Part 1: The Confluence of Inception and Execution
Testing that theory I trailered it to Moab after a few weeks of ownership and it did great. I drove it around town and into Denver a number of times, it did run well, but wasn’t without its issues. After the holidays it became clear that I needed to go and see my grandma, for what would turn out to be my last time. Flying being the most abhorrent form of travel that I can conceive, being an individual of a large persuasion, flying is a day of acute self awareness and discomfort. Road trips for me are almost always preferable, besides I get to take my co-pilot Goose with me.
Taking my Dodge truck is the obvious choice for comfort, speed, reliability, and just… yea. Due to the unique way my mind brain functions, I had to question if taking my newly acquired 40 year old truck was an option. I started by deliberating with close friends and family, who resoundingly responded with the obvious, “That’s a terrible idea”. Maybe not all of them replied in so many words but, you get the point, there was trepidation. I made lists of must haves in regard to repairs to both vehicles to make them road trip worthy. The Dodge was still the obvious choice. With this knowledge I obviously doubled down of the taking the Jeep and poured all my focus into making it ready for the trip.
I genuinely don’t remember all the repairs and upgrades but the big ones are, clutch, headlights, battery, valve cover gaskets, spark plugs, plug wires, rotor, and cap, blah blah blah tune up stuff. Things that went without repair, driver side shock, the previous owner had ripped the shock mount off… and basically like a dozen other things.
Going I-70 WB to Copper Mountain, up and over Fremont Pass into Leadville I was already due for my first fuel stop and I had a wiper blade that was not snapping into place causing it to flop around uselessly. Quick fix and fuel I was back on the road, south into Buena Vista, continuing over Poncha Pass, into the San Luis Valley aka “The Valley”. (A local told me I could use the local speak for the area). The entire drive I knew that Wolf Creek Pass was going to be the crux of my drive, or so I thought. This pass is a gnarly one, the modern day pass is greatly improved over what it used to be (I don't remember what it used to be but my father insists on reminding me). No matter the improvements made, with the weather it receives, it is a worthy adversary. At the base of the pass I encountered my first pucker moment. The roads were sheet ice. I pulled into the chain up area and locked the hubs on the Jeep in preparation for the accent. I immediately knew something wasn’t right, there was a vibration and a weirdness, but there was noting for it but to push on. I was able to creep and ease my way over the pass and truckin on down the other side, luckily I was able to avoid the side of the feed store in down town Pagosa Springs. If you don’t understand this last reference do your ear holes the favor of looking up C.W. McCall “Wolf Creek Pass”. At the bottom of the pass I called my mom and checked in, like a good son. The roads were wet, I topped up the tank, unlocked the hubs, and home free to Durango. Daylight had faded by now and I was supposed to be 45-50 minutes to Durango.
Maybe 5 miles outside Durango The snow came hard and fast, the roads went sheet ice as the temps plummeted. This would be the crux of my trip. Yellow Jacket Pass is not a pass that comes up on my radar, so much so that before this trip I didn’t even know that it was an official pass that had a name. My new LED headlights didn’t generate enough heat to melt the snow so I had almost no light. My mud terrain tires were slipping all over the road. For the first time in my life I had to let a car pass me so I could follow in their tracks just to see where the road was. After what already felt like a lifetime creeping down the road I came up to Yellow Jacket Pass and it was so icy that I couldn’t touch my gas pedal without spinning the rear tires and was out of momentum. I came to a dignified stop in the middle of the road, there was no shoulder, jumped out, locked the hubs and once again attempted to set off. Luckily the road was mostly deserted and I wasn't a road block for very long. Even with tractor like four-wheel drive I had to be as delicate as I could to get going again, and again the vibration was back. I tiptoed all the way to Durango with my nerves frayed and my life significantly shortened. Arriving at the hotel, it felt good to lie in bed and order pizza… definitely delivery.
After a spectacular trip to Americas favorite crack in the ground, I returned to Flagstaff, ate breakfast, made a few stops in local shops and moseyed my way to Sedona only about an hour south from Flagstaff. Sedona was to be my next overnight halt. I made it to Sedona just in time for lunch and a quick trip on the Broken Arrow trail. It is incredibly unique and beautiful area with trails in the backyard. I was lucky to have my own personal Pink Jeep Tour guide. Charlie and his wife were my hosts for the night and Charlie was keen to show me around his local playground. While we were out on the trail the vibration and concerns for my four wheel drive problems were really becoming obvious. I couldn’t identify anything wrong with a short inspection on the trail, and I was just crossing my fingers and holding my breath hoping I wouldn’t have any catastrophic failures on the trail. I knew if I could make it off the trail, it was a two-wheel drive trip to my destination where a more through inspection could take place.
Rebecca was a former employer from my high school and college days. It has to be said, I don’t know many people who have been fortunate enough to have bosses in their life that are good enough friends that a few short weeks before taking a trip, years since you have talked, call and ask to spend the night. Without hesitation I was welcomed into their home. Rebecca and Charlie thank you.
The intended destination for this trip was Pima, AZ and it was time to make the final push. Leaving Jerome behind and moving southeast the trip became very tense. There was a tick/ rattle in the top end of the motor that I was sure was a stuck lifter or broken rocker. It was louder than ever and getting worse. As the light faded the dash lights dimmed and brightened with a failing voltage regulator in the alternator. I limped the Jeep as gently as possible all the way, miraculously without catastrophic failure, to my dad’s house in Pima, AZ.
Part two will be the repairs done in preparation for the return trip home and of course the return trip home itself.