The Champion Jeep
April 06, 2006
It happened shortly after 5 a.m. last Friday. Ironically, it had
been raining heavily all evening. And yet, during a brief, dry
interval, a 1989 black Jeep Wrangler YJ parked in a Wailuku driveway
suddenly caught fire and was soon engulfed in 15-foot high flames.
Once the fire trucks and the police cars finally cleared, with the
very nice investigators from both departments inconclusively shrugging
their shoulders, I sat staring at the charred heap in disbelief.
Sure, it's just a car. I realize that harboring attachments to
material objects is wholly unhealthy. And yes, I have insurance. But no
monetary value could possibly replace what Rocky meant to me.
It was early '98 and I had been trapped on the Westside with no
vehicle for about six months when I saw the Jeep parked with a For Sale
sign. At the time it belonged to a pleasant young guy, a newly
transplanted entrepreneur in Kula, who suggested I head Upcountry and
test-drive it. So I did—consequently, on the same day that my boyfriend
had confessed to cheating on me. And I couldn't yet drive stick shift
so I begrudgingly had the boyfriend come along for assistance.
When we test drove it, the entrepreneur took us to the top of
Polipoli, where we promptly ran out of gas and proceeded to cruise down
the curvy road and all the way to the gas station next to ACE Hardware.
I knew it would be the first of many adventures so I bought the Jeep on
After one quick lesson, I dropped the wayward boyfriend and took off
into the hills of Haleakala, having no idea where I was going and not
really caring where I ended up. I remember that initial feeling of
driving alone in the Jeep, how it actually felt like the first time I
was really free as an adult. I had just graduated from college, was
living on a tropical island far from home, and was now driving a
beefed-up Jeep that could cover any terrain. It was liberating.
All my free time I spent scouring the island with my new pal I
mockingly called, "My one true love." He felt like a trusty companion,
providing me with mobility as well as the thrill of adventure. In time,
Rocky became an extension of me, a part of my personality that wasn't
so readily apparent—tough, fearless, adventurous.
With his big, beefy tires, thick custom bumper, three-inch lift and
the loud rumble of his turbo muffler, every time I started him up I
felt empowered. When I drove, I felt electric.
He was one of the main reasons I was able to enjoy Maui so much. I
could experience all the elements of the island's beauty through the
open portals of the Jeep's frame simply driving down the Pi'ilani. One
of my favorite things to do was venture out to La Perouse. That's where
the Jeep officially became known as Rocky, after kicking major ass over
the lava and boulder laden trails of the King's highway.
With Rocky, I never felt alone. But now, looking at how the salt air
is oxidizing his melted parts, the way the sun catches light in the
shattered glass that used to be his windshield and the bizarre metal
skeleton of his seats and doors, I feel very alone.
I wanna take a picture of the front grill, instill some sort of life
back into the tires that tread so much road in our eight years
together. I wanna sit one more time in the back seat, once again
looking up at the stars on a random night trip down some side road to
nowhere. I'd like to rest my head on the steering wheel that captured
so many tear drops caused by the frustration of failed relationships,
uncertainty, restlessness and longing.
The insurance guy says I should just throw my keys inside before
they haul it away to that big metal scrap yard in the sky. I jiggle the
keys for a long moment, thinking about all the times I climbed into
Rocky and took off, just for the hell of it. Then with one last sigh, I
throw my keys into the hollowed out carcass of the passenger cabin,
turn around and with tears in my eyes, walk away.
Rust in peace, Rocky old pal.
Samantha Campos would like to
thank the very kind people from MPD and MFD for all their work and
sympathy on Friday, assuring them (as well as her friends and mother)
that she might've noticed how "hot" they were if she weren't so
bleary-eyed and in shock over the demise of her auto-buddy. MTW
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