Behold…The Antidote for Black Friday Fever!!!

While I am happily still driving well into winter with no doors on the trusty Jeep, we find ourselves on the brink of yet another Thanksgiving and the supposed-official start of the holiday season. It seems like the Black Friday commercials start airing before the kids are even back from trick-or-treating., or is it just me? The arctic winter air plays tricks on my minds sometimes.

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Wouldn’t it be nice if we could, just for once, celebrate Thanksgiving without the stress and strain of the upcoming Christmas shopping season hanging over our heads? Wouldn’t that third plate of turkey and dressing taste a whole lot better if Aunt Edna wasn’t out in the car revving the engine with her lap covered with a blanket of sales circulars?

The bottom line is that retailers treasure our shopping dollars much more than they value our own personal well-being. And who can really blame them when we are all mostly guilty of falling in line in one way or another; by our refusal to pay more than the next guy for anything, even at the cost of our seasonal sanctity. I think Cyber Monday is the better shopping choice, hands down. Unless you can wait until the week after, that is.

But just because we can’t beat them, doesn’t mean that we should have to join them. There is more than a handful of really cool gifts to get that Jeep guy or girl in your life, even if they’re the kind of person that already has their Jeep pretty-well decked out. Not to mention, they won’t break the bank. They will have you enjoying your Friday after turkey day sitting on the sofa watching football or maybe one of those horrid Christmas specials. You know the one with that guy that sings that song? Yeah, that one! Sure, it will likely put you right to sleep but it’s still easily better than fighting the crowds at the mall. So here goes…

  1. 2Portable Tire Inflator – There are any number of different brands and models available and the prices are great, often as low as $30. They usually run on 12 volts DC from your cars power port but many have adapters that will let them plug into a traditional AC outlet in your garage, as well. They tend to be a little slower than a full-size air compressor but there is a lot that can be said about not having to feed quarters into the machine at the filling station while you try to keep the cursed air hose from constantly retracting.
  2. 3Rechargeable Flashlight – I believe it is Newton’s Fourth Law of Probability that states if something is going to go wrong, it will usually happen at night or, at the very least, in some area that is completely devoid of daylight. Sure, most folks have a handy flashlight built right into their fancy cellphones but try illuminating the VIN number on your broken down car to the roadside assistance operator while you talk on that same phone and you will surely learn what true frustration is all about. It’s great to always have a working flashlight at hand and even better when you don’t have to concern yourself with how old the batteries are or if they are encrusted in a merry layer of green corrosion. You can check it out at http://www.ruggedridge.com/flashlight-rechargable-700lux-with-rugged-ridge-crush-bezel-15104-44.html
  3. Dash Cam – It should come as no surprise to anyone that we live in an electronic age. The days of being able to act like a complete nitwit one day and start the next day with a clean slate are all but gone. Be sure 4to use such technology to your greatest advantage to help offset the obvious disadvantages. Equipping your car with an easy-to-use and affordable dash camera is a great way to protect yourself from the threats of road rage and to document actual events, as they occurred, in the case of an auto accident. Dash Cams can be had for well-under a hundred dollars that have decent picture resolution and adequate memory capacity. Do a little bit of homework before you commit to a purchase to make sure you get the best bang for your bucks. You don’t want to be left with a video so grainy that you suddenly end up the prime suspect in a chain of local convenience store robberies.
  4. 5The Power Cup– Cell phones, radar detectors, tablets, GPS devices, DVD players all have a few things in common- they all find home in your car and they all use power. Unfortunately, most vehicles only come with a pair of power ports. Who has time to play leap-frog with charging cables while they are driving? The Power Cup plugs into one of your vehicles power outlets and it will instantly improve your charging game by giving you two power outlets AND two additional USB ports. Best of all, it stores securely in your vehicles cup holder for easy access. This Christmas, maybe it’s time for you to give the gift of empowerment? You can get the lowdown by looking at http://www.ruggedridge.com/power-cup-2-x-usb-plus-2-x-accessory-ports-universal-15101-03.html
  5. 6Tire Pressure Gauge– You know those old tire gauges that have a doo-hicky that pops out and shows you the reading on a flimsy square stick of plastic? Well, it turns out that such lame “pop-out” technology doesn’t always tell you your turkey is properly cooked either. The fact that my insurance agent hands them out like they’re candy doesn’t bode well for their credibility either. I do think they make a great gizmo for scratching an itchy inner ear but for actually checking tire pressure? Not so much. Every car guy / girl needs access to a good tire pressure gauge, especially when it comes to safely maintaining oversized off-road tires. Proper tire inflation is vital to safe on-road manners while preserving the life of your tires tread. Darn thing will even fit in a stocking in place of that coal lump!
  6. 7Full Auto Detail– Generally speaking, Jeeps are NOT usually known for being clean vehicles. While there are many Jeeps on the road that pride themselves on shining like a new diamond, others are lucky to see water coming from something other than the ground or the sky. In any case, nobody longs to brave the frigid temperatures of winter to wash their own car, much less apply a coat of wax. Fortunately, there are droves of auto detailers who are equipped to do just that and are looking for somebody to do it for. In many cases, they will even come out to where the car is and perform their services in your driveway or in the parking lot at work. You can search Mobile Auto Detailing online and look for reviews on crowd-sourced apps like Yelp! to find reputable detailers in your area. Giving that special Jeeper in your life a gift certificate for a wash and detail is sure to put a smile on their face, not to mention the thrill they will have when they find out what color paint hides under all that dirt.
  7. Radio Controlled Jeep Rock Crawler– Maybe the Jeep enthusiast in your life has been extra-good this year or maybe you’re just looking for a great way to get them out of the house- to “blow the stink off” as my mom always said. Who wouldn’t want to go exploring in their very own 1/10-scale radio-controlled Jeep? We’re not talking about your typical run-of-the-mill boring street action where the smallest of pebbles brings the fun to a halt. No, we’re talking about high ground clearance monsters with fully working suspension systems and gigantic knobby tires meant to climb ridiculous rock ledges and come back for a seconds. For as little as a hundred bucks, you too can experience the kind of extreme off-roading that monthly car payments normally prohibit. Face it, acting your age is one of the worst resolutions ever.8

