And I'm not talking philandering.
Restlessness is my nature. It is the carry-on cross I bear. Never am I more content than when I have an adventure on the horizon – 'adventure' loosely defined. A domestic airline ticket. A weekend in Chicago. A schlep to Machu Picchu. Sardinia. Bhutan. Vietnam. Any ol' oyster bar. Kilimanjaro.
Like Bruce Chatwin, it isn't so much the destination, as the thrill of movement.
I suffer from motion wellness. No barf bag required.
My restlessness is genetic. My dad loved nothing more than pouring Sambuca in his coffee and hitting the road. Destination: who cares. Fitting then, when out-of-the-blue my stepmom called to see if the Little Bastard would be interested in my father's old 1994 Jeep.
My immediate reaction was, "To hell with him. I want it."
My stepmother inherited everything when my Dad clutched his scotch-soaked banker's heart and hit the pavement at the age of 64. Paul Schultz died a few months shy of his retirement – ironically – a life sentence to a man with no patience for things like golf, gardening, or grandchildren.
After a reading of the will that left us shell shocked and empty handed, my trophy-shelf stepmom claimed our father knew she would, "Always look after you children."
Her exact words.
But as it turned out, nothing was farther from the truth. She put in heated driveways while this single mom struggled to heat our happy little house.
So, this wasn't just a vehicle. It was my legacy.
Off I went on an adventure to reclaim what was rightfully ours – clocking 4796 kilometres in 5 days. I could have easily flown up, or had the Jeep shipped to the Little Bastard's hockey team in Quebec – but where's the fun in that? I renewed my CAA membership, tossed the dogs in the truck, and hit the road.
I'd like to say this was a road trip worthy of a sequel to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas ... but I am too fearful of an LSD/ menopause mix for that. I do have to agree with Hunter S. Thompson when he said, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, "Wow! What a Ride!”
This trip put the whirl in whirlwind. The hardest part was making nice with my stepmom before finally being handed the gauntlet – the keys to my father's beloved Jeep.
In 1994, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited was the cat's meow. Puffy leather seats. Cruise control. Full time 4-wheel drive. Gold striping. Drink holders. And bordering on shag, carpet.
Today, the V-8 engine screams environmentally-unfriendly gas guzzler. Imagine my horror when I climbed in, My Dad's Jeep interior sang like a motel bedspread, and the carpet was wall-to-wall Rothman's. My stepmom's alcoholic brother had been using the pristine Jeep as his personal ashtray.
Flashback to our driveway every Saturday morning. My Dad had a chamois in one hand, and a rum and coke in the other. Wax on. Wax off. He would have been horrified at the state of things.
But I couldn't have been happier.
I set out before dawn, tears streaming down my face – the spirit of my dad riding shotgun. He was the plastic Jesus on my dash – cracking cold ones with the seat belt, flicking caution and cigarette butts to the wind. The last time I had been in this Jeep, my Dad and I were cruising along St. Margaret's Bay, Nova Scotia. A disgruntled New Yorker, and, as it turned out, in possession of an extremely worn out heart – I recalled him marvelling at how beautiful my chosen province was.
It was the last time I ever saw him. And, perhaps the first time I ever saw him.
I had trepidations about this next leg of the Jeep's journey. Delivering a sadly neglected 18-year old Jeep on winter road conditions that would keep even my Dad's restless spirit at bay. The Jeep had bald tires. A suspicious muffler. Loosey-goosey steering. Rust on rust. And a warranty whose ship sailed decades ago.
Thankfully, my "Fuck it, let's go!" kicked in. I could get towed if the Jeep sputtered and died somewhere between Cornhole, Ontario and Riviere du Loup. I liked Quebec beer and cheap hotel rooms.
But there would be no sputtering. I shoved a trashy James Patterson audio book in the CD player – and 7 uneventful hours and 120 bucks in gas later, I was in snowy Sherbooke, Quebec – temporary home of my my Dad's only grandchild.
Needless to say, just shy of his 17th birthday, the Little Bastard was thrilled to have his first car – a roundabout gift from the grandfather he never really knew. I'd like to say the Jeep was passed down with love – but as we would soon find out – it was an act of selfishness. We got it the hell out of my stepmother's heated driveway before the Jeep followed its owner – dying on the pavement a few short weeks later
With mixed emotions, I handed my boy the keys to the Jeep, and he handed me back the keys to my truck.
"You know," I said, with a heavy heart, "You could keep the Tacoma, and I can take the Jeep home."
"No way!" he said, face aglow from the dashboard's digital readout. "I love it!"
"I love it too." I said to myself, standing outside the Jeep, head tilted back, looking at the heavens. My tears catching wandering snowflakes.