Okay, Jeeps – but Why a Six-Wheel-Drive one?
Yesterday I posted the origins and development (vastly abbreviated, to be sure!) of my Jeep obsession. Today, Dear Reader, I’ll tell you why I’m building a six-wheel-drive (6×6) Jeep.
It started about 15 years ago, when I first worked at Cigna Medical Group in Phoenix. I worked on contract for almost two years, before becoming a full-time employee in 2000. During that contract period, I met and became friends with Gary, another programmer who had written and self-published a book titled Winging Through America: A Motorcyclist’s Solo Journey Through the 48 States. I thought, If he can ride a motorcycle through all 48 contiguous states in three weeks or so, why can’t I do something similar with my Jeep? From there, the plan ultimately grew to become “50 states in 50 weekends” – in other words, take a year and do some kind of four-wheeling in each of the 50 states. Including Hawaii.
The trip was always intended to be a retirement project, although at the time I had delusions of becoming wealthy through my Amway business and being able to retire well before it actually happened.
In 2005 I rolled the Jeep (as in, onto its right side, then upside down, then onto its left side, and ending up back on its tires), and although I was uninjured, that was the de facto end of my Jeeping career. I had intended to rebuild it (among other things, it needs a new frame), but in 2006 I met (and in 2007, married) Toni, and so the Jeep became a *very* low-priority toy, to be rebuilt after all the more-important stuff got done. Then, after we both retired, we would *both* go do the 50-states-50-weekends expedition.
And in November 2012, my life was blown apart when Toni was killed in a car crash. In 2013 my job at Cigna was eliminated, and I opted to segue into retirement, rather than look for another job. So I began to re-examine my bucket list, and the 50-states-50-weekends project sort of popped to the top.
My next step was attending the Overland Expo in Mormon Lake (just outside of Flagstaff) in May of 2013. My purpose was to look at off-road-capable camping trailers, and incidentally drool over all the high-dollar expeditionary-type motorhomes – you know, the ones built on Mercedes Unimogs, or Ford F450 4×4 chassis. Overland Expo also has a full slate of classes and presentations during the weekend. I slid into the last few minutes of one by a young woman named Danell, who has made a virtue out of her travels by establishing a couple of nonprofits that provide blankets and art supplies to people overseas. She has written a book about this; it’s called Philanthropic Wanderlust.
This book gave me the idea to attempt something similar with my 50-states-50-weekends trip. Obviously, I’ll be staying within the confines of the US, but all I need is a cause… and a hook.
You see, I’m an introvert and find it difficult to approach people about, well, “stuff.” (It’s one of the reasons my Amway dreams remained just that – dreams.) So I decided to create a “hook” that would draw people to me and spark conversations, much like a “puppy on a string in a park” would do. My “hook” is a six-wheel Jeep. It’s not as cute as a puppy on a string, but where I’m going it’ll be a lot more useful. And since it’ll be rare (I’ve only found a half-dozen others, at most, on the Internet so far), I figure people will come up to me either to drool over it or to laugh at it. Either way, we can start a conversation, and from there I can bring up my cause.
So far, everyone I’ve talked to about the project has been enthusiastic about seeing the final product. This includes people at the various companies I’ve gone to for parts and advice, as well as friends and family. I hope this means good things for the future!