So with a few gift ideas like these working in your favor, you can certainly take the time to enjoy Thanksgiving, as well as the Friday after, as a time of rest, relaxation; maybe even an attempt at recovery from whatever feast and festivities you may have endured. It’s totally acceptable to refrain from Christmas preparations until the last cold turkey sandwich has been served. Unless Black Friday shopping is indeed your thing, in which case, we wish you godspeed as you go forth. May your long list compounded by the even longer lines fail in shortening your fuse. And don’t forget where you parked. OlllllllO

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“I See Your Rubicon and I’ll Raise You One Darien Gap”

1It’s no highly-guarded secret that today’s Jeep Wrangler prides itself on being one of the most capable off road vehicles to ever leave the road. You often see the ‘Trail Rated’ badge proudly displayed on the fender as a reminder of its off-pavement prowess. There’s even a special package offered comprised of all the necessary goodies to make your Wrangler a force to be reckoned with, like locking Dana 44 differentials at both ends and formidable 4:1 transfer case gearing capable of abruptly reversing the earth’s rotation when properly applied. Heck, Jeep has even given us such niceties as electronic sway bar disconnects that actually disconnect themselves! No more having to muddy-up the old shirt sleeves on those cold morning wheeling adventures. Wrap all that up in one package and call that thing a ‘RUBICON’- named after the infamous 22-mile long trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that has been taunting and thrilling off-road enthusiasts for decades. It’s truly priceless marketing gold that actually does have an associated price that the dealer prints clearly on the window sticker.

That’s all great and I truly love the sense of adventure that the name suggests but what about a special edition for those select few whose daring side borders on perilous; a package that pays homage to geographic oblivions that require a Rubicon Trail level of bravery just to access, and then an even larger lapse in rational thinking to proceed any farther. I’m talking about the Darien Gap- a location in southern Panama, just outside of the city of Yaviza, where any semblance of roadway fades into wild, overgrown jungle for a distance of over 100 miles, serving as a buffer deterring access to the northern border of Columbia. While I don’t feel that Jeep should start lettering hoods with ‘Darien Gap’ graphics quite yet, there is certainly much to be learned and appreciated from such an isolated locale.

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First of all, there have only been a handful of people who have even mustered the caliber to attempt such an endeavor. With obstacles such as rivers, dense forests, mud pits, wild animals, poisonous snakes and spiders and the occasional cocaine trafficker wielding a stolen machine gun to slow your progress, it’s understandable why so few have bothered to risk life and limb in such a pursuit. Since the Darien Gap is the only thing that stands between two halves of the earth’s longest roadway, the Pan-American Highway, it stands to reason that there are some pretty solid reasons why 30,000 miles of roadway pauses for this mere 100 miles span. Completion of the roadway through the Darien Gap would come at an extremely high cost, both financial and physical, and would likely only serve as a means of supporting the ever-present drug trade.

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Among the adventurers who renounced any and all concerns for their own personal well-being in attempts to conquer the Darien Gap, were a few Jeepers of note; most notably are Loren Upton and his girlfreind Patty Mercier in a new CJ-5, as well as off-roading legend and Jeep Jamboree founder Mark Smith and a crew of a dozen or more daring discoverers. Equipped for success in a fleet comprised of several Jeep CJ-7’s, as well as a Wagoneer and a J-10 pickup, Smith and his fellow explorers arguably made the easist work of the remote wildernesses terrain, bridging the gap in just 30 days. While arguments can be made that one expedition traversed the “gap” quicker than the other or another utilized rafts in lesser scale to navigate water crossings, the truth is that when a feat of this magnitude is minimized in any way by anyone, it’s really a shame. Just managing to prove the impossible and impassable to be anything but is absolutely worthy of worldwide acclaim. In my humble opinion, doing so in a Jeep puts the accomplishment on a whole new level- one more-than-worthy of a special decal package- dare I say, a 2018 Jeep Wrangler Darien Gap?? Unfortunately, very few have ever heard the names of these heroes or possess any knowledge of the place where they sought to achieve their own personal greatness despite unparalleled adversity.

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To find the proper scope of what is involved with crossing the Darien Gap, it’s helpful to ponder the fact that Smith managed to complete his trek at a remarkable pace, equating to just over three miles per day; a pace just slightly slower that if you were to crawl through the same jungle blindfolded. Earlier expeditions reported much less aggressive progress with some measuring daily progress in feet rather than miles. Having to literally clear a vehicle width path with hand-held machetes swung by individuals who were likely suffering from severe fatigue, dehydration, malnourishment and possibly the effects of disease and a rampant case of “jungle-butt” seems to be an insurmountable task. I’m not really certain that “jungle-butt” actually exists, although I can imagine it’s not the kind of thing that anyone is likely to feature in their memoirs. Imagine, if you will, having to wear a brand new pair of denim jeans to your friendly neighborhood water park and then fancy the prospect of having to wear those same jeans every hot & humid day that follows for the next month while you perform varying tasks of a strenuous nature. Suddenly it is clear that “jungle-butt” does indeed exist and it’s name is, in fact, much too kind.

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So… if Jeep were to see the ere in their ways and offer us, the appropriately enlightened consumers, a Darian Gap Edition Jeep Wrangler what kinds of options would we hope to see? Obviously, everything that the now pedestrian Rubicon offers, with a few vital additions. First of all, an innovative roof rack system would really prove to be essential as the need to carry a slew of jungle cutting implements, steel ramp boards and provisions of water and fuel could easily justify the extra weight of the rack. Secondly, a state-of-the-art satellite navigation system could truly prove beneficial on such an environemnt. Not that Google Maps is going to yield any street views of the Darien Gap…trust me, I checked. It’s just good to know which way is south when the symptoms of milaria begin to take hold and operating a compass becomes problematic, what with the blurred vision and trembling hands.

