- copyright © 2014

This and the story of the 18 wheeler rescue is what lead me to the idea of the FSJ logo!

It also lead to the inclusion of Old Blue and john in a Chrysler video for the WJ launch in 1999l!

Date: Sat, 28 Dec 1996
From: john at © 1996

Subject: escape from Clearview

cabin fever had set in... THE SITUATION The misplaced snow storm, surely scheduled for Chicago or maybe Indianapolis, had settled into the Pacific Northwest and deposited at least 14 inches of fluffy white stuff and prevented my escape... Snohomish, Washington, was more accustomed to rain than anything below freezing. THE LOCATION The normally green countryside has a beautiful strangeness when coated in white. The "snow" event is considered a holiday, normal activity ceases and emergency crews are dispatched for power lines that have fallen under fallen trees. After almost 15 years in the Northwest I'm still amazed at two things: one, how incredibly fast trees, especially alders, grow here; and two, why the utilities don't get placed under ground. Every year you hear how many millions are spent in crew overtime, line repair, not to mention the unquantifiable expenses and loss to the multitude of powerless residents. THE MOTIVATION Cabin fever... thoughts of freedom... the challenge of leaving our snowbound Snohomish residence, whatever the motivation, I wanted to escape. No particular place to go, the need to take my daughter to work in town had long passed with a message left on an answering machine. My consulting work continued in my office. We are fortunate, living near the main power distribution for our region we almost always have power, except it seems during earthquakes with epicenters 15 miles or so from our house, but that's a different story. For now, escape was unnecessary, but something still compelled me forward. The challenge. That's it, nothing more, a male kind of thing, no, more a male Jeep nut kind of thing. Although I'm quite certain that this afflication could be contracted by someone of female persuasion, it's happened, don't ask me to provide proof, but it can't be just a guy thing... it's gotta be a Jeep thing... THE CHALLENGE Off the state highway, on the side of a 600 foot ridge that runs along the south side of the Snohomish River valley, our home situated some 350 feet above sea level, is about halfway up that ridge. The highway is almost 200 feet west of us, and some 40 feet higher than the house. THE DRIVEWAY The driveway has caused little old ladies to panic, truck drivers to have nightmares, tow truck operators to make money, and a normally docile full-size jeep to become a picket fence eating monster... The driveway generates substanial small talk from first time guests. Comments like,"I knew that you could get down there, I saw cars, but I couldn't see the driveway over the hood..." and the standard questions about how you get out in the winter. That usually produces a grin on my face with the retort, "I drive a Jeep. A full-size Jeep." In the two winters we've lived here, my various four wheel drive vehicles have provided for a challenging, but eventual escape... until Friday, December 26, 1996. My finest ever FSJ (Full-Size Jeep), affectionately referred to as Old Blue, a 1981 Wagoneer Limited, dark blue with artificial wood paneling sides, a thirsty 360 cubic inch V-8 carb type motor, an automatic transmission, full time four wheel drive, every power option known to man, save the power antenna thing. This 5,000 pound luxury cruiser even as a moon roof and leather seats. Luxurious air conditioned seating comfort while hurling mud, snow or smaller vehicles off to the sides as it rolls along impervious to road or trail conditions. Here was a vehicle built by the people that symbolized off road expertise that had yet to meet a challenge that he couldn't handle... THE MORNING My neighbor in the house behind and to the southeast of mine, also has a large 4x4, a Chevy Blazer. One of my 4x4's had been a GMC Jimmy with the 6.2L Diesel. It made it out with a little effort, without chains, in previous winters. When I came out to survey the scene that snowy Friday morning I immediately noticed that my cowboy boots were getting snow in them... Oh, yeah, I guess I should have put my pants OVER the boots... You figured I'd remember that after growing up in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. My first clue that this was a different snow event. Curiosity pushed me over to the carport where I found a yard stick. I pushed it into the snow in a level area, 14". Hmmm. About ten inches more than the most we've seen at one time. If we had wind here like in the midwest this thing might have been called a blizzard. Glancing around the yard I noticed my neighbor's Blazer nestled alongside my other neighbor's bush. I could see Al working with cardboard and shovel to extricate the beast before it attacked the plant. Al's driveway was longer, straighter and more gradual at first than ours. The fact that Al was stuck there did not register in my mind as significant, he's been there before. I wandered over to the thermometer and noticed a reading of 22 degrees, way cool... (pun intended). Decided to check the oil