out for the Trail Between the Highways" with the understanding
that we wanted to wheel pretty convincingly, but not trash
the Liberty. The trail leader was very nice, and we did have
the feeling that everyone was curious to see what the Liberty
was going to do - or at least everyone was prepared to have
a chuckle at the goobers from Michigan with the brand new
are good sports and were really appreciative to have anyone
take us out at all. Getting stuck means work for everyone
and we really didn't want to be a burden. I think in the end
we were the most skeptical, since even driving down the long
highway to the trail head we were talking to each other about
how we would just head back home that night and take the Liberty
to a place we go back home that is basically for stock vehicles.
made it in to the trail which began with a very long, steep
climb. Here we go! Mike was driving and I was hopping in and
out taking some photos. Everything was going really well until
we hit mud, and then we needed help. Mike got as far as he
could though, and we were pleasantly surprised at how far
that was. We got in this rut kind of mud place and got pulled
up the rest of the way. I am sure I should be a bit more technical
about the obstacles and terrain along the trail, but I will
leave that to Mike and use the following descriptors only;
muddy, rocky, rutty, oogy, and gross.
along pretty well, except when the mud was really bad, and
I know that our tires were not really helping much. We got
to a rock garden place, which required some maneuvering, and
the Liberty really got along very well.
the trucks with huge tires and lots of clearance were having
no trouble, Mike was driving like it was day one. Every rock
larger than a foot tall was now an "obstacle" in
our stock vehicle with little clearance and street tires.
We had aired down some and were really getting pretty good
grip, but it was different with the independent suspension
along slowly and carefully and everyone was being really great
about spotting and waiting for us as we snailed along. There
was a bit of rock moving, and at one point we did use a winch
to gently pull us over a certain rock area that was a few
feet long. All in all though, we were pleased and had a great
time of it.
reached a split for us, so we had to either go back on the
interstate and call it a day or pass back over the rock garden
we had just driven to another trail, which was much harder.
We really wanted to keep riding but wanted to let the other
guys go have their fun too.
was pick-up trail day for the early arrivals, so we decided
to call it a day and see what we could get into Saturday morning.
We had also gotten some mud inside the bead of the tire and
were losing air rapidly, so we decided to head to the local
tire shop for some cleaning and repairs.
day we hit the pavilion early for trail signup. We parked
the Liberty right out front, unloaded our wares again and
waited to see if any other stock rigs would show up for us
to trail with.
up on a ride led by Robert Fuller and his wife and son, whom
we had met previously. They were willing to put up with us
on the trail and were leading about a 2-3 rated one, called
Coppenger's Cove, with a group of about seven.
the vehicles in our original group were modified, some with
winches and lockers, but no one above about 33 inch tires
or so. The trail was not supposed to be too crazy, the only
real variables were the mud and the Liberty. Along the way,
however, another group joined us that were more heavily-modified.
They had missed their run. Again, we didn't really know anyone
and no-one knew what we were about but the Fuller's. Even
the one TJ that had our windshield decal on his rig didn't
seem to catch on that we were Rockcrawler.com, even though
we had tried to chat with him before the ride began. We were
asked if we had tools, and we responded with, "what for?"
We did have tools.
a long way to the trail head with me in the driver's seat.
The trail began with a long section of small pebbly rocks,
like a cobblestone street, only worse. It was very pretty,
but got rather annoying after a short time.
we reached some rock garden areas and got to play a little.
I was getting along fine, but the bigger rigs just couldn't
stand it and started riding my butt and trying to push me
faster. I guess they were mad because they had missed their
"big" run, or maybe just wanted to annoy me, but
anyhow, I just pressed on and gave them a few dirty looks.
this sport because I usually meet lots of nice people on the
trails and have a great time. I told Mike, I wondered if this
is what other people in stock vehicles experience when going
out for their first runs. I also wondered if the other driver's
remembered what it was like when THEY had stock vehicles.
point of our test was to see what the Liberty could do, after
all, so we just ignored the impatient folks and went about
started hitting mud it got a bit more tricky. With the stock
Goodyear Wrangler SR-A's on board we struggled in the mud
piles and were further complicated by the fact that I am not
that experienced in driving in the mud, anyway.
pulled out of one rut that I feel Mike could have honestly
gotten us through. We had gone about half way and the next
thing was this really bad muddy place that was rutted a lot
already. We seemed to have only two choices and neither of
them looked good to us.
one was a stretch of mud about 70 feet long, through which
we were watching the big trucks get stuck in and winched out
two was this weird go over a hill into a deep pit of mud and
back up the other side thing. We watched the Fuller's do it
in their TJ and he felt this was the best choice for us. Mike
gave it a go and aswe started up the first side, we slid promptly
to the left and went down hard on the driver's side rocker.
Remember folks, no bars!
the tires for a minute and then started plotting our escape.
Many thanks to the guys who got really muddied up getting
us out of there! But then, how to move on? We decided to try
to get as far as we could through the long way and then cut
through this one section about half way through and get winched
everyone a show and the Liberty made it further than we thought
it would before getting strapped the final few feet. He drove
the rest of the way out and the trail got harder as we went
along. We took alternates when we felt we needed to, but overall
were impressed with how the Liberty handled itself. At the
end of the trail, even some of the others admitted they were
surprised, as well, and were happy they got to see what it
to dinner and felt really funny leaving our "trophy mud"
on, but we were really hungry! At the restaurant there were
tables full of worn out folks retelling tales of the day,
sharing laughs and breakage stories. It felt really good to
us to know that we made it out undamaged, excepting some scratches
and a questionable rocker. In the light the next day, we could
see that the rocker was fine and we knew the scratches would
all buff out in the end. We headed for the pressure washer
and the next day headed for home. We had a great time, and
had really enjoyed our weekend.
the Liberty a few more days and used it to drive around town.
I drove it to work one day and it attracted a lot of interest
and I used it to go to Lowe's to pick up flowers and big bags
of soil for some beds in our yard.
liked its size and the way it felt in town. It had the right
amount of power to get me out into traffic and was easy to
park, turn, and load and unload. The stereo sounded great
and the controls on the steering wheel made it really convenient
for adjusting volume and changing tunes. I decided I was really
going to miss this thing when it came time to turn it back
in, which was the next day - and I really do miss it!
a lot of talk has gone on about the changes and differences
in the Liberty, and many of our readers are not crazy about
it. But why? I think many people forget that the Liberty was
not made to be another Wrangler. Neither were the Wagoneer
or Cherokee, its predecessors. These were family wagons that
happen to off-road well, if needed, like for camping, fishing
trips, and such. The latter have been modified to be used
for more difficult trail situations, as the former will be,
does exactly what it was designed for. It's completely at
home in the city and in the kind of trail situations its drivers
will encounter. It's great for errands and daily driving,
and ready to take you and your gear out for your favorite
outdoor sport. Headed for the gnarly new-style boulder climbing
events? Hardly. But not everyone driving a Jeep aspires to
do that. And there is room on and off the road for everyone.