Jun 11, 2015

Jeep Wagoneer Memories

Jeep Wagoneer 


Today on the way home from the bank I was at a stop light behind a green Jeep Wagoneer, an old vintage model. It took me a few seconds to notice the car, then I studied it to make sure it was indeed that model.  I tried to take a photo but the light turned green and the driver sped off, I could not catch up and safely take the photo. 

As the car drove ahead memories immediately marshaled across my mind and I got a big smile in my heart.  When we were kids growing up in Panama, Grandpa Rogelio had a green Jeep Wagoneer, he called it, EL LAGARTO, the alligator.  Grandpa Rogelio was born in 1894, so in 1968, he was 74 years old, going on 18. He was the coolest, most fun and crazy Grandpa ever. 

The Jeep was certainly Grandpa proof.  He beat up the car as much as possible and it kept on running  He used the Jeep to transport animals, feed for the animals, cement bags, cinder blocks, tools, plants for Grandma Chichi's gardens at the Linda Vista, finca in Panama. Anything that you can imagine that would be needed as supplies, inventory and tools for a farm with goats, chickens, horses, cows, dogs, ducks, geese, & pigeons. 

My favorite memories of EL LAGARTO: 

Rear View Mirror 

When we stayed at the finca during summer vacation, we would drive into Panama City with Grandpa in the Jeep. He was always in need of something he could only get in the city.  When we ventured into the city, Grandpa would use us as his eyes anytime the car needed to go in reverse or change lanes.

Grandpa never turned his head and never looked in the mirror. We got used to it this and expected to always guide him when he was backing out of a parking spot or changing lanes. He would always make a big deal of this and commend us for helping him drive. And we always got an ice cream or soda on the way home for our part in his driving excursion. We were kids, we were having a big time with Grandpa. At that time I was 10 and 11 years old. 

Bridge of the Americas -
Pacific Ocean - Panama Canal Entrance

When driving to Panama City we always had to cross the Bridge of the Americas and every time we were on the downhill side of the bridge he would put the car in neutral and let it coast, and it became a game. How long could he coast the car in neutral before it became a traffic hazard by going so slow. His reason for this, he was saving on gas. 

We came to expect the coasting and would get excited, anticipating the crest of the bridge knowing that as soon as we were over the middle, Grandpa Rogelio would move into the slow lane and put the car in NEUTRAL. 

My favorite Jeep memory is so telling of my Grandpa's DNA. He was a character and once he had his mind made up on something, there was no stopping him. 

I was not part of this actual Jeep event, but we heard the story over and over. 

Grandpa went to Panama City on his own and somewhere during one of his visits he lost his car in a parking lot.  I'm sure he was frustrated and he did not want this to happen again. So his remedy, he and Pablo, the finca foreman, went to a paint store, bought the necessary supplies and painted the Jeep bright yellow. And the wheels were painted bright orange to match.  

One day we visited the finca and the green El Lagarto Jeep was introduced to us with it's new bright yellow screaming personality. As kids we loved it ! 

Certainly it worked and Grandpa never lost his car again. It was always easy to spot the car. As Grandpa got older, he signed up Pablo for driving lessons and helped him get his driver's license. So anytime Grandpa went into Panama City, Pablo was at the wheel.  

I don't recall having a photo of the Jeep in the collection of photographs from when we were growing up in Panama. If I find one, I will post for sure. 

Taboga Island - Panama
 (L to R )
Carlos, Elena, Grandpa Rogelio, Ana, Mom, Roger
Love those bathing caps ! 

 (L to R)
Arleen, Grandpa Rogelio, Grandma Minnie, Ana, Grandma Chichi
Rochester, Minnesota 

Carlos,  Elena, Grandpa Rogelio