Category Archives: Jeep

Trail Building

Sio and I drove to the Washita MX facility to help the Midwest Jeep Thing folks build trails for Jeepstock (coming up in about a month). This is a big event for the club, and they’ve been working down at Washita to clear trails in advance of the event.

We met the group at the McDonalds at Farmington, where I quickly figured out that these folks were serious — my Jeep was the smallest of the lot! We loaded up and followed them to Washita. After a quick lesson in how to read the trail map, we were on our way…. and I was faced with a 15-20′ hill that to me looked like it went straight up! Of course, that wasn’t a big deal, and the road to our first stop was flat and uneventful. I thought this was what we’d see the rest of the way.

I was wrong.

We finished up and decided to go on some of the logging roads — described to be easy to get around on — and that’s when I discovered that my version of “easy” and theirs were a little different. The logging road was rutted and pretty tough for me to cover. I made it thought, and we walked up an extreme trail, clearing what we could. I looked at the boulders, and couldn’t believe folks put their vehicles over them, but the evidence was there… plenty of scars on top of the boulders.

While we were there, some Jeeps and trucks came through, crawling the rocks and pounding the undersides of their vehicles on the boulders. And of the group of five, two had mechanical failures — one with a broken U-joint, and the other with a tire that came off the rim. Neither of those would I be equipped to fix, and yet there they were, pulling out tools, and getting ’em back on the road.

Once we finished with our trail clearing, the folks there decided to see if a couple of their “easy” trails were passable by a stock JK. In other words, I became a science experiment. πŸ™‚ The first trail was a grass trail through the forest, climbing up and down the sides of stream beds. It wasn’t too bad, but there were some places on that trail I wouldn’t have tried without someone leading me along. And then we hit the easy trail.

I couldn’t believe some of the climbs on this one! And it’s on this trail that I got my first “love tap” on the Jeep. Sio looked back and told me that I had dented the plastic fender on the rear passenger side. And apparently that was so much fun that I did it again. But this time, I took down the tree that was in the way. πŸ™‚ Shouldn’t be a big thing to bang out, and after all, I didn’t buy the Jeep for its resale value!

All in all, it was a fun day, and a great opportunity to gain some experience and confidence with my new toy. I’m sure we’ll be back out to Washita to play again!

Bad Influence

I’ve been accused of being a bad influence on folks in my cloud for a long time. OS/2, Apple, Canon…. there’s a long list and a lot of history of my being the dude with the pipe, leading the rats down the trail.

I got word this weekend that I may have greatly enhanced my standing in the bad influence category.

I’ve been working on a grilling friend of ours about his need for Jeep. In fairness, he wasn’t a target until he mentioned wanting a Jeep to bang around in after I got mine. That made him a legal combatant, and a fair target for Darla and I to poke with Jeep-related suggestions. So far, there’s been hints of progress, but nothing tangible. However, I really thought he’d be the next line for a new Wrangler.

So, from out of left field, I got a call over the weekend from a co-worker I play tennis with. He’d seen my Jeep shortly after I bought it, and had mentioned in passing how he thought that might be a good fit for him. Little did I know that the seed was planted. This weekend he bought a brand new Jeep Unlimited Sahara!

And when Darla recognized what the call was about, she uttered something unrepeatable, knowing that my tennis partner and I would likely begin egging each other on with upgrades and modifications. And she’s probably right…

Tops and Doors

After a week of thoroughly enjoying the Big Green Jeep in a topless/doorless “nekkid” configuration, rains this weekend have forced me to re-clothe my rig. *Sigh*

I’ve learned a lot through this week though. I now know how to remove/install the doors, and Beck (or Sio) and I can get the top up in just a few minutes. Today’s installation of the windows didn’t take long either. In fact, at a lallygag pace, Beck and I had the soft top up, windows and doors on in less than 30 minutes. If we’d needed to hurry, we probably could’ve done it in 15-20 minutes. Not too shabby for rank amateurs at this Jeep thing!

