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Easter Jeep Fiasco

By Chaz Lamar

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Homeward bound, trouble follows still
Thursday 03/28/2002
Easter Jeep FiascoThe following day (Thursday), Scott and I met up with the Rockcrawler.com group to say good-bye and get a picture with Willie G, his wife and his amazing Liberty. After getting all packed up and returning the U-Haul, we started home. We were making great time - around 200 miles in 3 hours when we were forced to make a stop. I pushed the clutch in and it went straight to the floor. Luckily, we were already headed for a rest area, so I pulled the Jeep into neutral and coasted into a safe place. I then crawled under the Jeep to have a look and I noticed that there was no bleeder screw on the slave clutch cylinder. Upon closer inspection we noticed that the entire Jeep was sprayed in brake fluid. It's a wonder that we didn't notice it as we were driving, since there was even brake fluid on the dash. Scott and I crossed I-70, climbed a retaining wall and went into a hotel lobby to inquire about a parts store. The cashier informed us that there was one half a mile down the road, so we started walking.

When we got to the store and asked for the part we were dismayed to discover that it's not listed in the computer. I had the gentleman behind the counter get me his box of bleeder screws. Of course, there are two boxes - metric and standard. I was hoping that there would be few enough bleeder screw types or that they would be cheap enough to purchase one of each. Unfortunately, he had about 20-30 types of bleeder screws and they ranged from two to five dollars a piece.

I had changed my transmission in December, replacing a broken AX-5 with a rebuilt one, so I knew what the screw should look like on the outside, but I had never seen the threads. I took my best guess, two others that were close, and also grabbed an obscene amount of brake fluid (we weren't going to take that walk again), and headed for the Jeep. We stopped in at a Dodge dealership on the way back just to see if they had the part. Unfortunately, they didn't work on Jeeps and the Jeep dealership across town informed us that the slave cylinder was a non-serviceable part. That meant that to buy the bleeder screw from them would entail (besides actually getting to the Jeep dealership) purchasing an entire slave cylinder. They attempted to describe the screw over the phone, but their measurements didn't make a whole lot of sense. Our best option was just to take the screws we had and hope for the best.

Easter Jeep FiascoAfter an hour of walking and talking we got back to the Jeep. I had Scott hold the two bleeder screws and I took the one below the Jeep that had the best chance of fitting. Bless my memory, I had chosen the correct screw. We had the clutch bled and were back on the road in 15 minutes. We had been on the road no more than 20 minutes when we passed a Colorado state trooper. We were in a 4 cylinder Jeep towing my utility trailer up a mountain...there was no way we were speeding. We got pulled over. The trooper walked up to us and asked the greatest question in the world, " do you know why I pulled you over?" I, of course, had no idea. It turns out, it was my windshield. Remember the little rolling incident? My windshield has seen better days. Anyway, the trooper took my license back to his car and after running my name (which came up clean) he let me go with just a verbal warning.

A little further down the road we pulled off to fill up with gas and check the ATF level in the transfer case. When I removed the fill plug I wasn't blessed with the trickle of ATF that I was hoping for. Filling a transfer case straight from an ATF bottle is nearly impossible, so we purchased a sport bottle from the convenience store. Much to our dismay, the transfer case was either completely empty or really close. With no other options we continued on towards Denver.

About this time the sun set and we noticed a significant cloud of black smoke behind the Jeep. We pulled off the interstate in Vail and checked the fluid, which needed to be filled again. We decided to get to Denver and stop for the night.

At the hotel we filled the transfer case one more time and decided that we should replace the rear seal in the morning. Inside the hotel room we tracked down our family and caught them up on the shenaganins since we had been largely unsuccessful in contacting them earlier in the week.

600 miles in a car (ugh)
Friday 03/29/2002
Easter Jeep FiascoThe following morning, we filled up with gas and breakfast and got directions to a parts store. The first store didn't have the seal, but a location "just around the corner" did. Just around the corner turned into about 3 miles through Denver. The second store did have the seal, which we took to the parking lot and installed, then filled up the transfer case. After covering the fluid spills with oil absorbing powder we headed for the highway. We had intended to pull off at a filling station to check the fluid before we got out of the city, but didn't see one from the interstate. Shortly after leaving the city we saw a closed station and pulled off there. We had only covered about 30 miles and we put in over 16 ounces of ATF. We didn't have enough fluid to make it back to Manhattan, Kansas or even Hayes. We turned around and headed back to Denver.

We were hoping to find another U-Haul to rent to pull the Jeep home. After looking around we discovered that since it was the end of the month, there were no one-way moving vans available. Resigned to the possibility of leaving the Jeep in Denver we found by phone a local Nazarene Church that was willing to let us leave the Jeep in their parking lot.

