Jeeps Running Out of Gas.

Jeeps Running Out of Gas.

I was remembering today how we ended up with our cat Ashley. My son Scott had run out of gas in his 1985 Jeep Cherokee. He was too far away from a gas station to tow him and a long way from a place to buy a gas can. I happened to remember that an old friend lived just down the road from where he was stranded.

We drove my Jeep over to his house and borrowed his gas can. Which already had gas in it! He told us to bring it back sometime later.

Scott took it back the next day. In exchange for the use of the gas can, Scott agreed to adopt one of their new kittens. His brother Will was thrilled. He named the cat Ashley.

A few years later, Will had his own running out of gas episode. No cat this time however. He called to tell me his Jeep had died in the middle of the road. In fact, it was in the middle of an intersection. I was quite a distance away so I told him to call our friend Jenny who lived nearby.

She got there and with the help of some other motorists who were blocked by his Jeep got him pushed out of the road. I was trying to diagnose the problem over the phone as I drove. I suggested several things to check while they waited.

When I arrived, I checked the fuel rail for pressure and only vapor came out. The fuel pump was also making a funny sound. Will insisted he could not be out of gas. Finally I sat in the driver’s seat and tried to start it myself. I noticed there were a lot of miles on the trip odometer and the gas gauge read E.

Despite his assurances that it had plenty of gas, I suggested that we tow it to the gas station just a block away and see what happened. Actually, I realized I could coast to the gas station with just a short tug on the tow strap.

My helpers were very concerned with my ability to time a gap in traffic and coast down the hill to the gas station on the left side of the busy four lane road. However, I managed to drive it right up to the pump and stop with no drama. After just a few gallons were dispensed I hit the key and his Jeep started right up.

We did later find an electrical problem that was causing stalling and excessive fuel consumption. But in that, instance he was simply out of gas.

Our friend Jenny, who had come to his aid, has had a couple of instances where she has run out of gas herself in her lifted Jeep Cherokee. Once, she had just dropped her kids off at her ex’s house when she ran out. I picked up her gas can from behind her apartment and brought her some fuel to get her to a station.

Another time, I was just arriving at a business appointment when she called saying she had run out of gas on the side of the highway. She had to wait there over an hour while I finished my meeting and came to check on her. With no handy gas can, we decided to tow her Jeep to the nearest station. The tricky part was negotiating two traffic lights along the way. Since we had to pass right by the sheriff’s office, I was a bit concerned about being cited for improper towing. Luckily, there were no law enforcement officers in sight.

Well, at least not until we turned into the gas station. There were three patrol cars in the parking lot and one of them almost pulled in front of us as we turned in! Thankfully they paid no attention to us. Maybe it was break time for them.

My funniest running out of gas experience has to be the time Scott and I went off roading in Livingston, Ky. Sadly this place is no longer an off road paradise, but it was then.

I knew my Jeep was low on fuel when I loaded it on the trailer but I was not worried because we would be unloading and leaving the tow rig at a truck stop at the entrance to the trails. When we arrived, we called the group and I think it was Matt who agreed to come meet us and guide us to the playground.

We unloaded the Jeep and then secured the trailer and tow rig behind the truck stop. The fuel pumps were about two hundred yards away up a slight hill. The Jeep ran out of gas about half way there!

We debated on unlocking the trailer and towing the Jeep to the gas pump or waiting for assistance and the embarrassment of being towed to the gas pump. We tried to push it, but the slope was just a little too much for the rolling resistance of the aired down tires.

We impatiently waited for Matt to arrive and tow us to the pumps. To add to an already frustrating problem, the fuel pump refused to prime. I had to use a bottle to catch some gas from the nozzle and pour it in the carb to get the old 2.8L Jeep to fire up.

I have done my best to keep the tank topped up from then on. I also top off the tank before unloading the Jeep from the trailer when possible.

If you have an entertaining running out of gas story, please share it in the comments.
To get more distance from a tank of fuel in your Cherokee, see these gas saving tips.
[phpbay]mpg jeep, 5[/phpbay]

Jeep Girls Do It in the mud.

Jeep Girls do it in the mud

This weekend as I was driving Janice’s Jeep I was amused at the various reactions that we got to the sticker on the back of her Jeep Cherokee. The thumbs up we got at 11:11 was the inspiration for this article.

I got this sticker for her after the Cherokee Trails International Rally. At the time is was common for even large scale performance rallies to begin late. I take great pride in my logistics skills, so I was determined that I would have my rally start on time.

One of the common failings is getting control workers to their stations on time. Getting a bunch of cars guys going early on Saturday morning is just too much to ask. My solution was to use a bunch of car women.

This particular group of women is very skilled at making things happen. I knew they were my best hope for having things ready to go early on Saturday morning.

