This is the story of two days in my life. Both days involve road trips, one of my favorite subjects and activities. The two days in question are October 28th and 30th, a Thursday and a Saturday in 2021. But the primary purpose of this essay is introducing Jacqueline, my new (to me) 2018 Jaguar E-Pace P250. Note: this is not my first British car. I’ve had four, and wrote about one of them earlier.
On Thursday, October 28th, Tim and I drove to Spokane, Washington to check out what cars might be available in the used market. My Explorer is getting on in years and miles. This seemed like a good opportunity to find a replacement. Or at least to start the process. In the past, I’ve owned some great cars. One I loved was a Volvo V70 XC AWD. All that means is that it’s a wagon (V), and close to the top in size (70). It is a cross country model (XC) and has all wheel drive (AWD). The nearest Volvo dealer is in Spokane, so off we went. Another car I’ve lusted after is the Lincoln MKT. Ford no longer makes the MKT, but there should be good used models available. Again, the closest Lincoln dealer is in Spokane. Another stop for the day.
Tim also had a reason for visiting Spokane, but I won’t go into that. This is all about introducing Jacqueline to you. After finishing Tim’s shopping, we headed for Jaguar/Land Rover of Spokane, the afore-mentioned Volvo dealer. There were two vehicles on their lot which caught my eye immediately. One was a beautiful red 2017 Land Rover Discovery. I’ve never owned a Land Rover, but I know the marque’s reputation. Only problem was the miles on the odometer. 77,000+ I’m hoping to get a lot of years (and miles) out of whatever I choose, so starting with that many miles is kind of a non-starter. But still, what a beautiful car.
Meeting Jacqueline for the first time.
The lot contained a Volvo XC90–which is what I hoped to find–but one look at the sticker price and I moved on. Quickly. That’s when Jacqueline caught my eye. This may well be the smallest Jaguar ever built. My research tells me that the car is built in Graz, Austria by Magna Steyr. In the same plant with BMW 5-series and Z4s, Mercedes G class vehicles, the electric I-Pace, and the Toyota GR Supra. Who knew? I thought she was English.
I took her for a test drive. Not far. Not nearly far enough to know if this love affair would last. In fact, at this point it was more of a lust affair. I worried that she was too small, but Tim pointed out that I almost never use all the size in the Explorer’s cabin. The sticker price was a bit higher than I wanted to spend, but the car was almost new. Yes, she’s a 2018 model, but with only 15,000 miles on the odometer. Previously owned by a dealership in Redmond, Oregon, she has barely been broken in.
More time at the dealership
I insisted that Tim also drive the car. I sat in the back seat–just to make sure people would fit there. Did I mention this car is small? Tim liked driving her as much as I had. That meant figuring out just how to pay for her. Yeah, yeah. I was a goner. Should I trade in the Explorer? I don’t need any more cars. But the dealership’s offer was ridiculously low. The Explorer is worth more to me than their offer. I had the salesman write up a proposal, and I accepted it. Then I had to meet with the finance guy.
I will say that both the salesman and the finance guy were very good at their jobs. The salesman put no pressure on me, other than asking one time only “What would it take for you to drive this home today?” The finance guy was also very good. He was putting pages of paper and dollar amounts in front of me and taking them away so fast I wasn’t sure what I was looking at–but more about that later. In the end, I drove Jacqueline home and Tim drove the Explorer.
Morning After Blues
Kevin thinks I’m a gullible fool. He may be right. I worried through the night that I had bitten off more than I should. Was buying a Jaguar the 72 year old’s version of a mid-life crisis car? But dammit, I deserve a bit of luxury in my life. When I got up, I went through the paperwork, adding up all the numbers, and came to the realization that I had agreed to a 40% increase over the sticker price–just for a protection packet. Protection racket is what it should be called.
Once I figured the salesman was up and on his way to the office, I called his cell. “I want the car, but not the protection packet.” He felt this would not be a problem, although I might have to sign new paperwork. I could deal with that. However, I wanted assurance that I could get exactly what I wanted. That required me talking with the finance guy. Kevin needed to go to Kalispell, and wanted to take the Jag. BUT, I could return the car only if I had driven it less than 250 miles. Well Plains to Spokane is 150 miles one-way. Adding in a trip to Kalispell would put me way over my limit.
