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Jeeping Across America Part Two

Posted in Features on July 8, 2015
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Photographers: Rick Péwé

Taking a loaner rig across the country may be nuts, but it's what I do. Yes it's s 20 year old one-owner rig with 344,00 miles on it, but that isn't the point. Those features are actually part if the excitement, the adventure and the unknown. Anyone can take a new car and drive coast to coast, but that can be pretty boring. My ride is somewhat reliable, and very capable. Adventure awaits on the 2490 miles to LA from Atlanta, and I'll be posting along the way. Fluids are checked and air pressure is good. The A/C is weak but I couldn't find any R12, at least the windows go up and down. And I'm off! Anyone have some good trails to run?

Our finishing touch was gluing the Cherokee badge back on. I introduced the boys to the joys of 'yellow death', which is 3M weatherstrip adhesive, also known as gorilla snot. It comes in black as well and keeps my sandals glued together when they start to delaminate.

Here's the proof; you can't get there from here. A true 344,000 mile XJ. Is it any wonder that the Cherokee has legions of fans, and a zillion more people that are advocates off the venerable 4.0L engine?

The Jeep only gets to run a couple of times a year now, so I decided a quick wash would help. It also drove an ant colony inside the cab to keep from drowning. Big mistake. They love Fritos. And they taste bad.

Pawn shop tools and a thrift store bag made for a handy tool kit for under 20 bucks. I'll pick up more along the way- they have to have the right look and feel instead of the Chinese specials.

A handy cooler came in the form if a waterproof bag stuffed in a thrift store suitcase. $3.99 makes for a cheap way to keep your water cold.

On the road! It's 146 miles from Atlanta to Birmingham, Alabama. The trip was uneventful other than the headlights were adjusted too low. High beams made it drivable though, and I kept it at 60 due to the cracked tires.

About a hundred miles out of Birmingham I noticed an odd smell in the Jeep, and it wasn't me. Eventually I saw what I thought was some smoke inside but I wiped my glasses and it disappeared. Then the smoke came billowing up from behind the seat so I decided it was time to bail out. Luckily it was only the carpet under the rear seat that flamed on- due to the muffler resting against the floorboard. I dowsed the flames and cut out the offending piece. What would be next?

The worst was yet to happen. The smoke inside from the carpet was bad enough, but down the road more smoke billowed out the back of the Jeep. The transmission was slipping and it wasn't from lack of fluid. As I watched the speedometer go down the tachometer went up. I was dead in the water, one mile from Mississippi, and 20 miles from civilization.

As anyone with friends would do, I reached out to those that could help. Keith Bailey from the Off Road Connection in Birmingham trundle out the 100 miles with a trailer to haul the XJ back to his shop. Sam Gillis came too and we pushed the dead weight onto the trailer and headed back to Birmingham. Next: How I got back on the road!

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