Hi-Yo Grey Ranger, Away! Finding Jason’s Rambler and saying good bye to the Grey Ranger.
The Grey Ranger has been a great truck. I found it in Cincinnati, way under priced, with only a few thousand miles on it. It had a lot to live up to. The Grey Ranger came into my life at a point when I really needed new wheels. My previous car, an awesome ‘91 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham (basically a couch with wheels), was nearing the end of its useful life. The Grey Ranger did everything I needed. It got me to work, it took me on dates, it packed a mean party, and it was a great road trip truck. It even took me to Texas where I picked up a wooden Amazon canoe. I drove it exclusively for three year. Then came the great Berninger Diaspora of 2007 (Beth to Louisville, Jason to Waco, Mark to Chicago) and the purchase of the Blue F-150. The Grey Ranger went to Chicago with Mark, where it encountered many more road trips. Then came the great car swap, where I traded Mark the F-150 (which still required payments that grad school stipends were reticent to cover) and the Grey Ranger went to Texas. In Texas it really came into its own. Road trips across the state, road trips back to Ohio. At the same time Rio came into my life. Rio and the truck were my two most constant companions (if you don’t count my laptop). Rio has ridden perhaps 30,000 miles in the Grey Ranger. I even learned how to take the front seat out so Rio would have a more comfortable ride as co-pilot. Never a ticket, never a wreck. It survived life at a college, cookouts and campouts. It had a little rust and a few digs, including one from a softball playing douche who told me “ah, sorry brah, you shouldn’t have parked where I was going to be hitting dingers” (my reply: well if you weren’t hitting from the edge of the infield with a $300 bat those would have just been loud outs, so how’s about your insurance information, broheim). It brought me to Texas and it transported me forth into my new life, straight up I-35 North to Duluth. It never let me down. The Grey Ranger took me on more adventures than I could have hoped. It was a great truck.
The only thing left to say:
All of this brings me to the search for my Adventure Mobile. While I have been searching for a car or over a year I haven’t really be in active pursuit till this week. An in typical Jasonian style, after some months of inactivity and indecision, within a weekend I lept, both feet into this new adventure. What I found was a Kona Blue Ford Flex, which I am dubbing The Rambler. It looks like a station wagon and a Suburban had a baby, but inside is huge and comfortable. I wanted something that has all the features I want, plus a little style and that was “Rio Approved”, something to be the base of my “Adventure Mobile”. In an ideal world, where money is no object, this adventure mobile would be something like an old-style Ford Bronco or Chevy Blazer with big knobby tires and limited practicality. You could drive it anywhere, strap anything to it, and proceed to Awesomeville. But alas I live in the real world, where a Bronco from the late 70’s gets 6 miles to the gallon, is rusty, and has lots of mechanical difficulties, where the only adventuring will be the bus ride to Autozone for more oil and parts. All of which brings us to: the realistic search for the Adventure Mobile platform. Since I laid out the wants/needs in the last blog post, I’m not going to go over them again, but suffice it to say the new car won’t be a Subaru or a Dodge. Over the last year I’ve looked at a number of candidates. I quickly went through a lot of those choices and ruled them out. Most of the small trucks were out, because I already have one of those and it doesn’t solve any of the issues. The big trucks were mostly ruled out too. Not that I don’t like an F-150 or a Chevy Silverado; but the ones with the options I want, a quickly out of my price range, unless there was more than reasonable miles on them or some sort of damage repaired. The big SUVs followed this same rule, anything that was close to my price range had too many miles or was in some other way sketchy. This left mostly the smaller SUVs, which leads to another problem: sameness. All the smaller SUVs tend to be copies of one another. It’s like the world of auto design has one good idea every 3 years and everybody switches to it. Having eliminated Jeeps and not wanting to get the same thing my brother Brian just got (GMC Terrain) or drive my Mother’s car (Chevy Equinox) I was left with a narrow band of choices. Those choices are further narrowed by availability and cost. I really liked the Toyota FJ Cruiser, but I only found one and it had an unacceptable number of miles. In the end it came down to two Fords: Escape and Flex. The Escape was nice, it had most of the things I wanted, but there are lots of Escapes in the world, who bunches on the car lot where I was looking. I test drove one of the nicest ones there, and while handled well in the snow and ice it did not give me any type of excitement feeling. Buying an Escape would be like settling for teaching guitar lessons after having been the lead guitar in a touring arena rock band, sure you’re still playing music, but it is not the same. I needed to find my rock concert, Adventure Mobile, what I found was the Flex.
While it isn’t really a blow the doors off arena rock show of a car, what it is, is the Jimmy Buffet of cars: big, fun, relaxed, comfortable, unique, and cool. In the end that is what I really wanted, a Jimmy Buffet Adventure Mobile. I can envision myself cruising along the beach, a couple of kayaks on the roof, bikes on the back, coolers, beach chairs, grills, and Labradors in the back. It even has a cool ocean blue-green color: Kona Blue.
The only problem now: still snowing in Duluth.