Training Tomorrow’s Heroes

“Anyone who does anything to help a child in their life is a hero to me.” ― Fred Rogers

When it comes to turning wrenches on a Jeep, too many people would write it off as dirty, knuckle-busting work. While this conclusion is more than substantiated, it fully dismisses the larger truth that hard work, and in this case mechanical work, can be nothing short of good medicine.

In the foothills of southern Tennessee, there is an organization that really “gets it”. The Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer has made it their mission to not only erase the effects of childhood cancer but to optimize the quality of life for these kids as they experience the impact of diagnosis and as they brave the trials of their ongoing treatment. The Foundation has found a way to give these kids and their families a valuable tool with which to fight those daily battles- best of all, it’s a tool that already lies within them. They only need to learn how to access it and perfect it’s usage. In my opinion, what better subject with which to develop their craft than on a Jeep.

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While the Jeep seemed a perfect blank canvas for Hatch’s Kids to practice their magic on, it’s not every day that a brand new Wrangler JKU lands in your lap either, at least not in the real world. Fortunately, the fine folks at the Mtn. View Auto Group see things a little bit differently. They jumped in and fired-up a brand-spanking new Wrangler, hopped on the freeway and dropped it on their doorstep…literally. It still had the paper floor mats in it. But not for long.

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The Austin Hatcher Foundation’s goal was to transform this bone-stock JK into a modern interpretation of the classic Jeepster Commando, an early-70’s rarity that added popular muscle car styling to the time-honored CJ persona. Rugged Ridge donated pile upon pile of parts to accomplish this massive undertaking while Truck ‘N Trailers USA provided enough shop space, lift and tools to build a space shuttle. And to top it off, they’ll accomplish this task with manpower sourced from the families that they serve on a daily basis. Yes…they’re gonna build this beast with kids.

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It was a brilliant plan whose full perfection would not be realized simply or quickly, but through a series of scheduled “Build Days”. Days that were carefully planned to insure success with a project checklist for all to see. A list detailing what needed to be accomplished that day and providing a visual reminder of the team’s successes as items are checked off. While these were likely some tough build days, they are not nearly as tough as the kids who’ve fearlessly tackled them and found ways to laugh and smile through the entire process.

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And now, with all those pesky words out of the way…bask in the glory of Hatch’s Kids building a super-sweet 2017 Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited Hurst Edition. It doesn’t get any cooler than this.

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So let’s hear it for the Austin Hatcher Foundation family and the outstanding influence this project has had in the lives of these young people. Be sure to keep any eye out for this beauty making appearances at automotive events over the upcoming year. It is possibly half-as-cool as the kids that built it but still way cooler than most anyhting else on the street.  You can find out more about the Austin Hatcher Foundation and the amazing work they perform in the lives of kids affected by cancer by visiting https://www.hatcherfoundation.org/  OlllllllO

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Identifying One Man’s Goodness as Greatness

It was with considerable sadness that we learned a few weeks back of the passing of our longtime friend and company spokesperson R. Lee Ermey, or as he was better and more affectionately known, The Gunny.

1The Gunny was, of all things, a movie star. It’s a little bit hard to see how a man who has made a name for himself by acting in movies could be held in such high regard by so many. Let’s face it – Ermey’s role as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket may have been his defining role and anyone who has seen it would have to agree. His performance likely left you blushing a little bit and certainly breaking into a cold sweat at the thought of attending boot camp. Despite his sheer brilliance, that is not to say that this role defined The Gunny at all. He was remembered for his acting but he was only truly defined by his character.

It’s impossible, at times like this, to begin to gauge how much his presence will be missed. For anyone that ever had the privilege to meet the man in person, the experience could only be described as an honor. Gunny had a knack for making each and every person he met feel like they were important to him and, in some little way, I believe they sincerely were. His fans and supporters meant everything to him.

For those who never really had the opportunity to get to know him, the Gunny could best be described as a man that loved his country and his value for those who made it their job to defend her was beyond measure. He loved his family, he enjoyed his collection of firearms and his old Jeep, which he was quick to tell you was nothing fancy- just the way he liked it.

