Is “Jeep Therapy” Really the Real Deal?

1I was recently reading an article that expounded on some interesting data extracted from the 2015 U.S Census that stated the average American adult enjoys a daily one-way commute that is 25.5 minutes long. That is almost 26 minutes one-way , so double that unless you’re carrying a kindergartners nap mat to the office with you; we are on average confined to our cars interior for close to an hour a day, 5 days a week. The fine folks of the Dakotas, North & South, came in well under the average while Marylanders were 22% higher than the average. That is some seriously substantial windshield time!

So, as the gravity of this information began to sink in, I was reminded of a meme I had seen recently in one of the Jeep forums that I frequent. For those of you entirely unfamiliar with the term ‘meme’, don’t feel bad. Despite the fact you’re much better off in your current state of unknowing, I will tell you that a meme (pronounced MEEM) is a clever, inspiring or funny little picture or caption that has associated text cropped on it with the intention of spreading, by means of the internet (primarily social media), like a wildfire. It’s important to note that anyone can create a meme, so the cleverness, humor or inspirational qualities are by no means guaranteed, as you can only imagine. Accurate spelling is also less-than-vital.

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The “meme” in question alluded to the fact that driving a Jeep often proves to have an almost therapeutic effect on the driver. While I am a relatively new “Jeeper” by some people’s standards, having only been a Jeep owner for the past decade, I can testify with a great deal of certainty that this meme is right on point. It doesn’t matter how far off-track my day at work may have gotten, my ride home in my Jeep seems to set things straight once again. The wind in your hair can magically clear the muck from your mind. With older Jeeps, it’s often more of a trade-off.

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But the healing qualities don’t end when you put the Jeep top and doors back on, at least not entirely. Driving a Jeep just seems to put one’s mind in the proper state for reasons that I can’t accurately explain. I could argue that the driver’s vantage point being situated higher than most could be a contributor. The fact that the soft top possesses all the unrefined nuances of a camping tent could prove to be a factor for some while I think that the Jeeps overall essence of adventure and free-spiritedness seems to deescalate the stresses of the day for most.

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Bottom line is, anyone that has driven or even ridden in a Jeep doesn’t really have to be convinced at all of the therapeutic qualities exhibited on its occupants. If the single hour a day that you spend behind the wheel of a Jeep is truly therapy, then think of the money you’ll save on NOT having to see an actual board-certified therapist. A little internet searching reveals the typical psychotherapy session would run you around 76 bucks an hour, on average. Think of the money you’ll save! And the thing takes you places too?? Win/Win!!

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In fact, if my calculations are even remotely accurate, you stand to save a minimum of $380 a month, even if the therapy sessions your Jeep help you avoid were only weekly. The more drastic your particular internal instabilities, the more treatments you would have required and then the savings literally go through the roof! I’m thinking it might be time to splurge a little and start seeing a brand new therapist….Hmm. I think BLUE is a very calming color. OlllllllO

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A Modern-Day Drivers Lament

1I’ve always heard that those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. While this is largely true from my experience, sometimes looking at the past in the appropriate light is the cure for better accepting what is in the present.

This bit of enlightenment came to me while I was sitting, somewhat impatiently, at a traffic light on my daily ride home. This is one of the lights that I have to “endure” daily; one whose entire existence seems to only suggest a proper course of action to those who travel under its authority at any given time. People just proceed out into the intersection regardless of the lights impending change. If the lights directions were to be observed and obeyed, order would ensue; however, the light and its luminous suggestions are largely ignored, resulting in utter and total chaos.

Imagine a place like New York City without so much as a traffic light to limit the lunacy. Back in 1901, this was the conditions of the day. Travel by motor car was relatively new and there was an entire dynamic between loud cars and frightened horses pulling carriages to deal with. That’s why there was The Automobile Blue Book – a written manual for navigating the city by car and surviving with life and limb intact.

