I’ve had a Jeep in my garage for a pretty sizable part of my adult life. The one constant in all that time is that wherever I pointed my tires, it went without complaint. Snow, mud, washed out roads, none of them ever required more than maybe shifting from high range to low.
This past Friday morning, for the first time, I pointed the Jeep’s nose in the direction of an obstacle it couldn’t surmount. Of the two ways out of the neighborhood, the one I most commonly follow involves a quick right turn directly up a short, but steep hill. This hill, on the day in question, was, at least partially, a sheet of ice.
All other things being equal, I’d have been sorely tempted to put her in 4-low and crawl up and over this stretch of ice. Such is my confidence in the Jeep’s almost universal sure-footedness. The hill, though, had already claimed at least two vehicles in their attempt to reach the promise of flat ground and dry pavement at the top. One was tantalizingly close to the top, though stuck awkwardly sideways straddling a travel lane and the ditch. The other was stopped dead on the steepest portion of the hill, the driver seemingly unsure how to extract themself from the situation.
As sure as I’m sitting here typing, I believe the Jeep could have carried the hill – although that would have meant swinging into the oncoming traffic lane and putting her perilously close to the two earlier vehicles who’d blown their chance. The margin of error would have been measured somewhere between inches and feet.
I decided the better part of valor was looking for an alternate route, which involved an extra twenty minutes and two more bits of backtracking before finding a path that hadn’t already claimed victims that morning.
I’ll never know for sure if the Jeep failed me or I failed the Jeep. In my overabundance of caution, it feels a lot like the latter.