Part of our company’s relationship with The Gunny was his ongoing appearances, on our behalf, in the Rugged Ridge Off-Road Success Center at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas each fall. Despite being in his 70’s, Ermey would tirelessly tend to a never-ending line of fans and admirers for hour after hour and for days on end. Surrounded by military Jeeps and waves of adoring fans, never demanding a break from his post or neglecting to greet every face with a confident smile and a firm handshake. He always seemed to bubble with enthusiasm when one of his more dedicated groupies would beg to be called “maggot” or “scumbag” in that unmistakable stern tone they’d grown to revere. He would never decline and his followers couldn’t get enough.

And then there was the sweet lady who jumped into the line to meet The Gunny at the last minute, right as we were closing down for the day. She knew him, of course, from his role in Full Metal Jacket and was anxious to actually meet him. As we stood there and made conversation during her wait, I mentioned that she should tell The Gunny that she loved him in his role as the Sherriff in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. She clearly was not familiar with this obscure role, as most people aren’t. Take my word, this was by all accounts one of the most-vile characters anyone could ever imagine. Fortunately, she was trusting enough and wanted to make a real impression during her brief interaction with him. When she finally reached the front of the que, she delivered her prompted line so well that The Gunny froze, slowly looked up and stared back at her with a look so aghast, as though he might just run for the exit. It was though he could not fathom a female that would find anything appealing in such a despicable role; nonetheless, she was standing in front of him. Impression made!

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My own personal observations of R Lee Ermey in the times I was fortunate enough to be around him made a pretty deep impression on me too. The Gunny had given so much of his time over the years lending support to law enforcement and giving of himself for our military troops, that it was very common for fans to show up and spend an hour waiting in line to share just a few moments with him, often holding old pictures of themselves with The Gunny. Photos from a time past when they were stationed overseas or serving on a military base in some bleached-out desert somewhere and The Gunny was there for them. Two soldiers who, despite being world’s apart, shared common values and a mutual respect for the sacrifices each has made for the good of others. The Gunny truly got it and he wanted every soldier to know it.

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Ermey’s longtime manager and friend Bill Rogin borrowed from the U.S. Marine Corps Rifleman’s Creed as a written tribute to a man who clearly established himself in a class all his own: “There are many Gunny’s, but this one was OURS. And, we will honor his memory with hope and kindness. Please support your men and women in uniform. That’s what he wanted most of all.”

Semper Fi, Gunny

Godspeed

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The Fine Art of Computer-Assisted Time Wasting

Have you ever seen the children’s book series entitled “Where’s Waldo?”. The premise of the books is over-illustrated pages of mind-boggling artistic detail in which the reader is supposed to scour the colorful artwork in search of the books namesake Waldo, an odd French-looking fellow with a red & white striped shirt and coke-bottle glasses. The task of finding this whimsical character proves to be so eye-straining that I fail to see where the actual enjoyment lies. I usually end up slamming the book shut in frustration and mumbling ill sentiments about this Waldo guy, wherever he is.

But I recently had a revelation while utilizing Google Maps to map out a local wheeling trip. As I scrolled my wireless mouse along the low-res images of miles of back-country Georgia roadway looking for a landmark with which to demark an important side road turn-off, I saw it… a bright red 2-door TJ Rubicon in all of its pixelated glory. Complete with a mild lift and a winch!

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It occurred to me that I was quite possibly on to something and this something could be big. A pasttime for the ages in which one could drive around a virtual world, as captured by Google’s odd little camera cars, and look for random Jeeps, or maybe even Waldo’s Jeep if he were to have one. However, I think Waldo might actually drive a little Fiat 500 convertible or maybe a bicycle with a sissy bar and a basket. Since a retro-themed game is three times as likely to succeed as a completely original game title, I decided to call my new online endeavors “Where’s Waldo’s Jeep?”.2I have to admit that the game and it’s subtle intracacies do not makie it the obvious choice for scientists or people of higher intellectual stature. But if you’re like me and love driving around town spotting Jeeps in traffic and calling them out by their 2-letter designations, you might just find some satisfaction playing “Where’s Waldo’s Jeep?”. And with that, it was time to head to Moab!

