For those of you who wheel flatfender Jeeps, every one of your trips is like this one. I’m different, however. I bought a ’17 two-door Wrangler without the Rubicon package, fancy computer dashboard, or even air conditioning. My windows open with rotating cranks, my differentials are both open, and (I’ve lost sleep over this, trust me) my transmission is automatic.
Back to the matter at hand, this two-door Jeep is making a cross-country trip without doors, without any semblance of top, no lift kit, and no lockers. We’ll call it stock-adjacent. The Jeep runs a set of BFGoodrich KM3 tires, rock sliders and bumper from GenRight, a Warn winch, LP9 LED lights from Baja Designs, and that’s it.
The goal is this: Drive across the country, wheel as much as possible, and do all of that while my doors and hardtop are back home in Los Angeles. We’ll call it the Topless Tour, and I plan on getting wet, dusty, muddy, cold, hot, and many kinds of lost.
Below you’ll find my story from the first 24 hours of the trip.
Here we are, it’s officially 2:50pm PST and I’m ready to roll! The rock-abused gas tank is filled to 6/7 its stock capacity, the Rugged Ridge mirrors are installed to keep my doorless journey legal, two bikes are strapped to the spare tire (please don’t fall off!), and as promised, the doors and hardtop are stored safely in my garage.
Move to California, because traveling at 7 mph on the freeway is indescribably fun (read: fit inducing). Elapsed time on highway: 2.4 hours, and I could have covered this distance faster on a pedal-powered bicycle.
This is how you look when you’re avoiding sun poisoning, attempting to listen to Metallica’s Black album, and simultaneously cruising at a liberating 62mph toward the Arizona border. My belongings are normally strewn across the passenger seat, but this time, they’re avoiding becoming airborne thanks to the Smittybilt GEAR Overhead Console and the Rugged Ridge Front Cargo Seat Covers. Radios, maps, flashlights, and snacks are now safely stowed away and within easy reach.
Fast forward a couple hours and I’ve found myself deep within Arizona. The gas is cheap, the humans are few(er), and I’ve spent the last 45 minutes ascending a mountain road in search of a campsite.
The hotel accommodations for this trip include a hammock, sleeping bag, and a pillow I grabbed from the Los Angeles apartment. If it really rains, I’ll break out the tent, but this was the perfect way to rest my wind-burned body and watch the Arizona stars. The alarm clock? The sun will eventually wake me up.
The drive out of the wilderness was far from boring. A few fruitless attempts in 2-Hi made me shift the Wrangler into 4-Low to get up and over the rocks.
Anyone who has driven Interstate 10 has probably seen billboards for “The Thing: The Mystery of the Desert.” I still have yet to stop and discover the mysterious “Thing,” maybe one day…
Hours of monotonous desert highway and buffeting wind makes you pay extra attention to the signs. Why are knives “Guy Stuff?” I’ve seen plenty of gals with knives measuring longer than my lift kit…
First destination was Las Cruces, New Mexico. Home of jagged rock ledges taller than your younger brother, the Organ Mountains, and the seasonally flowing Rio Grande river. I gravitated toward Prehistoric Trackways National Monument, where seemingly endless miles of off-road trails are stowed amongst the Robledo Mountains
The BFGoodrich KM3s love the loose rocky climbs, and once you eventually find the right line, the ledges are a simple task.
I forget sometimes that the bicycles on the back of the Jeep affect the departure angle. Skidplates were abused here.
With no lockers to activate, line choice is of utmost importance when driving this Jeep.
Before making camp, I helped a 2WD friend from a ditch with a quick pull of the Warn winch.