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I could think of a seemingly endless list of features to include in such an exclusive package. Ridiculous amounts of ground clearance are in order, as are a PTO-driven winch and bush hog attachments and maybe auxiliary oil coolers to keep things kosher while enduring the punishment of idling for 16 hours a day would all be welcome additions. Of course, nobody is gonna balk if they include a baby powder dispenser. Are they? OlllllllO2106b4ca367891a36776fcdb10f2edd9

Seeking Treatment for Horrible Misconception Syndrome

1If I were to tell you that one of the most prolific characters to ever grace Beverly Hills own Rodeo Drive (pronounced Ro-day-o) is a dyed-in-the-wool Jeep guy, you’d have to admit that a pretty shameful picture would most likely pop into your head. No different than if I said a bunch of preppies were piling into a Jeep for a cruise down the beach….POP!!! Same picture, Right? Fret not for you are not alone. Personally, I instantly conjured images of madras plaid shirts in uncomfortable hues of pink and blue, flipped collars and pastel sweaters tired about the necks of docksider-wearing pretty boys. It’s worse than you thought and it’s called Horrible Misconception Syndrome, or HMS. Being diagnosed with HMS will not qualify you for any special parking spots or even a classy license plate for your car, mostly because this particular syndrome is largely just in your head. While we can tell you very assuredly that no cure for HMS is on the horizon, there is a treatment available and we can initiate your first dose immediately without an office visit or any sizeable insurance copay.

We’ll start by assessing that troublesome picture in your head. Sure, those are “preppies” and are certainly the visual fare that you might see scurrying in and out of boutiques in a flashy Southern California locale but that does not make the image right, nor is it necessarily accurate. Because the preppy icon that I am referencing is none other than fashion designer Ralph Lauren, and his long-standing affection for the Jeep. Lauren, known in large part for his trademark pullover sport shirts known simply as the Polo, has built a considerable fashion empire, first focusing on neckties before broadening his specialty to the now classic sport shirt. A shirt that, since its inception in the early 70’s, has grown into a mainstay of preppy wardrobes across our great land; one that has accomplished what very few products ever have by reaching the uncommon status of becoming a proprietary eponym.

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In case you are now asking yourself, “The shirt became a what?” A proprietary eponym is when a name brand product becomes so widely acknowledged that the name brand becomes the generic title for the product. Like XEROX once had become the accepted term for making a photocopy, back in the olden days when people knew what a photocopy was and had need to make one. Or any soft drink might be referred to as a Coke, even when it is actually the cheap fizzless store brand your mom would buy just to save a nickel and see if you were paying attention. We all clean our ears with Q-Tips and we doctor our painful Xerox paper cuts with Band-Aids just so we can show everyone our new Polos and Dockers on business casual Fridays. We are a society that lacks for very little- a truth that causes me to ponder why a man of considerable wealth and means would choose to drive a Jeep.

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And let’s be honest- we’re not talking about brand new fancy Jeeps either. We’re talking older Jeeps with piles of miles on them. Imperfect ones that creak and grind, ones that have weathered paint jobs and are far short of comfortable, by most reports. Lauren is, afterall, a professing car guy. His own personal car collection exceeds 70 cars and has everything from classic Bugattis and Bentleys to vintage Ferraris and Porsches; cars that cost more to have appraised than most Jeeps costs to purchase. I think the reasoning behind Ralph Laurens love for the Jeep became clear to me when I viewed a video of Lauren, from a few years back, at his ranch outside of Telluride, Colorado.

He had invited long-time admirer Oprah Winfrey out to his estate to do an interview, a practice that was notably uncommon for Lauren. As Oprah climbed awkwardly into the passenger side of Ralphs decrepit old 1948 Willys, it seemed almost comical that such a wealthy individual would be caught tooling around in such a “heap”. Winfrey, who is most likely not used to riding in the front seat of any cars these days or in close proximity to the hired help, seemed to be brimming with glee to be able to ride around in such a jalopy. It then occurred to me that Ralph Lauren has a long list of ultra-expensive and rare collector cars only because he truly loves them. He has his old Jeeps and chooses to keep them close by and drive them because they represent who he really is. Hard-working, dependable, imperfect, adventurous, versatile, fun-loving and gravely consistent – all character traits that, although seldom instilled at birth, can only be perfected over time.

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One of Ralph’s other Jeeps, a’76 CJ-5 that he purchased new, was so much a part of the Lauren family that his three children tie many of their childhood memories to times spent in that old Jeep. From cruising the beaches with the windshield folded down, riding to drive-in movies and even pulling the kids around on their snow sleds on the family’s property were all cherished recollections of time spent together as a family that centered strongly around that old CJ-5.

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When time and age caught up to the old CJ, the paint was faded and the interior tattered, Ralph was not one to put the old dog out to pasture, as is common practice today; rather choosing to have the old Jeep restored. Rusty panels were removed and new sheet metal was welded in place. Mechanical parts that had been worn over time were meticulously replaced with new ones; breathing a whole new breath of life into this sixth member of the Lauren family. Ralph even requested that the Jeeps paint be purposely applied to result in a less-than-showroom appearance. Ralph didn’t long for another shiny, glossy show car. He already had plenty of those and he knew well the purpose that would serve. This Jeep meant far more to him than just something to simply look at. This Jeep was going to be lived in, driven hard, exposed to unexpected rainstorms, sandy feet and ice cream cones. This Jeep was more a member of the family than just a simple mode of transport.6

Anyone that already has a Jeep knows exactly what elements exist in his old Jeeps that Ralph Lauren is so endeared to and anyone who doesn’t own a Jeep owes it to themselves to experience it firsthand. You simply don’t have to be a millionaire to have the finer things in life. You only have to be able to recognize them when you see them, cherish them as though they hold great value and take care of them like they’re yours alone. In doing so, you can avoid the misconception that a Jeep is only a vehicle and come to experience and appreciate the Jeep way of life. OlllllllO

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Necessity is Still the Mother of Invention- Improvisation is the Mother-in-Law

1Word on the street is that Jeep is going to offer us a brand new Wrangler-based pickup truck in 2019, fulfilling an urgent longing that I can’t say I was even aware of. The new Jeep Wrangler JT will all but cease a long-standing ritual of Jeep owners; believing that the only thing keeping their beloved Jeeps from being a full-fledged pickup truck is a bundle of ratchet straps and some creativity.