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Before there were traffic lights, signs and electronic gizmos to guide us along, the government saw the need to give us guidelines by which to abide. In terms of the right-of-way, there was very little regard given to whether you were pulling out on to a major thoroughfare. Rather the direction in which you were travelling determined who had the upper hand. Obviously, those going north or south were actually going somewhere while those going, say, eastbound were not actually travelling anywhere deemed important, what with the rotation of the earth and all.

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With the fundamental basis of right-of-way now firmly established for us all, it’s time to move on to matters of safety. All vehicles, including the dreaded ‘velocipede’, are to be equipped with a bell, or a gong if you’d rather, but not too big of a bell as to encourage one upmanship. This 3-inch or smaller merry noisemaker is to be sounded whenever you pass another vehicle from behind and when you navigate a turn. Oddly, no mention is given in regards to the gaining or losing of right-of-way with a change in vehicle direction. I would think that gaining right-of-way by means of a turn would warrant the ringing of ones own bell, as sort of an audible celebration.

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The act of stopping the automobile is addressed to a lesser extent back in Article 4 Section 1, by advising that nobody is to stop the vehicle, unless it’s an emergency, or to let another vehicle cross in front of you. Use of an audible signal is advised but it doesn’t seem as though the bell is suggested to be the source of the signal. Maybe a “whoop” or a “holler” is in order, based on where you are from? Or you can just raise your whip. Wait…what??

When you see pedestrians treated as the same rank as the horses, it’s not surprising to see the City of New York come down hard on those who choose to ride a peddle-powered means of transport. Having to suddenly share the road with not only equine but now motorized contraptions driven by whip-wielding whackos is a whole new thing. Bottom line is- If you’re gonna bike it, you’ve gotta leave the tike at home to fend for himself. These streets are no place for young children

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And the bad news doesn’t end there for the bikers! Strict rules are enacted to make it illegal to coast your bike. Meaning you have to be under constant propulsion if you’re not parked on the curb. In fact, you have been directed to keep your hands on the handlebars and your feet on the peddles at ALL times!! Of course, it goes without saying that you can’t have a Chinese lantern on your bicycle either. Afterall, this ain’t Hong Kong. And Rule #13 restricting any and all “instruction” from the bike path is really surprising and is surely going to prove a serious hindrance to any of those who ever hope to learn how to ride a bike in this town.

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Just when you think the drivers of century ago had it pretty good, it turns out that said drivers were instructed to maintain a log of their driving. This was not just a tally of dates and mileage though. This is a full-fledged written report of data involving complex mathmatical formulas that rival todays college prep exams. How many miles did I traverse? What was my fuel consumption per brake horse power? How much waste am I storing?? The though of calculating water consumption per mile seems like a sizable task. Can’t I just go back to dealing with traffic lights and moronic drivers?

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Even if I was to become accustomed to the considerable load of paperwork that accompanied driving privileges back yesteryear, the accident preparation kit that accompanied the Official Automobile Blue Book would have me seriously rethinking my decision. Having to quickly peruse a laymens description of artificial recessitation and familiarizing myself with the acknowledged ways to “test for death” seems a tad intense when compared to exchanging insurance cards and texting your agent. Afterall, I’m pretty sure I don’t even carry linseed oil with me on most occasions.

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Now, riding in a Jeep can make you prone to getting a cinder in the eye. I just need to figure out what a “lamp lighter” is and pick up a couple of them from Amazon when I order my new velocipede. OlllllllO

Forget What You’ve Heard…Going Commando IS Cool!

1Long before the days of social media and the illicit birth of situation comedies, Kaiser Jeep saw the potential in an abandoned automotive platform, the Jeepster, and took the vital steps to revive it. While the original Willys-Overland Jeepster had found less-than-splendid acceptance in the late 1940’s, much of its failures could be lent to the fact that it was, in all essence, a car. A two-wheel drive touring phaeton, or convertible, with little or no ties to an actual Jeep, bar its slotted grille and flattish fenders. While the initial Jeepsters were certainly a spectacle of class and charisma, they lacked the crass and crudeness of its elder Jeep namesake.