It seems like every time I re-configured the Jeep, I find something new I need to pickup. The biggest thing would seem to be a lockable trunk in the cargo area. Right now, I’m just not comfortable shopping in a nekkid configuration and not having someplace to hide/lock up my purchases. Even with just the soft top on, I have a little nervousness about leaving purchases unsecured.

And then there’s the little stuff. “Oh crap” handles for the passengers, a storage system for the zip out windows (which I ordered last night from All Things Jeep), better console/switch lighting…. the list goes on. And then there’s stereo upgrades so I can hear my music over the road noise. That’s a story for another day though!

Singing in the Rain

The Midwest Jeepthing had their picnic today in Crestwood. And, despite the possiblity of rain, Sio and I took the doors off the Jeep, and lowered the top all the way — both for the first time. Being topless and doorless, you could say the Jeep was naked, but I’d tell you it was “nekkid”. Naked just means you have no clothes; nekkid means you’re naked, and having fun. πŸ™‚

I also conjured up a big batch of baked beans, based on Mom’s recipe — another first on the day.

We got to the park right at 2pm, and met some of the MWJT folks for the first time. Friendly bunch of folks, and real knowledgeable. And, most importantly, I didn’t get any guff about my Unlimited being a “soccer mom” Jeep! πŸ™‚ In all, there were just over a dozen Jeeps there, with grilled burgers and all kinds of sides. Good food, good folks, and great weather…. until the wind shifted.

I was talking with someone, and suddenly, you could feel the wind shift eerily, and with the shift came a push of much cooler air, and significant dark clouds. Sio and I decided to high tail it out of there and try to get home before the rains started. We got just a few blocks from the park when we decided to put the top back up. As it ends up that was a good move. The doors were in the garage at home, as were the zip-off windows for the soft top, so that was as much as we could do on the road.

Once we hit the interstate, the rains came down, adding to the street wetness that was already there from a previous squall line. Impressively, most of the rain stayed out of the Jeep, with only the spray kicked up by passing vehicles really getting into the cabin. We made it home, with a side stop at Silky’s for some custard, and neither Sio nor I were too wet. Even the Jeep was relatively dry. But man, did we get some amused looks as we drove through the rain.

So how was the ride, you might ask? Well, glorious is the word that comes to mind. Having no doors or roof on the Jeep really gives a sense of freedom that I’ve never experienced with any other vehicle. In fact, you can hear so very much more — other folks’ tires, your own engine, wildlife — that it’s almost disruptive at first. Every normal sound that goes on around you can be heard easily, not just the loudest ones. And being engulfed by the air as you drive is exhilarating. This work week is supposed to be sunny and warm, so I think I’ll keep my Jeep configured nekkid this week.

My only complaint was the lack of a passenger side mirror. I didn’t realize how much I relied on that one, so only having a driver side just isn’t quite enough to keep me feeling happy and safe. I’ll need to figure that one out over the next week, but I’m thinking that the Mopar mirror I installed last week isn’t gonna be the right answer. No big deal.

This was a way fun experience on all kinds of levels. I sure wish I’d gotten one of these a long time ago!

GAR: Day Two – Kearney NE to Rawlins WY (475mi)

We awoke this morning to relatively clear skies, after a night of pretty amazing rain, thunder and lightning. After grabbing a quick spot of breakfast, we got moving…. and realized that the roof on the Jeep leaks.

I’m not terribly surprised, as this has been a common complaint I’ve seen on some of the Jeep forums. From what I can tell, water may be getting in the channel between the two front halves, and then works its way forward, draining at the windshield onto the top of the dash. It only did it when I stopped, so I assume that there’s something weird about the water path when the Jeep lurches at a stop. Strange thing is that I picked up Sio in some torrential downpours Friday, and had no issues. I’ve gotta do some research on this one…

So, remember yesterday, when I said things were windy? I had no idea how windy “windy” could be until today. We stopped at Tree Rock, and I thought we were gonna get blown over as we walked around. All through Wyoming, we saw signs heralding “High Winds Next 5 Miles”. Really…. πŸ™‚ The winds were incredible most of the day, which made for a really long drive. Fighting the wind all day just ate me up, and I was too tired to go too much farther tonight.