Obviously the fine folks at Fiat/Chrysler have invested significant energy into determining the marketplace to be properly aligned with the prospect of a four wheel drive, go-anywhere utility vehicle that also enables the driver to haul a mound of camping gear to the mountains or masses of shopping bags home from the mall, depending on their personal inclination. I can only assume that, in the divine blissful haze of my own Jeep ownership, I hadn’t realized that we weren’t doing better than alright with our current Jeeps, minus a truck bed.

Many a times I have taken off to the local home improvement store in the old Jeep with no concern as to where the 2 x 4’s, bags of quikrete and sacks of red cedar mulch will ride. Jeeps have been hauling incredible payloads since the early 1940’s. I’m pretty sure that some gardening supplies aren’t going to derail the train. Sure, sheets of plywood or panelling tend to push the envelope of what is possible or shrewd; but that’s when you have to raise your cargo loading game to the next level. I tend to think of a gutsy WWII medic who was presented with the probability of carrying a wounded soldier strapped to an eight foot stretcher on his runt of a Willys/Jeep. He didn’t bother looking for reasons he couldn’t do it… He found ways he could. In minutes, that Jeep was catching air with the gurney strapped to whatever flat area was not already occupied. With said soldier grateful to be alive, although not necessarily happy at the time.

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In the grand scheme of things, hauling a flat of petunias or a weekend’s supply of camping gear to the nearest woods pales in comparison to the notion of carting an injured soldier off of the battlefield. However, regardless of how the Jeeps utilitarian abilities are displayed, they are certainly worthy of being celebrated, or maybe even exploited – within the confines of local laws and ordinances, of course.

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The residents of Quindio, Columbia have initiated an annual celebration of Jeeps enduring ability to defy the bounds of what is possible by holding a giant colorful parade featuring “Yipaos”, which literally means ‘loaded Jeep’. These basically stock Jeeps and Willys vehicles are decorated, adorned and otherwise encumbered with every sort of object one can imagine. Religious trinkets, misplaced home appliances and pieces of societal refuse are piled precariously high atop each eighty-inch wheelbase for a rolling spectacle that is just as long as it is tall. Folks, that is a full-scale acoustic guitar at Jesus’ right hand. Not a ukele…a real guitar. It has not been properly tuned but is a spectacle nonetheless.

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One doesn’t have to travel half-way around the world or skirt the equator to find Jeeps being put to a daily test of practicality. Jeeps are often witnessed across the country pulling boats & jetskis, landscaping trailers or loaded to the rollbars with everything from musicians gear to firewood . A reporter during World War II once wrote that his Jeep “did everything. It went everywhere. Was faithful as a dog, as strong as a mule, and as agile as a goat. It constantly carried twice what it was designed for and still kept going”. That is a pretty sparkling description of a Jeep and one inline with my past experiences. I can only imagine if the Jeep had a truck bed what more could he have said?

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So, if our esteemed off-road mainstay is truly about to be gifted from Jeep’s Toledo factory with a legitimate truck bed, we may have to alter our perceptions of what is possible. We have always done truck-like things without a truck. Imagine the possibilites with a diesel engine, 8-speed automatic and lockers front & rear! I may just start building my own yipao now so I can just load it in the back. OlllllllO

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Photo Credit: JLWranglerForums.com

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Who the Heck is this Jerry Guy and Why’s He Hoarding All the Gas??

You’ve probably seen them scabbed to the side panels, strapped across the hood or bolted to the rear bumper of just about every military Jeep you’ve ever seen. You might even have seen them and didn’t know any better what to call them- they are Jerry Cans. From their origin and by definition, large pressed-steel containers designed specifically for the containment and transport of fuel; they’ve been an essential fixture on any serious off-road and overlanding vehicles the world over for decades. But who is this Jerry guy??11863475_1658272171085439_223709668073064816_n

My first suspicion was that this name must be somehow tied to the age old phrase “jerry rig”, which has always meant that something was haphazardly made to function without any regard to endurance or even safety. Not exactly the kind of disregard I would recommend when it comes to toting around gallons of flammable and highly combustible fluids, at least not in the western hemisphere. Fortunately, the ‘Jerry Can’ predates the slang terminology of “jerry rigged” by quite a few years and only shares the same given name and cleverly avoids all of the negative traits.

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This fuel can, or Wehrmacht-Einheitskanister as it was affectionately known by, was developed originally by the Germans in the late 1930’s and was granted the nick name ‘Jerry Can’ a few years later by the Americans during the Second World War as the Allied troops began using an adapted design based on the German model. ‘Jerry’ was a common slang wartime term used to refer to Germans, who during wartime, were obviously not deemed worthy of a second syllable when referenced in casual conversation. The design of the early Jerry Cans, in retrospect, was really quite remarkable.

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The cans dimensions were established so that a capacity of 20 liters of any given liquid would not make the can too heavy for a single man to carry. The canister was fitted with three parallel top-mounted handles so that the cans could be carried by the center handle easily with one hand when full or in pairs, when empty, by grasping the outer handles of two adjacent cans. Each face of the Jerry Can was stamped with an X-shaped indention that served to give the flat steel some level of structural reinforcement while also providing some ability to allow for thermal expansion of the metal and its contents.

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The fact that each cans rectangular shape was uniform allowed them to be easily and evenly stacked for transport; while the cans filler spout was recessed into a flattened corner, keeping it out of harm’s way and insuring that the cans contents would not likely be compromised if the can were accidentally dropped. Slight modifications to the design were gradually implemented as the working prototypes were exposed to and battle-tested by U.S. and British armed forces around the globe. I can only imagine the lawnmowers and bonfires they have helped to fuel in the years since.

