Last: The Island
I've had my jeep about three and a half years now and looking back on things I feel like I have learned a lot that I could share with everyone.
First off, writing up all my stories has been really fun. This all started as a little book I made and handed out to all my friends and relatives. Later, when it came time to add to the adventures, it dawned on me that setting up a web site would be the perfect way to share my experiences. Doing the whole web site thing has been a fun learning experience too. The best part is getting e-mail from people who totally understand what you are going through, or who were just plain entertained by my misfortunes. I have received e-mail from places as far away as Germany, France, and Israel. Many people write asking for advice or help with their jeep project and I guess that is what this little blurb is all about.
In the very beginning, I looked at my jeep as just another vehicle to drive around, to go camping in, etc. It wasn't until later that I found out there were so many people into jeeps. Well, I shouldn't be so biased, because there are lots of other car enthusiasts out there, but anyway, the jeep grew on me as time went along. Partly it was because I had dumped too much money into it that I didn't want to give up, but the other half was because it was fun to build up and work on something yourself. Something you can be proud of later on. I have been driving around Seattle in the jeep many times and had people give me the thumbs up, or commented "nice jeep" at stop lights. That makes it all worth while.
It's not that my jeep is really tricked out or "cherry", it's not. It doesn't have 45" superswampers on it, with a 10" lift, chrome everywhere, a huge engine, headers, perfect paint, etc. and maybe that's why people like it. Because it's not perfect, but it's human and classic.
Speaking of classic, I have had several people ask what kind of jeep they should get. Should they get a Flatfender, Highhood, CJ5, CJ7, MB. Don't ask me, ask yourself. Look around at other jeeps and get what you like. You can modify anything. The older jeep's won't cost as much initially, but you will end up replacing things just because they are older.
One good piece of advice I just came up with today, is "Take your time". This is something I really haven't learned until recently. I'm in the middle of a ground up rebuild. Well, it's not really that ground up but i'm taking my time doing things. I got back from the last Trail Jamboree and decided to take a lot of stuff apart and fix things right. I was also not in a huge hurry to get everything done, and decided it if took me 6 months, then it would take 6 months but I would try and do it right. The first reason for doing this was a leaking rear-main seal, but one other big factor was I had some place to do a ground up. Up until a few months ago, I didn't have a garage to work in, so any repairs or upgrades I had to do were rushed because of weather, or because I had to put everything away, out of the street at the end of the day. If you want to get serious, make sure you have a good place to work. Rebuilding an engine in a gravel driveway is not fun. Repairs were also rushed because
Anyway, back to "Take your time". My jeep today has a lot of nice features. T-18 transmission, full floating Dana 44, Lock Rite, Winch, 32" mud tires, etc, but it didn't all happen overnight. Mainly it was a money issue, other times I didn't have any place to work, but regardless, it was a gradual change, which was part of the experience. It's no fun going out on the trails if you just walk through everything. You need to gum up your AT tires a few times, get crossed up with your wheels spinning, bury yourself in a mud hole, break down on the trail. You have to look at a section of trail and wonder, how the hell am I going to get through that? It makes you a better person. You also get to know what you really need in your jeep. If you never go near mud, you probably don't need mud tires. If you never go on any radical trails, don't worry about the winch. It's also fun to rely on other people you go out with.
Friends, that's something else that has come out of this whole jeep thing. I have meet many people over the internet, and during runs that have been really fun to hang out and drive around with. Every time I go up to Canada with Rob and Larry for example, I met more people and have more fun. It was also nice to go to the Trail Jamboree and know more and more people. Some people just recognized my "www.halcyon.com/csutton/myjeepadventures" bumper and said hi, and that they liked my stories. That also makes it all worth while, to know that others relate to what you are doing.
Having a lot of jeeping friends has also made fixing things or finding parts a whole lot easier. Way back in the beginning, before I met Don and Dale, the only person to help me out with the Jeep was Al. We both struggled to figure stuff out. Now, if I don't know what I'm doing, there are a ton of people I can ask for help. If I'm looking for parts I can call Kevin, or Richard and Paul down in Oregon, or Herm Tilford, the overdrive man. If all else fails, I just make something up. That's another fun part for me.
I have built a lot of custom stuff on my jeep. My aluminum instrument panel, tire rack, clutch linkage, rear storage boxes, wipers, etc. Building or repairing, coming up with a better stronger, faster way of doing something is almost as fulfilling as driving around, sometimes even more.
Well, thats enough of my rambling for now, but I would like to thank all of you who have sent me e-mail, given me the thumbs up or whatever. It's made stressful times worth it and has helped keep my jeep experience worth continuing....
Next: Trail Jamboree II