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Of course, it didn’t take long to find a jacked-up YJ cruising the town with nothing but a bikini top and a set of balding mud-terrains. Although I can’t make out the text across his windshield, I suspect it says “As Seen On Where’s Waldo’s Jeep”.

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While out west, a short stop in Buffalo, Wyoming yielded this burnt orange JK Unlimited Rubicon parked outside of some random business, possibly a Bank & Trust or a General Merchantile, as they both seem to abound in the old west. With this rig sporting completely stock attire except for an aftermarket bull bar across the front bumper, it makes me ponder whether I should develop some sort of points systems where highly-modified Jeeps can accumulate a higher points value than a bone-stock vehicle. Or vice-versa?

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This Firecracker Red 2-Door cruising the Pacific Coast Highway with the hardtop ON is a true tragedy and honestly nearly drove me to abandon this game and it’s further development entirely. I amagaed to regain my composure and press on to my next destination.

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Stuck in downtown traffic in Haltom City, Texas is where I spotted this nicely modified JK. It’s really hot in Texas so maybe the closed roof is just so that he doesn’t suffer a severely scorched scalp.

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Ooops….that’s a rusty Geo Tracker in Lincoln, Nebraska. That AIN’T no Jeep!

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A blue Wrangler JK in Peoria, Illinois, once again with the hardtop firmly intact. Maybe there needs to be bonus points when you find soft tops or no tops at all. Or any Jeep spotted anywhere in Alaska for that matter. I even looked around four-wheel drive shops in the booming metropolis of Anchorage but still found nothing! I will assume the fact that soft top windows crack like candy glass in cold climates might be at the root of this rarity. I’m not done searching the great white North for a Jeep although I am convinced that they’re hiding way up in the mountains with the yetis.

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No bonus points for a hardtop TJ in Minneapolis, Minnesota but since it is parked in what might possibly be a high crime area, we will pardon this indiscretion.

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This 4-Door JK does have a soft top… BONUS!!! And it’s a fastback-style so that’s extra good. Pretty nice rig wheeling the pavement of Oklahoma City, OK. On a side note: If your vehicle is gonna be featured in a world-reknowned navigational app, you’ve gotta replace that passenger side turn signal bulb.

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Yet another soft top chilling curbside in Niagara Falls, NY. We’re in the Northeast so we might as well swing by the factory in Toledo, Ohio and see where they’re made. Lots packed full of newborn JK’s with no miles doesn’t hold the same thrill as seeing them out in their natural habitat.

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Admittedly, finding Jeeps in the parking lot at the manufacturing plant is much like shooting fish in a barrel; finding them wherever they roam is where the purest thrill is found. Like crossing a bridge in North Bend, Oregon or looking adventurous in full trail gear near the Rubicon Trail in South Lake Tahoe, CA.

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So go to your computer or laptop and log-on to Google Maps, switch to satellite maps and zoom down to the street view to see what you can find and, most importantly, have fun! It’s a tremendous day when your great Jeep adventures never have to end. OlllllllO152106b4ca367891a36776fcdb10f2edd9

The Name’s Bessie…With a Little Heart Over the ‘I’

I’ve noticed an alarming trend over the past few years. It’s not that there is anything inherently wrong with “it” but, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, it’s a fad that bothers me more deeply than I should admit to. What is the popular trend that I’m referencing, you ask? It’s the practice of naming your Jeep. There! I said it!!

1One of my earliest automotive memories was of my dear mother calling our car by name. Not talking to it like a member of the family or even an acquaintance as that might be insane. I can only remember her resorting to vehicular name-calling when things weren’t going pleasingly. When the turn of the ignition was met by labored sounds of a dying battery, she would mutter “C’mon Bessie” between consecutive pulses of the throttle pedal chased by turns of the key. Always calm as if coaxing Bessie to life hinged on this very personal utterance.

