So this past weekend my wife (Shaina) and I headed down to the Charlottesville area to do some off-roading for the first time. Before I get into the actual events of the weekend we should start with this Jeep we have owned for about 3 years now. It is by every measure the most impractical vehicle anybody could own living in the city. Standing 6 foot 6 inches tall you find yourself prospecting probable living locations based off the height of the garage entrance. It handles like a dump truck and accelerates like a 90 year old man with no legs. When your phone rings while driving all you can do is laugh because you envision yourself yelling over the roar of the “I can’t believe they consider these street tires”. The conversation with your passenger at times requires yelling and with an echo like fashion you constantly hear “what did you say”. That’s all during the winter months when you have the top on and the doors affixed. In the summer with the jeep completely open and you at the mercy of the elements you just forget about conversation all together while the Jeep is in motion. It’s a maintenance hog and would probably be the equivalent of a land going boat, just a hole you through money into. If it wasn’t for the fact I can handle 95% of the maintenance myself this thing would have put us into the poor house years ago. Trying to start the Jeep requires the summoning of the carburetor gods to shine nicely on you at that moment. Once started the gas needle moves faster than the speedometer and you hope to be able to get it into gear. With all that said this Jeep is by far the best and most fun 4wd vehicle I have ever had and ever driven. As a guy that tires of vehicles quickly and is always looking for the next one I find myself never wanting to part with this Jeep. Maybe it is because both my wife and I have always wanted a Jeep and find ourselves in a situation to be impractical, maybe it is because my wife bought this jeep for us and it is the first thing other than a couch we owned together. Actually I think the couch and this Jeep is still the only thing my wife and I own together. If you have never owned a jeep you need to go buy one now and not one of those pansy ass 4 door Jeeps with all the creature comforts of a modern day luxury car. I’m talking an old ass Jeep. A Jeep built when having only power steering was considered highline luxury.
(Nice and clean and ready to roll)
Enough about the Jeep and onto this 4 wheeling excursion. For years we have wanted to get the Jeep off the blacktop and into the woods. But with our schedules we have found it hard to work in. A buddy of ours hit us up and said he and a group were heading down to do some wheeling in the middle of January. Perfect that’s between semesters and we should be able to make it work just fine. So we set out to get the jeep and us ready for this trip. Wheels bearings had to be replaced, CB radios installed, fire extinguisher mounted and a new wheel purchased so we had a spare tire, back up fluids had to be bought and the jack had to be fixed, tow strap located and recover points checked. Than we had to figure out how to fit all of that shit and our clothes into the Jeep not to mention my camera equipment that follows me just about everywhere. With the Jeep all loaded we sat in our living room and looked at the forecast, High of 35 degrees, I don’t mind the cold very much but my wife fucking hates it when it drops below 50. We contemplated not going because all I could think of was “when this P.O.S. Jeep breaks down I am going to have to fix it in 35 degree weather” We decided it would be a game day decision and on Friday afternoon we headed south to meet up with the rest of the group at a brewery. You will also learn that Breweries are a common assurance in most anything we do. Didn’t take long to realize the 4wheeling groups are not far off in personality from my Drag Racing brethren. Great people who just want to get out and have fun. We left the first brewery with beers to take home and headed to the next. This is when stuff started to get interesting. The next brewery we ended up at had some of the most shit crap beer I have ever had, I mean this stuff sucked so bad it made Star Hill beers seem good. Not to mention it was located in a converted 7-Elleven. We all had a laugh at their expense and then headed to the hotel.
(At the start of the first trail)
Saturday morning we meet up with the group again out front of a Gas Station/Deli/Convenient Store/Gun Store/local Seafood shop. Within 5 minutes of being their Shaina notices that the sign out front says “22 Ammo in stock” however they put the 22 on backwards so the sign really read “ss Ammo in stock” most of the time we would brush that off as a honest mistake but we are in the south at this point and from what we had seen the stores dress code was camouflage everything not only for the employees but also the regular customers. Fortunately the Jew bump on my wife nose is not very predominant at all so we felt safe sending her in after the black guy to get some coffee. (Side PSA if that last sentence at all bothered you I would recommend you never read this blog again). After a quick drivers meeting we head out to the trail.
4wheeling involves a lot of scouting trips where you walk the path in front of you to see if you are going to make it past any obstacles. The first obstacle we come across is less than 300 feet into the trail. We all take a look at it and the leader says he is going to give it a try. He promptly gets stuck and has to winch himself off. Now we are the only Jeep in this group and have probably the most capable rig on the trail. So I do what anybody would do and I drive right around that first obstacle and take a rash of shit for doing so. Just because the Jeep is capable doesn’t mean the driver was. Plus I didn’t want to run the risk of breaking the damn Jeep 300 feet into the first trail. We all start heading up the mountain and I realize quickly that mud tires are great in the mud and there is a reason they are not called snow tires. We continue up the trail and things start to get real narrow. I mean the branches and trees are knocking the mirrors in and banging on the side of the jeep so hard we figured there would be dents. At one point a large branch smacked the top of the windshield frame so hard I figured we dented the frame and cracked the fiberglass top. The whole time Shaina and I are laughing our asses off because the Jeep has what looks to be a $100 Macco special paint job and to us every dent and scratch is a story we can tell and look back on.