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With such a nifty and efficient design, it was common for the Jerry Cans to be treated to a signifying paint job that would help specify what contents hid inside. Diesel fuel, gasoline, kerosene and even drinking water could be toted with a special can fitted with an enamel interior coating. It kinda makes me wonder if there was ever any unauthorized initiation hazing rituals which involved telling fresh recruits to refill their canteens with the green jerry cans and watching hilarity ensue.

Marines replenish their water supplies as they participate in Operation URGENT FURY.

To this day, the original German designed Jerry Can is still considered the standard container for armies of all NATO countries and is still used commonly to this day. That doesn’t mean that the times have stood still for the esteemed Jerry Can. The past decades have seen the advancement of plastics develop into a whole new era of cans that often bear little resemblance to their forefathers, but surely pay homage to the original Jerry Cans of the past. New space-saving designs, innovative securing systems and size options make it possible for today’s off-road vehicle to equip itself with fuel reserves, coolant and enough clean water to drink and shower for days without having to dress your Jeep up like a jerry-rigged pontoon boat. Wisdom still would advise sniffing the Jerry Can before filling your canteen though. You can’t be too safe these days. OlllllllO

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Hey! You!! What’s Your Favorite Car???

1Ask your average 30-something guy at the neighborhood cookout what his favorite car is and the answer you receive in return is likely to change like the weather. There’s always the diehard Porsche and Ferrari faithful, not to mention the fellas whose dreams have no credit limit who will chide in with the latest Bugatti or McLaren model. If your subject has seen Gone in 60 Seconds within the past weeks, he may likely declare a 1967 Ford Shelby GT500 as his clear & uncontested choice. I really dug ‘Eleanor’ too in that movie and I don’t even like Mustangs! After spending a weekend with the ‘ol feet up watching Lemans coverage, I got myself a case of the gimmies for a C7 Corvette-hold the Racing Yellow paint, please.

When it comes to a Jeep guy/gal, their favorite car is likely going to be whatever Jeep model they are driving, or possibly one they aspire to buy. We can still dream of owning that random supercar or even a classic muscle car that spends the better part of its existence holding up a micro-fiber dust cover in the garage. The Jeep still has to be our favorite as it’s the one we love to drive around in, get dirty in and cherish so deeply that most owners even try to give theirs a name, like it’s a member of the family.

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You will soon find out that a Jeep is not even considered a car by most people, so answering with ‘Jeep’ when asked what is your favorite car is almost like dodging the actual question. Like when asked your favorite breed of dog. If you reply ‘Hot Dog’, you might get a soft chuckle but secretly your surveyor is pondering the possibility that you may have been dropped at some point and are more than likely ill-equipped to answer the question.

So what if there was a car out there for those who are content with having a Jeep as their favorite car; for those who despite having no qualms about the fact that a Jeep is not really a car, would love to have an answer for those times when the question may arise? May I present to you the 1959 Desoto Firesweep – your NEW favorite car… It’s a classic car so cool that it has a Jeep on the dash!

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While the Desoto has little or nothing to do with the Willy’s/ Jeep, it seems undeniable that the molded plastic housing mounted in the dash to store the speaker and windshield defroster bits possesses the same iconic characteristics as the beloved Jeep CJ grille. From the seven vertical slats to the round headlight openings that impede onto the outboard slats; this is clearly more than coincidental. Someone in Chrysler design studios must have had a secret fondness for the venerable Jeep.

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If I am going to compromise my core principles and engage in the practice of driving a car that ISN’T a Jeep, it might as well have the face of a Jeep across the dash reminding me with a faithful ever presence of where I would rather be. Outside of the stylized tail light fins and the push-button transmission, it’s positively the strongest selling point that Desoto had to offer.

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Desoto used the subtle visual ode to the Willys/Jeep in both the Firesweep and the Adventurer model, but never chose to market it to it’s stylish consumers. This, a decision I could find single-handedly to blame for the companies eventual demise in 1961. Had they only opted to advertise with a catchy little slogan like “ Desoto Firesweep- The Car for Those Times You Can’t Drive Your Jeep”.,.things could have been som much different. So, what’s your favorite car now?? OlllllllO

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Long Before our Beloved All-Terrains, there was the Martin Tire

It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. While it is true that some absolutely remarkable discoveries have been spawned in man’s quest to create his own personal nirvana, it seems as though humans, as a race in large, are more likely to strike oil while digging a well or installing our own sprinklers than when we are searching for crude. Case in point, one of the greatest inventions in the history of this planet, or any other, is the wheel; round, well-centered, perfect. Man’s pursuit to take the work out of forming simple clay pottery inadvertently developed into the single most important advancement in transportation to date.

Photo Credit: EarlyAviators.com

Photo Credit: EarlyAviators.com

In the prosperity-deprived days of the 1930’s, James V. Martin, an avid aviator, inventor and general enthusiast of everything on wheels was hard at work trying to revolutionize the future of transportation in any way he could, especially the automobile industry; with notable advancements to his credit in both 3 and 4-wheel automobiles. Martin, a highly intelligent Harvard graduate who held numerous patents in the development and manufacturing of small aircraft, had already caused quite a stir in the aeronautical community a decade before.

In the mid 1920’s, he filed suit against the US government and the Association of Aeronautical Manufacturers claiming a vast conspiracy to monopolize the entire industry. Since Martin possessed crucial technology patents and controlled valuable intellectual property, he saw such an internal conspiracy as a direct attack on his own profitability and personal success. In support of these claims, evidence was presented that Martin had submitted a prototype for a large bomber to the U.S. Air Service for testing, named the ‘Barling Bomber’. When the craft failed to perform up to the governments standards, the aircraft was promptly destroyed by means of blasting it to pieces with an all-out machine gun assault rather than returning it to Martin with documented testing results- a misfortune that infuriated the inventor and further concreted his suspicions of favoritism.

