Marolt: A bad day at work is less work than a day Jeeping
A Jeep will take you lots of places other vehicles can’t and ensure that you absolutely can’t wait to get there.
There are a lot of mountain activities that I do not partake in, such as paragliding, fly fishing, above-timberline mountain-lake marathon swimming and such, but I can at least understand their appeal from an armchair perspective if not from actually dabbling around the edges of participation. I find most activities that have to do with getting out and enjoying the mountains attractive even if I don’t have the time to take them all up. Jeeping is about the only organic alpine activity that I can’t stand.
I mean this sincerely. I assure you it is not from a lack of trying to love the bone-rattling drive over basketball-sized boulders, either. The sad fact is that I grew up Jeeping. My family always owned a Jeep; most of the time we had two. Once, for a brief, miserable time, we had three.
My first memories of Jeeping were the family excursions to Montezuma Basin, which, between nuclear winter and global warming, was a relatively large year-round snowfield at the base of 14,000-foot Castle Peak. My industrious, ski-racing father owned a mining claim there and built a rope tow that ran off of a Volkswagen Beetle engine for a summer ski-racing camp. It was an incredible adventure for a kid to be high above Colorado and fool around in the snow in July.
Man, I used to love that except for the ride up in the Jeep. Somehow when they began the operation, they smoothed out the road with a bulldozer to the point where they drove that Beetle up there to become the guts of the ski lift. The proof was right there for all who cared to see. (I used to compare that old car to Mike Mulligan’s steam shovel, which, as you will remember, ended up stuck in the basement and became the boiler for the new school, and Mike became its caretaker, which the author somehow turned into a positive turn of events in the classic children’s book.) How quickly that road deteriorated afterward is a testament to the indefatigable power of nature, though. Our Jeep bumped and creaked and continually threatened to chuck us out and down the hillside as we crept up the mountain in low range at a speed that would have irritated an un-acclimated tortoise for the apparent lack of its desire to even be in the race. And, yes, of course we cried when it was time to go home.
In high school I ended up with one of the old Jeeps as my car. It had a top speed of 45 mph and got about 10 miles per gallon of gas. The tank only held 10 gallons, which made my parents comfortable that we would never get too far from home and, thus, too into trouble. The vehicle had a nice roll bar but no roof, which helped ensure that we most likely would never get hurt from a tree falling on us, but it left us prone to frostbite and hypothermia during the winter months. My few girlfriends were of hardy stock.
The lack of roof and doors made entry and exit easy. Rarely did we come to a complete stop when picking up or dropping off friends. One Fourth of July, we drove through town with two Jeeps packed with kids and a dummy mixed in. In a particularly crowded section of town, we dropped the exceptionally lifelike dummy overboard, and the second Jeep, following purposely too close, ran it over. Yes, there were screams. Although never confirmed, I think a few people thought the stunt was funny after their hearts settled.
As the Jeep was our only form of transportation, we spent little time lamenting all the places we couldn’t go with it and focused on the places it could take us. We got used to driving on old mining roads and learned that you could fix about anything on those old Jeeps with pliers and a flathead screwdriver. My friend took his entire engine apart in his garage, replaced the piston rings and put the thing back together, and it ran better than ever, and he had to take calculus three times before passing, too! Spinal alignment was not as easy to correct as the wheels.
Come to think of it, I guess I really miss those old Jeeps — but I still hate Jeeping. As contradictory as this sounds, I think you can prove the possibility of it yourself. Just get out there and go Jeeping. Once ought to be enough.
Roger Marolt thinks Jeeps are best appreciated when they are standing still. Contact him at email@example.com.
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Aspen Sister Cities members dedicated a plaque in Sister Cities Plaza to Don Sheeley, who served as president of the organization from 1998 until his death in 2017.