Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Story Sample For Mike

Jake Preston eased back on the throttle, reducing airspeed, thus allowing the little Cessna 185 to shed a bit more altitude. The agile four-seater responded accordingly, and it wasn't long before the jagged crags and snow-capped peaks of the Frank Church Wilderness appeared to be right outside his cockpit window. He marveled at the staggering remoteness of the area; tree topped peaks and craggy spires in every direction, as far as the eye could see.

“It's so beautiful,” a sweet and heavily accented voice modulated through his headset.

He pulled his attention away from the rugged mountain vistas to the woman seated next to him. The morning sun gilded her yellow-blond hair in a halo of gold, and sparkled in her ice-blue eyes as she beheld the massive landscape with the wonder of a child. He smiled as she peered through the viewfinder of his 35mm Nikon and snapped a series of pictures out the window.

“Not as beautiful as you, Mags,” he said. Yeah, it was the cheesiest and most cliché line in the book, but sometimes cheesy can work with the ladies. You just have to know how to do it right. It's all about timing, and this seemed to be one of those times.

Sure enough, she took the camera from her face and let it rest protectively in her lap—she was wearing those faded jeans he liked—then blew him a kiss, her rose-colored lips making a cute, little pucker. He chomped at the air, pretending to catch the kiss with his teeth—a little more cheese. She giggled, slapped him on the shoulder, and then resumed taking pictures. It's all about the timing.

Damn, I'm the luckiest guy on the planet, he thought as he gave his instruments a quick glance. Ever since he was a kid thumbing through those issues of National Geographic at the dentist's office, he had dreamed of being a photojournalist. He had asked his dad, “You mean, people actually get paid to travel the world taking pictures of cool stuff?” When the answer came in the affirmative, he knew, right then and there, which path his life would take.

And what a path it had turned out to be! At just thirty years old he had been to nearly every continent, visited dozens of countries—his passport was full of stamps—interviewed warlords, dined with chiefs, been the guest of a sultan, danced with a princess, been frisked by a Secret Service agent, rafted sections of the Amazon, Nile, Yangtze, and Danube, backpacked in The Andes, French Alps, Carpathians, Urals, and Rockies; just to name a few of his adventures.

But none of those adventures could quite compare with the rush of Magdalena Samuelsson. He met Maggie about a year ago in her native country of Sweden. He was there to cover the emerging story of Middle Eastern and North African refugees that had inundated the Nordic nation, bringing its famous hospitality to the brink of collapse.

One day, Just by chance, Jake had learned about Alvdalen, a remote Swedish village with a tiny population of people that spoke a nearly forgotten language all their own. A guy in a Stockholm pub had told him that some folks compared the language to the famous Elvish from Tolkien's Lord of The Rings. As a matter of fact, the language was known as Elfdalian. Only about three thousand people in the world could even speak it.

It didn't take much more to convince Jake that this was a place he just had to see. Besides, the whole refugee story was beginning to depress the hell out of him anyway. The long and short of it: Maggie Samuelsson happened to be a resident of this Alvdalen and the two of them had hit it off almost immediately. She was a Norse beauty: blond hair, blue eyes, long legs, and the athletic build of an avid cross-country skier. He jokingly referred to her as his Viking shield maiden.

Initially, he had only intended on spending one night in Alvdalen before returning to the States. That was before he met Maggie at the tiny hotel where she worked the front desk. One night became two, two nights became a week, and suddenly, he found himself traveling all over Scandinavia with her. And for one of the few times in his life, he found himself head over heels.

It hadn't been easy maintaining such a long-distance relationship over the past year. She had her life in Sweden and he had his life in … well, wherever his job took him. But they had kept in close touch through social media and texting. And he made stopovers in Sweden as much as he possibly could. But despite all the efforts, he found that they were still spending too much time apart. The time had come to take the next step.

A month ago, during one of his routine visits, he went down on bended knee and popped the question—in Elfdalian. It was a fairytale moment in his life as she flung herself into his arms, and accepted his proposal with the most passionate kiss he had ever received.