2By the late 1920’s, James Martin had begun to explore ways that the technologies and concepts he had applied in the field of airplanes might translate to a simple and commonplace road car. One of the first applications was the use of rubber para-cords as a means of providing spring tension and shock absorption to a vehicles suspension. The patent declared clearly that the purpose of this invention was to simplify the task of absorbing road vibration using a new and novel combination- one that was far removed from the normal hydraulic shock absorbers of the day. The ‘rubber bands’ could be routinely replaced at normal intervals and at an extremely low cost. This notion was exercised and applied in a micro-car called the 1928 Martin Dart that, by many accounts, was poised to shift the public’s perspective on what new cart ownership would entail. The tiny Dart was projected to be sold largely via mail order, shipped in a crate that would be repurposed as a parking shelter and sold to the American consumer for a measly $200; well below the average selling price of the day. Unfortunately, the Dart never found widespread acceptance as a production car. Despite his revolutionary shock absorber technology not finding much traction in the market, Martin was not about to quit. He just needed to get back to the drawing board and reinvent the wheel.

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Martin began using the elasticity, cushioning and compression characteristics of rubber and implementing it into a wheel and tire assembly that would make the conventional pneumatic tire virtually obsolete. An early evolution of this design was found in his “Elastic Tire” in 1931- a name that clearly conveys that Martin was primarily focused on his craft and not so much on the marketing aspects; after all, great ideas usually sell themselves.

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Further development of the theory that rubber integrated into a rim assembly could prove to revolutionize the tire industry was displayed in generation after generation of models. The “Aero & Auto Tire” in 1933, followed by the “Safety Tire” in ’38, “Easy Riding Tire” and several other iterations in the years to follow. It was when the newfangled yet officially patented “Martin Tire” was bolted to a trusty WWII-era Willys Jeep that James Martin had his best opportunity to impress the world with his invention. Certainly if the Martin Tire could stand up to the rigors involved in off-road driving, Martins skeptics might become his greatest supporters. The Martin Tire featured a wheel assembly that was 6 pounds lighter than a comparable steel rim and tire assembly and delivering a graduated braking and torque action that proved to be beneficial in unstable terrain. And the way the Martin Tire smoothed out the rough stuff was truly something to behold. The Willys could finally be utilized in a manner closer to its potential. Check it out for yourself! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQ05RbGa0zM

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It is pretty clear when watching the video of testing of the Martin Tire that James Vernon Martin was likely onto something. For reasons unknown, the Martin Tire faded slowly into obscurity with the possible benefits it offered never fully realized. Certainly todays push to develop tires that can run despite losing air pressure lends heavily towards similar design concepts that Martin was pioneering. I can’t help but credit him, at least partially, for another current styling trend but I’ll let you be the judge. OlllllllO

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“Half Safe” but Completely Crazy

“Crazy” is, without a doubt, one of the most complex words in the English language. While its meaning is somewhat consistent, I find that its use as a compliment or as a condemnation is often only determined by whether or not there is a smile on the face of the person that is calling you crazy. So it is possible to be crazy but in a good way, right?

More often than not, a person who is described as crazy has set themselves apart from society by abstaining from normal accepted behavior. Meet Frederick ‘Ben’ Carlin- born in Western Australia in 1912 and who, on more than one occasion, has established himself as one of the craziest adventurers to have ever left the paved roads behind. The fact that he chose to pursue his preposterous dreams in a crazy contraption based on a WWII Ford GPA “Seep” makes him more of a hero, in my opinion, than a loon but you can be the judge.

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As an engineer in the Indian Army Corp of Engineers in World War II, Carlin observed an amphibious GPA vehicle while doing a routine inspection and commented to a fellow coworker that the vehicle would be a viable candidate to successfully circumnavigate the globe in. The intense laughter that erupted after his brash statement only reinforced his determination to prove that it could be done.

At the close of the Second World War, Carlin was able to acquire a surplus GPA for a measly $901 at auction and the process of adapting, modifying and equipping the chassis for such a monumental trek began. The body was extended by several feet to accommodate a larger fuel tank as well as an enclosed cabin scabbed on to the boat-like body. Much like Noah building the ark, Carlin was labelled as a buffoon- several sandwiches short of a picnic basket. Even his attempts to secure a sponsorship from Ford Motor Company, the manufacturer of the GPA, were met with skepticism and negativity. Ford seemed convinced that only a crazy person would take their amphibious vehicle into such treacherous waters.

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Actually, only two crazy people would. Carlin enlisted the help of his wife Elinore to accompany him on his ill-advised adventure. By the spring of 1948, the couple was seemingly ready to set sail in a vehicle that, by all appearances, was not fit to float, much less sail, across the ocean. It was aptly given the name Half Safe – a tongue-in-cheek reference taken from a deodorant advertisement that joked about the risks involved with wearing a lesser brand of under-arm protection. Somehow treading water in the middle of the shark-infested waters of the Atlantic Ocean seemed as comical a notion to Ben Carlin.

As with most innovators and pioneers, success was not found on the first attempt nor, for that matter, the second or third one. A handful of attempts in 1948 were plagued by mechanical failures of near-catastrophic proportions, including an exhaust system breakdown that had the confined cabin of the Half Safe vessel filling with lethal carbon monoxide gases, causing the trip to be quickly aborted and the boat returned to shore for repairs; each failure bringing more delays and exhausting more funds.

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Finally, on July 19th of 1950, Carlin and his trusting bride set out from Halifax, Nova Scotia with enough food, fuel and provisions on board to tide them over for a little over 30 days. While the Fords fuel tank had been modified to increase the capacity to 200 gallons, Carlin had to transport extra containers of fuel ; keeping them secured to a towline that was being drug behind the vehicle while at sea. Any time a refueling was needed, the anchor was dropped to interrupt forward progress and the floating reserve tanks would be reeled up next to the boat so that fuel could be siphoned into the primary tanks. This process proved to be challenging, exhausting and dangerous as the likelihood of the heavy tanks battering the thin metal hull of the vessel threatened to bring the entire trip to a sinking, gurgling halt. Nonetheless, Carlin persevered and eventually arrived at the choppy shores of the Azores Islands. From there, the trip carried them northward on wheels into Europe, where cabin temperatures often climbed above 150 degrees without the coolness of the seas waters to tame the heat. This forced the duo to perform most of their driving at night when conditions were considerably less harsh.