We located the church and parked the Jeep in the back of the lot. The pastor was gracious enough to let us use one of his offices to make calls from. We were trying to find a rental company that would rent us a truck to pull an auto transport trailer behind. The main problem was that most rental companies don't like renting to people under the age of 25 and neither Scott nor myself are 25. My phone calls went like this;

"Do you rent to people under 25? If yes, do you have any trucks to rent that can pull a trailer one way to Kansas."

Needless to say, that route was unsuccessful. We finally found a company at the airport that rented to people under 25 and had a car available for one way to Kansas. We loaded all of our crucial gear from the Jeep and trailer into the church van, locked up the Jeep and headed out to the airport. We loaded up our rental car and headed back to Kansas. I returned Scott to his wife around 11:30 PM on Friday and crashed on their couch.

Still cursed, but home at least
Saturday 03/30/2002
I got up Saturday morning at 7:00 AM, showered and headed for Tonganoxie, Kansas, arriving at 9:00 AM, just in time for the bank to open where I was due to sell my house. That took longer than it should have. I left there for Kansas City, Missouri, and school. When I got off the interstate, I hit a pothole and got a flat in the rental car. At lunch time I called their roadside assistance to have the flat changed. After school, I went truck shopping with one of my friends. We both ended up buying new trucks on Tuesday. I planned to go out to Denver with an auto transport trailer to tow my Jeep home the following weekend. So, I guess the story isn't over yet.

The Great Jeep Rescue
Saturday 04/06/2002
My how plans get changed. I was supposed to help a friend's mother move on Saturday and then head to Denver with a trailer to rescue my Jeep. An army of friends and family completed the move on Friday so I was free to leave earlier for Denver on Saturday. To appease my professor, I attended the first half of class and started for my trip after lunch.

The passenger manifest for the trip also changed at the last minute. Initially, it was going to be my uncle, sister and brother-in-law. My uncle wanted to ride along so he could visit his boys in Denver. My sister had an interview in Aspen. When it came time to roll, my uncle pleaded exhaustion due to an earlier trip and my sister had already headed out. With twenty hours of driving ahead of me in the next day and a half, I knew that I would need someone to help me stay alert. Frantic phone calls found many willing friends who had too much on their plates already. About the time I was ready to up the level of caffeine I had planned and take on the trip solo, I got a hold of my friend Randy. The conversation went something like this.

Easter Jeep FiascoRandy: Hello?
Chaz: Hey Randy, what's up?
Randy: Oh, you know…the usual.
Chaz: Would you like to go on a road trip?
Randy: I don't know, where are we going?
Chaz: Denver, to pick up my Jeep.
Randy: When are we leaving?
Chaz: I plan on heading out of town as soon as I can pick up a trailer.
Randy: Well, give me 15 minutes to pack.
Chaz: That'll work out well, I'm 15 minutes from your house.
Randy: Okay, see you when you get here.

Sure enough, I arrived to find Randy packed and ready to go. We were just getting ready to hit the highway for Kansas City, KS when my phone rang. The local U-Haul had an auto transport trailer available for me. At 1:40 PM we were hitched up and ready to go. A quick call to Tony Lopez , who was gracious enough to let us crash on his floor, to let him know about when we'd be there, and we were off. The trip to Denver was as uneventful as western Kansas, and thankfully so. We arrived in town at 9:00 PM local time and had found Tony's house by 9:30 PM.

The plan was to crash early, get up early and load the Jeep in the morning. At Tony's suggestion, however, we headed for the church to pick up the Jeep that night. Finding the church turned out to be somewhat of an adventure. The street we needed to turn on didn't have a street sign so we ended up passing it twice before actually turning down it.

The Jeep looked all safe and cozy at the back of the lot - no worse off than I left it anyway. Closer inspection revealed otherwise. Some extremely thoughtful thieves had entered my locked Jeep, presumably through the soft top windows which were partially unzipped. They then removed my new stereo (very professionally, I might add), picked the lock on my center console and rescued the face. The speakers didn't seem to cooperate as well, as one of them was missing its' cover.

As all kind thieves are apt to do, they locked the doors behind them when they left. With a shrug and a sigh we proceeded with the task at hand. With a little finagling and a lot of elbow grease, the three of us were able to get the small trailer in the back of my truck and strapped down. Then I pulled the Jeep on the rented trailer and we strapped that down. After a stop for some fast food, we went back to Tony's house. Tony cleaned some mountain bike and Jeep parts out of the spare room and we crashed for the night.

The End of a Saga
Sunday 04/07/2002
Sunday morning found us on the road by 9:00 AM (we were still on CST). Quite a few blessedly uneventful miles later, we were in a small town outside Wichita where the Jeep has found a temporary home next to my grandpa's RV. Back in the truck for the final leg, we pulled off on our exit at 8:00 PM.

Home, at last.

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