so very much look forward to more trips in the future once I find a new job and get back on my feet financially.

OK, the bottom line is that the Honda CRV is not a particularly sexy ride. But it is practical, gets great gas mileage, is an ultra-low fuel emissions vehicle, and is, well, a Honda. I am happy with the CRV, at least for now.

See you on the road.

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 2: Um, there’s water splashing through the floorboards

[This is the second 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]

A cousin and his wife moved into the log cabin next to my childhood home and one of the vehicles they owned was an orange Volkswagen Bug. I don’t recall the year. I just recall that the heater in the VW Bug my father owned years before wasn’t much of a heater, a necessity in the cold, dark North Woods of Maine.

Anyway, it came time for Phil to buy a new vehicle and my family bought the Bug.

My father painted it a grayish color and made repairs, including tacking up the floorboards that had corroded over the years under the onslaught of salt and sand distributed on the winter roads to make them passable.

I drove that Bug for a while, when the weather was not too cold or too wet – despite my father’s welding job, water would splash into the passenger compartment when I drove through puddles or streams.

It was a rough ride for the frost-heave-formed Maine roads, but it was mine.

Childhood friends Jeff and Todd came along with me for a ride one summer day. We loaded the Bug with snacks, fishing gear and beer – we were all 18, the drinking age in Maine at the time. Jeff or Todd brought along a battery-powered 8-track player – yes, I am old enough to have listened to music on an 8-track player – and some tapes. We rolled through the North Woods in that Bug, splashing through puddles and streams, fishing for brook trout, listening to the Steve Miller Band on 8-track, and sipping American lager.

We made it all seem a bit classier by pretending the Bug was a Porche and the player was a Jensen.

That Bug didn’t have much of a heater either. And every so often I had to crack open the hood – yep, at the rear of the car – to gap the points in order to start the car.

I don’t recall to whom my parents sold the car, but it may have gone directly to the Portage Hills Country Club to be used as a tractor. Yep, a golf course tractor.

 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

 

 

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