Send help! 2-3: Trading in the Neon and Suburban for something in between -- a Jeep!

By JOHN LORSON Columnist Published:

As one of thousands of red Plymouth Neons on the planet she would have easily blended in with the crowd were it not for the bicycle rack bolted to the roof and emblazoned with a smattering of stickers. The most conspicuous of these decals was one depicting the little car's namesake, the University of Akron's kangaroo mascot, Zippy.

With the rack, Zippy was noticeable enough, but when there were bicycles on top she was impossible to miss. Dwarfed by her cargo, she seemed an awkward, almost top-heavy creature -- like a piglet that had sprouted a set of caribou antlers. The car was, indeed, a bit of a local oddity, and not entirely unlike her owner in that regard. A little car that was asked to do an awful lot, I knew she was living on borrowed time.

I knew, too, that I'd be sad to see Zippy go, but the fear of becoming stranded in the middle of nowhere -- a place where I seem to frequently find myself traveling -- was becoming more real with each passing day. I began to drive ever more slowly past used car lots, and spend a little more time each weekend perusing the car-ad-plastered final pages of the newspaper. I did these things inconspicuously, as it is common knowledge that you mustn't let on to your present car that you're in the hunt for its replacement. To do so will almost assuredly result in a catastrophic failure of some critical system essential to the sale or trade of that car. One must be stealthy when dealing with these beasts.

Somewhere, somehow, my cover was blown. Zippy suddenly began to cook through oil like a movie theater popcorn machine. Even a numbskull like me knows it doesn't make sense to sink a thousand bucks into a $500 car. That was that. Call it fate, luck, or destiny; but it just so happened that Zippy's demise coincided with the local lot arrival of a full-sized version of my favorite sandbox toy! In the wink of an eye I was driving home in a Jeep!

When I broke the news to Kristin, she reminded me that we had agreed that once Zippy was gone we would replace both the tiny car AND the giant Suburban with something "in between." I convinced her that the Wrangler fit the bill.

"Well, it's as tall as a Suburban, but only as long as a Neon," I said. "Thus it is the perfect 'in between!' Furthermore, it's got a soft-top so in the summer we've got ourselves a convertible!"

I knew the latter would get her. The only chore left was to primp and polish the Suburban and set her out with a "For Sale" sign in the window. This chore was made relatively simple by the fact that since the Suburban's arrival in our stable a dozen years ago, she had been treated more like a string of pearls than a car -- rolled out only for special occasions then patted and polished before being tucked carefully away until the next event. Nevertheless, I spent a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon going over the car inside and out at my brother's detail shop down the road. Upon returning home I backed into the drive with just a few more particulars to take care of. I believe this may have been the moment the Suburban finally figured out what I was up too! (To be continued next week!)

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