A little over a year ago, I wrote about the 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo—affectionately dubbed The Midnight Blue Express—and how it got totaled in an accident on the icy roads of Charles County, Maryland on MLK Day 2011. I wrote that even as time had passed, I was still heartbroken over losing my first SUV. But there is another part to that story. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: The Gazelle.
How I first came across this moment? On January 18th—just a day after the accident—I received a phone call from USAA telling me that The Midnight Blue Express would be considered a total loss as the amount to repair the damage exceeded the vehicle’s value. The adjuster said that I would be receiving a $6113 deposit to my account by the end of the week. I took a second to take the bad news in and then I immediately set out to find a replacement. I thought about stepping back down to a car but the vantage I had inside an SUV, in terms of seeing farther down the road, eliminated that thought as quickly as it came. I told myself that I’d just get another Jeep. After spending all of the January 18th searching in the Maryland area, I found the prices to be extremely unreasonable. For instance, there was a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo with 65000 miles and 1 accident was $18785 from CarMax just outside of Baltimore. My exact reaction to that was “f*** that $#!+”. I decided that I’d look for something in the South…in Birmingham. My extensive Internet search brought me to Med Center MAZDA, which had a 2010 Jeep Compass Sport with 14500 miles for only $14000. I knew then that I found what I was looking for so I flew back to Birmingham the next day. I visited Med Center MAZDA within an hour of arriving in Birmingham to get all the particulars on the vehicle, including a CARFAX report. The dealer also gave me some financing offers to consider. I showed all of that to my father that night and he told me that everything looked good on paper and that he’d join me the ensuing Friday (January 21st) to make a possible purchase. Ahead of this, I did some research in negotiating prices for automobiles and figured I could talk the dealer down to $12500 if I had it at the time of sale. So, I withdrew just that much from Wells Fargo—the money from the loss claim and what I had saved up in advance of buying a complementary vehicle the next year. Me and my dad went to Med Center MAZDA and he looked over it from top to bottom, bumper to bumper. We took it for a test run. He told me it was good to go in his book and that’s all I needed. I sat down with the dealer and he tried to sell me hard on their financing options. I countered saying that I’d pay $12500 in cash. He bucked a little bit but I stood firm and I ended up driving away with the Jeep. On the ride up I-65 into Birmingham from Med Center MAZDA, I quickly noticed how smooth it rode. It was almost as if it was just gliding along like a Thomson’s gazelle. And just like that, the new Jeep had its name: The Gazelle.
What it meant to me then? Back then, the moment meant a lot to me. I had a new ride…one that I got well below market price. I paid cash for it…a sign that I had progressed enough in life to where I could pay 5 figures cash for an automobile. Acquiring The Gazelle made me a happy camper. The drive along I-459, I-20, I-85, and I-95 from Birmingham to Waldorf was the best of those drives I made in 2011. It was smooth riding.
What it means to me now? I’ve had The Gazelle for 4 years now. We’re still going strong. 84000 miles and counting. It still rides as smooth as the day I purchased it. I’m literally gonna drive it until the wheels fall off.