 

I can’t remember her ever referring to the car by name on any other sort of occasions. Never did I hear say “Go get in Bessie, kids! We’re going to the package store”- never…not once. She would, however, cheer on Bessie enthusiastically whenever climbing a steep grade that proved burdensome. Never did she comment to my Dad that Bessie was filthy and due a good cleaning. “Bessie” was only used in second-person dialog exclusively and always somewhat impersonally. In fact, I’m fairly certain that my mom used the same moniker of Bessie regardless of what car she was addressing. Whether it was the old VW Beetle, the ’84 Bonneville or any of my father’s vast collection of pickups he owned over the years- the name Bessie was always a constant. One could argue that a classic German model like the old Volkswagen might be more appropriately named with a label that points to its …maybe Ingrid or Helga. While a crude pickup might pass for a “Big Red” or “Ol’ Blue”. And yet Bessie still prevailed.

So what purpose does someone have in naming their vehicles today? I have a strong feeling that cars or, more importantly, Jeeps are given names as a means of expressing a close relationship between driver and carriage. I’ll admit that it does make sense to me that a person would desire to apply a name to an object that occupies so much of their life that it becomes a part of the family. Add to that the fact that I strongly object to calling a Jeep merely an object and I find myself pondering the possibility of beginning a search for a suitable name for my own Jeep. But not really.

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I do think that it would be cool to have a nickname for a car at those times when you take the vehicle in for service. Filling out the shop’s paperwork with only the Jeeps nickname and then requesting you be paged when it’s ready could be quite entertaining, especially if you choose the name carefully. Watching the looks on fellow customers faces as the intercom shamelessly announces “’Nobody’s Business’, Your car is ready” ranks fairly high on the fun scale. Maybe not as fun as having the neighborhood kids help search for your lost dog, who just happens to be named “Poopie”, but still pretty fun.

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We’ve established a questionably firm foundation for giving your beloved Jeep a name but that only brings me to another problem that is not so easily overcome. Why would anyone go on a public forum, such as social media venue like Facebook, and plead with a group of total strangers to assist with the naming of their own Jeep? How is it that this makes any sort of sense?? A creative consensus has never been reached before this day, which means you’re really just volunteering to be endlessly bombarded with horrible name suggestions, everything from nursery rhyme references to obscure movie taglines and everything in between. Nothing original or fitting, at least not in the eyes of those who have fully evolved.

I wrestle with the warped ideals of a person who entertains the thought of bestowing the privilege of choosing a proper nickname for their Jeep to a total unknown, possibly even the likes of a transient or no-account drifter. Is this the type of individual who would also toy with the thought of allowing their own human offspring to be so titled by strangers, Tweeting out from tense confines of the labor & delivery room asking for sir name suggestions for Junior? Is this how we end up with kids named Moon-Unit or Glitter?? Seems pretty likely to me. Who else would find it acceptable to name their children after compass coordinates?

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I would encourage anyone who fancies the idea of giving their Jeep a name to give the concept its due diligence and don’t just resort to soliciting the absurd input of outsiders. If you are unable to compile a list of at least a handful of potential candidates from which to choose, based on color or appearance, then maybe referring to your Jeep as just a Jeep seems a reasonable alternative; at least until the perfect name reveals itself to you in a fever dream or through an other-worldly voice speaking to you from beyond. It’s then and only then that you will know the perfect name for your beloved Jeep.

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And with such supernatural powers combining to reveal that perfect name to you, you’ll want to have special vinyl graphics crafted and tastefully installed on your hood and/or windshield; possibly even have your local tag office stamp your pride & joy a special vanity plate for all to see, so long as your chosen tagline is not considered potty-talk. The clerk at the tag office might not catch it but you can bet that your local peace officers will. Having your Jeeps name proudly displayed will help other motorists gain some sense of the admiration you hold for your Jeep. I can almost hear them muttering it as you drive by them in all your grandeur. “Hey…Look! There goes Dirty Girl!!” OlllllllO

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Kris & Lisa Lavery’s 2008 Wrangler JK RuBARKon

Our newest Jeep to be named an official Rugged Rigs honoree is a 2008 Wrangler X that belongs to the Lavery family of Old Forge, PA. It’s far from stock and since its painted Detonator Yellow, it’s pretty hard to hide in.

