I was back in Florida, hanging out with my old squadron mate, Bob Mathews. Since I was recently divorced, I had no reason to go anywhere else, and all the time in the world to do it. My friend Bob has run the National Parachute Test Center (NPTC) for over 20 years, and I thought it was time to drink some Scotch and swaps some more lies about our 40+ year friendship. In the meantime I would figure out what the next chapter in my life would be, while I helped him pick up jumpers and recover test dummies. Of course, I needed my own wheels that could bounce across the fields and have space to throw half a dozen parachutes.
I spent a great deal of time on Autotrader researching what was available locally. Because I had owned a few Jeeps over the years, I was more comfortable in a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited than some of the others I tested. So I bought one, a golden V8 4×4. I named her Hazel.
Hazel and I played with parachutes for six months chasing errant jumpers through the fields. One day I heard about a doctor in Mexico that was doing some very interesting work with stem cells. Stuff that can’t be done in the States. A friend of mine in LA had gone to see this doctor and after some treatments had virtually cured his HepC.
A few weeks later I flew to San Miguel de Allende, in the central highlands of Mexico and got my butt pierced with some concoction of stem cells (made in Switzerland, of course) every day for 5 days. I fell in love with the town of San Miguel and decided that week that I was going to live full time in San Miguel. There was something about the place. It felt magic. I needed some serious magic in my life those days.
After a couple of months I flew back to Florida to pick up Hazel. Then I drove up the coast to visit my old Vietnam buddy, Gerry Byrne, in New York, then to Toronto, Canada to pick my new girlfriend Jane, and take her back to San Miguel, where I had met her.
The Jeep drove admirably. Well, not exactly. She was no Spring chicken. She had 100k miles when I got her. The first thing that went wrong was the air conditioner. It blew but not hard or cold enough. Then when you touched the vent, small pieces of foam flew into your face. Then there was the rattle. Bloody rattle. Probably caused by my bouncing over the gopher holes in the airport. I never was able to identify the rattle until I realized that it was only Hazel complaining about my driving.
The drive from Toronto to San Miguel was not bad. The seats in the GC Limited were extremely comfortable. Jane loved them. We took our time driving down, visiting friends along the way. The pavement of the interstate highways generally were very good, so I didn’t get much of a chance to hear that annoying rattle. Until we arrived in San Miguel; then it started to plague me every time we drove in the cobble stone roads of San Miguel.
The next summer we drove to Canada again to visit Jane’s family. After a month or so we drove back. Other than the air conditioner and rattle, I didn’t have any problems till this return trip. The oil pressure gauge broke and we had to replace it upstate New York. In Pennsylvania the speedometer stopped working periodically. I knew this was going to be the last trip for Hazel. I had driven about 30 k miles on Hazel in the last 2 years and I was going to miss her.