A Day Without Driving the New Car
In the end, we took Kevin’s truck to Kalispell. The finance guy and I played phone tag as he went in and out of meetings. To be fair, I was going in and out of cell range. He’d phone and the call would drop mid-sentence. I’d call and he’d be in a meeting. I was getting more and more frustrated. By the time we got home, I was in a state. Was I going to keep Jacqueline, or return her because the dealership wouldn’t drop the protection. A final call from the salesman assured me that new paperwork would be drawn up, but I’d have to go to Spokane to sign it in person. The next morning, at 9:00 a.m. (OK, he said we could come in any time Saturday or Sunday. We chose the 9 a.m. appointment.
Giving Jacqueline a Workout
Kevin and I were on the road by 6:30 Saturday morning. Kevin drove. Big mistake on my part. Just as Tim and I both had enjoyed driving her, Kevin now had the chance to fall in love. And he did. (Oh, he won’t admit it, but he did. Truly he did.) We stopped in Coeur d’Alene for breakfast, but the restaurant’s service was very slow. I began to worry that we would be late for our 9:00 a.m. appointment. As it turned out, we arrived before the dealership was open. We parked on the street and waited a few minutes.
The actual time involved went quite quickly, and we soon left Spokane knowing that Jacqueline was ours. I thought we’d have lunch in Coeur d’Alene with a dog and Jaguar loving friend, but our visit was short as Kevin wanted to continue on to Helena (well Jefferson City) for ham radio business. We stopped in Missoula to fill Jacqueline’s tank and our bellies, and continued on our way.
Helena and Jefferson City
We ate lunch in the car. Sacrilege, I know, but we were racing against time. I had finished my lunch by the time we reached Clinton, so Kevin and I switched seats. I drove on to Helena where I took the opportunity to photograph the inside of the Great Northern Carousel for my upcoming article in Distinctly Montana Magazine. From Helena, Kevin drove on to Jefferson City to pick up some ham radio equipment from one of his ham buddies there. I took advantage of the time to photograph the mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) gathered in Tom’s yard. I also called our friends Mike and Tom in Seeley Lake to see about stopping by on our way home. They invited us to join them for supper.
On to Seeley Lake
With Kevin’s new radios in the cargo area (it’s not really a trunk or boot, as the English say), we headed north. Back up Interstate 15 to Helena, then west on US 12 over MacDonald Pass. At the small town of Avon, we took Montana Highway 141 past Nevada Lake. The northern end of the highway has been newly resurfaced–the road work signs were still up. Jacqueline purred as she ran that road. At Mineral Wells, we turned west again on Montana 200. Clearwater Junction is the southern terminus of Montana 83, and we took that road north to Seeley Lake.
Kevin and I both thought we knew how to get to Mike’s house, but we were wrong. It doesn’t help that I remembered Whitetail, but Mike actually lives on Whitefish. Admitting that we didn’t know where we were going, we called. “We’re lost!” Mike gave us exact directions and we were there in no time. The table was spread with home-made chili and corn bread muffins, and we had an enjoyable supper and conversation, catching up with our dear friends.
Mike did utter one ominous observation. “I hope I didn’t lead you wrong inviting you. Highway 200 is closed west of here.” A chemical spill had closed the road near the Paws Up Ranch, and there was no word from the Montana Department of Highways as to when it would re-open. Well, then!
Putting Jacqueline to the test
Montana Highway 83 runs parallel to US 93, but is separated by the Mission Mountains–Montana’s Alps. At the southern end, Montana 200 connects the two and at the northern end, Montana 82 makes the connection. Ninety-one miles of gorgeous scenery separate 200 from 82. But it was night by now–no scenery to see and the likelihood of many suicidal deer on the road. 200 was out. There is one and only one alternative, the Jocko Canyon Road–the only road to cross the Mission Mountains.