The plan was simple: she would learn the ins and outs of his profession, and they would work together as a team: husband and wife. It would be perfect! So, as soon as it could be arranged, he brought her back to the States with him--home to Idaho--to begin her training … and their new life together. A quick appointment at the county courthouse made things legal. They would return later that summer to Sweden for a proper, traditional wedding in her village.

He had always wanted to do a story on the wilderness airstrips of the Frank Church Wilderness in Idaho, and since it was so close to home, it seemed like the perfect job to ease Maggie into her apprenticeship.

“How many mountains are there?” Maggie asked. “It seems endless from up here.”
“Well, it's the largest designated wilderness area in the US outside of Alaska. A little over two million acres. More than three million if you lump in some of the surrounding national forests,” he explained. “That means no roads, no towns, no development. It's all protected.”

“Wow,” she said, bringing the camera back up to her eye. “So that's why all the landing strips? Because no roads?”

“Exactly. In fact, most people would be surprised to learn that Idaho has more of these wilderness landing strips than Alaska; over seventy. Of course the bush pilots in Alaska just land wherever they think they can put a plane.” He laughed, having been a passenger for some insane Alaska bush landings.

“But if there are no towns in these mountains, then why all the landing strips?”

Jake shrugged. “I guess they're mainly for hunters, fishermen, and rafters … sportsmen.” He flashed her a conspiratorial smile. “You know who actually lives around here and uses some of these little airstrips?”

Maggie scrunched her face up. “Who?”

“One of your favorite human beings of all time.” He began to whistle the famous theme song from the Indiana Jones movies.

Her mouth popped open and she nearly lost her piece of gum. “No way!” She looked around as if she expected Harrison Ford to suddenly appear out of nowhere.

Jake laughed and put a hand on her knee. “It's true!” he said. He has a ranch in Wyoming and loves to fly. A lot of local pilots have run into him unexpectedly in these parts.

“That would be so cool if we met him,” she said, beaming a killer smile at him.

“Yes, it would, but don't get your hopes too high, doll,” he said in his best Indy impersonation.

She put her hand on his. “Too late for that!” And she laughed.

And she was beautiful.

And he was very lucky, indeed.


“We're going to land on that?” Maggie asked, staring from the window at the pine-covered canyon below.

“No sweat,” Jake said, banking in order to bring the aircraft on a line of approach with what amounted to little more than a narrow ribbon of dirt that had been carved out of a section of pine trees on the canyon floor.

“No sweat?” Maggie said, tightening her seatbelt. “Sure, okay. If you say so.”

“Okay, it's a little tricky,” he admitted as he cut the throttle. “But, it's nothing to worry about. I've done it before, and trust me, I wouldn't even attempt it if I had any doubts about our safety.”

Maggie seemed to take an amount of reassurance from this and visibly relaxed a bit.

“Besides,” he said, “No need to be nervous yet. This is just a practice approach to help me with my timing and stuff for when I make the real attempt on the next pass.”

She smiled and nodded. “What's that American saying again? Practice makes perfect?”
Jake guided them in low and slow. The wings were perfectly aligned over the remote landing strip, the tops of the pines floating by on either side. Conditions couldn't have been any better and he wished he had just gone ahead and landed. It was too late for that however, so he throttled up and pulled back on the yoke, preparing to come around for another approach.

Maggie clapped her hands. “You are good.”

“Thanks,” he said as the Cessna climbed above the mountains that formed the little canyon. “Did you see any good spots for us to camp down there?”

“Can we put our tent by the little stream?”

“We can put our tent anywhere you'd like. Or we could just unroll our sleeping bags and sleep out under the stars.”

“Yes!” she exclaimed. She leaned in close to him and held the camera at arm's length.

“A selfie?” he asked, feigning disgust.

“Smile,” she commanded with pouting lips.

He didn't have to work very hard to conjure up a sincere smile. She puckered her lips, kissing him on the cheek, and clicked the camera's shutter.