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If you’re wondering about the name RuBARKon, you’ll probably be happy to know that name comes from the Lavery’s two adorable kids who happen to be quite the Jeep enthusiasts themselves, Albie & Santina.  Boxers love to get out in the great outdoors and RuBARKon enables them to see places they never would have imagined.

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When Kris, Lisa and the kids bought the Jeep used back in 2016, it was basically stock. A short two years later and this rig is anything but. The addition of a vented hood, bumpers, tire carrier, GRID GD4 wheels, tube doors, snorkel, Hurricane flares, rails and an Exo-Top Roof Rack make this JK more than capable of stopping traffic.

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A full compliment of LED lighting is on board to melt the darkness while a winch recessed into the bumper stands by just in case things go off the rails.  Since Kris has fitted the front and rear diffs with 4.88 gears and armored covers, it seems like he’s kinda hoping things do go a little wrong so he can show his stuff.

20170819_141038_Film1It’s great to see a Jeep family getting out there and using their rig for what it was built for. And when the adventure develops into a full-blown expedition, you can always alter your Jeep to suit your needs. Great Job, Lavery family! Now, roll over and I’ll rub your belly.  OlllllllO

“Seems Like There Is Always a Hitch”

There are a handful of television program on any one of the hundreds of semi-useless channels on your satellite or cable lineup that fail to deliver on their given title. “Finding Bigfoot”, however entertaining it might be, has never actually seen a legitimate sasquatch, much less had any deeper level of engagement with one that c1ould be deemed as “finding”. They’ve certainly never coaxed one into the bed of the rust-stricken dually and toted it home to show the better half. Heck, the entire premise of “Dancing with the Stars” would lead a viewer to believe that the old soft-shoe would be glamorously displayed for us by actual identifiable superstars, rather than some lesser breed of reality show outcast or Hollywood ne’er-do-well breathing heavily and sweating profusely. It seems as though the title is quite commonly not an accurate description of what one can expect to observe.

Have you ever noticed that just about every Jeep you see is equipped with a trailer hitch? Even if not so equipped from the factory, the price of an aftermarket hitch is so minimal that adding one is a virtual no-brainer. Yet, how many of these Jeeps are ever tasked with towing a trailer? I would guess-timate less than 25% of the hitches mounted on Jeeps are ever used for pulling a trailer of any type, maybe even less. Two-door Jeep’s short wheelbase makes pulling a trailer a hair-raising venture at highway speeds while four-door models are often too under-powered for pulling any significant weight, especially on a grade. So what’s the payoff for hauling around the extra weight of a sturdy steel hitch, enduring the reduced departure angles and the constant threat to your tender shins?

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As it turns out, there are plenty of valid purposes for that rear-mounted hitch outside the confines of pulling a trailer. One that I have used on numerous occasions is to increase your Jeeps cargo carrying capacity with the addition of a cargo rack. In seconds, you can add a couple of hundred pounds of payload without sacrificing precious interior space. It’s a must-have for almost any outdoor excursion or a run to the home improvement store. http://www.omix-ada.com/receiver-rack-20-inches-x-60-inches.html

3Another practical use of a trailer hitch is to equip it to serve as a recovery point with the addition of a D-Shackle. While this might not appeal as much to a Jeep owner who stays primarily on the paved roads, the uses can extend well beyond those off-road scenarios. Using the hitch to pull shrubs out of the ground and other landscaping jobs are tailor-made for such a set-up. And then there’s an all-too-often ignored art form called
“Brute Force Lumberjacking” that begs for further exploration. Plus, it just looks cool! http://www.omix-ada.com/receiver-hitch-d-shackle-assembly.html

Maybe the practical and understated is not what you’re all about. If so, consider making a real visual spectacle with a Giga Hook. It has all the same pulling practicality as the D-shackle mount without any of the subtlety. It’s big. It’s strong. It’s a friggin’ gigantic hook. See for yourself- http://www.ruggedridge.com/giga-hook-black-2-inch-receiver-11237-20.html

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If your rig is one that actually spends any time on the trails, your hitch could really stand for a handy upgrade like this one. While there is no replacement for being resourceful when you go off-roading, it sure is nice to have the equipment on hand that makes the inevitable mechanical misfortune more manageable. If you have ever tried to replace a broken universal joint on the trail like a caveman, with stones and sockets, you can truly value the worth of having a press while in such a situation. But a press is in a shop or garage…definitely not on a Jeep. Hence the rocks and bloody knuckles.