and add a quart of tranny fluid before lighting Old Blue off. Oil level checked fine, unusual, I hadn't checked it for some time and these old AMC 360's just love to piddle their oil all over the place, like a male dog marking their territory. I added a quart of ATF because while playing in the snow in the mountains (where it belongs) on Christmas day I had noticed a little delay when shifting from reverse to drive, Old Blue's indicator that he was low on cherry juice. OLD BLUE AWAKENED Fluids covered, I hopped into Old Blue, pumped the gas pedal a few times, cranked it, stupid carb, pumped the pedal a couple of more times, and cranked it to life. Old Blue sat there stumbling at first and belching his usual black smoke into the carport. Not being fond of gas engines I decided to roll him out into the open so I didn't smell like him. Dropped the NP219 full time quadratrac transfer case into low range, slipped the Torqueflite into drive and rolled into the snow. Pulled him next to the little wagoneer, an 88 wagoneer limited built on the XJ, or downsized chassis, my daily commuter for economic reasons. I went into my office and checked my internet email. My daughter came to my office and reminded me that we actually had a reason for leaving. So we jumped into Old Blue, nicely warmed up, heated and raring to go. My neighbor was still stuck, but getting closer to escape. I decided to avoid using the main driveway for fear of sliding backward down the hill into my neighbor's parked and snow covered new Saturn at the very bottom of our shared driveway. So we made a run at the grassy slope that runs to the north of our fenced upper field. Old Blue did valiantly, but couldn't quite get all the way to the top. So I decided to make an attempt with the "little wagoneer", my 88 xj. While it is a respectable vehicle, and most certainly a Jeep, it could not make it as far as Old Blue did. In fact, in making several runs at the hill, it became mildly impaled and needed to be shoveled out in order to get back down the hill. After a few attempts I figured that we'd have a better shot at escaping in Old Blue. the little wagoneer "rests" from an attempt...
FAILURE and CHEATING So we came down and made for the real driveway. The neighbor's Blazer was now extricated from the shrubbery and had retreated to the lower part of the driveway. I first attempted the drive by maintaining a steady speed and carefully navigating the hard right directly at the base of the incline. I didn't slide into the neighbor's rockery or into their yard, but I also didn't make it very far up the drive. So I carefully backed down alongside the snow ladened Saturn, and carefully accelerated up the drive. Old Blue could only make it about 1/2 way up the drive, and that after several attempts. looking DOWN the challenge... By now my daughter had surrendered and had called into work. I watched the Blazer make several running passes at his drive. There he went, screaming up the drive in low range, a third of the way, then halfway, then three quarters... Then I noticed something. HE WAS CHEATING!!!! He had tire chains on... He kept making runs, each time making it a little further. Tire chains, I used to own some, so I surveyed my shop, remembering that they even had a box... Then I vaguely remember giving them away this summer. Besides, using tire chains is cheating, and a pain. NEED REMOVED My daughter reported that it was ok, no need to go. So I returned to my office and began working. But the tension continued to build. Freedom, escape, the open road... It didn't matter that I had absolutely NO place to go. The challenge remained and gnawed at me. I couldn't concentrate, I couldn't work. I had to meet the challenge. I looked out the window in time to see the Blazer finally crest the top of the drive and then struggle with the last 75 feet of driveway to the highway. Sideways this way, sideways that way, but finally, up and out. The Blazer was gone. Sure, he'd cheated, used chains. But he was out there. The highway was his. Old Blue, how could you embarrass me this way, you're a Jeep, a full-size Jeep at that. To let a Blazer escape, such shame. My interest in vindicating my FSJ sufficiently renewed, I surveyed my resources and the problem. THE FINAL ANALYSIS The problem was that the snow in some place was over Old Blue's front bumper, over 24 inches... Sure, I had measured 14 inches before, but the snow wasn't evenly distributed. That got me to thinking, I need to clear the driveway a little bit so Old Blue isn't pushing his 5,000 pounds plus AND a snow pile at the same time. Ok, let's see, a shovel, that should do it. Found the long handled flat blade spade. Wandered over to the driveway and started shoveling. Sheesh, this shovel is heavy, guess it wasn't designed for snow... "My kingdom for a snow shovel", the thought crossed my mind. Now I understand why we had snow shovels back home. Ok, this idea has a major flaw, it's called a lot of unnecessary work. Ok, how do I get the snow at least down to a foot so my faithful FSJ can claw his way to the top? Wait, what is that snow covered mound at the top of the property? Yes, my wife's Buick! The one they had abandoned