Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Hiker's Perspective on 4wheeling the Rubicon Trail


The Auburn Journal has just published a great article from a hiker's perspective on 4wheeling the Rubicon Trail after his attendance at the 62nd Annual Jeeper's JamboreeThe Rubicon Trail Foundation's Facebook page had this to say about the article:
Here is an article in the Auburn Journal written by Eyragon Eidam. Eyragon is an admittedly avid back packer, had his core beliefs of the trail and its users rocked this past weekend at the 62nd Annual Jeepers Jamboree. Here are a few "quotes" from the journalist who just got bit by the off road bug:

"I expected a Mad Max environment, it's nothing like that, people are respectful and friendly."
"This is cleaner than most hiking trails I've ever seen."
"I'm going home and convincing my wife to sell the Honda and buy a Jeep."

We look forward to seeing you and your family on the trail Eyragon!

The article includes some snippets from interviews with Bob Sweeney, president of Jeepers and Jeep Jamboree Inc. and Sean Russell, director of the Rubicon Trail Foundation.  Perhaps the best part is the focus on protecting the environment and preserving this trail for future generations:
Despite criticism to the contrary, organizers and drivers with the Jamboree were very conscious of their environmental “tireprint” on the rugged, wild landscape. In addition to environmentally friendly oil spill clean up kits and a pack-it-in, pack-it-out mentality, participants could be seen stopping trailside to pickup errant litter left by other trail users.
Sweeney said these ongoing efforts will not only help to ensure the use of the trail for future years, but also help to keep the area a place people want to visit in between Jamborees.
“We’re more environmentally conscious than hikers,” Sweeney said.
Sean Russell, director of the Rubicon Trail Foundation, said partnerships among government agencies, the Jamboree and volunteer groups are key in preserving the trail for future generations.
Head on over to The Auburn Journal to read the entire article and see for yourself the positive impression we made in the mind of a non-4wheeler.

Mom's Gun Saves her Jeep Wrangler


Diane Olearnick returned home one day to find that her house had been burglarized.  Her home was ransacked, and among the many items that were stolen was a spare key to her Jeep Wrangler.  The thief returned the following night for the Jeep, but she heard him sneaking through her side yard gate.  She said:
I heard the back gate open. You can hear it pretty loudly in the house. And it alerted me. So I went off my balcony to check and I saw a man getting into my car.  I grabbed my gun, ran downstairs and ran out the front door and met him as he was backing out. So, I started firing.
She followed her Jeep out to the street and unloaded the entire magazine into the Jeep.  The thief escaped out the passenger side door and fled.  Her Jeep was left with numerous bullet holes, broken glass, and blood stains.


Commentary on the altercation can be found at Easy Bake Gun Club.  WTVM out of Columbus, Georgia also reported on the story including an interview with the victim; their TV news report can be seen below:



Saturday, July 26, 2014

What Number is Your Wrangler?


As a means of celebrating the million-JK milestone, Jeep has a neat app on their Facebook page that allows you to submit a photo of your Jeep along with its VIN number, and they will provide you with a customized photo that includes your Wrangler's production number.  You may upload and create as many images of your Jeep as you wish.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Next Jeep Wrangler Could Target Crossovers


As expected for such an iconic vehicle, news and rumors about the upcoming redesign of the Jeep Wrangler for the 2017 model-year continue to pour in from every corner of the automotive press.  That recent batch of articles were published after the Jeep brand head Mike Manley made some comments at a press event regarding its redesign:
You're going to see continued improvements in terms of the powertrain package . . . We've got a lot of experts at this moment in time working on that project.
Since the Wrangler continues to set ever-higher sales records, one would think that the "Jeep formula" is already figured out and redesigning a new generation of the vehicle would be straightforward - evolve the current JK to be better in every way.  Unfortunately, government meddling in the free market means ever-stricter fuel economy standards must be met as legislators attempt to rewrite the laws of physics.  Jeep's engineers are forced to walk a very fine line, as their customer base demands that the Wrangler remains true to its roots while government imposes cookie-cutter regulations.  It's no exaggeration to say that the Wrangler's (and the entire Jeep brand's) hard-earned reputation are on the line.