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Well into the second half of the journey, Elinore became convinced that this expedition might indeed be her last; overcome with exhaustion, sea sickness and oddly rational thoughts, she chose to abandon the mission as well as her husband while in Carlin’s homeland of Australia, while the pair was on a fund-raising tour in 1956.

Ben Carlin pressed onward, accompanied by anyone who could be convinced that this was a sane scheme. At first, a fellow Australian joined him for a period of 5 months before he was replaced by an American writer who worked for a Japanese newspaper. The journalist stayed with Carlin from early 1957 until Half Safe rolled into Anchorage, Alaska in late 1957. The writer profiled many of his Half Safe experiences in a book entitled, “Once a Fool: From Tokyo to Alaska by Amphibious Jeep”. If doing this for 6 months makes you a fool, what might 8 years make you? Certainly too tired to write a book with such a catchy title.

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In all, Carlin’s incredible journey took a total of 7 years and 10 months to complete, arriving in Montreal in May 1958, unbelievably having covered 38,987 miles over land and another 11,000 at sea. While Carlin had dreamed that this impossible venture crossing 38 countries would bring him untold riches and unrivaled popularity, the truth is that his accomplishment did more to ruin him both financially and romantically than it did to improve his position. The fact that his tale is rarely even told only adds to the misfortune. Fortunately, the Half Safe was acquired by Carlin’s childhood grammar school where it is displayed proudly for anyone who can forego their perceptions of what is truly attainable long enough to believe what you can do when you set your mind to it. To this day, no one else has managed to circumnavigate the world in one single vehicle. I can’t imagine anyone even trying…you’d have to be crazy.   OlllllllO2106b4ca367891a36776fcdb10f2edd9

First a Jeep, Then a Truck

It seems like forever and a day that we have been waiting for the new Jeep Wrangler JL to rid itself of the character- disguising camo and expose the Jeep faithful to what has been hiding beneath. Honestly, it’s like trying to pick out your prom date when all the girls are wrapped in tarps. We’ve been baited along with the promise of the new Wrangler JL model and then diabolically teased of a truck to be built on the same platform and delivered to us in the year to follow. It’s hard to digest that this wait may finally be winding up.  

Photo Credit: JL Wrangler Forums

Photo Credit: JL Wrangler Forums

  You may ask “Why all the fuss?”. It’s not like we haven’t been treated to a Jeep truck before and you would have a valid point. I believe the upcoming Wrangler JT pickup will be different though. In the past, Jeep has offered quite a few trucks in their lineup, each one special in their own distinct ways but, for the most part, they were always trucks first and Jeeps secondly.

What I mean by that is, with the exception of the 81-86 CJ-8 Scramblers, Jeep trucks have always segregated themselves from the true Jeep four-wheel drive, short wheelbase off-roader that embodies all of the elements that define the Jeep name. The CJ-8 was essentially a CJ-7 lengthened with a small truck bed in the back; a feature that more than made up for in looks what it might have lacked in practicality.

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The very first origins in the evolution of the Jeep truck would date all the way back to 1946, when Willys-Overland offered a Jeep pickup that shared its exterior countenance with the Willys Station wagons of the day. The high hood, flat-topped fenders and buglike headlights gave indication that the two were loosely related but yet independent at the core.

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One progression of the Jeep truck is the ultra-unique FCs, or Forward Control trucks. Introduced in the mid-50’s, the FC-150 defied easy explanation. With it’s odd cab-over-engine design and “big rig”styling, the FC models are usually presumed to be anything but a Jeep. The forward control models are highly sought by collectors due to their bizarre appearance and a distinctly wonderful driving experience . With a monstrous steering wheel that sits horizontal in front of you and no hood in front of the windshield, it’s hard to not feel like you’re wheeling a semi down the interstate trying to get a load up to Dubuque by sundown. It’s even harder to hide the smile the FC puts on your face.

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One of the most underated and least seen of the Jeep trucks are the Gladiator and J-Series models that were manufactured for an astounding quarter century, beginning in 1963. While other truck manufacturers toyed with rather swank styling cues that felt need to change every few years, Kaiser-Jeep found a solid and simple design that stood the test of time; making the J-Series truck almost instantly identifiable regardless of it’s vintage.

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I think what I like most about the Gladiator and J-Series trucks is that, in all their simplicity, they just look tough. I would go so far as to say that if Chuck Norris was going into battle in a new big screen blockbuster, maybe Missing In Action 9, he could very easily drive one of these. The Kaiser M715 is, in fact, the military version of the Gladiator and it literally looks like it’s coming to save the world and lay under tread anyone who tries to stop it. It’s so excessively packed with unbridled masculinity, it might even cause Chuck Norris to second-guess his level of adequate manliness to man the controls. No vanity mirrors on the back of sunvisors, if even so equipped; just brawn under the hood and bulges on the bedsides. A seriously hard act to follow.

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But follow Jeep did…with the CJ-8 Scrambler in 1981. For the first time, traditional Jeep owners were given their beloved Jeep fitted with the added utility of a short truck bed on a wheelbase 10-inches longer than the CJ-7, to boot. While such an offering did not evolve the new CJ into a formidable cargo hauler, it did undoubtedly help solidy the Jeep CJ’s overall position as America’s favorite off-road vehicle and tested the waters for what interest might exist for another Jeep truck.

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In 1986, Jeep delivered to market a brand new pickup based on the wildly succesful Cherokee XJ utility wagon. The Jeep Comance (MJ) was built using the same mechanical componenets, drivetrain and exterior styling as the Cherokee but with the choice of either a 6 or 7 foot truck bed. The truck was failry well accepted in the marketplace but always had a clearly defined persona separate from it’s close kin, the CJ/ Wrangler. After seven years of production, Chrysler determined that the truck building was best left to its Dodge division, so the Comanche slowly faded into the background; making way for its reinvention under the name Dodge Dakota, with no considerable fanfaire.