And that was when the engine sputtered … once, then twice. And then died.

Maggie gripped his arm. “What's happening, Jake!”  She cried, her voice dripping with mortal fear.

“Hang on,” he said, doing his best to compensate for the sudden loss of thrust. His body immediately broke into a cold sweat as he scanned his instrument panel.  Everything was dead … except for the altimeter, which was displaying a rapid decent—too rapid. He tried turning the engine over. No dice. Shit!

“Turn around,” Maggie said, still gripping his arm like a vice, “back to the airstrip!”

“I can't!” he said through clenched teeth. “We're not high enough. She'll stall and we'll nose right into the ground!”

“What are you going to do then? Are we going to crash?” The panic in Maggie's voice escalated with each question.

“Maggie, I need you to calm down,” he said. “I'm just going to have to glide us down to a place where we can land. Look around for anything that looks flat and doesn't have any trees. Don't worry, it's going to be fine.”

“Okay, okay.”

The ground was coming up fast, as the wind howled over the surface of the wings like a banshee's wail. With expert finesse he was able to maintain the right amount of trim and airspeed to keep the plane in a controlled glide. But all around them the terrain was an endless sea of rocky ridges and serrated peaks, separated by steep, narrow canyons. He couldn't see any good options for putting the plane down, and only seconds left before gravity made the decision for him. Maggie had gone silent, probably paralyzed with fear.

The plane barely cleared a ridge before dropping down into a v-shaped canyon and started skimming the tops of the taller pines. There was a small stream flowing through the middle and he tried to line up his fuselage as best he could with the course of the water. Maybe he could at least avoid a head on collision with the cockpit and a tree trunk.

He was radioing out a mayday call when his right wing snapped the top of a tree right off. The plane shuddered and pulled hard to the right but he was able to keep it mostly on course. But as the plane descended lower, the trees grew thicker. In fact, a beefy tree suddenly appeared ahead; there would be no snapping the top off this one.

“Hang on, Maggie!”

When the wing hit the big tree the Cessna seemed to explode. The noise and the violence was unreal. Jake thought he heard Maggie's scream intermingled somewhere in the cacophony of screeching metal and shattering glass as the plane crashed and slammed from tree to tree.

When they impacted the ground it was with so much force that the cockpit seemed to crumple all around him like the sides of a crushed soda can. Pain—sharp and searing in some places, dull and throbbing in others—flooded his body as he fought for the wind that had been knocked out of his lungs. The acrid odor of fuel was strong enough in the air that he could actually taste it on his tongue. One little spark and they would burn to death!

This horrific realization shocked him into action. “Maggie!” He strained his neck to the side, praying that she was okay. Panic and despair rose in his breast when he saw that her side of the cockpit wasn't even there, apparently having been ripped completely away at some point during the crash.

Tears welled up in his eyes as he struggled to pull himself from the wreckage, the pain in his body arguing very effectively against such action. It didn't matter anyway; his left foot was pinned where the skin of the plane had crimped down on his leg, and every time he pulled, it felt as if someone was stabbing a hot fire-poker into his shin and twisting it around.

A wave of nausea assailed him at that moment, and he suddenly realized that he was on the verge of losing consciousness. He guessed that this was it for him, doubting very much that he would have the chance to wake, as the wreckage would most likely catch fire at any moment. At least he wouldn't be conscious for that.

His final, fleeting thoughts were of Maggie. He hoped that somehow she had survived the crash, that she was better off than he was, and that she would live a happy life without him. Then, darkness finally took him into its cold embrace.

Friday, January 28, 2011

New Shifter Knob

I haven't done a lot with the Jeep this winter.  Just the occasional drive to keep the fluids circulating.  But, for my birthday my wife got me the coolest new shifter knob from  They call it the "Bombknob"  It's an authentic pineapple grenade from WW II that has been deactivated or made inert.  Because of my profession this is a perfect accent for the interior of my CJ.  It's unique and adds a touch of my own personality to the Jeep.  Gotta love this one line from the installation instructions: "Currently, we ship BomNobs fully assembled; however, if you prefer the spoon (handle) to be removed, pull the pin and run like hell - Just kidding!"  No kidding!