BTW, it’s much colder today. Yesterday, I don’t think the temps dropped below 85 all day (at least, until the storms came through). Today, we started out around 60, warmed briefly to 70, but spent most of the day in the 50s. And I hear rumors of near-freezing temps overnight…. that should be fun!

I’m still in awe of the change in the landscape today. This morning, we left the flats of the Nebraska plains, and shortly after lunch, we got our first glimpse of the Rockies. By the time we landed for dinner, we’d cut into the mountains. What a great, picturesque view of this big ol’ country!!!

Guest Appearance

Jean, the co-owner of All Things Jeep, asked me to audition for some guest writing on the All Things Jeep Blog after hearing about our upcoming road trip. I guess she liked my writing style, and thought there might some interest in a giant roadtrip. I dropped her my opening piece a couple of days ago, and tonight, it’s borne fruit.

Over at the All Things Jeep Blog, my first piece has appeared! Click the link, and take a look…. I’ll wait…. πŸ™‚

This is my first guest blogging appearance, and I couldn’t be happier to have it show up with these folks. I really like their products, and the folks I’ve interacted with (sample size of two) have been terrific. This has as the markings of being a very fun gig!

New Jeep Thing: Life Is Good Tire Cover

I got home tonight, and found that my new tire cover from All Things Jeep was waiting for me on the front porch. I wasn’t expecting it until Wednesday, so this was a nice surprise. I ripped the box open — kid-at-Christmas style — and dashed out to the Jeep for a quick installation. Those things are a little cumbersome to get on! Since it grips the tire pretty well, any sliding of the cover on the tire surface is pretty much impossible, which is exactly what you want when driving…. just makes it hard to install it correctly! However, ten minutes spent installing and straightening, and I the had the cover on and ready for business.


With the sudden spate of sunshine today, I decided to remove the soft top from the Jeep, and run around topless. It was everything I imagined, and then some. I’ve never owned a convertible, but I’ve gotta figure this was a lot like that kind of experience…. except, of course, that I wasn’t sitting down low to the road!

With the top off, I decided to run some errands. For someone who has, at best, had only a sunroof to open over their heads, the experience of traveling “open air” was exhilarating. I could definitely get used to that, and now that I understand better how to lower the soft top, I believe I’ll be doing that quite a bit this summer.

However, with the trip impending, I got Cousin Mark to help reinstall the hard top. It was insanely easy to put on. I’m now thinking of a lift in the garage for the top, so I can add/remove it at will and by myself. A former Wrangler owner at work has pointed me toward a Hoist-A-Top mechanism, and it looks like it’d work very well for what I’d need. Maybe after the trip…

And BTW, with the sun out, the Wranglers were out in force, mostly topless, and no one seemed to care that I had an Unlimited. The waves flowed freely, and that’s a good thing to see!

To Wave, Or Not To Wave

As I’ve done most of the nights since I put the Jeep in the driveway, I was poking around the web last night, looking for accessories and add-ons for the new toy. I came across All Things Jeep, a small company marketing some great Jeep accessories. As I looked around their site, I discovered they had a blog. I’ve been trying to find some Jeep communities to lurk on, and learn from, and this one seemed like it had a nice personality.

After reading a bit, I noticed there was a list of the most popular posts, and that the most popular post was about the Jeep wave. As I’m learning, the Jeep folks — especially Wrangler-to-Wrangler — will give a polite wave. I was raised in the South, and this is a common thing on the small roads where I can from, so it’s second nature to me.