Kaiser however sought to change all of that, by offering a new Jeepster; one with the spirit of a true Jeep firmly intact. A four-wheel drive runabout that expands on the universal Jeeps utility by delivering off-road capability, street worthy styling and a variety of body configurations to please the masses. From a two-door convertible, to a compact pickup and then a station wagon- the Jeepster was rebirthed for the ’67 model year with a whole new look and an attitude its very own. And they called it, the Jeepster Commando.

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Built on the CJ6 chassis, the new Jeepster Commando’s 101-inch wheelbase was a whole 20-inches longer that the standard CJ5. Providing ample interior room for the wagon models or increased capacity for cargo when dressed as a truck. Standard engine power was provided by the tried-and-true 134 ci F-head engine creating 75-hp while an optional upgrade of a Dauntless V6 engine treated the Jeepster to a substantial increase of brawn, more than doubling the base engines power and torque. It was a new time for the Jeepster nameplate, indeed.

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The Jeepster Commando remained in production until 1972, when it gained another three inches of wheelbase and officially dropped the Jeepster prefix from its name. It was now known only as the Jeep Commando- a name it would maintain until its demise in 1973. With the Vietnam War in its waning years, how was AMC/Jeep ever to know that the name chosen for its symbolism of strength and bravery would soon become the slang moniker for the act of forsaking proper under-attire. The odds are about as good as getting oneself surrounded by a rafter of gobblers with a professional photographer close by; unlikely, but yet, more than plausible.4

In 1971, when sales of the Jeepster began to decline, AMC did the only thing they knew to do. Try to make the Jeepster Commando into a special muscle car offshoot of an off-road legend. By handing over design liberties of the Commando to the hot-rodding radicals at Hurst Performance in Westminster Township, PA, the Jeepster emerged with what is, still today, arguably the most collectable Jeep package ever offered- the 1971 Hurst Jeepster.

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With an exterior finished in Champagne White and accented by racy red and blue cowl stripes, the Hurst edition packed little actual punch. Since the special package added nothing in the way of performace upgrades, outside of wider Goodyear polyglass tires, the Hurst Jeepster made it’s mark with more visual flairs. Glitzy chrome bumpers, a fully-functional roof rack and exterior badging on par with any boulevard brawler all made lasting impressions on potential buyers. While many others were entanced by the speed shop goodies that, by all appearances, were built for speed. Automatic transmissions were shifted by means of a macho Dual-Gate shifter, while Hurst drivers peered over a giant scoop and a hood-mounted tachometer reminiscent of the Pontiac GTOs of the day. Hurst Commando owners must have felt a genuine sense that they owned the road.

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I think it’s fair to deem the 67-73 Jeepster Commando as an indirect hit in terms of overall automotive substance. Did it change the face of automotive styling or design in it’s day? I would have to say NO. However, it did serve as somewhat of a foray to the new Cherokee SJ platform that followed closely in 1974; a landmark of monumental proportions in terms of the evolution of the SUV in America. For that reason alone, I can’t imagine what could be cooler than wheeling the asphalt or ravaging the trails in a fully restored Commando? If you are able to find one, buy it. If you have opportunity to ride in one, take that opportunity and enjoy what it truly means to Go Commando. Of course, unless you’re wearing swimsuits, proper undergarments are strongly encouraged. OlllllllO

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“A Place for Everything & Everything in its Place”

1It sounds so simple, almost poetic. The most brilliant minds of our time have reiterated its importance and yet I find myself in seemingly constant denial of its very existence. I’m talking about organization. It’s the one and only thing that can transform you into the star of your own weekly program on the DIY Channel, instead of the unwilling focus of an episode of Hoarders. Yet I hopelessly still continue down life’s road with a cargo area brimming full with all of “necessities” that a Jeeper might find sudden need for. I believe it was Albert Einstein who once stated “Out of clutter, find simplicity”. Since he’s got me beat by more than a handful of IQ points, I’ll take those wise words, somewhat reluctantly, and try to apply them to my own personal situation in hopes of finding a better way.