It was pretty easy to install.  Here's some pics of the process.

 The old B&M Shifter (which is pretty cool too)
 Just loosen the nut towards the floor and unscrew the old shifter knob
 BombNob installed!  Still have to take it for a test drive, but feels alright so far.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Small Excursion

I have not been doing too much lately with the CJ besides just driving it to work and back and loving the heck out of it.  Due to my shift work, I frequently have my days off during the weekdays and so I've been delighting my kids by picking them up from school in the CJ with the doors off.  They fight over who gets to sit in the front passenger seat.  My oldest daughter, nine years old, loves sitting up there with the doors off and waving to her friends as  we pull away. . . she feels pretty cool. . . as she should.

Today, instead of going home, I decided to head up into the hills near our house and take a little jaunt on some of the dirt roads that wind through the sage brush up there.  Kids loved it - as did I - and the little CJ performed great!  I'm not an extreme off-road guy.  Snapping axles on the weekends is not my idea of a swell time, but there's just something about being out there with the doors off on a warm Fall day, the tunes blaring,  as you crawl your way through no-man's-land. 

Top of the big hill.  Dry farms ready for harvest in the background.
My faithful crew.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Little Off-Roadn'

Just to report that I popped the doors off today, loaded three of my kids into the CJ and we went on a short little excursion onto a rutted, dirt road that cuts through the sage brush near our home.  This was my first off-road experience in this CJ since I brought it home.  It was dusk, so I flicked on the KC lights and was pleased to see a brilliant, bright beam shooting out of both lamps, lighting up the brush and trail ahead.  We saw a family of sage grouse trotting along the road, and a giant vulture that happened to be picking the bones of a discarded elk carcass.

As far as the CJ goes it performed great!  Not that I took it to the limit or anything.  It was a pretty slow, gentle meandering road ( I probably could have done it in a Datsun )  There were a couple of little climbs that the Jeep crawled right up with no effort, and when it was time to turn for home, I left the road completely and just bush whacked a little ways.

All in all it was short, but fun.  It got me excited to get out there and do it some more and for longer expeditions next time.  Kids LOVED it!  Next on my agenda is to figure out some kind of home made hoist I can rig up in the garage to get the hardtop off the Jeep by myself so I don't have to ask my poor wife to help.  Haven't driven it with the top off yet, and I just gotta do it once before it gets too cold.  From the feel of temps at night and early mornings, that's not too far off.

- Over & Out

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Little Fix

Not much of a post today, just to log that I found a smaller than a pin hole leak in the top of the CJ's radiator today.  It doesn't even squirt out or anything.  Just kinda bubbles out of the hole.  The hole itself is not visible until you see the little bubbles oozing from it after a drive.

So, a while ago I mixed up a little bit JB Weld and applied a small amount to the area where the hole is.  Hopefully it works out and I can forget about the radiator for a while.  In my past experience JB Weld has not done the job as far as repairing holes in radiators.  But, I remain hopeful this time since the hole is so small.  I'll update.  Over and out.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sweet Color!

When I get my Jeep ready to paint, I've been in a quandary about what color I would go with.  Well, today while browsing I came across this 86 CJ 7 painted Autumn Red Metallic.  I think this is the coolest shade of red I've ever seen.  I would call it Blood Red.  I also think I like the flat fender look on this one as well, so I might end up going that route with the fenders as well. 

For future reference the author of the post says, "I used PPG DBU base coat, and PPG DCU 2010 clear coat."

Well, that's it for today.  I just think that is one killer looking CJ there!  Over & Out.

Friday, July 30, 2010

What's This About?

My first post on this blog is not only going to be an explanation of my motivation for starting it, but also my story as far as Jeeps go. . .and hopefully by the end of my story my motivation will be self evident.

