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The Lazy B Entrance
The Lazy B Entrance



In a Jeep, From VA to CA – 


Herndon, VA – After 17+ years of ownership, my wife Tina replaced her ’06 Jeep Grand Cherokee with a ’23 Grand Cherokee 4xe, Jeep’s recently introduced plug-in hybrid. Obviously, having owned the ’06 for almost two decades, the decision to purchase its replacement wasn’t impulsive, but then, neither was it aggressively researched. Despite the number of plug-in hybrids with an on-road/off-road duality, there was only one brand Tina actively considered, and at the time of its purchase in early ’24 this new GC would be her third Grand Cherokee – and (since 1987) fourth Jeep.

With the 2023 Grand Cherokee taking over the 45-mile roundtrip to shuttle our grandson Rhys to elementary school, the ’06 was relegated to occupying space on our driveway. And despite a relatively modest footprint (when compared to the ’23), it still takes up space. At the same time, I was questioning whether we needed an almost-new Toyota Venza at our second home near Los Angeles, when we were driving it only occasionally; in its three years it had been driven just 9,000 miles, and almost 1/3rd of that mileage was delivering it from our home in Virginia to LA. Still worth almost $35K, we sold the Venza to Frontier Toyota in Santa Clarita, and began planning to park the ’06 in SoCal – and use it for those 3,000 miles per year.

As we left Herndon – about 15 minutes east of Dulles Airport – the Jeep was carrying Tina, our luggage and the last of our daughter Lauren’s childhood possessions, boxes we had been storing and/or moving for the last 20+ years. In short, it was a very full Jeep, and the volume of ‘stuff’ meant the bicycle I had hoped to take would, instead, need to be shipped separately. I still enjoy the Jeep’s high hip point, good visibility and almost tossable handling. And when compared to the ’23 plug-in, the ’06 powertrain – a 5.7 liter Hemi V8 delivering 325 horsepower – seems twice as smooth, but then, it’s also twice as thirsty. 

Cumberland County Courthouse - Crossville, Tennessee
Cumberland County Courthouse – Crossville, Tennessee

Our first day took us south on I-81, which connects with I-40 near the Virginia/Tennessee border. The first night, in Crossville, TN, was spent with my cousin Paula and her husband Bill. And steak. And beer. Crossville is the seat of Cumberland County, and sits on the Cumberland Plateau, giving it an elevation – and climate – that Paula and Bill would not have enjoyed if they had retired in Bill’s native Texas. Crossville is a beautiful area adjacent to I-40, and while its population remains small relative to Dallas or Fort Worth, like so many areas attractive to retirees, its population is growing. 

Crossville was followed by a cup of coffee with our cousin (and performing artist) Struan Shields near downtown Nashville. After two attempts at finding a coffee shop with room for sit-down conversation, the three of us landed at the Frothy Monkey – yup, that’s the Frothy Monkey. And there, as Nashville would have it, we were served by another singer/songwriter! Before hitting the road, I pitched Struan on a collaboration, combining my automotive reviews with his instrumentals; I’ve always wanted to be a lyricist, and this looks to be my best (perhaps last…) chance. Struan, I was assured, thought it was a great idea. 

Next stop was Little Rock, for our second night on the road. Over the last several years I’ve made this layover several times, always staying at a Holiday Inn near downtown and the Clinton Library. The hotel is always clean and comfortable, while restaurants within walking distance have consistently provided a good meal.

Little Rock represented just over 1,000 miles of travel, and with the previous fill-up – just an hour east of Little Rock – giving us 16 miles per gallon, we felt reasonably good; enough money for gas, while still having enough budget for food! We were maintaining speeds of 70-75 miles per hour, and the only hiccup was a slight vibration in the front tires at that 75 mph. We didn’t address that in Arkansas, but our two nights in Dallas would give us a chance to rebalance the front tires while – in a credit card surprise – replacing the rear tires.