In all honesty, my own organizational misfortune began innocently enough. A few years back, while preparing for a weekend wheeling trip, I decided that removing the rear jump seat in my YJ would free up some valuable interior room and make for much easier packing. Both of my sons had grown to the point where climbing into the back seat for a wheeling trip had become both physically impossible and socially unacceptable at the very same time. The vacated expanse of newfound cargo area was undeniably enticing- much like a day-old chocolate éclair on the kitchen counter when you’re expecting company. Sure, you could leave it out there but one single pastry could never satisfy more than one person. So you find yourself cramming the entire treat into your mouth hurriedly just as the doorbell rings. The back of my Wrangler quickly became home to every sort of disaster preparedness gear imaginable. Just like that, it had begun. Such catastrophes always start somewhere.

2Before concluding that my Jeep is a rolling refuse bin, I want to state that I really only carry the actual bare necessities. Although, when you drive an older Jeep, like me, that list of essentials can be considerable. There are the mandatory tool kit- pliers, screwdrivers, sockets, and wrenches, in both standard and metric sizes based on Chrysler’s inability to commit to any set standard (combined with my own mechanical inability to do the same). Then there is the recovery gear, a virtual boat-load of straps, ropes, shackles, pulleys and gear to snatch ones four-wheeled soul from the grips of vehicular misfortune. Add to that the horde of specialty tools that seem to gain paramount importance when you’re broken down on the trail and losing daylight. Work lights, fuel pressure gauge, a trusty voltmeter, well-stocked electrical kit, a selection of clamps and hoses, u-joints, spare wire, etc. I failed to mention the plastic milk crate stocked with an array of motor oils, brake fluid, tranny fluid, penetrating oil and other essential potions.

With all the evidence provided above, I dare say that the only cargo I have in tow that is not absolutely vital to my vehicles overall preparedness is a small 8” x 10” metal storage case that serves as transport for my vast music collection that I have loaded on tiny and convenient flash drives. While this could be deemed by many as non-essential payload, the fact that I can carry the contents of hundreds of CD’s in the space of a tissue box stands as proof positive that I am not beyond help. And who doesn’t like some tunes as accompaniment for the droning of the mud terrains? So while the age-old adage ‘Less Is More’ may be true, I am decidedly at the point where any less would likely not be enough.

When it comes to organizing the rear cargo area of your Jeep, there are some extremely innovative and cool products on the market today that can help convert your version of chaos into a neat, orderly collection of tools and supplies that are easily accessible and always right where you left them. Drawers that glide smoothly on tracks with roller bearing slides; more than ample to house all your hand tools and bottles of essential fluids seems almost too good to be true. It could take some time to get used to such civility though, when you are accustomed to the other extreme. I remember the time that my can of PB Blaster got tipped over and its spray nozzle became depressed by a tumbling gear bag. As the cans smelly contents saturated my Spice interior carpeting, the noise created had me searching feverishly under the seats for the hissing serpent that had apparently become unwillingly trapped inside my Jeep; not thoroughly convinced that I really wanted to find it. I still don’t know where the lid to the can went.

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While solutions to the problem of cargo organization can be solved easily and in a relative hurry with a little online shopping at any number of retailers, the truth is that many of us choose to use our precious little funds for more imperative endeavors like lift kits, remote reservoir off-road shocks and providing meals to our offspring. With just a little money and some creativity, you can come to some pretty impressive storage solutions by scouring the aisles of your local home improvement superstore. Plastic caddies, multi-level shelves, tie downs and storage compartments can be cleverly combined to suit any need. Whether you prefer to trail ride, hunt, fly fish or just love to drive into the mountains to crash your expensive drone into really tall hardwoods, your cargo compartment can cater to your specific needs.