We finally realize we are at the top of the mountain when the trail abruptly ends and we are left with figuring out how to turn 11 vehicles around in an area that might fit 5. The next hour we spend playing a life size game of Tetris with trucks. The trip down the mountain was much quicker. We reach the first obstacle again and most everybody tries to tackle it this time around. After taking 3 hours of abuse for not trying it the first time there was no way we were not taking it on this time. Prior to attempting it I get out and scout out the best path. With my plan in my head we make our way to the obstacle, as soon as the front left tire hit it the obstacle my plan flew out the window and I went with the old stand bye of throttle through everything. We made it through without even the slightest hold up. This opened a world of what I am sure at some point will be over confidence in my off-roading ability. Our leader than proved he could get stuck on the same obstacle going the other direction and had to winch himself off yet again. That ended the first trail and after meeting back up at the all in one country store some of us headed on to the next trail while some headed to a different trail.
(Trying to keep the drinks cold, They ended up freezing in a short amount of time)
Now down to 6 rigs we head off to the next spot. The road leading up to the 2nd trail would be interesting and somewhat terrifying on a dry day. Toss in 3-4 inches of snow and it made for 30 minutes of ass puckering so tight I could have probably made a diamond. This access “road” I use the term road very liberally in this description as the “road” was really a glorified cart path. It was about 15 feet wide and about as smooth as a ribbed condom. It had I would guess a 9-12% and probably 15-20 180 degree switch backs. There are no guard rails and on the driver’s side was a rock wall about 200-300 feet tall while on the passenger’s side there is a sheer cliff about 200-300 feet down with nothing but sporadic large trees to stop you should the vehicle go over. No problem let’s do this after all we are all in 4wd vehicles. So we start up the “road’ and it doesn’t take me long to remember I forgot once again to switch into 4wd. I’m new to this whole thing after all. Now I don’t know if you can switch on the fly with our Jeep so I figure I will tough it out in 2wd for a while as I do not want to stop on this packed snow covered “road” . Being in 2wd wasn’t an issue until you tried to accelerate out of the switchbacks at which point the rear tires would just spin sending the Jeep sideways and me getting in touch with my inner drift driving skills. I was having some fun with this and was not kicking the jeep sideways on purpose but using it to my advantage to get up the next incline. Shaina on the other hand found a new view of the mountain. The reason for this was that 200-300 foot drop on her side would move from the side window to the front window and she would get an even better look at the drop off when the Jeeps back end would start to think about passing its front end. At one point she asked are you doing that on purpose. Which I of course answered no, this was the truth…..This time. It seems she was not quit as confident in the Jeep and the “road” as I was. Truth be told she was probably not as confident in my driving as I was which is also a very good instinct for her to have. After getting home she informed me she was having fun sliding but had a nagging suspicion that is something happened I may not be able to recover control fast enough. She was probably correct after all the road was 15 feet wide and the Jeep 10 feet long. This didn’t leave much room for error. So I figure it was time to test out shifting to 4wd on the fly. I grab the 4wd lever and give it a yank, after a quick grind of the gears it’s in 4wd. What would you know you can switch on the fly but it doesn’t sound like the Jeep likes it but it worked. We reach the top and head onto the trail. This trail is much wider and has some awesome views. It also has water holes or ice holes as they turned out to be. We all had a blast hitting the sippy holes and splashing mud everywhere. We were extremely happy to have the Jeeps height on our side as some of the water was still up to the doors. Again I found the best way to get through the water holes was with a shit ton of throttle. This served two purposes, one was to make sure we made it through and two was to splash as much water as we could everywhere. Once we reached the top we quickly realized that the gate was blocking our planed way out and that we were going to have to tackle the access “road” again but this time going downhill. With the sun setting fast we all turned around and booked our way back to the road because none of us wanted to be on the road in the dark.
(Shaina and I at the top of the first trail)
Since I am writing this you can guess we made it down the hill safe and sound, we all headed into town to grab some dinner and a couple beers before heading home. We shared stories and talked about what we broke on our trucks and started planning the next trip. The Jeep held up awesome, no issues at all and the worst damage was a block of ice bent the license plate and the only other issue was losing a valve stem cap which caused the stem to fill with ice making it hard to refill the tire. We had a blast and meet some great people. It was great to beat on the Jeep a bit and put it through its paces. It was now time to head back to the city as we had a party to get to. Shaina jumped behind the wheel and we hit the road. This is when I realized she wasn’t bullshitting when she said there was a lot of cold air blowing on the passenger’s feet. Looks like something else I need to fix along with a laundry list of other things. I consider myself very lucky, most guys have a Honey-Do list for their house I have it for our Jeep. And I have a wife that wants to help out. So while the jeep is the most impractical vehicle most anybody could own it is by far the best vehicle in our fleet for no other reason than we get to enjoy it together in every aspect.
Until our next adventure thanks for reading
(I think she looks better dirty)