Riding In A Jeep

This morning I can scratch another item off my bucket list, because I can now say that I’ve ridden in a classic, open Jeep.

The B.A. Jersey Girl brought her family’s vintage, early ’90s Jeep to the office yesterday, and we used it to ride over to Indian Oven for lunch. Riding in a classic Jeep is an interesting and pretty cool experience. With the low-slung doors and the open back end, you’re much more exposed to the world than you are in a car — even in a convertible. I’ve never been as motivated to buckle my seatbelt and anchor myself as I was when I first climbed into the Jeep yesterday afternoon.

But once you get used to it, a Jeep is a fun ride on a warm, sunny day. While the B.A.J.G. deftly shifted and navigated through traffic, I had a bird’s eye view of the downtown Columbus lunch hour crowd — and vice versa. Everything seemed a lot more vivid and immediate without the tinted windows and car ceiling to separate interior from exterior. And people tend to give a Jeep more of a once-over than they do a normal car, because Jeeps look so different. I’m sure the passersby yesterday were surprised to see two lawyers, hair flapping in the breeze, where you might expect to see surfers or armed security forces instead.

Now that I’ve ridden in a Jeep, I suppose my next bucket list item has to be riding in a tank. I’d be willing to give it a try, but I’d be afraid I’d look as goofy and out of place as Michael Dukakis on his ill-fated photo op ride. ┬áThen again, perhaps that already happened with yesterday’s Jeep adventure.

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Red Jeep

On St John, you have three choices: stay at a place in Cruz Bay and stick in town during your visit, or use the taxi and bus service, or rent a car. We chose the latter option, and rented a bright red Jeep. As a result, we fit right in, because Jeeps probably make up more than half of the vehicles on the island.

Renting a car has pros and cons. On the con side, there’s lots of hairpin turns without fencing and straight uphill roads, and the occasional donkey or goat by the side of the road, so you have to watch it — especially at night. Plus, it’s the only territory under the U.S. flag where you drive in the left side of the road, which requires a lot of focus. All in all, it’s not exactly relaxing driving. But, it’s nice to have the freedom to go where you want when you want. If you like hiking and snorkeling and want to go to the out of the way places, as we did, a Jeep makes a lot of sense. We ended up glad we got it.

Why a Jeep, and why red? You need a car with power to be able to crawl straight uphill after one of those abrupt switchbacks. And I thought the red was just in line with the general theme of bright Caribbean colors — but I later learned there’s a safety reason, too. Other cars can see you through the green foliage, and if the approaching vehicle is a long truck that needs a lot of clearance on a turn, it can sound its horn before you’re trapped in the turn.

Plus, donkeys evidently like red.