It all starts back in about 1995 when I was twenty two years old.  I had been working for peanuts at a detail shop, buffing cars, shampooing, cleaning vinyl, etc for a year and scrimping together enough savings to put a down payment on my first vehicle.  Yeah, I know twenty two is a bit old for my first car, but that's another story for another blog.  Working for a year in a detail shop provided me the opportunity to be around and drive just about every standard make and model there was.  Living in Idaho, I detailed and drove my share of Chevy, Ford, and Dodge trucks, as well as Corvettes, SUVs, and everything else.  But never a Jeep.  Well, maybe a Cherokee here or there, but you know what I mean.

I had initially decided on getting a Chevy short box pickup.  I had all kinds of plans for that Chevy until one day a yellow Jeep Wrangler came into the shop.  I had never driven or even been inside a Jeep before.  The dealership that sent us the Wrangler was only about a half mile away and it was on this very short drive while returning the Wrangler I realized my destiny was to own a Jeep!  Speaking to a salesman at the dealership I soon realized that this particular wrangler was way out of my price range and so from that point forward I kept my eyes peeled, patiently waiting for the right Jeep to come along.

Some time later I found it.  A kid around my age - I think he was the manager's son from the dealership - was selling his 1984 CJ-7.  It was gorgeous!  It had a new, custom candy apple red paint job with custom hand painted pinstripes.  It was all decked out in chrome. Chrome hood and door hinges, hood latches, mirrors, big chrome brush guard, nerf bars, rockers. . . you name it, if it was a bolt on metal part it was shiny chrome.  To me it looked like something out of a car show it was so nice looking.  It had the 4.2L straight six engine and standard transmission.  I think I paid about $7500 for the Jeep and drove away feeling like the King of The World in that thing.  In fact, I remember being almost embarrassed to be driving something that looked so good.  On the way home, I blushed at intersections when I saw that people were checking out the Jeep.

The CJ served me well for three years.  I loved the Jeep and though I took it off road on some small excursions, I managed to maintain the pristine condition the body was in.  The problem is I had all these plans I wanted for the Jeep, but being young and with a very limited budget I couldn't afford to do any of them.  I wanted a lift and bigger tires, headers on the engine, a winch. . . you know just take it to the next level. . .make it a REAL worthy off-road machine.  Like the old saying goes, " You don't buy a Jeep, you build it."

Sadly one day on a stupid impulse, I saw a really cool 1979 Chevy 3/4 ton pickup with a lift and big mudders.  Foolishly I sold my little CJ to buy the truck.  I regretted this move almost right away.  I knew I was making a mistake deep down inside.  I should have known when I went out and parked it on the side of the road with a For Sale sign in it, and my phone was ringing when I got home.  The Jeep sold the same day I put it up for sale.  As a kid from Utah drove off with it and it disappeared around the corner, I muttered to my wife, "What have I done?"

Life moved on.  We had kids, and bought a house as I moved from job to job and continued to drive the old Chevy, which was a great, solid truck by the way.  Every Spring as the weather warmed up however, I would find myself wishing for my old Jeep back and jealously watching other Jeeps that passed me, top and doors off, the driver's hair catching the warm summer wind.  So, at one point, I impulsively sold the old Chevy to buy a 1976 CJ-7 with a 304 V8 with the plan to "fix it up" and do a full body restore.  It didn't take long to realize that this Jeep needed just about EVERYTHING done to it except for maybe an engine rebuild.  I also knew I didn't have the money to do what needed to be done.  The biggest problem also, was I had sold my truck to get the Jeep, so what was I going to drive while the Jeep was all torn apart?  So, I sold the Jeep and yet again bought a truck, a 1994 Chevy 3/4 ton, which I'm still driving today.  All this time of buying and selling Jeeps and trucks I was lamenting ever letting my first CJ go in the first place.  I had commented to friends and family that if I ever saw it again ( highly unlikely as it was now in Utah or who knew where ) I would run up to the owner and make an offer.