at the top last night out of fear of wiping out the remains of the picket fence while sliding down on the one or two inches of snow that was present then. The Buick should clear the snow nicely, stopping shouldn't be a problem, the snow seemed to bind and pack nicely, indicating I'd have some control. If nothing else, my wife would get the new fence she's been after me for. THE BUICK SOLUTION So I walked up, I had the plan, bring the Buick DOWN the drive to clear it. Armed with the push broom, I waded through the snow. I brushed away the snow from the driver's door and reached inside, placed the key in the ignition and turned it. The fuel-injected Buick Regal easily jumped to life. I cleared the windshield and rear window while warming it up, I didn't want to hurt the poor thing. Then I got in, selected reverse and feed it a little bit of fuel, it moved about .25 inches back and then stopped. I tried to go forward, instead it moved downhill and to the right with the front end only. This might have worked, had it not been for the log laid across the top of this turnaround to prevent runaway vehicles from finding that picket fence. So now the right front tire is in about 18 inches of snow... It'll keep till "spring", I thought as I removed the keys and walked back down the hill. But as I walked, slipped, down the driveway, another brain episode occurred, why not make a little trail just about where Old Blue's right tires would go? So I stumbled down toward that target, I mean picket fence. THE PHILOSOPHICAL ISSUE By now I was nearly in state of total obsession. I HAD to drive that Jeep out now or suffer some imagined loss of credibility. I mean after all, we're talking about a Jeep, not just any Jeep, but a Wagoneer, a full-sized, leather equipped top of the line full time four wheel drive. And not just this particular Jeep, but the entire 50 plus year history of Jeep was at stake here. Old Blue HAD to make it out. Too much was at stake to surrender. The thought of cheating and using chains was sacrilegious, almost as low as deflating tires to do better on the Ramp Travel Index. We're talking about a combination of world class engineering and just the right amount of driver skill. The use of chains was also ruled out because they had been given away this summer. THE ATTEMPT I walked over to Old Blue, kicked the snow off of my boots, pants OVER them now. I opened the door and fired him up. I made a run at the grass hill, made it a little farther than I had on previous attempts, but still couldn't make the crest, and if I made the crest it wasn't looking too good to make the hard left between the fence posts and then navigate the mud hole in the field. So I backed down the grassy slope and drove with determination to the driveway. I slowly backed up alongside the snow heap containing the new Saturn, aimed Old Blue's nose in the general direction of the driveway, rolled slowly forward until clear of said snow heap and nailed it... The transfer case was screaming, snow was flying out of the fender wells, a slight snow wake rolled from the front of the big Jeep, as I pushed him he made it up to the end of the pavement, almost all the way to the top... I just kept my foot in the carb and rowed the front wheels back and forth, snow flying out of the wheel wells in rooster tails. I MADE IT, almost! Still have to make a left turn and go up a slight slope about fifty more feet, then make a sharp right hand turn, and proceed another 75 feet to the highway. ALMOST THERE Dennis, the neighbor who lived at the top of the driveway, had shoveled some of the snow at the top so he could try to get his Dakota out of the garage, this gave Old Blue the break he needed as he clawed his way over the top and into the clearing. I cranked the wheel hard to the left and jabbed the gas enough to make him rotate to the left. I kept the power on as I broke through fresh snow. I moved forward, Old Blue was back to normal as we pushed snow aside with his bumper. I wonder if I would have made it had I not given him a couple of inches of lift... My thoughts quickly turned to the challenge of making a hard right uphill turn before I met a barbed wire fence decorated with blackberry bramble. halfway toward the blackberries... THE BLACKBERRIES I timed it just right, I made the sharp turn with a couple of feet to spare, but in making the turn I had cut power about 5 feet from the fence/blackberries and lost all forward momentum. Old Blue had shifted sideways, and even though I had gotten back on the power as quickly as he had turned, I wasn't going anywhere... BETWEEN A TREE AND A SKI SLOPE The hump on the inside of the right turn was there to divert water from our driveway and to protect my wife's picket fence. Now it was causing me to slide toward Kraig's tree. If I kept power on I'd be rototilling Kraig's lawn and possibly end up in his living room. If I abandon ship Al won't be able to get home, and could quite possibly rearrange Old Blue's appearances if he couldn't stop his Blazer. Watching Al descend the drive with that Blazer was always a fascinating event, unfortunately I would not actually be able to see him crash into his garage if he couldn't stop, but