I can't recall ever being on a 'wheeling trip where I had to literally sign my life away against such likelihoods as "falling objects, including aircraft." Then again, such is the nature of a D.E.D. Tour.
You know: Dirt Every Day. It's a road-trip philosophy adopted long ago by Pewe and myself, one that mandates not only daily dirt, but adventure at its most core dirtball American form, following the brown dusty road wherever it happens to go, stopping at only the most caricaturized of restaurants, bars, pawn shops, and junkyards, and risking sudden death at any moment in vehicles of a sundry and dilapidated nature. No cushy SUV action here, baby, as you've certainly seen if you've followed our D.E.D adventures in the likes of several flatties and an M715.
Most recently we revealed the humiliating happenstance of flying to Utah, rebuilding a long-abandoned CJ-2A over the course of a few days, then hitting the road in it, only to spin a rod bearing a few miles out of town, forcing us to buy a $500 F-100 to drag the wounded Willys home. Pretty normal stuff for us, actually, but somewhat defeating nonetheless. So, when we had the opportunity for a replay, we took it. When you're offered a free flatfender, what are you supposed to do-not take it? Wrong.
This time it was family, though, as Pewe was gaining back a '48 CJ-2A that he'd built for his father-in-law 20 years ago, back when his own Republic Off-Road shop was around. Of course, there'd be no challenge if the Jeep hadn't also been sitting dormant for nearly 10 years by the time we arrived in Tempe, Arizona-during a rare storm front that would dog us for the next five days-and pulled back the tarp it'd been cowering under. This time we at least suspected that the swapped-in Chevy 3.8L V-6 had plenty of life in it, but no one could guess how baked the seals were inside the TH350 (one of many reasons you really shouldn't have an automatic tranny in the first place), or how vile the decade-old gas had become. We had a wrenching revival ahead of us.
Back when we did the Utah gig, we actually flew all our Jeeping toolboxes to Salt Lake City, but that just took the sport out of it. This time we packed light and foraged for tools locally. And, since a cheapy Taiwan set would be too easy, we hit the local pawn shop (lame-too sanitary) and the Park-'n'-Swap, choosing only the well-seasoned implements that really wanted homes. The scrounge netted us $200 worth of new friends in an olive-drab box, and they'd likely save our fool lives in the days to come.
The vehicular overhaul came easy this time, as the Willys and its bonus of a genuine WWII jeep trailer turned out to be an absolute prize, performing as expected throughout the adventure, but not before reminding us that the stench of varnished gasoline will bond itself to your soul through the pores of your skin and turn away every nose within 10 yards of you for at least a few days. So we were stinking of gas as we pointed the weary Tru-Tracs south outta town, and we were on Pecos Road with civilization petering out on our right and endless desert to the left when the Jeep died for the first time. Then the second. The death sponge at the bottom of the gas tank was going to plague us, and 100 paved miles later in Ajo, Arizona, we bought all the clear plastic fuel filters Napa had to offer. We'd eventually use 'em all.