Each month, we talk to experts about how you can survive the various scenarios that could come your way while wheeling or in the Great Outdoors, from bears and gators to your Jeep plunging off a mountain or into a body of water, as well as skills you should have. This month, we’ve got some of your unbelievable letters of survival.
J-Date (aka Jeep-Date)
I had started online dating and found this girl whose profile said she liked four-wheeling, so I asked her out and we decided to take my Wrangler on this new trail I’d just heard about called Yellow Bear Gulch near Black Bear Pass in Colorado -- so new, only the locals know where it is and few have been able to get over the first obstacle, so make sure you ask one if you want to wheel it. We got to the first obstacle and it was a hillclimb with a bit of a ledge at the top, so it required a little gas but I gave it a little too much as I crested and discovered too late it was a sheer drop-off. I rolled the Jeep twice and we landed in a tree, which broke our fall then dumped us into the river, which was raging. We were both OK, and so was the Jeep, but she was screaming as we were caught in the rapids. There was nothing we could do but go along for the ride, and her screaming got louder as we pounded into the rocks and trees on either side of us. Finally, a big rock stopped us and I was able to drive over it and get us out of the river. But we weren’t done trying to survive -- the only way out was through a super deep mud pit and my Jeep got stuck. I was a gentleman and let her drive while I stood in the waist-deep mud and pushed us free. Once we hit pavement, I asked if she wanted to get coffee but she said no and that she just wanted to go home. Her Facebook status: “Worst date ever -- I almost died.” Mine: “Best date ever.”
Me and my buddy Jake decided to go to Mexico for Christmas break from San Diego State (go Aztecs!). I was all “We need to get the best tequila,” and he was like “Yeah, man, Rosarito Beach!” and I was all “Yeah, man!” My mom was all “There’s a travel warning,” and I was all “You only live once!” so Jake and I took my CJ down. We had to go on this dirt road to get to the bar and we were the only Americans in the whole place. We order the tequila and everything’s going OK, but then these two Mexican dudes walk up and are all “You guys don’t belong, come with us,” and Jake’s all “We’re not going anywhere with you,” and I’m all “No way, man,” and then they took out their guns and no one tried to help us, so we had to go into this back room with them. Jake was all “You need to let us go, we’re just college kids,” but the Mexican dude said, “I’m calling your parents and telling them they won’t see you again unless they give us $10,000.” He asks for our cell phones, and I said, “You can’t have our phones,” and then the other guy said he was going to cut off half my tongue if I didn’t stop talking back, so I gave him my keys and he went outside to get our phones. When he came back he said, “You have a Jeep?” We immediately bonded over that and started doing shots of some of this awesome tequila and learned they were from Los Zetas, the biggest drug cartel in Mexico. Turns out these guys wheel all the time and love Jeeps. As we were leaving, the one dude said, “You know we would have killed you, right?” Moral of story is, Jeeps save lives -- and tongues. P.S. I got a cool nickname too from the trip: “Lengua Blanca” (white tongue).
Chula Vista, CA
All Washed Up
My wife and I were vacationing in Oregon and doing some camping and fishing, when we thought we saw what looked like a Jeep in the water not far from shore. We waded out and discovered it was a Grand Cherokee. We managed to get the WJ on land with help from fellow campers. Not surprising, the engine was flooded, and the interior was destroyed, plus there was rust in a bunch of spots. And curiously, it was right-hand drive. I’d heard about stuff floating over here from the tsunami in Japan, but a Jeep?! Without the VIN I couldn’t figure out who the owner was or even the dealership, so we figured we’d make it a ground-up project Jeep! We haven’t started rebuilding it yet, but we did name it: Project Radioactive! This may not have been about me surviving, but that Jeep is certainly a survivor.
Patrick and Ellen D.
Snakes on the Plain
I spotted a barn-find M-170 that a local farmer had on his property. I decided to talk to him, and he didn’t really seem to know or care what he had. Said it was on the property when he bought the land a couple years ago and that he’d sell it to me. I checked it out and it must have been put to bed with fluid and everything, because it fired right up. He told me I could tool around his property in it as the test drive, so I did and found a hillclimb. About halfway up, I started to hear this hissing sound. Next thing I knew, a rattlesnake stuck its head through a hole in the firewall and was heading right between my legs! I couldn’t stop the truck and get out on the hill, so I braced for it -- he took a nibble on my right thigh then slithered under the seat. I backed the truck down and raced back to the farmer, who shooed me to the passenger seat and took the wheel to race me to the hospital. We went back up the same trail I was just on, because he said it was a shortcut. Despite my agony and fear, I did notice the truck wheeled really well. Everything turned out fine at the hospital, and when we were back to his house, I knew I needed to make an offer and not haggle after how helpful he’d been, but he decided after test-driving it himself, it was too good to sell. So I guess you could say I survived a snake in a Jeep, but I wish I had a Jeep instead of a bite!