I recently made a decision that most people would not label as “sane.” This past July when my son turned sixteen and got his driver’s license, I immediately went out and bought him a 1941 Jeep Willy’s MB on 35 inch tires for a daily driver. When my co-workers and some of my friends heard about this decision, they thought I had lost my mind. Why in the world would I put my son into a 77 year old vehicle without doors, airbags or any other modern creature comforts and safety features? Why not buy him a more reliable vehicle with better gas mileage? Wouldn’t that be a more responsible, adult decision?
The reason is this: For myself, my family and many of my closest friends: off-roading is not a hobby, It is a lifestyle. I literally cringe when people refer to my Jeep addiction as a “hobby.” The off-road lifestyle defines my family and much of what we do together. It is part of our identity. Many of our family vacations are spent on the trail or going to various off-road events. Much of my time hanging out with my friends is spent in someone’s garage or driveway wrenching on our vehicles. Nearly all of my fondest memories are wrapped up in four wheeling and camping trips out in nature and exploring our beautiful country with my family.
The Passion of Jeeping
So what exactly is the off-road or Jeep lifestyle? If you buy a Jeep or another type of off-road vehicle are you immediately thrust into that lifestyle? It is a question that is much harder to answer than it appears. The off-road lifestyle not something easily defined, yet there have been many times where I have been put into a situation where I have had to explain it to people that have never experienced the sheer pleasure of being involved in it. While it is hard to understand the lifestyle unless you experience it first-hand, this article will illustrate what it really means. Hopefully it will motivate you become part of it and share in the joy of it if you have just bought a Jeep or have never taken your vehicle off the pavement.
When I was in kindergarten, my father went to the dealership and bought a brand new, gun-metal grey, 1977 Jeep Wagoneer. For the next twelve years, that big Jeep became the nexus of our family. It was my father’s workhorse. It plowed our long driveway, it pulled people out who were stuck in snow. It was used as a grocery-getter and as a family shuttle to and from work, school and sporting events. In addition to these duties, it was also our family’s “adventure wagon.” Three times that Wagoneer pulled an RV trailer across the United States with my family in it, exploring not only the country by pavement, but areas that many other vehicles could not access. It traveled through the thick woods of the North-East, it trudged into the bayous of the Deep South, up harrowing dirt roads in the Rocky Mountains. It crawled over the rock and boulder-strewn trails of the south-west in Arizona and New Mexico. My father drove it into the hollows of the Blue Ridge Mountains and into desolate canyons in the southern California desert. Before I had even reached high school, I had seen nearly every state of the union from behind that two-paneled window in the back of that Wagoneer.
Even when not on one of our cross-country excursions, nearly every weekend revolved around that vehicle. We camped out of our Wagoneer, used it for fishing trips, and explored the woods and mountains by the way of little used trails or fire-roads. The Wagoneer was the backdrop for countless campfires way back into the woods or up high in the mountains. As a child, one of my favorite types of family trips was to four wheel down to a remote spot on the Merced River in the California foothills to spend the day in the cool water swimming and panning for gold.
That Wagoneer became my first vehicle when I turned sixteen. By that time, it was battered, rusty, and the AMC 360 engine was warmed over and leaking oil so much that it left a smoke-screen behind it wherever I drove it. But I loved it and could not think of driving anything else. So many of my memories were wrapped into that full-sized Jeep.
A Family Tradition
I have carried on this family tradition with my own three sons. Every time we are on the Rubicon Trail together, their love of the lifestyle is clearly evident. The cell phones disappear and the smiles appear. We swim and splash in the crystal clear water of Buck Island lake, we strum guitars in front of our campfire, we have deep, meaningful conversations under a night sky where you can see every star in the heavens, we hike and explore into the woods, and we do all of it together as a family.
So what is the off-road lifestyle? It is not simply about going off road. It is about exploring, adventure, seeing places many people have not, connecting with friends and family and making memories that will last you, your family and your friends a lifetime. It is about sharing the passion for jeeping and off-roading.
If you own an off-road vehicle, congratulations. You are on the team. Now get off the bench and into the game. Dive head-first into the lifestyle, you will not regret it. Load up your family and friends and go explore. The mountains are calling, and you should go.