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TRAVELING JACK

Posted 3/07/17 (Tue)

By Jack Dura
Farmer Staff Writer

Everyone has their first set of wheels.
For me, it was a 2001 Mercury Mountaineer, or “the warthog,” as Mom called it.
Mom bought the rig in 2002, and its four-wheel drive and endurance led to the nickname.
After she switched to her Ford Fusion in 2011, the warthog went to me. Yippee!
The warthog wasn’t the hottest rod in the high school parking lot. Back in my dad’s day, he drove a 1955 Chevy Bel Air two-door hardtop.
I had a little SUV of indeterminate color.
Officially, its paint job was spruce or sage green, but parking cops thought my ride was green, gray, even silver.
Must have been the lighting.
Last summer, I made the switch to a Jeep, something newer and feistier than a 15-year-old “wreck,” as Dad referred to the warthog in its final years.
Say what you want about the warthog, but in one year, it took me 12,000 miles, or halfway around the world between the borders of North Dakota.
In 2015, when I started traveling the state, the warthog was my ride, unless some unsuspecting soul was willing to tag along and drive to places very often in the middle of absolute nowhere.
The warthog got 17 mpg on the highway and around 14 mpg in town.
By the end, the front driver’s door handle was hanging by a thread, forcing me to enter the back driver’s side door to open the front from the inside.
One of the warthog’s fog lights had been knocked out in an intersection crash two years ago (not my fault), and a crack in the windshield slowly deepened every month from a rock a truck threw up when I was a driving around near Neche.
But its V8 engine.
The warthog had it together internally. My first time chugging north on U.S. Highway 85 south of Watford City, I hit the incline of the Little Missouri River Valley at 65 mph.
The warthog blustered up the hill and then jolted as it poured on the steam.  
Eventually it eased over the top of the badlands like a ship settling off a wave, and we continued north, no problem.
In a lot of ways, the warthog was my own Millennium Falcon. I could make the jump to hyperspace, but nothing over 93 mph or we’d shake apart.
“She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.”
Right on, Han Solo.
Before I traded in the warthog for $1,000 in Williston last August, it had been all over North Dakota, and Minnesota too (for giant animal statues. A story for another time).
Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The International Peace Garden. Pembina’s observation tower. Medora. The Garrison Dam. The Maah Daah Hey ice caves.
And among its final trips: a weekend at Lake Metigoshe where a raccoon stole my garbage.
Still fun though.
The dealer in Williston told me the warthog would go to northeastern Montana to someone trying to rebuild their credit, or be another kid’s first ride.
I wonder what color they’ll think it is.