After over three years together, Rich finally took me wheeling…with me behind the wheel. We have a 1992 XJ that is pretty well built, we picked it up last April at Easter Jeep Safari from Danny when our Grand Cherokee had had enough. It was a necessity and a quick purchase. We needed something that could be used as a motorized wheelbarrow and also as a grocery getter. The XJ is perfect for that, it has a Detroit in the back and an ARB in the front, new 33” Pro Comps and some gorgeous black wheels (who knew I would ever be able to speak this language?)
We are still packing up from the race last Saturday and had some extra time, Rich suggested a ride in the Jeep, so we could “inspect” the race course. I’m pretty sure he and Josh managed to do that the day before, but I was game, especially when he said I could drive. Rather than drop me off the start line, we entered at the pit road crossing and drove back to the start/finish line, around the course – all 4.89 miles of it. As we started, Rich let me do things on my own, and then made suggestions, I corrected pretty quickly. I’ve never really driven a four wheel drive, but I have certainly been in the car for lots of wheeling experiences. Once he saw what I could do, he just coached me where he thought I needed it, on the climbs and the drops in particular, told me where to line up my tires, what gear I should be in. The most important thing he told me is that I should be driving with my eyes 30 yards up the trail so I knew what was coming up. I did all the climbs ok, went down one of the drops pretty hard and slammed the bumper, but the rest I did ok. He’s a great coach.
Wheeling is part of our life together, just a few months after we had gotten together, Rich took me to Baja. It was just a quick trip, we didn’t even stay for the race, just Contingency at the Baja 500. We drove down through Tecate and headed to San Felipe for the first night. I was introduced to the best shrimp tacos on the planet that evening at a little place called Adriana’s on the Malecon. The next day we drove up to Mike’s Sky Ranch, it’s a bit of a gnarly trail going up, but just bumpy mostly. We ate the traditional steak dinner with tortillas and drank the homemade tequila at the bar before retiring to our tiny room when the generator was turned off at ten. The next morning after breakfast we headed out the back side of Mike’s towards Ensenada. The back side is a much hairier version of the in road. I kicked back in my seat with my foot on the dash and watched Rich drive, as I looked out over the cliff I couldn’t help thinking, “I wonder how long it takes them to find the bodies?” But not a word did I say. We finally were off the cliff face and down through a rock waterfall when he stopped. He looked at me expectantly and I looked him in the eye and asked, “So, did I pass?”
“Did I pass? I know that was a test, did I pass?”
He busted up laughing, “Yeah, you passed.”
I knew I had, I just wanted him to know I knew it was a test. Next time we are at Mike’s I wonder if he will let me drive the cliff face, I’m betting not, he probably knows how long it takes to find the bodies.