Instead of rightly pointing his finger at government regulators, Mike Manley is using the Wrangler's popularity amongst the mallcrawler crowd as Jeep's reasoning for pursuing fuel economy and comfort with its redesign:
You can't sell 19,000-plus retail Wranglers [as the brand did in May] to people who just want to go off-roading.  Why would, for example, somebody else's SUV that's really an on-road 'soft' SUV not be for me a genuine target for Wrangler?
My feeling is that the Wrangler truly has no competition in the United States:

Jeep Extracted from the Yellowstone River at an Estimated Cost of $10K


Due to their reputation for benchmark-setting capability, stupid people sometimes push their Jeeps too far.  Unfortunately, this oftentimes winds up making the rest of us Jeepers look bad.  This recent story about a Jeep owner who drove into Montana's Yellowstone River is one such incident.

The Billings Gazette published the following article after the Jeep's occupants were rescued by the local Sheriff's Department:
Four people had to be rescued from a sandbar by a Yellowstone County Sheriff Department’s boat after their Jeep Rubicon floated away from the Buffalo Mirage Fishing Access Site on Sunday around 7 p.m.

Three men and a woman were in the car. A 26-year-old man was driving when the vehicle went past the high-water mark, according to Deputy Dave Muhlbeier. The Jeep began to sink and started to fill with water. The sheriff’s boat picked the four up on the sandbar.

The other people in the car were a 21-year-old woman and 22- and 24-year-old men.

Dave Hendrix, who was running his dog nearby, said “the kids decided to turn around in that river and the river caught them.”

The sandbar is about 1,000 yards down from the fishing access site, also known as Sportsman’s Park.

The car is still in the river, and Muhlbeier said it is the driver’s responsibility to remove the vehicle. He also said Fish, Wildlife and Parks may issue a citation to the driver for driving below the high-water line.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Life-Long Jeeper Earns His Trail-Rating at Moab


I always find it refreshing when an automotive journalist who isn't an offroader gets to experience the fun and adventure of real 4-wheeling.  Road & Track Magazine recently published an editorial on the Jeep/Mopar media run at Moab, Utah's 2014 Easter Jeep Safari during which their editor David Gluckman, who has been a lifelong Jeep fan but who has never actually gone offroading, wrote about his excitement and enjoyment of Moab's trails and the 4-wheeling culture.

Every year at the Easter Jeep Safari, Jeep and Mopar reveal several concept vehicles upgraded for offroad performance; this year was no different.  As offroading has become increasingly mainstream, broader coverage of major events such as this by more diverse media outlets has given the traditionally sports-car-oriented Road & Track Magazine the opportunity to provide their unique perspective on the vehicles, the trails, and the offroad motorsport in general.  This article is an entertaining read, with the author's impressions of the vehicles and his amazement at their capabilities.

The final conclusion after the Moab adventure: the author is dying to return to explore more trails, but next time with his own Jeep.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ecoterrorists Continue to Attack OHV Recreationists


Ecoterrorism is an ongoing tactic used by the anti-access faux-environmentalist groups to discourage legal motorized and equestrian recreation in multiple-use areas.  From burning down ski lodges and vandalizing SUVs on dealership lots to attacking fishing boats and setting crude booby traps in the woods, environazis show no respect for private property and human life.  You can read about their horrific tactics yourself, as found in Earth First!'s Death Manual.

It's usually only the big instances of ecoterrorism that make the news, but little incidents happen all the time.  As someone who partakes in a variety of forms of mechanized recreation that are frequently the focus of ecoterror attacks (4-wheeling, ATVing, motorcycling, mountain biking, river rafting) I run across little-known incidents quite regularly.  Here are just two examples from the last week:

An OHV trail outside of Flagstaff, AZ has been booby-trapped with at least 5 pieces of spiked rebar in an effort to disable vehicles and injure trail users.  From the Arizona Game and Fish Department's Facebook page:
Law Enforcement needs your help! Someone has been purposely placing sharpened rebar on and near forest roads in the Happy Jack area. Spiked pieces of rebar slashed at least eight tires over the weekend. It appears the rebar is being placed in areas frequented by off-highway vehicles (OHV). If you have any info about who may be doing this, contact Forest Service law enforcement at 928-527-3511.
Trail spike concealed in an OHV trail
“The end of the rebar has been flattened and sharpened to a point and the exposed point has been painted to blend in with the road surface,” said Mogollon Rim District Ranger Linda Wadleigh. “The objects pose a serious threat to everyone, and that doesn’t just mean people recreating on a motorcycle or OHV, it includes people walking, hiking and even wildlife. We are taking this very seriously and asking the public to keep an eye out and report suspicious activity in the area.”
Trail spikes extracted from an OHV trail

Ecoterrorism is a real problem with real victims.  In this week's second news story, outdoorsman Shane Hamilton and his family are the innocent victims of malicious intent to murder.  Instead of trail spikes, Shane was killed by a cable or piano wire strung between trees across an ATV trail, another common booby trap that the anti-access faux-environmentalists commonly employ.  From their Visit Key West Facebook page:
Karrissa Hamilton . . .  is part of the team that brings you this page, and the website associated with it.

She and her husband Shane were on vacation with their two children over #July4th weekend in Bryson City, Swain County, North Carolina. They had JUST arrived at their lodge that day. Shane took their 10 year old son to go ATV riding (they chose the lodge singly on their ability to be able to do this, so this was permitted), but something terrible happened. Someone with malicious intent had strung a metal cable across one of the trails. Shane did not see it. Thankfully, their son, who was riding on the back behind him, was not injured.

Shane, however, did not make it. He died from his injuries.

To add further insult to injury, we are told that the Swain County Sheriff's Office will not take any action, and will conduct no investigation. The property owner is being uncooperative, and whatever bubba system they have in place is keeping even the very STORY of the incident at bay. No news articles, no coverage, nothing.

Besides the devastating loss of her one true love, with whom she has been since they were high-school sweethearts, Karrissa must now deal with the financial and legal struggles that come with an event like this. 

The "environmental" movement is a good cause, but when crazy activists with a malicious agenda use it as personal justification for injuring and murdering innocent people, it hurts their cause even more so than the general anti-mechanized access movement does.  For people who believe our natural resources should be protected FOR public enjoyment rather than FROM the public, the Blue Ribbon Coalition is the world's premiere environmentalist organization.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Top 10 Used Overland Vehicles

Overland Journal's own Expedition JK

Expedition Portal is the go-to website for all things overlanding.  It is the online companion to their publication Overland Journal.  Their editor recently published an article covering what he believes are the Top 10 Used Overland Vehicles, and the Jeep Wrangler JK ranks third on the list.

From the article:
The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited JK was a game-changer for Jeep as an overland vehicle. These vehicles have proven to be reliable, supremely capable and easily modifiable. More so than any other vehicle on this list, you could take a stock Jeep Rubicon Unlimited and drive nearly any road, anywhere in the world, without modification. From the Rubicon Trail to the jungles in Guatemala (I have done both with them). They are simple, robust and have considerable interior storage space. They are also available on most continents now, including South America, Australia and Africa, so service infrastructure is improving. However, the Jeep Wrangler is a bit harsh and unrefined, so driver fatigue will be higher and NVH will take its toll on longer road sections.

    Pros:
    Class-leading capability
    Simple design and highly modifiable
    Ready for a round-the-world, right from the factory (Rubicon trim)

    Cons:
    Rough and tumble nature results in more driver fatigue
    Limited payload (about 1,000 pounds)
    Difficult to mount roof loads

Summary: Jeep surprised us all with this runaway hit. It is the real deal.

Editor’s Field Experience: Editor has owned or long-term tested a half-dozen variants of the JK Unlimited.  One was owned for two years and driven the length of Mexico and Central America to the Darien Gap.  Current fleet includes the long-term test Overland JK.  Overland Journal had an 18 month long-term test JK.  We have yet to experience a single warranty claim with any of these vehicles.
The Jeep JK is bettered by only the 100-Series Toyota Land Cruiser and the Toyota Tacoma due to their broader use in obscure countries and their higher payload and cargo capacities.  Given those two vehicles' intended purpose as overlanding vehicles in contrast to the Jeep's intended focus on rockcrawling capability, this assessment makes perfect sense.  But as Jeep has expanded the capabilities of their signature open-top vehicle to include the long-wheelbase 4-door Unlimited and much-improved suspension, drivetrain, and interior comfort, the Wrangler has become much more suited to overlanding in its current iteration.  As prices for used models continue to drop, the overlanding community will further refine this platform.