In Dallas our hosts were Tina’s sister Kay and brother-in-law Tony. Comfortably retired, Kay and Tony split their time between Dallas’s grandchildren and a condo in Clearwater, Florida. Their single-story ranch in Dallas has easier access, while their 10th floor condo offers better views. The two nights in Dallas also gave us a chance to dine (and drink) with another cousin and his family – Jim, Kristina and their almost-18, almost-driving daughter Dottie – in Dallas’ Bishop Arts District. A one-time backwater commercial strip south of downtown, the Bishop Arts District is booming, with dining, drinking and retail filling virtually every storefront. Calories – healthy calories – were consumed at Written by the Seasons, while a few unhealthy ones were taken at Emporium Pies on Bishop. The pies come highly recommended…but bring your own coffee.

Dallas also provided an opp to catch up with old friends – Nancy, Susan and Ron, along with Rhonda, Sheri, Joe and Hunter – over breakfast and lunch, but not enough time to see all of our old(er) friends. That, happily, would have taken all week…

Chaparral Gallery, Permian Basin Oil Museum
Chaparral Gallery, Permian Basin Oil Museum

If there was a long stretch on this cross-country ride-and-drive, it was from Dallas to El Paso. And more specifically, Midland to El Paso. That distance would have been shortened by a stop at Midland’s Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, with its story of oil and display of Jim Hall’s Chaparral race cars. But it was Easter Sunday and the museum was closed. If you stop in Midland on something other than Easter I’d encourage you to drop in and, at least for a few minutes, be Jim Hall.

Our night in El Paso provided another clean and comfortable Holiday Inn Express, in combination with to-go chicken from a locally-owned eatery. And with only a short drive to Phoenix we could take a leisurely exit onto I-10 West, only to discover storm warnings just down the road. 

Welcome to Lordsburg
Welcome to Lordsburg

With Tina providing the navigation (or more correctly, translating her phone’s navigation) we took Arizona’s Highway 70 from I-10 through Lordsburg, New Mexico. And having just read the late Sandra Day O’Connor’s memoir, LAZY B – GROWING UP ON A CATTLE RANCH IN THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST, driving through Lordsburg should have been the reminder that we were approaching the ranch. But only after driving by its gate (see above pic) did we put two and two together. Lordsburg probably had some reference or display to Supreme Court Justice O’Connor, but seeing it would have required a U-turn…and we had miles to go (Phoenix!) before we sleep.

New Mexico Landscape
New Mexico Landscape

We arrived in Phoenix sufficiently early to enjoy a sit-down dinner  at a restaurant – The Arrogant Butcher – adjacent to the Diamondback’s…uh, diamond. The Yankees were in town, and pinstripes dominated the streetscape, although getting a share of our attention was a driverless shuttle managed (if that’s the word) by Waymo. I’ve had my suspicions regarding autonomous driving, and seeing Waymo on populated streets did nothing (NADA) to dispel those suspicions. 

Waymo Shuttle in Downtown Phoenix
Waymo Shuttle in Downtown Phoenix

The drive into Los Angeles was again a short(ish) day, made all the better by seeing our daughter, son-in-law Ethan and granddaughters Evelyn (4) and Josie (2). The girls remain beautiful, the city of Santa Clarita remains green and, perhaps most significant, the Jeep fits in the townhouse garage. 

We left Northern Virginia on Wednesday, March 27th and arrived in Santa Clarita on Tuesday, April 2nd. Once the Jeep had been washed and refueled, we had covered exactly 2800 miles over that six days of actual driving. And as you’d guess with a Hemi-powered Grand Cherokee, we consumed some fuel along the way (although, to its credit, that Hemi is still not burning any oil between changes). We stopped 13 times to refuel (including the last fill-up in Santa Clarita) and bought 179 gallons of regular unleaded. 

The Last Gas(p) - Southern California
The Last Gas(p) – Southern California

As you’d guess, that average of 15.6 miles per gallon is predictable, but – again – the Jeep will see minimal usage in California, while the new 4xe gets real use – along with a semblance of efficiency – in Virginia. And in one of Tina’s first shopping excursions in Santa Clarita, she picked up a new grille – which (to her) is what Jeeping is all about. You know…shopping!

With that, I was on a plane back to DC the next morning. And on Thursday I took Rhys to school in my Miata – and 28 miles per gallon.

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.



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