I would be able to hear it. Al pointed out that before he got to the bottom he usually would run off into one of Kraig's trees or into the other neighbor's barbed wire fence. I guess his theory is valid, my kids seemed to sled into Kraig's tree while going down this hill. Guess it's not sloped quite right. Comforting thought as I sit in a 5,000 pound plus sled that is not cooperating in my plans for freedom. THE DILEMMA, THE DECISION So there I sat knowing if I backed up where I was I'd end up in Kraig's yard or down Al's driveway, neither option very good. Both are pretty much at the same level that I had started at. So I tried to back up a little and then go forward. When I moved I slid down Al's drive with my back end heading for Kraig's tree. How come both bad things are happening at the same time I wondered? Here I am, free of my driveway and getting stuck when I should be launching chunks of snow from the back of the Jeep as I sail on to the highway and freedom. While the tree would keep me from sliding down Kraig's yard and into his house, sliding into the tree would also keep me from going down Al's driveway and making another run up the hill in a straight shot. I kept rowing back and forth trying now to back back down from whence I came, with Old Blue sliding closer to the tree. This is not going well. I thought the hard part was over. OK, Old Blue, let's go forward, sliding DOWN Al's driveway, now I'm mostly nose down at the top of Al's driveway, but still kinda sideways, the side of Old Blue is slapping branches of the tree around. Cease fire, someone stop the world, I want to get off... Another brain episode occurs and I decide to try the air down thing, sure it's sort of like cheating, but hey, I don't want to tear up a tree AND Old Blue. So I try to back up, no luck. Ok, let's see just how difficult Al's driveway is to get out of. DOWN AGAIN We rolled on down the hill to Al's house, I carefully and lightly kept the brakes on, knowing if I locked the tires I'd make little mounds that might keep me down HERE until spring, or worse yet, find this Blazer and sled eating tree I'd heard so much about. I MAKE IT TO THE BOTTOM!!! I find a nice easy turn around and back gently up to his garage. THINGS ARE LOOKING UP I look staight ahead, I see a nice LONG straight up hill run, about 1/2 the angle of my drive at the beginning. For effect I give Old Blue a few jabs on the throttle. Then DROP THE HAMMER and go screaming up in low range, snow flying everywhere. I crest the top of Al's drive, continue on past the place where we'd just been hung up and pressed on. THE LAST LEG We were rolling, but our momentum was decreasing. I noticed that Al had struggle mightily through this remaining 75 feet of gentle slope toward the highway. I could see his zig zag ruts running all the way to the highway. Now I'm concerned that these ruts will distract Old Blue and he'll want to take a side trip. I keep the power on and head for the highway. FREEDOM IN SIGHT We press on toward FREEDOM. As we approach the highway I figured I might slow down so my freedom isn't from this life... Then I saw it, the ridge from the snow plow. Then I noticed traffic. They'd be upset if I altered their course seeing as how they were 350 feet into a 600 foot elevation change. I roll slowly along and look as far as I can to see if someone is coming. CLEARED FOR TAKEOFF I see that the highway is ours and plow through the ridge. I crank the wheel hard to the left and nail it. Old Blue responds with a wide cookie (donut) and we head back in to the drive after our victory roll. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED We head on back down toward home. Still facing some challenges, like stopping at the bottom. But right now, we are victorious!!! Old Blue did it, WITHOUT the chains I couldn't find. Ah, sweet freedom. Now, if I actually had any place to go. FINAL APPROACH We plowed our way across the top of the field. Sheesh, that stuff was deep up there, it was coming up over the top of the bumper into the grille. Old Blue sure did great on level ground. We made the turn to the right, nose pointed down the grassy hill that we couldn't make it up before. Slowly we walked our way down the slope. When we got to the bottom we turned around and tried to go back up. We made it about 5 feet further this time, but still almost twenty feet from the fence opening. Old Blue rounds the corner at the top of the field Saturday afternoon... THE END This has been the worst snow I've ever seen in the eleven years we've lived here. I measured 14 to 15 inches, but in some places it was closer to 24 inches, which explains why Old Blue had a white mustache. Well, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. By the way, the little wagoneer did make it out after Old Blue had established a clear path. But it became readily apparent that the Full-Size Wagoneer, even with open axles fore and aft, was a much better snowmobile than the downsized (XJ) version. john
Copyright © 1996 John Meister - All rights reserved.
                81(SJ)&88(XJ) Wagoneer Ltd 
Snohomish, WA -where jeeps don't rust, they mold.



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