As we consider undertaking the first leg of our Land Cruiser trip, which is to San Diego, I’m actually a bit apprehensive, since my lovely wife, Ellen, has not met our Land Cruiser, and therefore, we cannot officially name him. In our family, we are convinced that each and every vehicle has a name, and they cannot perform at their best until we discover that name. We know, for a fact, that he is male, because every female whose ridden in him or seen him universally agree that he is.
Today, as we drove him around, exploring the Phoenix area (aka getting lost and then working to get un-lost, on purpose), I started to get back into “the zone” of trekking around Afghanistan in “Magic Carpet”, the 2008 Type 76 that kept me and my friends safe during my time there. The view over the hood, while negotiating traffic on roads, highways, and even a few mild trails, with its unique angular boxiness, is highly reminiscent of flying the “Magic Carpet”, and I was taken back to that place and time.
The majority of the times we went on our trips, we passed the Kabul Zoo. One of my favorite stories to come out of that country is that of Marjan, the heroic one-eyed lion, who killed a Taliban fighter who was torturing the zoo animals, and who was blinded and disfigured after being attacked with a hand grenade. Marjan survived after being left for dead, and survived for five years, only dying after the American invasion in 2012.
I don’t know if I’m trying to borrow fame, or toughness, but I’ve become increasingly fond of the name since learning the story back in 2009. I would love for this new vehicle to be a “Marjan”. It is a Land Cruiser, after all, and they are famous for their toughness and durability. And this ride most definitely has character. We have decided to call it “Marjan” until Ellen has a chance to meet him. At that time, we will decide.
We did a full day’s work today, but during short breaks, I started cleaning up the car. the ash tray was packed, and even jammed full of ancient cigarettes, which I dumped out and then thoroughly cleaned the ash tray. All the windows gave up what seemed like several pounds of soot and grease residue, to enable our view. Marjan’s interior is deluxe and leather, so both front seats have been ravaged by the Arizona sun, with the passenger seat being possibly savable but the driver’s seat being gone, so I bought a cheap Wal-Mart seat cover for the driver’s side, and started attempting to restore the passenger seat.
As I started scrubbing the dash, the “genuine simulated wood panel plastic” started to disintegrate, so I started just peeling it off, only to discover that the standard Toyota surface was right under it. So that stuff is most definitely gone next chance I get, if only to get it clean and to eliminate an eyesore.
The rest of the afternoon we proceeded to try to get lost on purpose, and to somehow find our way back to the apartment. The point of this is to discover things we wouldn’t have attempted find on purpose. It’s one of my favorite ways of becoming familiar with an area. We found an outlet mall with Prada, Gucci and Dolce & Gabana products. And then we found an Indian reservation, where we almost ran over the puppy of Janiece’s dreams when it darted out in front of us, but fortunately we stopped in time.
We also found a cute little farmers’ market, which had a few interesting products, as well as a a folk singer in a chamois shirt with a Mercedes ball cap. Irony was observed.
Finally, we turned home, and noticed that we had a moon roof. When we attempted to open the moon roof, we discovered that the speed shield was actually being held on by the moon roof being closed. For a moment, it was if our vehicle was disintegrating around us in the middle of suburban Phoenix rush hour. Janiece reached outside the car and held on to the shield to keep it from tearing off completely and losing it, damaging it or the moon roof, or having it fly into traffic and injuring someone.
Luckily, though, we were able to pull off the highway and remove the offending shield which was still partially attached, and threw it in the back of the car.
A funny thing has happened in the last couple of days: When we first picked up the vehicle, some small things did not work. None of the locks in the doors worked electrically, for instance, but required manual manipulation. As we’ve been driving the vehicle around, though, the locks started working again, one at a time, through continued use.
It’s interesting that I also started taking CrossFit classes this week and am noticing the same thing with my body. My lower body has been terribly injured on several occasions, but the instructor at Scorpion CrossFit has been working with me this week; in such a short time, I am now able to do a deep squat for the first time in my life. Seems like Marjan the Land Cruiser and I are going through similar issues, and at the same time.