Janice was in charge of getting the finish crew to their location. So they could have a bit of extra sleep, I arranged for them to come in from the opposite end of the road. This is easy when it is dry. However this particular day it was not dry.

The finish crew girls were faced with a very muddy climb to their location. Luckily they had their Jeeps for transportation. Well, one girl actually had a Samaria, but it made it too. By the time the course opening cars made it to them, they were set up and even had a tarp stretched across their hatches to make a nice cover to work under.

The Jeep girls got it done that day. My rally started exactly on time. And the all girl stage crew was a hit with both the contestants and the press coverage of the event.

Jeep Girls doing it in the mud

I get amused however at the responses she gets to the sticker. The ones that seem to find it the most risqué are church people. She even had someone leave her a nasty note while her Jeep was parked in the First Baptist Church Parking lot.

If anyone had had the balls to ask me about the sticker, I would have asked them about the Apostle Paul’s advice to pray without ceasing. Jeep girls do it in the mud.

Sports car people and off roaders are normally the ones to give thumbs up as they pass. There is often a surprised look on peoples’ faces when they see me driving instead of Janice.

One night while waiting for my son to get out of a ball game I heard some high school guys walking up behind the Jeep and read the sticker out loud. They tried to be cool as they walked by the window, but I heard one of them say;” Yo, that was a dude driving!” I could not stop laughing.

When we first started attending the Metaphysical Church where we go now, the guest speaker that day – who had passed us on the Interstate – wanted to know who Jeep Girl was. She thought the sticker was way cool and wanted to meet the person who owned that Jeep. She appreciated both the innuendo and the attitude represented by the message.

As I learn more about people and especially about the different ways that people express their spirituality, I continue to be amazed at the inconsistencies. It seems those that preach love and tolerance are the least likely to show it. People who express themselves through their vehicles are much more tolerant and caring about others.

Having lived on the fringe of social acceptability but still on the “safe” side of the fence for years, I had been led to believe that the “others” were a mean a vicious lot. Only evil could come form associating with people who believe differently than I do. I was taught to fear people who looked different from me or practiced and different traditions.

Now that I have crossed over and begin to mingle with people outside the Southern Baptist umbrella, I see that there are people of all types who are much more loving and accepting than the Baptist I grew up with. I learned a lot in my Baptist studies, but not very much about love and acceptance.

I still love the attitude expressed by the “Jeep Girls do it in the mud” sticker. It is an attitude of doing what ever it takes to get the job done. The, “I am not afraid to get dirty to accomplish a task.” attitude. The allusion to sex in the mud also brings on a naughty smile.

[phpbay]jeep sticker, 10[/phpbay]

Goodbye to Zelda

Zelda the cat in the grass
Zelda the cat in the grass
I have never really been a cat person. In fact when I was younger I was allergic to cat and would break out in red whelps whenever I was exposed to cat hair.

I am much more of a dog guy. I love my big lovable mutt Smash. We love to romp in the woods together and enjoy the outdoors.

This cat however, won me over with her unconditional love. She would always rub against me every time I was in range. She would walk a figure eight between my legs. I was always tripping over her in the mornings as she refused to get out from under my feet.

At night her favorite place to sleep was on top of me. If I lay on my side she would be on my hip. If I had an itch under the covers, she would pounce on my hand. She had a very loud and soothing purr that would always boost my mood as she lay beside or on top of me in the bed.

She was a little gray cat that my son rescued from the animal shelter. She had been with us less than a year. I did not realize how much I had grown attached to her until this weekend when my son found her dead in the yard. Apparently she had been killed by a dog bite.

I try to think of the happy times when I would pick her up and cuddle her and tell her that she does not even notice that I don’t like cats. She never did notice. She just cuddled and purred to me.

I had never known a cat to purr so loudly or so often. Her purr would vibrate the whole bed when she lay beside me. She was such a sweet and loving animal.

I am trying to make sense of her death by looking at things metaphysically. I do remember one day recently thinking that if she never purred like that to me again I would feel really sad. That was an accurate prediction. I am very sad that I will never feel her purr for me again.

I know that her death means there is some part of me that has died or that I think needs to die. I am looking for that part.

For now I am going to try to think about what she taught me about love. She loved me and showed me affection even thought I did not like cats. She won me over with her love and purring. I never even minded that she would nip at my legs in the morning after I got out of the shower. She was a very loving little spirit. I guess her job here was done. But I miss her.

From Street Car to Rally Racer to Rock Crawler.

From Street Car to Rally Racer to Rock Crawler.

The metamorphosis of a Jeep Cherokee

Scuffy II started out as an ordinary little Jeep Cherokee. When I was ready to build my rally racer, I wanted a two door Cherokee with a five speed transmission, six cylinder engine and 4 wheel drive.