Fast forward to the present:  It's been three years since I sold the 76 and twelve years since I sold my first CJ.  I was recently suffering from yet another bout of CJ-itis.  I was just casually scanning online for Jeeps for sale, but not seriously, just seeing what was out there out of curiosity, and just to look at Jeeps and dream about the day I'd have yet another CJ.  I knew my first one was gone and I never expected to see it again, but maybe I could find another one and restore it to the kind of pristine condition my CJ was in.

Then a miracle happened.

Last week while browsing a Utah online classified website, I saw a 1984 CJ-7 for sale.  Of course I clicked the link to see the Jeep.  I saw it was red and had the chrome grill like mine did in the thumbnail picture.  So, I clicked the pictures to get a closer look.  As the picture enlarged on the computer screen something grabbed my attention. . . a custom hand painted "Laredo" on the side of the hood!  "Wait just a minute!" I exclaimed to my coworker who was sitting next to me.  I clicked on another thumbnail and another, and in utter disbelief started to realize that I was looking at my old long-lost Jeep!!  It was worse for wear and had been through a lot of changes, but this was indeed beyond any doubt my old CJ!  I couldn't believe it.  I showed my wife who was just as surprised.

I quickly began a campaign with my wife to get her blessing to get my Jeep back.  I reminded her that if it wasn't for me having that Jeep we might not have ever met.  Yeah, I was pretty desperate.  She relented pretty easily.  She put up a good front, but I think she wanted to see the old Jeep back with us just as much as I did.  On July 27th, 2010 on a Tuesday a friend drove me the 400 miles down to Utah with $4k cash in my pocket.  I paid the asking price without any bargaining and drove it back the same day.  It's now in my garage awaiting it's restoration.  I still have to pinch myself a couple times a day to be sure I'm not dreaming.  I just can't believe the odds that this would happen.

The Jeep as it stands:  Since the day I sold it there's been some upgrades to the Jeep making it truly an off-road machine.  Here's a list:

1- The 4.2L inline six engine has been rebuilt and balanced.  About 2k miles on it since the rebuild.
2- Limited slip diffs have been added along with a solid rear axle
3- A two stick transfer case that allows me to engage the front wheels only ( pretty cool )
4- KC off-road lights ( currently not working for some reason )
5- 4" suspension lift with 31" Big O tires. ( it can take 33s )
6- 8k lbs. Warn winch mounted to the front
7- Custom Rhino coated front and rear bumpers
8- New carburetor
9- Electric fuel pump
10- Manual choke
11- Custom roll bar that connects to the windshield frame (like the new Jeeps)
12- LED rear and front lights
13- Exhaust headers with dual exhaust

Mechanically this Jeep is in much better shape than when I sold it.  You can call it a REAL Jeep now.  Everything that I ever wanted to do to it has now been done.

The bad:  Well, unfortunately the Jeep's body has been neglected and allowed to rust quite a bit over the last 12 years.  If I'm going to get it back in the shape I want, we're talking a new body tub, doors, and windshield frame.  I think the hood, fenders, and tailgate are ok to save.

The rest of this blog is going to be like a play by play journal of my restoration efforts and all around anything concerning my Jeep and my interests in the Jeep world.  Please stay tuned for updates.  I appreciate any comments or advice from you old pros out there.  I sure am in a learning phase that's for sure!  I have to pay off the loan on it first before I start into the major stuff like a new tub, but I'll try to post as often as I can and keep it interesting.

 Picture of the 84 CJ back around 1996

Driving the 84 CJ across a Creek in The Tetons - 1997

Me and my CJ's final moments before I sold it.  The smile is only on the outside!

The old 76 CJ 7 I bought later and then sold.
Cool in it's own right.

This is one of the photos from the internet ad I saw and recognized my 84 twelve years later.  If you compare the pictures you can see the custom, hand-painted "Laredo" on the side of the hood.  This is how I was even able to recognize it as my old Jeep.

Quick cell phone snap shot of me and my old CJ finally reunited!  This is in Salt Lake City after having driven half of the 400 miles to get home.

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