Extreme Rock Crawling

Extreme rock crawling
Extreme rock crawling

The WE Rock extreme rock crawling championship series made a stop in Dayton, TN this weekend. I went by on Friday night and saw part of the tech inspection process. I got to get a close look at how the buggies are built. I talked to a couple of drivers and builders who gave me a great tutorial of the sport.

I returned Saturday to watch a few of the later runs. The guys going backwards off the cliff were pretty amazing. There must be some huge bonus points for the the risk they were taking. Most did not make the fall without some damage.

There was one climb that I never saw anyone complete. When I arrived they were using a forklift to extract a stuck buggy. Later I saw one roll and get winched by a Cherokee stationed at the top. A few others tried and failed as well.

I still have a lot to learn about the sport but is was very entertaining to watch. I am really surprised that there is a place this close to home to see this kind of action.

For more pictures see Extreme Rock Crawling

Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day

Growing up on a farm in rural Mississippi, I have always had a strong connection to nature. As I learned about science and engineering, I also become interested in protecting the environment. My science projects often involved building terrariums and other small eco systems.

I had a subscription to Mother Earth News long before that was cool. I loved reading stories about how to be self sufficient I the wilderness.

One story I remember clearly – I wish I could find the back issue – was about how just a small increase in CO2 in the atmosphere would greatly increase the productivity of agriculture. The article showed how at earlier periods of time on the earthy, higher CO2 levels had caused plant life to flourish on the earth. If we had just a little more free CO2 in the air, then the deserts would be green again and there would be plenty of food for everyone. I tried to design a terrarium to test the theory on a small scale but adding a bit of CO2 was beyond my capabilities as a middle school student.

After getting my Chemical Engineering degree and going to work as an environmental engineer, I was shocked that people were suddenly concerned about global warming. What had changed? At the time I knew nothing of environmental economics and world conspiracy theories.

I looked at the global warming data and saw that all the fuss seemed to be about 0.6 degree rise over thousands of years. I never did figure out how they knew the actual temperature to with a tenth of a degree before Mr. Fahrenheit was even born.

What I did find out when I looked into the data further was that the research into Global Warming was funded by people who were promoting nuclear energy. Having worked in Oak Ridge for a while, nuclear energy seemed like a good way to clean up the environment. The coal fired power plant down the river from us would set off our radon alarms when the wind was right.

As one researcher commented, “If I want to get funding for a study on the mating habits of squirrels, I can’t get it. But if I want to study the mating habits of squirrels as affected by global warming, there is money for that.” This statement gave me the insight I needed to understand what all the fuss over global warming was really all about. Funding.

As the push for nuclear energy died off, I expected to see the emphasis on global warming to fade away. And after seeing how poorly some of the nuclear waste was managed, I was not too keen on promoting nuclear energy myself.

As the years went by I was continually amazed by the persistence of the Global Warming hoopla. It seemed to have taken on a life of its own. Personally, I like warmer weather, so I became a big fan of Global Warming.

Looking at the history of the modern world it is clear that we have had periods of warmer and cooler weather. There were times when rivers froze over and people drove across them. There were also times when it was much warmer and people got out and invented new stuff instead of staying in and huddling by the fire.

In Mississippi, there are stories of people going to the Tombigbe river and cutting out chucks of ice to store in ice houses for the summer. It certainly never froze like that during my life time. There are also stories of years without a winter where people played outside and swam at Christmas time.

AS we celebrate earth day this year, I am trying to filter out the hype from the facts. It is clear that the temperature of the earth is affected by the activity of the sun. There are predictable sun spot cycles.

One volcano produces more emissions than all of industry in the history of mankind. However, that does not mean we can’t all do a part to make our environment better.

Instead of blaming others for the problems, I choose to look at the things I can do to improve things around my property. I can use more environmentally friendly cleaners. I can protect my trees and green spaces. I can also stop worrying about dire consequences that might occur sometime in the future. I can focus on enjoying the environment right now.

This morning I enjoyed going for a walk with my dog down by the creek. The wildflowers are beautiful. The dogwoods are in bloom and many other trees are budding. Happy earth day to all.

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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.
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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.

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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.