An Ebay search turned up almost what I wanted. There were only two problems. The Jeep was an 88 with the Renix engine controller and it was in Pennsylvania.

However, the price was right so I made a deal, hooked up the trailer and headed north. My dad and my son went along for support.

We arrived early in the morning to pick up the Jeep. We were expecting to have some fun loading it because the owner said the clutch would not disengage. This was one reason it was being sold cheap. I noticed that even though it was very cold out side, the little Jeep started up very easily.

I had my dad drive the trailer down the street a bit and drop the ramps. I put the Jeep in low range and hit the key. Sure enough it lurched forward and started up just fine. I had just enough room to line it up with the ramps and drive smoothly onto the trailer. I cut the key and the Jeep stopped at just the right spot on the trailer.

The owner who had gone inside to get the title came running out asking how I had fixed it so quickly. My dad just smiled and said; “He is good with Jeeps.”

This is how it looked when we first got it home:Rally Jeep Beginning XJ Cherokee

To sort it out I did a few rally crosses with it:Jeep Cherokee XJ Rallycross

I even raced it in one autocross. It really looked funny on autocross tires. It drove even worse.Jeep Cherokee Autocross racing

Soon I was ready to make the commitment to building a true rally racer. I decided on the SCCA PGT class. This class was for four wheel drive vehicles over 2.5 liters and less than 5.0 liters displacement. Minimum weight was 3000 lbs. It seemed a good fit for the Cherokee

The trouble was everything about the engine and body had to be completely OEM stock. This was tough and expensive on an old Jeep. There were many simple mods that I could have made that would have been cheaper than the stock parts, however, they were not allowed. Turbo cars were allowed external engine computers that upped their power output greatly. This put the Jeep at a horsepower disadvantage to the Subarus.

More Ebay searching turned up approved racing seats and harnesses. I traded for a roll cage and borrowed a computer and driver’s suit.

RallyJeep was born. A quick coat of racing white paint and a set of SCCA decals and we were ready for our fist race.

Rally Jeep Cherokee 100aw

Between rally races, I began enjoying the sport of off road driving. I built a cheap jeep to see how much I would enjoy the sport.
Jeep Cherokee off road XJ

Just as I was beginning to see that off road driving was huge fun and I was meeting lots of interesting people off road, the sport of rally racing took an unexpected turn. SCCA dropped their rally series and my favorite race – Cherokee Trails – was canceled forever.

An assessment of my situation showed me I had a very nice and expensive Jeep that was pretty much useless to me. I had a cobbled together collection of parts that was lots of fun to drive and a great support group that was fun to meet with.

I decided to make the commitment and convert my RallyJeep into Scuffy II the off road Jeep. This would put my lockers and 4.7 L Stroker engine to good use. And I would not have to deal with a weak carbureted engine and slipping transmission on my off road trips.

First I mounted the ARB equipped D30 front axle in place. Knowing I would add lift later, I modified the area above the control arm mounts for extra droop.
Modified dana 30 axle

Next I installed the ARB compressor.
ARB Compressor Jeep Cherokee

I also installed a lock rite equipped 8.25 in the rear that had been living under my Daily driver Jeep. I did make a couple more rallycrosses before adding the lift. The lockers really helped in the mud on rainy days.

I finally made the ultimate commitment and pulled the lift kit off Scuffy and put it on Scuffy II. My first off road trip was to Beasly knob running the 30“ tires form my daily driver. The lockers made a big difference but the small tires were just too limiting in the rocks.

Next came fender trimming and the 35” tires. The front was easy. I just traded fenders between the race Jeep and Scuffy’s already trimmed fenders.Lifted Jeep Cherokee fenders trimmed

At this point I could still go back to rally racing with about four hours work.

However, the rear tires simply would not work without more clearance than the stock wheel well provided. It took a bit of soul searching, but I finally made the commitment to irreversibly modify the rear wheel arches. Actually, I can probably still cover the mods with the stock flares and race it again if I ever choose to.

Here is how it looked with the winch mounted:
Jeep cherokee XJ off road

My first real off road adventure with the new set up was to Harlan, Ky. I was really happy with the extra control that the manual transmission gave me. Especially when going downhill. I also got to test the new winch pretty well as we used it to pull a Dodge Ram pickup up a very step muddy hill.

The most recent modification to Scuffy II has been to make the doors removable. Having the doors off greatly improves visibility and add to the open air feeling. The two door doors are also very heavy so there is a noticeable performance improvement with the doors off.
Jeep Cherokee removable doors

This Jeep gets way more use now than it ever would have as a rally racer. Driving off road has taught me many lessons about life and helped me build many great relationships.

