Back to Rhode Island - 9/27/98

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I had just got back home from putting new shocks on The YJ down at the parents house, when I got a call from Steve (Yellow YJ). He said that tommorow was supposed to be about 85 degrees and it would be a great day for a ride and wanted to know if I'd be interested. I thought it over for about 2 seconds (giving myself enough time to wiegh the pros and cons of hitting the trail) and accepted the invite.
I had recieved an email from another Jeeper in the area, Kevin (Green TJ), a few days before and I quickly hopped on the PC to send him an email asking if he'd like to bring his TJ for a ride, he accepted, and we agreed to meet at 10am to hit the trails.
I hadn't been off road in almost 3 months (lame excuses omitted) so I was psyched to be hitting the trails with 2 other Jeeps and Stan's 'Big Chevy'.
The 3 Jeeps were ready to go when we left the meeting spot in North Attleboro, MA and headed to the first section that Steve wanted to explore. It was a very challenging section of powerlines in Woonsocket, RI. There was a very tough downhill that was a washed out rock slide with lots of exposed rock and 3 foot deep 'sink holes' that were trying to trap the Jeeps. Kevin went down first with his lifted TJ and made it with little trouble, Steve went next and at one point Steve got hung up and was balancing on 2 wheels and it took some grace and some balls for him to get down safely (note: the female co-pilots all swear that he only had ONE wheel on the ground, and claim to have photographic evidence of this. Kevin, Steve and I doubt this claim assuming that it would violate some Law of Physics, I guess we'll have to wait for the pics to settle the arguement). I had the benefit of being the last down that hill, and seeing the routes that Steve and Kevin took, and was able to make it with out too much trouble.
After playing on the power lines for an hour or so, we headed down to Stan's house to meet him and head out to the spot that we had so much fun in 3 months ago. There was a clear objective among the Jeepers, lets get that Big Chevy stuck!
The first 'obstical' we came to was the same 'mountain' from the last trip. Steve had been practicing and made it up easily at a slow crawl. Kevin went next and survived the mountain climb with just a bit of stoping and spinning near the top. Then it was my turn.
To date I've been using the 'More Balls Than Brains' technique for hill climbs, and this time was no different. About 1/4 of the way up I seperated the muffler from the 'cat', this was instantly obvious to anyone within a half mile of the Jeep. Taking this in stride I kept my foot on the gas and made it near the top where I hit a soft spot and started spinning the wheels. After some advice from the other Jeepers and some spotting so I didn't back myself over the edge I managed to get to the 'pulloff' at the top and check The YJ for damage.
Stan took the Chevy up last and made it look too easy.
When we looked at The YJ we found that the muffler was pulled straight out of the 'cat' and we were able to jam it back in and continue on. However the muffler seperated again a while later and I decided to let it be instead of jamming it back in again after every bump. I assumed that it was out of the way enough that it would not cause me any trouble, I was wrong.
Going down a hill the muffler caught a large rock and by the time I stopped it had dragged the rock about 5 feet and jammed the muffler into one of my new shocks. It was obvious that The YJ wasn't going anywhere until the muffler and tail pipe was removed. It took us about an hour to hack off the twisted steel that used to be my exhaust system. During the job, and probably for no other reason than it was it's time to go, the bump stop dropped off from the frame next to the exhaust. That got thrown in the back of the YJ to be dealt with at a later time and we were off again.
Now you might think that losing the exhaust was a bad thing, looking back, I'm glad it happened. Here's why. I knew the proper way to go down a hill in a Jeep, but I was still holding the clutch in and riding the brake because I couldn't get a feel for what the engine was doing. Once I got my 'Rock Modified Open Exhaust System' I could hear the engine sounds clearly and judge how much the gearing was slowing the Jeep down. This was a great teaching tool for me and now I can make it down steep hills without 'freewheeling'. My technique still needs work, but I'll consider the 110 bucks for a new muffler and pipe well spent for the skills I learned by having an open exhaust.
Later in the day, my earlier wish came true, The Big Chevy got Beached! Stan was pulling a dead fall from the trail, which he did with ease, and after unhooking from the tree he got the front axle beached trying to get back on the main trail. He wanted me to stress that it was 'driver error' that caused the Chevy to get stuck and that it was not the trucks fault in any way. I hooked on to his front tow hook with my chain and got him quickly extracted with ease (after making sure that plently of pictures were being taken to document this historical moment).

We left the trails at about 4:30 after a long, hard, good day of 4 wheeling. I was starting to feel ill by the end of the day due to a flu and consuming a 12 pack of Mt. Dew on an empty stomach in the humid 85 degree heat, and had to bow out of the 4x4 BS session after the run at the State Line cafe to head home and recover. But even with the damage to the Jeep and being sick, it was a great day.

I guess thats my favorite thing about 4 wheeling, even when things do go wrong, at the end of the day you've still got a big grin on your face and you've learned new lessons because things DID go wrong. Looking back at the trips that I've had on my first summer with The YJ, the most memorable times are when the Jeep got stuck or something 'bad' happened, and although using a junky hand winch in a 90 degree, mosquito infested swamp really sucks while your blood supply is flying away in the bellies of hundreds of bugs and your sweating and cursing and bleeding, when the days over and I'm back in the driver seat heading for home there is a 'Rush' that I can't really explain other than to say that I feel more alive. I'm sure there's some psycological term for the feeling, and maybe it has something to do with adrenaline or endorphans or human survival instincts, but if someone were to ask me why I'm all sweaty, muddy and smileing, my only answer is: "I've been in the Jeep!".
One final note, I've finally decided on a name for The YJ.
It shall be: Darwin
I'll explain the reasoning for the choice in the 'Life with The YJ' section later.
Happy Trails,

Kevin's Pics are HERE.

This page should be finished soon.