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Jauary 2010 Trail Head - Editorial

Posted in Features on January 1, 2010
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I never learn. Regardless of how many piles of crap I bring back from the dead or turn into at least somewhat-competent and questionably-reliable trail Jeeps. It's not that I enjoy torturing or punishing myself, like Hazel conveniently forgetting to wear his helmet while wrenching, or Trasborg finding some way to add yet another 150 feet of wire to a Jeep that originally only had two switches and three wires to begin with. The problem is that I have an active imagination. Pretty much any Jeep that doesn't have rust holes you can drop a bowling ball through has potential to me. When I buy a new-to-me (used) Jeep, I typically have an unrealistic idea of what it will look like, how easy it will come together, and how well it will perform when I'm done building it. Of course, past experience never comes into play; I simply forget about the parts of the build-up that I hate. Things like fitting a radiator that's two sizes too big for the space behind the grille, routing exhaust that wants to take up the same space as some other necessary component like a starter, steering, or a driveshaft, needing the most expensive or rarest part ever made (water pump, alternator, headers and so on) because it's the only one that will fit, plumbing brake lines with 97 bends per foot, or running complex delicate wiring around razor-sharp objects. All of these harsh lessons are simply deleted from my memory until I find myself there yet again. Bolting on a winch has become bumper-building. Simple skid plate installs have turned into slip-yoke eliminator and CV driveshaft upgrades. Spring-over conversions have transformed into complete suspension makeovers. Even something as ordinary as an engine rebuild has turned into a two-wheel-drive to four-wheel-drive conversion. I only think about the fun and rewarding moments. Many times I honestly believe everything will simply bolt together. Or I dream about how it will start on the first crank and how awesome it will flex and climb up and over impossible obstacles. Because of this, I've hit a wall during the build-up of nearly every involved project Jeep I've assembled. It's usually after a long day of reality when things don't work out how I had planned. I'll often sit and look at my blown apart or freshly cut up and smoldering Jeep and think, "What am I doing? This is never gonna get finished!"

Recently I went on a 60-mile kayak trip from Laughlin, Nevada, to Lake Havasu, Arizona. I suppose to an experienced kayak traveler it's no big deal, since it's down river. I'm not an experienced kayaker. That's the farthest I've traveled in a boat (or anything for that matter) that was powered by me and not a throttle. Surprisingly, the first half wasn't that tough. The river was narrow and the water was moving swiftly. It wasn't at all that difficult to keep a 5mph average. While having beer and burgers near the halfway point at the Naked Pirate Bar in Topock, Arizona, two of my friends decided they were too worn out to continue on. So they called to have someone pick them up. I knew the second half of the trip would take longer and require more paddling. That particular part of the river is much wider and deeper, causing the water to travel slower. Not to mention that even if I did want to quit later on, there was no place to exit and get picked up for the next 20 miles or so. Ultimately there was no way I was going to give up, even though my arms were already sore. I knew that even if I stopped paddling completely, the slow flow of the river would take me to Havasu eventually.

There is no doubt in my mind that I'm not the only one who gets dragged down by a project or difficult task. Typically I like to work on things in big chunks of time. Like two-day welding, grinding, and wrenching thrash-fests. But that kind of time isn't always available. So when your project drags you down or has become a languishing garage ornament, make a list of things that need to get done. Knock out the small stuff when you have 20 minutes here or two hours there. Sure, imagination keeps me motivated, but nothing is more satisfying than actual progress. -John Cappa

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