However, as I read this popular post on their blog, I learned that there’s a bit of prejudice against the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited owners… so much so that some of the Wrangler 2-door owners mentioned some pretty strong opinions about the 4-door owners. Well, I couldn’t let that rest without dropping my own, somewhat contrary opinion into the fray. It’s too long to repeat here, but is at the bottom of that aforementioned Jeep wave post.

Beck and I talked last night, chuckled about how serious I got about whether I would get a wave from folks I didn’t know, and went to sleep.

This morning, I was at work checking out some RSS feeds, and noticed that there’d been a new topic posted on the All Things Jeep Blog…. and it was the hostess of the blog — Jean, who is also co-owner of the All Things Jeep company — pulling my comments out into its own post. Wow! And what I’ve discovered is that my comments struck a chord with her, as well as other folks.

Take a read through both the original post and its comments, and the one Jean posted today. I think it’s great reading, but I’m a bit biased! πŸ™‚

The First 100 Miles

With five days and the new Jeep hitting the century mark on mileage, I figured it was time to update our relationship. πŸ™‚

Frankly, I can’t remember a vehicle I’ve had as much fun driving since I moved from a crusty ’74 Ford Gran Torino Elite to a brand spanking new ’84 Nissan Pulsar. The change in rides was astounding then, and the change from the ’04 TrailBlazer to the new Jeep has been just as seminal.

I cannot believe how well the Jeep corners as compared to the TrailBlazer. I always thought Smokie handled the turns well, but I find that the new Jeep is really sure-footed, and gives no sense that it wants to slide or flip, and really feels secure taking turns without overly braking. I’m sure this isn’t a slalom-hugging vehicle — most SUVs aren’t — but the difference in the feel is pretty amazing.

And that brings me to the steering. I am finding that it’s pretty easy for me to wiggle around in my lane. The steering in the Jeep is waaaay more sensitive that the steering in Smokie, and I’m finding that the slightest hand movement translates into wheel movement. That’s pretty cool and it’s almost like I’m directly manhandling the wheels, rather than having a bunch of coupling in the way. It’s truly a great experience.

The interior is definitely different — Mom said it looked primitive. I think that’s a fair assessment, although there’s enough comfort to keep me interested when I’m on the long treks. It definitely feels narrow and longer, yet paradoxically like I’m closer to the front grill. In the ‘Blazer, you had to lean pretty good to reach the opposite door panel. In the Jeep, it’s a pretty easy reach. The hood of the Jeep looks like it goes on forever. I think that’s an optical illusion, likely because of the hard edge at the end of the hood as compared to the TrailBlazer’s more gradual drop off. I can’t explain why I feel like I’m seated closer to the grill in the Jeep. That’s not an optical illusion, but I can’t imagine that I’m that much closer to it than in the ‘Blazer. It might be the layout of the cabin — there’s definitely not as much distance between the driver and the dash in the Jeep, although it’s not an uncomfortable distance. In any case, that’s what I’ve noticed.

So features-wise, what have I noticed? Firstly, there’s no map pockets. I live and die by long haul maps, and I haven’t yet figured out where all the local maps, state maps and big ol’ road atlas are going to be stowed. I’m sure someone’s skinned that cat already.

I also wish that the rain on the soft top didn’t drain right into the Jeep when the door was opened up. A rain gutter would be a great addition to the soft top, although probably a little hard to do.

I’d love to have had a video to help with the initial erection of the soft top. That was two hours of my life that I’ll never get back. πŸ™‚ However, it’ll likely be easier next time, and probably get more tolerable every time I go through the process.

Including a set of Torx wrenches would’ve been a nice touch, especially when buying a Jeep with the dual-top option. The first thing the manual says is not to run with both tops, and it would’ve been nice to include those wrenches with that warning. In my case, I had some Torx sockets, but nothing as big as a T50. I do now.

I’m sure I’ll find some other minor things that woulda been nice, but I’ve found nothing that’s made me regret putting the new Jeep in the driveway. I haven’t had the chance to get it dirty yet, and I just can’t wait to put it through the mud. If that’s my biggest complaint, then I figure I’m doing ok!