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Whatever cargo area organizer you devise, remember to make sure that you keep your own safety at the forefront of the design. Everything needs to be securely mounted, contained and restrained. In the event of a vehicle rollover, you don’t want a 30 pound box of wrenches tumbling around inside your Jeeps cab, much less any massive plywood tumbleweed. Take the time to anchor your creation to the floor and secure all of its contents well.

If you find the limited confines of your Jeeps interior to be too limited for the kind of organization chaos you have going on, you might consider a more sizable investment is in order. An overlanding-style trailer can be equipped to serve as a base station or kitchenette on camping excursions, a portable hunting stand or any variation in between. All with the convenient portability of going anywhere your Jeep can pull it. Not to mention, they look really cool and help to free-up that invaluable interior space you thought you would never see again.

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Admittedly, I have not yet fully committed myself to the task of organizing my cargo area… yet. But I am wholly convinced that I have a problem, which is often considered the first step in finding true healing. Maybe as a resolution for the upcoming New Year, I can come to terms with a plan to organize my gear and bring some much-needed harmony to my discord. If for no other reason, it would be nice to find the lid to my PB Blaster. OlllllllO

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Rugged Ridge’s TOP 10 Last Minute Gift Ideas…

1With barely a handful of days left until Christmas, we wanted to take a minute to drop a few hints for some cool last-minute gift ideas for that special Jeep enthusiast in your life. Time IS short so don’t delay another minute…Rugged Ridge is here help you show Santa how it’s done!

 

Great Gifts For LESS Than $50- (we call them affordable, not cheap)

        1. Off-Road Grab Handles – We’ve got awesome grab handles to equip that Jeep for any adventure. Front seat, rear seat and anywhere in-between, not to mention a bunch of colors to accent any rig.2
        2. Dash Multi-Mount – This easily-adaptable system puts your cellphone right where you can see it, whether you’re on the trail or just sitting in traffic. It’s a MUST for 2007-2018 Wrangler JK!3  
        3. Entry Guards – A little protection goes a long way, especially when you consider the bottom of your Jeeps door openings. They are kicked and scuffed just about every time the door opens which is hard on paint and even harder on the eyes. We offer a set of door entry guards for 2 and 4 door models that will protect and perfect the look of any Jeep.4 
        4. X-Clamps – Mounting lights, cameras or any other accessories is simplified to perfection with the trail-proven technology of our X-Clamp mounting system. These mounts can be rotated for any angle and are available to fit a variety of tubing diameters. Choose either Silver, Black or Textured finishes to accent any exterior.5
        5. Gifts For Under $100(For those whose names do NOT appear on the Naughty List)

        6. Aluminum Hood Catches – The ideal upgrade for any Wrangler JK, these latches eliminate the issues with hood flutter that plague even a factory fresh model. Well-built, stylishly styled and simple to install makes the perfect gift. Ask anyone who has them!!6
        7. Elite Hood Dress-Up Kit – A perfect complement to our Aluminum Hood Catches, we tooled all of the hood mounted components in high-quality aluminum giving them spectacular curb appeal on top of flawless function. Installation is a breeze, even in December.
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        9. LED Brake Light Ring – Turn that factory high-mounted brake light into a brilliant spectacle that can’t be ignored. With 96 powerful torch red LED’s mounted behind the spare tire, you can enjoy the safety benefits of being the center of attention.
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        11. Elite Pivotal Headlight Euro Guard – The only cast aluminum head light guard that can be mounted in a vertical, diagonal or horizontal position for a variety of visual accents. With three premium finishes to choose from, the possibilities are plenty.Gifts For Over $100(For those loved ones who rank very highly on the Nice List- or maybe even a Naughty one who could really use some encouragement?)
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          Gifts For Over $100 –(For those loved ones who rank very highly on the Nice List- or maybe even a Naughty one who could really use some encouragement?)

