Rig Check and 40th Birthday, May, 4 19

Our fine hosts the Tenney’s did their legendary thing with the weather – it being a beautiful spring afternoon in the woods north of Monroe. Ed claimed to have been doing a sun dance in the back yard days before – while also claiming no one wanted to see him doing that. (Ed – I may now have to go poke out my mind’s eye – thanks for that visual….)

Mary and I got there unusually early for us – which was still about 30 minutes after the start of the festivities – bringing one BITHCHIN’ Pan of Beecher’s Mac and Cheese. If you never had it – I will go on record right here of being unpaid spokesman for the best mac and cheese you can get. At least made by someone else. It joined an already filling-up counter of various and sundry salads and desserts, finger food and fruit and a 40 year celebratory sheet cake – made of gobs of chocolate – looking for all the world like the worlds yummiest mud pit – albeit in miniature.

40 years you say? Yes – to the day – the Tamers as a club has been around for 40 years – apparently NOT being TLDW (too long – didn’t wheel) and showing a stamina and stick-to-it-tiveness lesser organizations wouldn’t be able to muster. I’ve been around for 22 of those years – and Rudi P having tiptoed through the extensive Tamer photo archives (claiming to be about 6,000 images and videos) he had pulled a slideshow still to be about a few hours long before it repeated – and that wasn’t even close to the record we have of the Tamers and affiliated work, play and other assorted hijinks. Also available were old newsletters (the Traction Action – of which I’ve created a few in the past) and even hard copy pics in notebooks. Wow – talk about old tech in the fashion of old school.

For me – it was a great trail ride down memory lane – seeing wheelers still in the club who used to look a lot younger, sporting more hair and less girth. Also – rigs that started out as clean little babies (Rudi’s YJ, Karl’s TJ, my dear departed CJ and Moosenstein before I got him all appropriately trail-modified, even a view of Dirtball as a 1945 stock flat fender – before it grew in fits and starts to the lengthened, strengthened legend it had grown to become. Even saw an old video of Dirtball doing Tamer air force take-off and landings in the dunes at Moses Lake – which was particularly entertaining.

And plenty of other newer rigs that started out as quite capable but totally stock JK’s more recently – with the owners adding their personal touches of both trail readiness and touches of personal pride – as resources and time allows. I’ll cop to being maybe a little smug that Mary and my rigs have long since been paid off – but at the same time – with age comes – wisdom? Sloth? An aversion to being wet, muddy and cold all simultaneously with proclaiming to all that it was a “really good time”? For me – its kinda like backpacking and sleeping on the ground – I know I still could do it – and just as much – I’m happy not having to prove that factoid out in reality.

Longest term club members at this fete were the Ostler family – Dano, Jules and girls Cara and Shelly. Dano is somewhere in the 50-99 double digits club member-wise. And as we told tales and remembered all kinds of history – I recalled Shelly’s first wheeling escapades were performed from inside her mother’s womb. Dan had a nickname due to his imitable wheeling style – which believe is “Up-n-Over” as Dan had no problem getting his rig on its side with little coaxing or provocation. In fact – it’s a Tamer story that Dan and Julie’s first date was on the trail – and he put his rig on its side. When she just sat there calmly beside him – he is rumored to have thought, “Wow – this is the woman for me!” Also – just today – as Rudi was talking through his latest mods that have gotten him a track probably now 70” wide – Dan mused – “Boy – I think my track was about 55” in my CJ. No wonder I ended up on my side so much!”

But – back to present day. I don’t recall the exact count – but seems to me that there were about 15-18 rigs represented – from the latest JK’s all dressed up in their finest – to a few TJ’s, Ed and Rudi’s built YJ’s, Katie’s very clean, very nice ’51 flattie. Of course – Casey Stokes and Gary Miller were in their contrarian finest with their mechanical children – the Toy Miss Creant, and the ‘Zuk Miss Understood. In my book – the most honorable mention – the clubs newest driver with the 2nd oldest bit of rolling stock – Cassy Petersen was driving her grandfather’s 1969 CJ – complete with stock 225 CI Buick odd-fire V-6 under the hood. Yes – this 50 year old piece of art has been in the Petersen family almost all of those years – and it was good to see this lovely little piece of steel rolling again (and also in typical aged-like-a-fine-wine Jeep fashion – marking its territory with wild abandon.)