Here’s what the offroad website onxmaps has to say about Jocko Canyon:
This is a scenic shortcut from Seeley Lake to Arlee. It is a rough and rocky dirt road that is 1-2 vehicles wide. Jocko River and lake system are visible for most of the trail. There’s a waterfall that cascades next to, and then under the road. Abundant undeveloped camping sites are available. Several trails depart this main trail, and allow you to explore the Mission and Swan Mountain Ranges. Cell service is available for most of the trail. Be aware of recreation and fishing regulations, as part of the trail is on Flathead Tribal land. This means the Jocko lake system is only allowed to be used by Flathead Tribal members. Signage is posted.
We decided to take the “shortcut.” This was despite the fact that I have driven it only west to east, and Kevin hasn’t driven it for many, many years. It was also despite Jacqueline’s navigation system directing us back to Montana 200.
Into the Woods
Once past Placid Lake, Reginald (Jacqueline’s UK English speaking male voice) directed us to Finley Creek Road. Neither Kevin nor I had ever heard of Finley Creek or its road, but we knew what general direction we needed to take. At the junction, we turned left. Turning right would lead us back to Seeley Lake–or so we assumed. Eleven miles up Finley Creek Road, we met the locked Forest Service gate shown above.
In climbing toward the locked gate, I had failed to notice if the navigation system said we were getting closer to our objective. I did notice as we retraced our route back down the mountain, that we were now getting closer. Had we turned right when we first met the road, within a quarter mile Reginald would have said “Turn left onto Jocko Road.” Which is exactly what happened the second time around.
Home again, home again, Jiggity Jog
Once on the correct dirt road, the rest of the trip was smooth sailing. We were up and over the pass and down to Arlee and US 93 in no time (well, more like 90 minutes). At Arlee, we turned north on 93, and at Ravalli west on MT 200. Oh, that jiggity jog thingy? Near Dixon, Jacqueline started shaking–or at least shivering. I don’t know if we knocked something loose on the dirt road, or if the car was suffering a type of post-traumatic stress now that we were safely back on blacktop. What I do know is that Kevin likes to drive her in “Comfort Mode.” I use “ECO mode” myself. (Hey, in “ECO mode” I get almost 40 miles per gallon. Not bad for a Jaguar SUV.) I also know that once I started driving again–in “ECO mode”–there has been no further shaking.
I love this car. Jacqueline is by far the easiest and most comfortable car I have ever driven. She is refined, smooth, fast–all the things I expect from my previous experience owning a Jag. She is also quite the lady. Only once have I felt she was trying to run away from me. That was my own fault–not knowing exactly how to set the Cruise Control.
And Jacqueline? My cars almost always tell me their names. The first car I actually considered my own was a 1964 Comet Caliente. Her name was “Baby Blue,” even though she was more of a turquoise/greenish color. Sometimes it takes a while for a car to talk to me. My 1986 Mercury Cougar was Curtis–if we were dressed up and heading to the opera. If we were just out cruising, he was Curt. Jacqueline is a classy English lady (even if she was born in Austria). She expects to be called Jacqueline. But, she has let me know that when we’re just out having fun, she may, just maybe, let me call her Jacquie.
Oh, and Reginald? Jacqueline has her own voice. She speaks exactly the way you would expect a mature, cultured British woman to speak. But she is an amazing polyglot and mimic. Her UK English Male voice is what I have called Reginald. That’s what Kevin likes to hear. But English, whether UK, US, or Australian, is only one (three?) of the languages she speaks. If you want all your navigation (and warnings) to be in Czech, Jacqueline speaks Czech. Just make sure you know the Czech for “English” if you ever want to hear (or read) what she has to say in that language. (FWIW, the word you need in that case is “Angličtina.” Don’t ask how I know that.
I hope you have enjoyed my introducing Jacqueline. Please feel free to leave comments about road trips, classic or classy cars, or even your experiences on dirt roads at night. However, please don’t leave comments about drugs, sex sites, or your naughty girl friend. I get way too much spam already.