        13. Spartan Grille – Call it an attitude adjustment in a box. Nothing can turn a stock JK into an agitated and aggressive off-road beast as quickly as our Rugged Ridge Spartan Grille. The included easy-to-follow installation instructions makes this a simple and enjoyable upgrade for any do-it-yourselfer.
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        15. Spartan Bumpers – Rugged Ridge’s new line of Spartan Bumpers deliver the look and fit of high-end off-road bumpers but in a package that doesn’t forget about the budget. Just pick the style that suits your build and start making room under the tree! ( p.s. Bumpers will NOT fit in a traditional stocking)
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    There’s a little something for any Jeeper on your list AND there is just enough time to make any of these dreams a reality. We’re gonna keep making cool stuff for Jeeps so we’ll meet you back here next year. Maybe we can shoot for July or early August though?? Merry Christmas  OlllllllO

     
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“Shoppin’ for Your Baby Some New Shoes”

1When buying new tires for any car, or at least one that you cherish, that’s one of those expressions that has always seemed an appropriate fit. I guess it’s because tires are so important to the looks of your vehicle, not to mention the effects they can have on handling and overall enjoyment. If your beloved human offspring were to need some gym shoes for school and you set out to the store with your heart set on a pair of Dingo boots, the repercussions for your misguided actions would be very real. Your child would no doubt be the last one picked for kickball, they would no longer find shorts as a logical clothing choice and their standings on the ever-important popularity scale would plummet. Buying tires for your Jeep is not much different.

Before you set out to buy your babies new shoes, you have to ask yourself a few questions so that you are more likely to arrive with a suitable answer. What is it that you use your Jeep for? Is it simply a people- hauler used to shuttle family members to lacrosse practice and run errands around town with no plans to drive off the paved roads? If so, a traditional highway or all-season tire might be the best option. Or is it the look of the tire that is of more concern to you? Can you have both?

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Highway tires are best-signified by a narrow linear tread design that specializes in channeling water away from the tires patch of contact with the road. Features that are virtually exclusive to these highway tires, such as long tread life and refined car-like handling, slowly fade as you graduate to the more off-road enabled tires. While these highway/ all-season tires will give your Jeep a nice, smooth ride on the highway and around town, they are somewhat ill-equipped for trail duty. If your Jeep sees much more than an occasional level dirt road or gravel driveway, you should probably consider something a bit more unrefined.

If your Jeep qualifies as one that is more-than-likely to be taken off the beaten path, your tire shopping experience should begin with the abundance of offerings that tire manufacturers have developed for the light truck market segment. Jeeps of present day generally come from the factory with a more aggressive breed of tire; one that is commonly referred to as an ‘All-terrain’ in that it has a much less-linear tread pattern; opting for a deeper grooved channel design intended to garner traction on surfaces other than asphalt. If the tires that came on your Jeep were all that you hoped they could be then consider that to be a safe starting point and expand your search from there.

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All-terrain tires often incorporate a tread design that extends over onto the face of the sidewall, commonly known as ‘side bite’, to give the tire lateral traction on unstable terrain. All-terrains do a commendable job on a wide variety of surfaces and only find their limits when exposed to the muddy slick stuff, where they are swiftly turned into drag slicks that spin wildly with reckless abandon. While the All-Terrain tire represent a really good compromise between street-friendly road manners and off-road prowess, it’s important to note that their capability relies strongly on the level of air pressure in the tire. In off-road conditions, reducing a tires air pressure is a true no brainer. You just push in on the valve stem, right?