That’s where the Mac’s Trail D-Vise proves invaluable. A simple and sturdy hitch-mounted vise provides the ability to press bearing caps, clamp suspension components for welding and any other mechanical wizardry you can muster.

Its simple design doesn’t incorporate a lot of excess materials or bulk, for overall lighter weight, and includes an onboard handle suitable for smaller jobs. For those major repairs, the vise works with standard sockets or a tire tool for greater leverage and maximum grip. Rumor has it that there is even a bottle opener built into the design- seems as though they’ve thought of almost everything. Check it out at http://www.macscustomtiedowns.com/product/TrailD-Vise/trail-d-vise

   Depending on your particular pastime of choice, there are any number of attachments and accessories for trailer hitches that can suit your needs; for everything from hauling bicycles to stowing snow skis. Putting that dormant trailer hitch to good use will help you get the most from your Jeep and help prepare you for that next adventure. OlllllllO

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Justin Howling and his 2014 JK Unlimited #souperwulf

Our very first official Rugged Rig inductee hails from way up north in Windsor, Ontario. Justin began his Jeep journey as innocently as the rest of us. He bought a Jeep because he thought it would make a pretty cool daily driver but with the added bonus of being able to strip the roof and the doors if the mood were to strike. What Justin never counted on was that he was embarking on a whole new way of life.

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Justin has developed an acronym for his beloved Jeep JK that perfectly explains the difference that being a Jeeper has made in his life- Just Enjoy Every Possibility. Whether it’s trail riding, camping,  or exploring the majestic outdoors with any one of several different groups he rides with, Justin has learned the true value of owning a vehicle with no limits.

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“My Jeep gets me to work everyday, it gets me up the side of that mountain and it gets me through the roughest times in life.”…  well-said, Justin Howling, well-said.

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While the internet is full of well-built Jeeps that are shined and polished to perfection, I really prefer to see a Jeep in it’s natural habitat; getting used & abused in the manner for which it was designed. Justin seems to agree with me and he is really familiar with that filthy process. You can even check out his YouTube channel dedicated to his exploits where he lets you ride along on some of his wheeling adventures and see for yourself. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCBoXZyL9GLTmH1jvEIlH1g

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Justin is a great example of what the Jeep lifestyle is all about. There’s something about buying a new car and having it be a life-changing event that may only register with another Jeep owner. Coming to the realization that it’s Your Jeep. Your Adventure. and making the best of every opportunity you can to get out there and experience life is what it’s all about.

Submit your Jeep to be considered for the title of an official Rugged Rigs by emailing photos, details and even your Jeep story to us at ruggedrigs@omix-ada.com and we’ll send you a cool decal for your troubles. Be sure to follow the Jeep lifestyle with us at www.ruggedridge.com/blog 

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We’ll see you all out there!! OlllllllO

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Working the Night Shift

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one. While this sounds like a vague introduction to some sort of seriously uncomfortable introspection. It’s really not. I often lay awake at night and I think about it. Certainly there are others who face the same struggles as I. Ones who, when they have some considerable task or project at hand, toil away at that task while they sleep or, at least, in the time set aside for sleeping. Does it occupy their thoughts, even while they sleep?

1I am unfortunately plagued with this anomaly and I’m not able to find a solution that enables me to move past it. For example, I am currently entertaining the prospect of upgrading the rear differential in my Jeep- something beefy and less prone to breakage than my factory Dana 35. Beginning around 3 a.m. each night, I find myself sifting through the makes and models of trucks that incorporate my desired differential from the factory; noting each one in detail so as to better focus my quest. I see virtual fields of these trucks and I inspect them from a hazy distance as though I am planning my most efficient attack. I ponder what specific drivetrain configurations and trim levels might best offer the possibility of finding the gear ratio that I need. Even in my sleep, I often stroll through the salvage yard’s automotive haystack perusing the array of vehicles; looking with stern devotion for that solitary hidden needle I long to acquire. Certainly this is some sort of odd syndrome that simply hasn’t been named yet.

