Scenes From a Jeep

Scenes From a Jeep

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Should I Wheel?

What a tough choice... to wheel, or not to wheel? For those needing a vocabulary catch-up, "wheeling", among the four-wheel drive folks, means to drive off-road. And when a wheeling opportunity comes along like the one in this picture, you have to ask yourself the tough question... "Should I wheel, or should I go?"
But why not? Wheeling is fun! And during a tough winter like this one, more opportunities present themselves than usual. Your average country road can transform itself into miles of unplowed trails. Snowy fields become a giant canvas for your all-terrain tires to paint (provided, of course, you have permission to drive on said canvas). And then you come across a beauty like the one pictured here. A dirt trail, covered with snow, and packed-down by previous travelers. Your inner voice screams out, "Let's do it before we come to our senses!" At that very moment, however, your training kicks in. What training, you ask? Youtube.
Yes, Youtube. The great educator of our times. If you want to know how to do something, or how not to do something, search Youtube. Being the novice wheeler that I am, Youtube is my 4x4 university. I've learned basic Jeep maintenance, the science of lift kits, tire upgrades, and differential gear ratios. I understand that if you're not a Jeeper, you may not want to watch a video about proper drive shaft angles following a 4-inch coil lift. But no one, and I mean no one, will be bored watching a Jeep flip straight backwards as it tries to climb out of a giant hole in the Utah desert called the Devil's Hot Tub. Why, you say, was the Jeep in the "hot tub" to begin with? Because it can, and you don't want to miss seeing it. To test my theory, do your own Youtube search for "Jeep Flop", “Jeep Flip", "Jeep Roll", or "Jeep Rollover". It's amazing stuff, and you're gonna love it for hours and hours.
But this is about education, and after watching a few videos, you'll be impressed at how fast a Jeep can go from upright to upside-down... and sometimes back to upright, then upside-down, upright, and upside-down again. It happens on rocks, in snow, on beaches, on mountains, in rivers, on desert dunes, in parking lots, and suburban back yards. You name the place, a Jeep can roll over on it. 
As you progress in your Youtube curriculum, you'll see that smart wheelers have a buddy standing outside the Jeep. He's called a "spotter". His job is to tell you how you're doing, where to turn, how fast to go, and what obstacle is up next. Yet his main job as seen in many videos is to repeatedly yell "Oh no! Oh no! No! No!" Followed by, "Hey buddy, you OK in there?"
My all-time favorite Jeep edutainment video is simply entitled "Jeep". This video has everything... an enthusiastic Russian-speaking spotter and cameraman, camouflage pants, a successful river crossing, a failed river crossing, a rescue, a rescue attempt that needs rescuing, and a happy ending. You don't need to speak Russian to follow this waterway drama. After the first vehicle crosses the river, listen for the cameraman to say "Cher-o`kee". That's the queue for the Jeep Cherokee to enter the river, roll over, and float down stream with its submerged driver and passenger.
Don't worry, everybody makes it out OK. But look for this bonus lesson as the rescue gets under way... Taking precious seconds off the clock, their buddy on the far side of the river strips down to his undies before he's ready to dive in and help. When he finally does, he's immediately swept away by the current, flailing as he goes out of frame, unnoticed by the others. He recovers himself and is later seen helping to upright the Jeep, still in his undies. By the end, I think the only things permanently lost in the whole episode were the "Cher-o`kee", and the brave rescue swimmer's pants. Let's hope the water was warm. This one video has so much valuable information, that I would trust my own mother to spot me over a steep, muddy hillside, provided she had watched the misadventures of our Russian friends.
How, though, did all this video instruction help me in the snowy Jeep scene shown here? It was a beautiful day, and the trail was tempting. But the Jeeper ahead of me was hesitating, so I asked him what he thought. He wisely replied, "It looks good, except that the hill is facing South and getting a lot of sun. That'll make it pretty slick. Also, look at those tracks... Someone tried to make it earlier, but stopped halfway and had to back down. If you get turned sideways, you'll flip and come rolling down on your side." In conclusion he added, "I'd rather not do anything to alter the course of my Sunday."
Wow. It was like Solomon's wisdom in a Jeep. That educated tone let me know one thing for certain. I was speaking to a fellow 4x4 Youtube University graduate. I nodded, and we both drove off unfulfilled but unscathed, and resolved to wheel another day.