In previous posts, I talked about my path to and through Naval Nuclear Power School. I was looking through some old pictures the other day and found some pictures of Idaho Falls, and it sent me down a path of remembrance of my days in Idaho Falls, Idaho at prototype. Remembering those days reminded me of the house I lived in (the Roy House – so named for our landlord Roy), the snow, the lack of sleep, the relief of completing my qualification as a reactor operator, and the vehicle I drove to Idaho – my Suzuki SJ410.
For those who don’t know, the SJ410 was a small 4WD convertible. Many may remember the Suzuki Samurai that came after the SJ410, but this was the predecessor.
When I bought my SJ410, I was in Florida at Nuclear Power School. I saw the small 4WD at the dealership and decided to buy one. If I remember correctly, I paid just over $5000 for it brand spanking new! As you can see from the photos, it was red and black (UGA colors) with a white convertible top. No AC (but who needs one with a convertible), a 59.4 cu in motor (not a typo), and a ton of fun!
After Nuclear Power School, I was assigned to S1W in Idaho Falls, ID. I gathered up my seabag and a few others things, and headed west. I remember arriving in Idaho Falls on February 14th, 1985 to about 3 feet of snow. As I turned to head toward my rental house, there was a Ford F150 stuck in a snow drift. I graciously pulled the F150 from the snow bank and never even locked in 4WD. The F150 driver was grateful- but somewhat embarrassed that my little Suzuki (which he had never seen before) had to pull him out.
Working 12 hour rotating shifts didn’t leave much time for enjoying the Suzuki in the snow and ice, but my roommate had a Mustang that just didn’t fare very well in the weather, so the Suzuki became the workhorse of our house. I took it everywhere and had to park it in the driveway as the Mustang was in the garage. That meant knocking the snow and ice off the convertible top everyday so the weight wouldn’t tear the top. Here is a picture of my SJ410 parked next to a snow drift. And yes, that was the depth of the snow next to the house!
When summer rolled around, the top came off, and I cruised as often as I could. As the second RO to qualify, I got to change to 8 hour shifts earlier than most, and I rode a lot. Top down and radio blasting, I had a good time in the few hot days of summer. Below is a picture of the Suzuki with the top down!
Alas, I had to depart Idaho and report to USS Sandlance (SSN660) in Charleston, SC. I remember leaving on August 18th and it was 32 degrees that morning. I was a newly minted Reactor Operator, had a sizable reenlistment bonus, and was headed back south. When I got to Charleston, I bought an Audi 4000S (my favorite car ever). My brother John drove the Suzuki to college and he brought my beloved SJ410 to a tragic end when he totaled it.
I left the Navy in 1993, after 10 years of service. I married the love of my life, the lovely and adorable Lana, raised an amazing daughter, Laura, and have been blessed with 2 extraordinary grandchildren, Aidan and Maggie. My post-Navy career is brilliant, I’ve written The Gemstone Chronicles fantasy adventure series, and generally enjoyed life. I occasionally miss portions of my time in the Navy (mostly the people), and will always have a special place in my heart for the first brand new vehicle I ever owned – my Suzuki SJ410!
What was your special vehicle? A sports car? A truck? Leave me a comment and let me know!