There are several reasons I want Mother Nature to turn up the heat. First of all, despite living here for nearly four years now, my blood is still very thin. Even though I have learned to appreciate the “warmth” of a 50-degree day, that doesn’t mean I like it. That’s still cold.
Second, I have not and likely never will play in the snow. No skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, sledding or slaloming. I have never even made snow man or participated in a snowball fight. All I know is I have to shovel snow from my driveway and try not to slide on it when it turns to ice. Whether walking or driving, I’m not safe from its slippery effects. I have totaled one car and nearly crashed several others driving in the snow, and I almost totaled my hip when I slipped on ice while walking my dog. Watching the snow is fun from inside with a cup of hot coffee, but otherwise the only place I want ice is blended in my margarita on a hot day.
My third and newest reason for wanting the cold weather to go away is so I can take my top off.
Not my shirt — though I have been working out — but the top off my new Jeep. It’s not technically new, but it’s new to me. You see, my girlfriend recently agreed to sell me her 1995 Wrangler, which she has owned for more than 10 years. She has been letting me drive it, but technically I have to sell my Ford Explorer and pay her before the Jeep is totally mine.
Part of my desire to own a Jeep has been to learn to work on it. I never learned about cars growing up and never had anyone to teach me, so as an adult I have just had to pick up a little knowledge as I had time and was able. I thought a Jeep, with all its replaceable parts, would be a good vehicle on which to capture this bit of manhood that had eluded me.
In December, we got the title to the vehicle (a long story in itself) so we could drive it home from its two-year storage. Upon trying to start the car, we learned that either the electrical system was shot or the battery was dead. My girlfriend’s brother, a carpenter who possesses the mechanical and hands-on genes that I lack, helped us replenish the vehicle’s fluids and jump start it so we could drive it home. A week or so later, I bought a new battery for the car in the hope that the fix was that simple. Employing some of my basic car knowledge, I took out the old battery and put in the new one. Luckily, the car started right up, eliminating one possibly pricey fix.
Then it was on to the mechanic to inspect the vehicle and tell me if the car was worth keeping or should be put out to pasture. Wayne over at Safe Lube on North McCarran Boulevard looked it over and came back with a positive diagnosis: A few hundred dollars in some basic fixes and we’d be good to go. I know it is counter to my goal to have a professional work on the Jeep, but I figure I ought to start with everything in tip top shape before trying anything myself.
Once it was up and running, I could venture into a maintenance territory that was much less scary: the interior. First and foremost it needed to be cleaned. This was something my years of scrubbing and vacuuming experience could handle. What was new and scary was removing the seats and carpeting to clean down to the metal. I blew the dust off my wrench set and went to work. It wasn’t difficult to get everything removed, but I was afraid it wouldn’t go back. Somehow, though, I got it all done with no extra bolts for me to wonder about. But my true abilities were tested when my new seat belt and center console arrived in the mail.
Both required me to follow instructions and even drill a couple of new holes to install them. The process took me a full day, whereas an experienced tool man could have finished the task in a few hours, but after overcoming several obstacles I finally had both pieces securely in place. I topped off the interior with seat covers from my favorite baseball team, loaded up some cassette tapes I hadn’t listened to in years and I was ready to roll. My muscles ached and my hands were sore, but I had climbed my first mountain in my new Jeep without ever leaving the driveway.
One day I will actually get under the hood and do real work, but first I need some of that automotive thrill. I can’t wait to cut through the hot summer air on the way to Pyramid Lake or look up as I drive and see the trees tower over me as I speed through the mountains. If only winter will end.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go study my owner’s manual.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.