When I was a kid, growing up in the smooth, old mountains of southeast Tennessee, my father taught school. This gave him fantastic latitude to take the family on some lengthy vacations. It was nothing for us to pile everyone and everything into the vehicle de jour -- from a big old station wagon to one of a pair of International Harvester Scouts -- and hit the road. Sometimes it was to spend a few weeks at my grandparents' house on the west coast of Florida, while other times it was to go camping for a week or two atop Suck Creek Mountain. Those are terrific memories for me, and probably a big part of shaping the "me" I've become.
Throughout my adulthood, I've tried to keep that tradition alive. I've loaded the family up in whatever Family Truckster was in the driveway, and taken drives from Missouri to Yosemite, the southwestern desert, the Smokies, Niagara Falls, the outer banks of North Carolina, and gazillions of places in between. The biggest concern with that kind of trip was ensuring there was a place to lay our heads as we made those big drives. Fuel was cheap, and the shared experience of seeing the ground at... well, ground level... instead of from 35,000 feet was well worth the slower pace of the travel. I mean, how are you gonna stop the aircraft to see the world's largest prairie dog? (which is located in Oakley KS, just in case you were wondering)
For almost a year, I've been trying to come up with a cunning plan to get away for an extended roadtrip. After all that planning, I'm just shy of a week away from loading the family up, and heading out for three weeks of driving in the northwest quarter of America. And to complete this dream trip, I've bought the vehicle I always wanted for this kind of journey - a Jeep Wrangler. In addition to seeing a part of the country I've never experienced, I wanted to be able to turn left (or right) at an appropriate place, and enjoy the dust stirred up by traveling on a dirt road, or the thrill of climbing a rock or two along the way. There's no better way to enjoy this country than from ground level, and what better way to make that trek than in an American classic!
So why, with escalating fuel prices, would I put a low fuel mileage Jeep Wrangler under me, and make its maiden voyage a big ol' drive of over 5000 miles? Because it's the right thing to do. I learned so much from my folks on journeys like this, and have wonderful memories of those travels. I wanted my daughter to have the same experiences, and I wasn't about to let the price of fuel stand in the way of teaching those lessons. You just can't put a price on that kind of family adventure.
Jean has graciously invited me to write about this twice-half-cross-country journey, taking the readers of the All Things Jeep Blog along for the ride. I intend to post some words and pictures from the road - partially travelogue, and partially Jeep-a-logue - every day or two. This is my first Jeep, and I'm sure there'll be plenty for me to learn. I hope I can pass along a tip or two learned the hard way, and I look forward to exchanging notes through the blog as we travel westward, and then eastward.
So, if you're out west during June, and you happen to see a Jeep Green Wrangler Unlimited with Missouri plates toolin' down the road, stuffed to the gills with luggage and gear, watch for a wave, and maybe we'll get a chance to stop and share a cup of coffee. Happy trails!