In 2009, I bought a Jeep Cherokee. On paper, it was exactly what we needed. 4 doors, four wheel drive, 4.0, double-digit gas mileage, able to tow a trailer with our ATVs, and a fantastic platform on which to build a new rig. When it worked, it was great. In between problems, we did get a few trips to the mountains and the Outer Banks out of it. The two most notable trips were when I asked Shannon to marry me on Oregon Inlet, and taking Dad back to where he’s from to visit family.
Fast forward to 2015. We’d been
building fixing the Jeep for 6 years. It was full of new parts, upgrades, customizations, and electrical fixes. Suddenly in March, it decided to begin shedding its floorboards. Well, really it was just a couple holes in the driver-side footwell, but Neil Young and anyone who does bodywork will tell you: rust never sleeps. I can do a great impression of a mechanic, but welding isn’t something I’ve done before. On top of that, I had zero interest in performing the prep work necessary to permanently solidify the floor in what had been, in all honesty, an absolute lemon for us. I cut out the worst of the rust, treated what remained, and patched the holes to keep the carpet dry. Other issues arose as well. If you have an unreliable vehicle and are on the fence about a AAA membership, I can confirm it’s worth every penny. It got to the point where every wrecker driver seemed to know where my dad’s garage was.
We were really about 3 years out from being ready to buy something else, but the time had come to replace the Heep. This situation gave me pause. With the variety of choices out there, what would best meet our needs and improve on the aspects where the Jeep fell short? The answer came surprisingly quickly. I had been in love with FJ Cruisers since seeing the concept model in 2003. We began shopping in earnest, but we were having a hard time finding what we wanted. One was rusty. One was 2WD. Others were way overpriced or ugly colors. Feeling disappointment over the limited inventory, I told Shannon I’d settle for a 4Runner, Taco, or Xterra. She said, “I don’t want you to settle. You’ve wanted an FJ since you first saw one. That’s what you’re getting!”
In May, we ended up finding an 07 in Richmond. It was great shape, with only 80,000 miles on it. It had A-TRAC, the rear locker, the dash-top accessories, and a roof rack. Those were all the must-haves on our list. The seller had installed rock rails, a rear receiver, a Rough Country lift, and new tires. The only issue I could find was that the OEM door speakers were blown. I was in love! The test drive went great, and Shannon and I went home to work out our finances. I texted back and forth with the seller to finalize the price and keep him updated on our plans to return. The banks and the DMV made the process a pain in the ass, but the seller was great. I still send him texts every so often when we go somewhere cool.
The FJ has been nothing short of amazing. The only items unexpectedly needing service where the jamb switches that cut on the interior lights when you open the door. We’ve added a snorkel, a large transmission cooler, a rooftop tent, side and rear awnings, auxiliary lighting front and rear, LED dome lights, underhood LEDs, an upgraded battery, a Cobra CB with a Firestik antenna, a passenger seat armrest, some additional creature comforts, and 30,000 miles of making memories.
After the years of problems with the Jeep, in the FJ we’ve found reliability. We’ve found equal parts of comfort and capability. We’ve found adventure. And we’ve found our Serenity.