While my nightly jaunts are usually centered around an automotive theme, I’m sure individuals with varied interests endure similar experiences with a subject that is tailor-made for them. I’ve heard that people whose jobs have a certain level of redundancy to them often find themselves performing that redundant action while they slumber. Like the guy who severs the heads from the chickens at the poultry plant or the lady who refills the soap dispensers in the rest stop bathroom. I much prefer my subliminal strolls through the imagined scrapyard to the ideas of making donuts or filling out tax forms in my sleep, much less decapitating chickens.

Unlike my real self, my subconscious self is extremely capable of multi-tasking too. I am currently committed to the task of rebuilding a Toyota 22R carburetor for a good friend of mine. I’ve already purchased the rebuild kit, with its abundance of gaskets and springs. I have the assembly diagrams printed and all the tools necessary to undertake its renovation. The only thing I have not afforded the mission is the ample portion of time to get it done. Not to worry though…I find myself meticulously dismantling the carbs complex series of linkages and cleaning its countless crooks and crannies. I labor not at a workbench however, as most would, but rather under cover of darkness while I sleep. Each venturi, O-ring and pump diaphragm is attentively tended to with exacting precision- like that of someone wholly awake.

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Despite the fact that I bring it on myself, I do try to justify my particular strain of insomnia with the thought that foolishness sleeps soundly while those blessed with a thirst for knowledge toss and turn in search of answers; ones that might only be found by the light of day. While previewing a job over and over in your mind doesn’t make you any better-prepared to actually do the job, telling myself it does helps me sleep at night, figuratively speaking, of course. I’m sure when I actually hit the junkyard to find my donor rear differential, I’m sure it will seem like I’ve been there before. Like my course was planned.

This past weekend, while I was engaged in another subconscious junkyard expedition, it suddenly occurred to me that I needed to get in my Jeep and drive to Toledo, the birthplace of the Jeep Wrangler and the hometown for the manufacturing of Jeeps since the very beginning. Since 2016, the city of Toledo celebrates their proudest export with a little celebration they call the Toledo Jeep Fest, featuring an untold number of Jeeps from across the country, all gathered in one place. The yearly event features an enormous parade of Jeeps wheeling through the center of town, which is often the highlight of the weekend. If I’m not sleeping, I should probably go!!! Or even if I am??

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And just like that, my semi-lucid brain concocted a haphazard plan to drive my ’93 Wrangler YJ to Toledo, Ohio- a distance much farther then I have ever ventured before in my rattle can. I even bolstered my newfound cause with the premise that my particular Jeep will officially celebrate its 25th birthday this year. What better way to celebrate Jeeps long-standing spirit of adventure than by casting caution strongly into the wind and embarking on a cross-country trek in my own Jeep? Curse the noisy off-road tires and meager fuel economy; let’s take this show on the road! We’ll drive north at speeds that will transform my beloved YJ into nothing short of a blur in the eyes of passersby. A cumbersome beast who has taken up a stationary residence in the slow lane; trudging along in hopes of finding my way to some like-minded individuals dabbling in my same breed of sleep deprivation. Or, at the very least, to take in some really cool Jeeps. Something to fuel my next wave of fever dreams upon my return home.

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And so I will spend many of my precious spare hours over the upcoming months readying the Jeep for the long trip ahead. I’m sure that many of the issues that I need to address in preparation for the journey will busy my mind much longer than they occupy my hands. I suppose it’s just the way that I’m wired. Fortunately for me, I find considerable enjoyment in the preparation for such a trip as I do in the trip itself. Much like the reward of spending time with your kids before they learned to loathe your existence. The pleasure of doing something with them almost paled in comparison to the joy of just being with them.

I plan to document my trip to the Toledo Jeep Fest in August with photos and a journal that relays the tale of my travels. Feel free to follow along at www.RuggedRidge.com/blog . Hopefully it will be all the fun of making the trip yourself without any of the sleepless nights. Maybe you can take the wheel for an hour or so while I catch a few winks?? OlllllllO

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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