Upgrading to an SUV

Happy Easter everyone. Today’s entry from my first trip with Mike Gibbons and Mike Galli chronicles our morning visit to Thrifty Car Rental in Mt. View. At this point, none of us owns a vehicle reliable enough to get us safely and comfortably across the Sierras to Lone Pine and the Whitney Portal. 


THE MOUNT WHITNEY JOURNALS – Book I – 1998

My gear packed, it’s time to go. The plan is for me to pick Mike Gibbons up at his apartment in Menlo Park at nine A.M. and then rendezvous with Mike Galli at the Thrifty car rental agency on the El Camino Real in Mountain View. I had called a few weeks in advance to reserve an inexpensive mid-sized car, a size comparable to my 1982 BMW 320i. After picking up Gibbons and adding his gear to mine already in the trunk, it’s apparent that a mid-sized car is going to be way too small. Even with my overnight bag in the back seat, I can barely close the trunk. And we still have Mike Galli’s gear to load.

When we meet in the Thrifty parking lot, I tell the Mikes that we’re going to need at least a full-size car. Originally, I had wanted to rent some sort of  SUV: a Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder or something similar, but being the rookie on the trip, my suggestion was casually brushed aside by Galli and Gibbons. As the three of us anxiously wait our turn inside at the rental counter, I sit in a chair, gazing out the window, lustily transfixed by a white V8 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited. As drool drips down my chin, I come out of my trance long enough to notice that the Mikes have also come under the spell of the power, the head and leg room of the vehicle beckoning to us from the parking lot like a Victoria Secret model. It’s our turn, and Gibbons, our chief negotiator, asks how much extra it would cost us to rent the Jeep instead of the mid-size. The rental agent who has obviously been through this type of negotiation before, tells us that normally the price is an extra twenty dollars per day. But, since we are such nice guys, she’ll let us have it for ten. The Mikes, standing at the counter, simultaneously look down at me, seated behind them and to their right to see if I approve. I sit there, wide-eyed and goofy-looking, with a silly grin on my face, nodding my approval like some cheap spring-necked toy dog in the back of a low rider’s Impala.

The deal consummated, I go out to inspect the truck. As I walk around the Jeep, I find it odd that there is a “For Sale” sign on the windshield and a “Sold As-is” warranty taped to the driver’s window. I go back inside to ask the agent if I can start taking the signs off. Puzzled, she asks, “Which signs?” I point to the truck visible out the window, the truck that had so enticed us.

She says “Oh, that that isn’t your Jeep. Yours is parked out in the back”.

Many unkind thoughts and expletives immediately enter my mind, and as we follow her out the door to take a look, I expect her to show us a beat up 1975 rubber band-powered Cherokee Chief. Expecting Christy Turlington, getting Joan Rivers: the ‘bait-and-switch’ from hell. My fears are allayed, however, when we find our Jeep. It is almost identical to the one we first laid our hungry eyes on, the differences being a less finely appointed interior and a smaller engine, a small V6 instead of a mighty V8. Christy Turlington having a bad hair day and not wearing makeup.

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About victorvolta

I am a freelance photographer/writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. I grew up in the very suburban city of Santa Clara. Education: San Jose State University (class of '84) BA degree in Journalism with concentrations in Photojournalism and English. Favorite Foods: Ribeye steaks and Stan's Doughnuts (separate plates, usually). Favorite Drinks: Strong gourmet coffee and Trader Joe's Blood Orange Italian Soda (separate cups).
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