Also, I find the thrill of conquering obstacles off road gives me every bit as big of an adrenalin rush as racing through the woods at speed. I feel really safe with the rally spec roll cage protecting me off road. Knowing the cage was designed for a seventy mile per hour impact give me a lot of confidence at fifteen MPH trial speeds.
Jeep Cherokee off road XJ 33

Overall, this Jeep has given me a lot of fun and adventure. I expect to have many more fun adventures as I learn to drive the Jeep and keep reinforcing the weak spots.

Obstacles

Life Lessons From Off the Road

Obstacles

Why is it that we tend to get upset by obstacles and challenges in life but we look forward to them off road?

What would an autocross course be without the pylons? Are not the yumps and twisty turns the most exciting part of a rally race? Without wet grass, dirt and other traction limits, rallycross would just be autocross.

When we are at play, we look forward to obstacles and challenges. These are what make the game fun. We get bored when games are too easy.

I am amazed that we will load up the Jeep and drive several hours to camp in the cold just so we can drive on muddy or dusty roads to get to even rougher places to drive. For the ultimate challenge, we even drive places where boulders have purposely piled up just so we can drive over them.

If we wanted to take the easy road, we could just stay on the interstate. Or we could at least stay on the nice gravel road instead of playing in the rock garden.

Pushing our limits is how we have fun. Whether it is pushing the limits of acceleration and braking around and autocross course or testing our nerve on a narrow gravel road surrounded by trees in a rally car, we love the challenge. The challenge is what makes the game fun.

When I first stared enjoying the sport of off road driving, I saw absolutely no point in the rock gardens. My justification for off road driving was accessing places that were off the beaten path and only accessible by Jeep. Getting there was the goal – not the journey.

I would sit and watch the others bash their Jeeps on the rocks while I took the easy bypass. I would wait impatiently until they all got through and assessed the carnage.

On one trip however, the road to the campsite had no bypass. This road had real obstacles just like the ones I had bypassed in the park. I was really wishing for some more experience before I faced such a challenge with no options other than turning and going home. And I knew that if I went down that rock the only way out the next day was to come back up it.

I suddenly realized what the rock gardens were for. These were places where I could hone my skills in a relatively safe manner. If I got stuck in the rock garden, there were plenty of resources to help me recover. If I broke my Jeep, there was easy access to the trailer and tools. And if there was a weak link in the Jeeps armor, it would be exposed and I could modify it later.

The skills I have since learned in the rock gardens have boosted my confidence on the trails. I know a lot more about what my Jeep and I are capable of. I have learned what modifications I need to do to my Jeep to make it more capable and more enjoyable to drive.

Trails that once intimidated me, I now consider easy. My sons and I were recently discussing that what we call a minor adventure others might call extreme. While still others would consider our adventures mild. As our skill and experience in dealing with obstacles increases, so does our confidence. With more confidence, it takes more to qualify as “adventurous.”

By facing obstacles in a confident yet careful manner, we build our skill at off road driving. We learn to assess the obstacle and determine the best way over or around it. How we attack an obstacle will depend on the equipment we have, what we are willing to risk and the skill level of the people around us whop are willing to help.

Having a strong support group is also very important when facing obstacles off road. I am willing to try much more difficult obstacles when I am in the company of a group that I have confidence in. I know that they will support me and come to my rescue if I fail.

When I am surrounded by people that I don’t know or trust, I will be more cautious off road. I am even more cautious when I am with people who have even less experience than I do with off road driving.

It us still amusing to me that we actively seek out obstacles in motor sports but we tend to react negatively to obstacles in life. I am now learning to treat obstacles in life as learning opportunities instead of problems. Treating my life as a game makes it so much more fun.

When I hit am obstacle now, I try to assess it like I would an obstacle off road. Is there a bypass? What can I learn about myself by attempting this obstacle even if I might fail? What are the potential consequences of failure? What resources do I have? What skills do I have?

How well prepared am I to face this obstacle? Do I need to retreat and gather more resources? Who is available to help me succeed? Who is willing to help me if I fail?

Another lesson I learned very quickly on my first off roading trip was to watch how others handled the obstacles. Since I was with a group of Jeep XJ fans, we all had the same basic equipment. Seeing someone else make it over an obstacle in the same truck I was driving gave me the confidence to try.

So when faced with an obstacle in life, it is often a good idea to study other people who have conquered the obstacle you are facing. Did they do it with similar equipment or did the require more resources that you currently have?

Challenges and obstacles in life can be faced the same way as those we enjoy off road. We can look for easy ways out. We can bypass them while we watch and learn from others. We can avoid them all together. Or we can drive right up and face them with the same enthusiasm as when facing an obstacle on the Jeep trail.