PArt 2: The Repairs and Return
The next day routine maintenance was conducted and alternator installed while I anxiously awaited the arrival of the rocker arm bridge and driveshaft. Meanwhile I spotted a fellow FSJ’er (Full Size Jeep) with a Cherokee in the driveway, that was obviously out of commission. I stopped by and was able to talk him out of a headlight housing for $10 to replace my broken headlight adjustment. This wasn't necessary but would make drive home easier and safer, there is no place darker than the San Luis Valley at night. Later that day my father’s wife was thankfully able to bring me my completed driveshaft from Tucson, saving me from repeating the four hour trip. Quite astonishingly, I was able to get the Jeep completely back together and operating 100%...ish… well at least better than it was before I departed, within 48 hours of my arrival.
I had been trying to convince my dad for years that he should buy a Jeep so he could explore all the cool old mines and areas that owning a good 4x4 can take you. Well he finally pulled the trigger some time ago and ironically I haven't had the chance to wheel with him at all since. Saturday was spent doing some desert exploring with my pops and his wife. It was very low key but always cool to see and explore a new area. The following few days were spent with family and spending time with my grandmother. I am exceptionally grateful for the time I was able to spend with my grandmother in what would be her last few days.
It was my intention to make it to Santa Fe, NM and see how I felt. It would be there that I would decide if I would keep going or stop for the night. The following five hours were nothing but fuel stops and boring reliability. I made it to Santa Fe around 3PM (1500). I was feeling good and the truck was running well, the decision was made that it would be a waste of an afternoon to stop now. My next “status check” would be Alamosa, CO. I made it to Alamosa an hour or so after dark and checked my GPS to find out I was just under 4 hours to my own soft comfy bed. At this point I knew I was going to make the push home in one day. I pushed on into the night through the dark valley, once again up and over Poncha Pass into Poncha Springs, through Buena Vista and into Leadville. There was a certain symmetry to making my final fuel stop at the same gas station that I made my first fuel stop at on my way out of town.
At this point I was 15 hours into what was lining out to be a 16 hour day. I knew that given the time of day, the area he was in, I was probably his only hope of recovery that night. We have all been in situations where we have relied on the kindness of strangers and have had no choice but to trust strangers. Knowing it was the right thing to do, and being largely driven by my morals, I agreed to help, with one caveat. At any point, if I felt as though pushing on would result in me and my truck getting stuck, we would turn around and I would bring him back to town. Being this far into a trip like this, I was not going to get stuck an hour from home.
Nick, the name of the gentleman who had gotten stuck, had no problem with my terms and was exceptionally gracious that I had even agreed to help. We headed out of town and in the dark made our way up a snow packed road. At the end of the road, sure enough there was a berm to climb over to get onto what was a county road. In the summer it is a county road but in the winter it's groomed and used as a snowmobile/ snowshoeing track. We got out and walked the track most of the way to his truck, the berm was really the only problem… that and if you drove where it wasn't groomed you fell into a few feet of soft unpacked snow, exactly what had caught Nick out. Turning the hubs locking it in 4 low I made a slow attempt at the berm, it wasn't enough. A second attempt with a little more gusto did the trick, we were out on the track. Nick walked / ran in front of me making sure I wasn't going to fall of the hard pack. We made it to his truck where we got out and made a plan. I had to get turned around, difficult when you are only able to use the areas of hard packed snow and only having a vague idea of where that begins and ends. We slowly maneuvered my truck around without incident. Nick’s truck was already pointing the right direction and was pointing slightly down hill. The truck had already been dug out well and really just needed the slightest bit of assistance. It was obvious they had tried everything they could before abandoning the truck and going into town.
I have to be honest, I was probably being overly pedantic about how things were done throughout the entire recovery. It was really for myself as much as it was to make sure that there were no miscommunications. Hooking up a recovery strap, I only wanted to attempt this one time. I took most of the slack out of the line and then let my truck take it in 2nd gear with some umph. Nick’s truck popped out of the hole and was back on track right behind mine. Only thing left to do was get back over the berm together. We unhooked the tow strap and moved slowly together off the track. It has to be said, it was cold enough that the snow was that really crunchy snow that genuinely has pretty decent grip as long as you don’t spin the tires. Making it to the berm again, I gave the old Jeep the beans, up and over the other side we went, back on plowed road. Nick was able to follow suit without issue. We stopped for a few moments to exchange final goodbyes, thank yous and your welcomes.
Now, I was an hour from home, and what would appear to be home free. The entire ordeal took just about an hour, really not all that bad considering how bad it could have been. I cruised the remaining hour to my house with no issues, pulling in at exactly 2330. Making it as near as makes no difference a 17 hour drive. This is not a trip I will soon forget. 2,000 miles in a 40 year old truck I had only owned for 2 months. There is a sticker on the truck that says “Real trucks are built… not bought.” Having bought this truck the way it is, it is my hope that I have been able to earn some of the respect that the sticker implies. Remember, do it for the story; Do it so you can say you did; Go the long way; If nothing else it will be an adventure.