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It’s safe to say that an off-road tire should never be inflated to manufacturer’s specifications EXCEPT when it is being driven on the road. The benefits of airing-down a rig’s tires when off-roading is almost beyond compare. An obstacle that seems insurmountable quickly becomes easy work when proper air pressure is applied. The tire gains massive amounts of traction and is less prone to punctures, even when the tire is only reduced to 20 psi. Many hardcore off-road guys will regularly drop air pressures well into the single digits, while paying due attention to maintaining the integrity of the tires bead and its seal to the rim. Failure to do so will have you wrestling yourself into a sweaty tizzy with a grimy black rubber monster determined to ruin your day.

5While the prospect of reducing air pressure is attractive and brutally simple, the subsequent need to re-inflate the tires to their proper pressures before returning to the roadway is one that proves troublesome to many. While highly-efficient onboard air systems are expensive, they are not a mandatory implement in order to restore adequate driving pressures on the trail. Small 12 volt air compressors can be had online for well under $100 and offer ample output to get your tires back to a safe operating level until a full-fledged compressor can be located. Sure, it may take you a half-hour to get re-inflated, but that’s time you easily gained while on the trail by not getting stuck on every rock and ledge. Time you can use to ascend to the highest available position, with arm extended upward, in an attempt to gain cellphone coverage. It’s really fun and you should try it.

The final part to this tire option puzzle is the loud & proud mud-terrain. Much like its all-terrain counterparts, the mud terrain foregoes civil street tendencies in favor of a broad, open tread style meant to grip and grapple over the harshest of landscapes. Tire technology has advanced so drastically over the past 10+ years that modern mud terrains are all but equal to most all terrains in terms of on-road sensibilities. They do create a greater amount of noise when on pavement, are more prone to troublesome wear patterns due to faulty suspension components but are otherwise worthy candidates for a semi-dedicated trail rig.

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While their overly-aggressive tread characteristics make them a resoundingly bad choice for a daily- driven Jeep, mud terrains are still often the tire of choice for avid Jeep enthusiasts. I think that might be largely due to the fact that they just look cool! If Jeepers were extremely concerned with how many miles their tires get in a lifespan, or how many miles to the gallon they average around town, they just wouldn’t drive a Jeep to begin with. Driving a Jeep is all about the journey so I can easily justify having a tire that sings loudly as the miles go rolling by. I much prefer the “whirring” sound of a mud terrain spinning on the asphalt to the sound of a street tire spinning hopelessly in the mud. When it comes to tires, it’s always good to be a little biased. OlllllllO

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LOCKERS…Understanding the Ins & Outs of Maintaining Traction through Modern Mechanical Wizardry

1I wonder how many countless middle schoolers have been subjected to the inhumane pre-teen ritual of being stuffed into a cramped school locker? While I have never personally experienced it myself, I’m sure that the mere mention of the word “locker” to anyone who has been, is enough to cause one to instantly forget their locker combination and quite possibly to lose partial control of their bodily functions. How on earth are you supposed to remember if you go counter-clockwise past ‘32’ twice before stopping on ‘17’ when you’re in constant and profound fear of becoming the defenseless victim of a wedgie; or, worse yet, having your lockers interior exposed to those who don’t share your same fondness for fuzzy animated movie characters or cheesy boy bands?

Fortunately, the word ‘lockers’ has an entirely different and less-emotional connotation to the off-road Jeep enthusiast. “Lockers” is short slang for a locking differential- the means by which the men are separated from the boys when the tires hit the trail.

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Most vehicles, including many Jeeps, leave the factory with an “open” style differential. What this means is that the rotation of the driveshaft is transferred through a set of gears and distributed to two separate axle shafts, each turning its own driven wheel. Since the two axle shafts are not actually connected together through any rigid means, they are able to rotate at different speeds independent of each other. While this concept is splendid for driving on the open road and around town, it loses its luster in off-road situations where one wheel may lose traction and will begin to spin wildly. The other wheel, despite having sufficient traction, might just sit there and do nothing while all of the engines torque is applied to the wheel with no traction. It’s very much like watching an innocent and unknowing bird fly headlong into a glass window again and again. After several minutes, there has been lots of motion, vast amounts of spent energy but no real progress. This is a condition that off-road enthusiasts commonly refer to as “stuck”.

