Jeep Weekend

It’s Sunday morning and I’m waking up to my first cup of coffee at five o’clock. Saturday was spent elbows deep in grease and dirt trying to remove broken motor mount bolts from my Jeep’s inline six. Two of them came out with relative ease but the third had to be completely drilled out and the hole re-threaded. Today, I’ll be under the Jeep removing the broken transmission mount bolts. Then, replacing the starter and distributor that broke off when the motor became a 500lb. wrecking ball in the engine compartment. But everything Zen, right? The past is gone and the future may never come, so I’m sitting here enjoying my coffee, reading news stories and watching my dog sleep.

My Jeep is not a special Jeep, compared to some of the tricked out-lifted-accessorized to the max Jeeps I see, mine seems a bit out of place. But it’s really not about looking like a 4wheeling fanatic. My Jeep looks well used. Okay, maybe a little bit abused too. It’s seen its’ share of mud, snow and everything else since I’ve owned it.

My yearly trips to the mountains when the roads open up in April are a tradition I intend to carry on. There’s nothing better than driving a virgin road with 5-10 feet of snow covering it and nothing but snowmobile tracks in front of you. Tires aired down leaving you to feel like you’re driving a boat across the water.  We travel in pairs or sometimes with caravans of trucks so it’s not likely to get stranded for too long without a mechanical breakdown. Tow ropes required.

After a day on the trail, it’s back to camp which is a large complex of cabins with it’s own trail system of intersecting roads winding through the hilly wooded terrain. Dinner and a huge fire pit leads to after dinner drinks and tall tales of adventures past. Test out the ATV’s ability in the deep soft snow, rocking side to side for traction when you start to sink in. These nights can last until the sun starts slicing through the trees  with it’s pink-orange blades.

That’s why I am going to spend today on my back, underneath my Jeep with oil and tranny fluid mixed with dirt and other filth. That and the fact that I can’t afford to pay someone to do it for me. A friend asked me yesterday, how in the hell did I break all those bolts? I thought back over the years since I bought the jeep from a salvage auction with a branded title out of Seattle Washington. It was from the area and appeared to have never left the road. Someone had backed in to a tree and because of the cost to replace the tailgate and rear window, the insurance company called it totalled.

I got those replaced and was driving it right away. I learned on the first day how steep an incline you need to get one tire off the ground, a lesson I’ve only revisited once since then. Stock tires and no lift left me stuck behind my buddies too many times so I got a 2 inch lift at the local tire shop and gave it another inch and a half by building my own spring shackles. Slapped on some 31 inch tires and I was doing alot better. Now I could at least keep up with the Toyotas and their monster lifts and ridiculously huge tires. Had to learn the hard way that you have to air down your tires in deep snow before you get stuck.

Of course, running with the big boys also means pushing yourself to new levels of the “oh shit!” factor. Climbing a steep section of a rutted road covered in three feet of snow and mud can take mutliple attempts at different speeds and that makes for a bumpy ride. Tools need to be secured or they tend to fly about the interior violently, weightless objects with sharp corners. When someone gets stuck, and I mean good and stuck, it’s time to get out the 30 foot tow rope made for pulling barges. It’s super strong and has enough give to let you get a running start when you need to jerk someone out of a hole they’ve dug with their tires. I can’t count the times I’ve hit the end of that rope at 20 miles per hour and the other truck didn’t even move. This causes such an impact that everything that was behind the back seat ends up on the floor in the front, again it’s a good idea to keep the tools strapped down.

Well, I’ve really rambled on too long now so I better get started with the days work. Hopefully, I’ll be driving my Jeep home today.

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