One thing can be stated with a great amount of certainty – If you have driven a Jeep for any length of time in your lifetime; you are most likely aware of the constant impact this activity has on your five senses. Sure, there are the favorable ones like the SIGHTS you get the pleasure of experiencing. The beautifully colored light-soaked rides with the top off as the sun descends on the horizon or the gorgeous mountain views that you just couldn’t fully appreciate from any seat in your father’s Oldsmobile. Those images easiest to recall are the ones that are the most pleasing and make Jeep ownership the pleasure that it is.
The flip-side of that same coin are the sensory experiences that are largely less-pleasant. Like those that register with your sense of SMELL. The ever-present odor of oil burning off a hot manifold; something you would never have noticed if you had opted for a mode of transportation that features doors and maybe something that resembles a roof. The distinct scents that you are subjected to when Spring is blossoming and the air is thick with a bouquet of budding fruit trees and the aroma of full-blown floral pollination. I cannot fail to mention that you simply have not lived life fully until you find yourself cruising along a beautiful stretch of countryside only to find out, the hard way, that Farmer Ed has chosen today to clean out the ‘ol chicken coops. The only thing you can do is try your best to guard your sense of taste. As tears well-up in the corners of your eyes, breathe it in! This is what owning a Jeep is all about and this is part of your initiation.
Most diehard Jeepers abide by a ceremonial calendar, of sorts, when it comes to exposing their sense of TOUCH to the elements. We celebrate the annual day when the doors and roof finally come off in favor of a summer top or, better yet, no top at all. Depending on where they reside, this ‘prime’ Jeeping season can vary greatly from as little as a few months to full year-round toplessness (I don’t think that’s a real word, but it should be!) Even with the best of planning, anyone who drives a Jeep is going to, at some time, brave what is known as “Jeepers Summer”- a phenomenon where you set out for a beautiful, warm day of open-air driving in the Jeep, with a giant smile smeared across your face, only to have the sun set on the tail end of your day of frolicking and you find yourself in the midst of what can only be described as unseasonably cold weather. When you’re in a Jeep, it doesn’t have to actually be freezing. When you are in T-shirts and short pants, even 50 degree temperatures will have your knees knocking together as you tremble in a sniffling, huddled mass tucked behind the windshield. Suddenly, controlling the radio knobs becomes a painful process as you fumble with your fingers, frozen & numb from the cold. Pulling the neck of your shirt up over your ears and breathing as hot air as you can conjure into your shirt is one recommended means of survival if you find yourself in such a predicament.
The greatest sensory experience you will likely ever endure is the relentless sonic pummeling that occurs to your sense of SOUND while driving a Jeep. While certainly not as true with a brand new hardtop JK, Jeep owners have become accustomed to an intense level of noise that would likely drive non-Jeepers to insanities brink. Wind noise, creaks, rattles and clunking noises that should cause concern for your vehicles road-worthiness are written off as normal and virtually tuned out by the Jeep owner. This often comes to light when you have someone ride with you that is not so accustomed to these unique character traits of a Jeep and they respond after a few short minutes with questions like “Do you hear that?” or, more likely, “What is that friggin’ noise??” It’s a Jeep thing and they wouldn’t understand. To try and explain it to them would just be added noise.
One side effect of driving a Jeep, that I’ve noticed, is how the concept of making or receiving a cellphone call while in your vehicle is swiftly and permanently discarded. You’re actually three times more likely to get 20 miles to the gallon on your next fill-up than you are to successfully complete a phone call in a doorless Jeep. Even with my soft top on, I would take an enormous dose of divine intervention for the phones ringtone to be heard, much less be able to carry on anything that resembles an actual conversation and I’m certainly not going to sense the miniscule vibrating of the phone over the reverberation from the whirring mud terrains. We’ll just leave the Bluetooth phone calls while driving to the mainstream masses. Besides….who wants to be talking, mouth wide open, when they pass the chicken coops anyway? OlllllllO