Angle the Driveshaft Dangles
It's Not The Equipment; It's How You Use It.
So much has happened over the short span of my YJ ownership that I would lose any hope of readership to recount all the tales. I can with brevity say that buying this cheap old jeep was among the best of my impulsive decisions. What has come to pass simply from a physical perspective is that the cam, lifters, plugs, dizzy, oil pump, fuel filter, fuel squirty bits, tie rod ends, tires and today the rear driveshaft universal joints have all been updated. A couple of ammo cans have been bolted to the back of the Jeep for topless storage, a jerry can from 1953 has been mounted by the driver’s side fender and a farm jack has been firmly mounted to the hood. There is even a removable dog pen which can be secured by the bolts for the rear seats during the summer season. It is just incredible the stories that developed from having a car with a little extra ground clearance and a couple extra spinny wheels. Frankly, there are dozens of articles from this author that are relegated to the graveyard because it is so dizzyingly busy to make time for work, work on the Jeep, this suddenly brimming social life, music, time for family and time to camp and offroad. These days I barely have time to shower or clean, let alone work on the Corvette. Admittedly it makes me happy to have so much to complain about and moreover to have so many tales to relay. (This story, I should add, is written while intermittently grasping at fruit flies).
The abandoned articles include highlights such as Elbe. The short and skinny is that my friends and I had cross country skied Mt. Rainer and wound up getting dinner at a place two towns over from our lodge because the only joint in town closed five minutes before we got there. The locals who hate outsiders took a shine to us and gave us shots of in-house in-a-cupboard kept moonshine which we later purchased by the mason-jar full. Those locals told us about the ORV park in Elbe. The best way I could describe taking the YJ to Elbe would be like saying we took a pocket knife to a machine gun fight. Every rig there was on 40’s and trailered in. We were warned. It was a great adventure, we got further than we should have, almost rolled on several occasions (at one point I could have pushed the Jeep over with one finger). Shortest way of saying this is that the regulars were not unimpressed by how I drove. It must be said that my passengers were critical to survival. With stress levels as high as they were, it was critical to have friends with good attitudes and a sophisticated understanding of dunnage.
Two days after getting back from Elbe I showed a young coworker how to change his brakes. The brakes were on his Focus but he also has a Jeep and it is impossible to distinguish who suggested it first --we both wanted to take my Jeep to Tahuya (sort of the home-field for off-roading). Just going into the entrance my legs were shaking so badly from my experience at Elbe. I went down what I thought was a basic trail but took a wrong turn onto Trail 55. It’s a trail I had never been down before and swore I would never go down again. Trail 55 (since these stories are shortened) is now my favorite trail and I have loaned tools to a number of broken down trucks and Jeeps on that trail. Trail 55 was the trail where I used my winch for the first time. Call it pride, but I will never know why I did not use the winch at Elbe. The latest excursion was at a campsite at the Snoqualmie Summit. The temperature in the packed little four cylinder kept climbing and climbing. The newly replaced tie rod ends raised some amount of suspicion. There was so much brutality involved with releasing the pitman to drag-link joint that red flags could not help but arise. The passenger side tie rod end, which came ungreasable raised doubt. Thankfully nothing failed.
Story is, I saw a Renegade JK rolling 33's which had made its way across a dried out river bed that nobody else had the guts or lack of sense to cross. It was this cool campsite that had places where you could off-road and there were some cool Yota’s and whatnot, driven by yuppies with the best of the best and the biggest of the biggest. There’s the brink, and that is where the guy with the Jeep found himself stuck and I will not soon forget the fear in his eyes as he crossed back. Point was, he crossed the impossible with his trick ride so there was no way I was going to stay on the other side of everything. Frigg rich people. With all of my facilities in place besides a slight hangover I drove my jeep to the greener pastures. Katabasis, meaning a hero’s trip to hell, may be a bit indulgent but my god. I could not believe that I allowed myself to drive to the other side. By any right or any physical probability I ought to have stranded the Jeep on its first crossing. There really was no way the Jeep should have made it back.
It took an hour of driving up and down the river bed to realize there was no way to cross. My dog was crying. There was in no uncertain terms anyway back besides the way I came. The way I came looked unbelievable. I have learned that it is easy to show off to other people, but that the most dangerous person I can show off to is myself.
By any right I should be spending my weekends between a Napa and the Snoqualmie Summit fixing my Jeep. Intuition aside, pride aside, there is a veritable connection between the Jeep and Athena which quite precedes my understanding. Were it not so presumptuous I would paste “Aegis” on the side of the Jeep. As not to offend Athena, the decision is otherwise to offend the natives. After much deliberation the decision is to appropriate the chinook word “Skookum,” meaning strong or brave. The Jeep is pieces of metal and a bit of plastic. Of all the pieces of metal and pieces of plastic it is a good one.
It is as American as 90’s cars get; the little four banger it proudly touts is from an old AMC recipe. Regardless of where it was made, it was made well. I am of the belief that my little Jeep was made with love --a few issues, but special. Regardless of how well it was made and how good the replacement parts were over its 200+ thousands of miles before its introduction to me, regardless of my intuition, there is something indefatigable about this tiny truck’s will. It has been cared about, it has been loved for since 1993. Just today I was chuffed to find that the slip yoke had the brand “Spicer” stamped on it. Someone cared about this Jeep, and it is my duty and luck to be the next one to work with it. At any rate, I’m rocking about two inches...over stock. The leaves are so flat they could be used as levels, the shocks are so worn they’d be discarded as pogo sticks. The needle bearings in the U-Joints I replaced today were completely without exaggeration, dust. Never in my life have I driven and relied upon something so full of surprises and atypical horrors. I wouldn’t trade so much as the steering wheel for the crown jewels.