The wraps came off the food and Ed got the new Trager going – which worked well for the hotdogs, but the hamburger patties appeared to be made of fire-resistant stuff – as they balked to cooperate with the grill on both the char and the spitting of grease. No matter – they made it off the grill soon enough and the only way folks could go hungry today is only if they just didn’t open their mouths.

Appetites sated – at least for a few moments – Casey started passing out the “rig check” materials – what you as a wheeler should have on your rigs whenever you hit the trail. I daresay – Mary and I failed miserably. Not that we don’t know what we “should” have with us – and often times have in the past had a full complement of the proper tools and parts while in Moab or the Rubicon – but a trip to Monroe – man – it’s tough having all of the appropriate wheeling stuff on board when you have to be making room for the truly important picnic items – like – Mac-n-Cheese, wine, hard cider, chairs, a cigar…… I refer you back to our getting there 30 minutes fashionably late – taking time installing food and creature comforts. Tools, recovery gear, part and fluids? What? I thought that’s why you don’t go wheeling alone – as long as whoever you wheel with has done a better job at being ready than you are! Well – we just figure we’ll be a bit better stocked up wheeling-wise – when the task at hand will be more in the way of wheeling rather than picnicking.

We got really no points for important wheeling things – like “kelp man” on the antenna (a dried shrunken head of bull kelp carved on a Shore Patrol a few years ago) – and maybe some deemed this not a real Jeep – since it was not marking its territory. Also – we did not get any points for bringing our salt-shooting “Bug-A-Salt” (google it!) rifle – wanting to make sure we could keep any annoying flies away. Believe me – there have been times historically on the trail that folks would have given almost ANYTHING to knock down the errant biting fly or yellow jacket. Oh well.

The feast had transited back and forth between the back yard to the driveway – but finally – for rig check – and then the RTI ramp – Tamers all assembled in folding chairs out in the drive. Now – given my having harvested a bouquet of “Oopsie-Daiseys” a few years ago by putting Mary’s Jeep on its side while playing (or more accurately – driving off) the RTI ramp – I was specifically forbidden to engage in such Tamer games. But as usual – I (and everyone else) was just fine watching others put their rigs through their paces. I think Rudi P with his new full size running gear and coil overs showed the most impressive amount of stretch. The JK’s also did a nice job walking up the ramp and twisting out in a most convincing manner. Gary did yeoman work in his ‘Zuk – having old school leaf springs and long shackles – and having a wheelbase about as long as Rudi’s track on his Jeep now is wide – he just wasn’t going to equal that same type of moon shot – but sure looked good going as far as he did anyway.

In general tale telling and conversation after that (oh – and no rigs on their sides) Ed started suggesting that he had an old stump that needed to be pulled and moved. That maybe we could do that if we had enough Tamers tie onto it and pull or winch it. I’m not entirely sure this was ever a serious conversation or endeavor. The stump is probably about the size of maybe 4 rigs stacked on each other – which then bred no end of unclear thinking and suggestions Ed (and certainly Katie) ever thought were productive and realistic for the task at hand. Amongst the suggestions: Letting it rot for 100 years. Drilling holes in it, filling them with kerosene and burning the stump out – also likely to be an 80-100 year solution. Dynamite – 3 separate suggestions of dynamite. One of them being compared to the infamous blowing up of the dead whale on the beach in Oregon in 1970 (if you haven’t seen it – go google that up too). Did I say the stump is about 15 feet from the house? Letting the fir and cedar trees already taking root in the stump grow up around the stump (another 100 year plan.) Ed finally commented that apparently – the Tamers had already used up all of their “good ideas” earlier in the day – and that probably the stump’s reckoning will have to come some other time. Katie looked quite relieved…

By 6-ish – folks started heading home. Katie was doing her usual, “Say – don’t you want to take some cake home? Here – grab some cookies. You look like you might starve without taking a little food home with you” best to off-load some leftovers out of the kitchen. I figured I would do the right thing by taking some of that yummy chocolate mud-bog cake home with me. As I placed my plates in the back of the Jeep – Mary looks at me wondering what I have – where I find that she also had grabbed some cake. Well – no problem – apparently – that’s why God created insulin.

A BIG THANK YOU both to Ed and Katie for having this little soiree again at their place – and also to everyone who came together to celebrate 40 year of wheeling as Tamers. It was a good time with great group of people.

Thanks for reading –
And Keep On Wheelin!