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The world would have to wait an antagonizing long 25 years and counting for a new pickup from Jeep. And from all visually-hindered appearances it might be one that’s really worth waiting for. Besides, we do actually get a brand new Wrangler to tide us over, in the meantime. But really, who are we kidding? OlllllllO

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Tips for Tackling that ‘Road Less-Travelled’

1Over the past decade of daily-driving a Jeep as my primary means of transportation, a few simple truths have become evident to me. First of all and simply put, Jeeps are cars for people who truly cherish driving. Even in stock form, Jeeps are fairly crude, utilitarian vehicles that are made to go just about anywhere you desire; therefore, their mannerisms when they are on the paved roadways are always a little less-than-perfect. This attribute, although unforgivable to some, suits me perfectly.

Secondly, Jeeps have made giant strides in proving that they may quite possibly be one of the worst commuter vehicles ever. While this seems somewhat harsh, the truth is that, while the shortest distance between two points is always a straight line, Jeeps don’t seem to be engineered using the same basic principles of geometry. Basically, if it should take 1 hour to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’, a Jeep will normally take anywhere from 10 to 50% longer to arrive than the calculated average. A Jeep driver tends to strictly abide by the age-old adage “Goin’ around your @$$ to get to your elbow”, accessing point ‘B’ via point ‘M’ or possibly even point lowercase ‘k’. While the science to support this principle has not been totally documented, it is true that fuel economy of the average Jeep owner is 10 to 50% lower than other vehicles on the road. Ironic? You decide.

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Thirdly, and this may surprise some of you like it did me- not ALL Jeep owners take their rugged rides off-road. While this was hard for me to digest at first, I came to realize that it makes total sense. For comparisons sake, everybody with a set of clubs in the trunk doesn’t necessarily know how to play golf well, if at all. I’m reminded of a lady who used to sing in the church choir when I was a young pre-teen. Despite the silky robe and the open songbook in her hands, she had no trace of any ability to sing. Unfortunately, this was a truth that was unknown to her and one that never kept her from engaging in blaring solos capable of frightening infants and startling the elderly. Unlike a tone-deaf soprano, a Jeep owner who has never experienced the joys of driving off-road is perfectly poised to make it happen. They already have all the capability they will need to make it happen at their disposal. The hard part is done.

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While the thought of venturing off-road in a brand-spanking new Wrangler JK is harrowing to many, the truth is that the Jeep was made to be taken off-road- they’re given that ‘Trail Rated’ badge on the fender for a reason. To keep it confined to pavement is depriving it of its purpose. Your inalienable right to take your Jeep out for a day filled with uncharted adventure is inherent with Jeep ownership and, with any luck, a thorough carwash will make it seem like it never even happened. I personally suggest you drive around with the mud decorations for at least a few days. It’s sort of a Jeepers badge of honor. Wear it proudly!

So, how do you get started with finding that road less travelled and making sure it’s one that suits your vehicle, your own individual skill and confidence level? I recommend anyone who drives a Jeep involve themselves in a local Jeepers club in their particular area. You can find many varieties of them on Facebook, as well as other social media venues, and they can prove to be a valuable source of information and support. The Jeep community is a strong network of people who share very similar interests although they come from a diverse range of backgrounds. I have gone “wheeling” with complete strangers on numerous occasions and have retained continuing friendships from each and every one of those interactions. You will more than likely find like-minded people near you that would love to coordinate a local trail ride or even a weekend road trip to a location close by.

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Another valuable source for locating prospective locations for you to pursue that less-travelled road would be the trusty internet. There are many sites dedicated to the off-roading hobby that can be a wealth of information and knowledge for you to access, some of which even have mobile apps that you can access while on the trail:

www.americantrails.org

www.offroadtrailguide.com

  www.where2wheel.com

5Once you have determined the “where”, “when” and “with who”, you will want to plan what things you will need to take with you. The first rule of thumb for a successful & enjoyable off-roading excursion is one shared with every teenage horror film you have ever seen. Don’t ever go alone!! (and maybe take a flashlight). Seriously, the essentials for your ultimate preparedness on the trail will vary greatly based on the types of off-roading you will be doing. For the beginner who is participating in a nice, easy trail ride, you want to make sure you have a properly inflated spare tire, a functioning jack and maybe a jug of water, just in case. A GPS can be a lifesaver although the uncomfortable total absence of roads on the display can seem alarming at times. Just remember, if it was an easy place to get to, everyone would already have been there and eliminated the reasons to go. It’s always a great idea to have a set of simple hand tools on-hand but the mechanical aptitude of the wheeler would be the determining factor between useful and useless. For that reason, a fully charged cellphone is to be considered crucial as well. Heck, it’s the Swiss army knife of this generation. There are apps to keep you from getting lost and games to entertain you when you do.

For those who drive modified Jeeps or have graduated to more challenging trails, ones that involve scaling rocks or maneuvering through mud, the list of crucial cargo grows accordingly. While the luxury of on-board compressed air is nice, it is certainly not a requirement. A hi-lift jack, a winch, a tire repair kit, a collection of basic recovery gear components comprised of straps, gloves, shackles and digging implements, a stockpile of damage-prone replacement parts like u-joints, axle shafts, drive shafts, ball joints, tie rod ends and the tools necessary to replace them on the trail as well as a hodgepodge of all the critical fluids needed to keep the engine running, the transmission shifting and the brakes stopping are all deemed as precious payload. While this seems like a nightmare checklist of necessary gear, the truth is that your trail kit can be developed and assembled over a long period of time as the experience level of your driving develops. Don’t be the guy who dresses like a big league catcher in the stands based on a slight chance of his fielding a foul ball. Take only what is practical in terms of making repairs on the trail. You may never need any of it but the one time you do, the overall expense will seem minimal in the grand scheme of things. To have it and not need it is the desired objective.

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So…Get out there, find that road less travelled and see where it takes you; always remembering to leave the trail just like you found it. After all, life is too short to just sit at home and Jeeps were meant to be taken off-road. You just might find out that those golf clubs look better in the garage anyway. OlllllllO

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