I have found that my days tend to be better when I don’t indulge my curiosities on the internet. The natural course of my thoughts then tend more easily towards nature and history. These are passions of mine. Indulging them brings joy.

However, my jeep may be a deeper passion.

She’s old. She’s a 1989 YJ – the only model of jeeps with square headlights. She was formerly a Pink Jeep, which means she was reinforced with heavy axles and other solid metal. She’s also one of the last carbureted jeeps ever made before fuel injection became the standard in the early 90’s.

I paid $2500 for her in 2018. At the time she was painted a light blue and covered with gaytarded stickers because the former owner is a pony-boy. Only God knows how long it had been since she was seriously serviced, and only God knows what things were waiting to break. However, I knew what I was getting into, and thought I could use it as a personal development project, that is, maybe I could learn how to fix things that went wrong.

My father was no handy man. He didn’t make me one. However, radically changing the nature of my work after quitting Austin, by finding work on Texas Hill Country ranches (thank you Robi), and then South Texas oilfields (thank you Lee), instilled within me something of a “can do” attitude for fixing things myself. Though I still wouldn’t call myself a handyman, I have developed enough sense to search out problems on my jeep and ask the right people (thank you Nick) the right questions, and fix virtually all of them with minimal help.

Starters, radiators, alternators, fuel filters, fuel pumps, gas lines, gas tanks, shocks, tie-rods, and too many other things to mention have been fixed by me 95% of the time. Granted, frustration, despair, rage and cussing have gone into my efforts, but, overall, I do say that $2500 was some of the best money I’ve spent in my life. There’s something of pride in me for facing demons of frustration, and overcoming many of them so I can experience super-happy moments.

Literally, driving my jeep with the front windshield down, and with the wind in my face on a warm day, as I ascend a mountain on some previously unexplored road, can produce some of the happiest moments I’ve ever felt. There’s nothing like it.

Recently, on a day off work, I’d made a big to-do list. Finishing those tasks would have felt great. But the morning sun warming my castle’s windows made being inside impossible. I had to be outside. Actually, I had to take my jeep down roads I’d never been before. It was a perfect day for a down windshield. Perfect.

A full narrative of this day would be boring to tell. I’ll just say that my love of staring at maps – as I said in These amazing things called “maps” – prompted me to take the Cherry Road over the Black Hills to AZ 169 and then down Orme Road, and maybe another unpaved road, to the Bloody Basin Road which goes through Agua Fria National Monument about forty miles north of Phoenix. I’ve always been nervous to take my old baby too far. However, it’s time that I push her further and further to see if I need to abandon or keep alive the dream of exploring all the backroads of the Southwest IN MY JEEP. If I knew she could handle Utah, I’d be gone now.

Of course, she is capable of pissing me of royally when I discover some new problem on her. So many times I’ve felt such sinking frustration for hearing news whistles and grinds. I’m close to just buying a Toyota.

But I love that windshield down! Driving up the Cherry Road with it down, with warm sun balancing the cooling wind at ever higher elevations, produced a joy I never knew before moving to Arizona. Driving almost 50 miles with the windshield down across Arizona desert, and getting to Bloody Basin where I was tempted to drive to the Verde River, was awesome.

But vapor lock isn’t awesome. My fuel pump is located on the engine block, and is actuated by the engine’s camshaft, which pulls fuel from the tank at 3 psi. The gas line from the tank passes right next to the exhaust manifold and engine block before the gas goes into the carburetor. If the manifold and engine get too hot, it can vaporize that fuel, because 3 psi is not enough to keep the fuel in liquid form. It can vaporize and my low-psi pump won’t work. The engine stalls. I finally discovered this phenomena of carbureted engines last summer, and wrapped heat-shielding along the gas lines. It seems to work… mostly.

However, upon my return from Bloody Basin, after driving at 55 on I-17 for like 20 miles, because my baby just can’t go faster uphill, I felt that loss of power from vapor lock. So, I pulled over, opened my hood, and let hot air rise out of the engine area for like 10 minutes. This worked just fine, and I was on my way again. Truly, every adverse thing I’ve experienced in my jeep has led to increased knowledge.

But then the back tires started squealing. It figured it was dust in the brake drums, but, some of those noises were louder than anything I’ve ever heard from my jeep before, and I wondered if I was going to make it back to Sedona. Though I did, that sinking feeling of being broke down 10 miles from a paved road had come upon me for a time, and I don’t know if I’ll ever fully trust my baby to explore the Southwest, because it feels like I’m always discovering new problems, and I more want a vehicle to enjoy, not learn from.

However, as I type these words a week later, with that sound likely coming from a simple problem in the brake drum, that lust to be outside with the windshield down is still very much within me.

And I don’t care if you think this blog is boring. One thing I’ve discovered is that writing about things I enjoy, and explaining why I enjoy them, is a joy unto itself. One day I will come across these words again, and remember that day at Bloody Basin in full detail, and be grateful I was alive.

And I will keep pushing my baby. I will keep exploring… until I just give up… but I don’t know how to sometimes.