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“Lockers”, or locking differentials, essentially drive both wheels with constant and equal torque, regardless of traction, making it much more difficult to achieve the status of stuck, as is common in an open differential-equipped rig. While the perceived invincibility found in driving off road with lockers is quite attractive, it can also be accompanied by a whole new set of drawbacks. Applying unrelenting torque to a tire that is hopelessly wedged up in a rock pile will eventually find a way to turn itself loose despite the tires resistance. This newfound and forced freedom is brought on by the sudden failure of whatever component lacked the most in the integrity department. If you’re lucky, it’s just a u-joint. More than likely , such a calamity will befall a more expensive component. And one that is significantly harder to repair on trail side, like an axle shaft or, heavens forbid, a costly CV driveshaft. Even at such high cost, Lockers ARE the way to go if you like to wheel off-road.

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Those who are blessed with the ability to be free-thinkers may instinctively suggest that we just build ALL Jeeps, or cars for that matter, with locking differentials and send those open differentials down the road, the way of the Dodo bird and full-service gas stations. After all, nobody really wants to get stuck, do they? Certainly not any number of my personal friends who I can recall having gotten their Jeeps stuck in their own back yard while doing something as simple as hauling furniture or flexing their macho manly side by attempting to persuade a shrub from its earthen nest by brute force. Nothing is quite as masculine as winching your Jeep out of a muddy pit that used to be your yard while using a kid’s swing set as an anchor point.

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The bottom line is that all of the traction benefits offered by a locked differential are overshadowed by their negative on-road manners. Since very few roadways are completely 100% straight, the need to turn the steering wheel occasionally is very real and turns the prospect of locked differentials into a nightmarish ordeal; similar to the horrors of getting stuck in your own yard. Since the opposing wheels are essentially “locked” together inside the differential, going around a corner becomes a nerve-grinding experience.

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When you steer a vehicle through a corner, the wheel positioned on the inside of the turn has a shorter distance to travel while the outside wheel has a longer distance to negotiate. This conflict in rotational energy between the inside and outside wheel manifests itself in a vehicle that simply isn’t happy turning at speed anymore; never mind the larger diameter tires and pavement-hating tread. In fact, a lot of this excess energy in the turns will be absorbed into your driveline and by your tires tread, resulting in reduced fuel economy, accelerated tire wear and a downright poor overall attitude. Three things that Jeeps can’t afford to compromise on unless there are substantial benefits to be gained. Benefits like x-ray vision or George Clooney-like good looks would be good contenders.

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Any time the left is so far removed from the right, it’s good to know that an accord can be struck and a happy middle ground established. Ground where we can enjoy the off-road benefits of locking differentials combined with the street-friendly mannerisms of an open differential. Such an accord can be found in a selectable locker, a differential whose locking abilities can be turned off or on with the simple flick of a switch, the pull of a lever or by reciting a short mystical chant. Such systems would include an ARB Air Locker, Eaton E-Locker or a cable-actuated OX Locker.

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While the selectable locker is a bit more expensive that most other options, it’s hard to identify any negatives to support an argument that they are anything but worth the price you’ll pay. Jeep has utilized a selectable locker system in their Rubicon models since the early 2000’s and it has quickly become a consumer favorite for its expanded level of capability. So much so that you’ll find Rubicon stickers plastered across the hoods of Cherokees, YJ Wranglers, and even an occasional Grand Cherokee. While obviously the decal doesn’t make any Jeep a Rubicon, what does make the Rubicon stand out can be largely attributed to its locking differentials, front and rear. Just try to comprise a similar locking differential system in a base model Wrangler and you will concede that the Rubicon package is a smart way to go. Trust me… a lot can be said for being able to drive out of your own back yard and it’s hard to put a price on shame. OlllllllO2106b4ca367891a36776fcdb10f2edd9

 

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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