Be sure to read the rest of the article, as it provides some helpful insight into what makes the Jeep Wrangler and other world-class vehicles so appreciated by overlanders.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

2014 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition

Car and Driver's awe-inspiring Willys illustration
Jeep is known for producing special editions of their vehicles, and the 2014 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition is amongst the most distinctive.  The current car enthusiast magazines have really taken a liking to the Willys, with Motor Trend comparing it to the Toyota FJ Cruiser and now Car and Driver writing a standalone review.

The Willys Wheeler Edition is essentially a basic Sport model with some blacked-out Sahara model trim pieces, the Rubicon's BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires and rock sliders, and some unique decals.  It is available as either a 2-door Wrangler or a 4-door Wrangler Unlimited.  It is not as much a high-performance version of the vehicle as it is a tribute to the model's storied past.

From the Car and Driver article:
So why is it great? As in the war, the current Jeep has an improvisational quality—pitching in wherever needed, filling many roles besides the one for which it was designed. The Wrangler is a great off-roader, sure, but despite its antiquated dynamics, it proffers its own kind of sportiness. Unzip the rear windows, peel back the top, and unhook the doors, and you’ve just converted the Wrangler from a winter safety cell to a carefree summer cruiser, ready to bomb down either a beach or a two-track with the same messy kind of joy.
As I wrote in an earlier blog entry, the Jeep Wrangler is one of the most fun and expressive vehicles you can own.  Special edition Jeeps add to the fun of ownership of such popular vehicles by differentiating them and enhancing their personalities.  The Willys Wheeler Edition honors the past of its predecessors and our servicemen.


Basic Wranglers Are Simple Fun


As a 4wheeler, I am obviously a big fan of the Rubicon model of the Jeep Wrangler JK.  The Rubicon's upgraded offroad equipment (stronger front axle, different locks front and rear, deeper transfer case and differential gearing, rock sliders, sway bar disconnect, etc.) versus the lesser models adds cost but returns big gains in trail capability, but that doesn't mean a bare-bones Wrangler isn't a fantastic vehicle in its own right.

AutoGuide.com has reviewed a 2014 Jeep Wrangler Sport S and come to the same conclusion.  From the article:
Like the Mazda Miata, the Wrangler is an unlimited fun machine. It’s a vehicle everyone needs to drive at least once in their lives. Nothing on the market gives the same raw, utilitarian feeling. I’ve driven several versions of the Jeepiest Jeep and one thing is always true: I feel like a kid again within minutes of getting behind the wheel.
In a world of ever-more-homogenized cars, the Wrangler is one of the last holdouts of fun.  Of course there will always be the stale criticism (and oftentimes slander) from oblivious and condescending publications such as Consumer Reports, but we can mock their drivel along with the rest of the automotive enthusiasts as we enjoy unique and expressive vehicles.  AutoGuide agrees:
And it may be that youthful feeling that has given this Jeep one of the largest diehard fan bases in the entire automotive world. Owners of Wranglers live and breathe Jeeps. They’re part of secret society that gives each other the “Jeep wave” as they pass by on the street.

Everyone knows what makes a Wrangler Rubicon awesome, but the article makes a great argument in favor of the basic Wrangler Sport, either as a basic and fun street vehicle, an entry-level 4wheeler, or as a platform for an extensively modified Rubicon-shaming extreme offroader.  Regardless, the Wrangler is a personality-laden funmachine for people who enjoy life to the fullest.  The article's verdict:
The Wrangler is especially quirky and that’s a big part of what makes it appealing. Jeep owners are proud to mount stickers on their rides declaring “it’s a jeep thing you wouldn't understand”. Even though I’m not an owner, I fully understand the affection people have for these unrefined off-roaders. They’re unique vehicles with go anywhere capabilities that promise freedom and a good time.