A speedy downhill finish, ducking under a fractured limb of Water Oak, a full tug on the rear brake as I approach the trailhead where I am parked at its entrance. The rear tire locks and the bike slides across a mixture of damp leaves, sand, and gravel and into the front bumper of my Jeep.

I catch my breath and laugh. No one hears. No one is near. My outdoor companion of twenty-one years greets me with a big red smile. I can almost see his headlights roll as if to say, “Whatever, Hot Dog.”

Pulling the water bottle from its holder on the frame, I climb onto the battered and scarred hood of “Rangler” (short for Red Wrangler…clever, eh?). I thought of how many places this old Jeep has been with me. My Jeep and me. As I reflected, the moment turned from nostalgic to metaphorical. My Jeep…is me.

Despite its age, still has a great sense of adventure. Happiest when off the beaten path and far away from the highway. Prefers the open air to closed-in spaces. Runs a little hot now and then and needs hydration and a rest for the tempering. A little harder to see through the cracks in the glass.

An empty space where the radio once was. Ripped right out and stolen. Never replaced. A reminder of when my song was lost and a nudge to listen to the sounds of the waves, the woods, the wind. None of the locks are working. No need. Trusting nature and assuming the best in others. Manual five-speed stick. Old and quirky original clutch. Getting where he’s going requires push and pull, shifting and timing. Things no longer run automatically :-).

He carries the reminders of times past and things cared about. Tickets, notes, maps, stickers, pebbles and sand, weather-worn cards, Tybee’s collar and his chewed-up Frisbee, a glove compartment with keys to locks unknown or forgotten, flip flops from beaches gone by. Mementos bought, found, dragged in, or fallen. Pelted and dented by a hail storm in ’17. No insurance claim — not one to worry much about cosmetics. Scratched and torn from the journeys. A little rust here and there, but not enough to get him down. The ghost of Tybee still sitting shotgun and waiting for me to invite him to run alongside.

Plenty of signs of wear; no signs of slowing down.

As is, no warranty

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