Bill E. Branscum ©2003
(Click the Pics to Enlarge)
When Julius Caesar crossed the
Rubicon in 49 BC, it marked a point of passage where things
changed forever. Caesar had everything, and he had those
things under control, but he took a great step, and in crossing
the Rubicon River, he risked it all for the promise of what
Thus began the Roman Empire.
I suppose that we all have tough
decisions to make. I may have been the world's happiest
single parent, I enjoyed it, and I came to feel that I had
it all under control so the idea of getting married was
a big step.
Luz is a wonderful, beautiful, young lady, and it promised
to be a step in the right direction - for all of us. The
kids adore Luz, just as she loves them, so we chose to risk
the stability and security we had built for ourselves to
chase rainbows, and pursue our dreams.
For Valentine's Day, Luz bought me a present. Although
the irony may have been apparent to nobody but me - I found
the "Rubicon" to be amusingly apropos.
Since we first met, Luz always
loved the way the kids and I did things together. She poured
over the pictures of our trips and she dreamed of seeing
other places that she had only seen in books. The Grand
Canyon, The Blue Ridge Parkway, Monument Valley, Mount Rushmore,
The Appalachian Trail, Jackson's Hole - from Key West to
Alaska, our "Luz-y-luz" has always had things
she wants to see.
Luz did her homework, she didn't pick the Jeep because
of the "Rubicon" name. Dana 44's, air lockers
front and rear, serious skid plates, disc brakes, rock crawler
gears, sturdy roof racks meant to carry stuff, and jerry
cans to get us places a 19 gallon tank won't. I hate to
twist the knife guys, but she bought me a better Jeep out-of-the-box
than most four-wheelin' enthusiasts ever aspired to build.
|I should know, I have been a Jeep
lover since "back in the day," and it was my old
photo albums that gave Luz the idea. Remember when the Golden
Eagle "Limited Edition" Jeep was the rage? I was
younger then, and good looking, and tall . . . well, I was
|That wasn't the only picture Luz has seen of
my Jeepin' days. I've got pictures of when I stuck it, and
the only winch that I could afford at that time in my life
was no shade of the tool for the job.
I also showed her pictures of my Hi Lift jack, and the
way we wrenched my baby out of the mud with it, "when
all else failed.
"I recall wondering out loud whether those people
were still in business, as that stalwart monster was a truly
People who don't get into this
sort of thing cannot really envision it. When they get stuck,
they whip out the cell phone and call Wreckers-R-Us, and
a cheerful young man working his way thru college shows
up within minutes.
Out here, a cell phone is great - as a calculator, an alarm
clock and maybe even for games, but in many cases, it strictly
will not function as a phone. In fact, this gives rise to
the "four-wheeler's communication principal,"
which provides that:
For any given location on planet Earth, the
likelihood that a communication device will function effectively
is inversely proportional to the likelihood that you'll
desperately need it.
Luz is a dreamer, but she's serious and she pays attention.
If you look close behind the push bar of the Rubicon, you'll
see a real winch capable of hoisting this little rascal up
into a tree. You'll also see something else.
I don't know exactly how to put this without sounding ungrateful
for the winch - Lord knows, I love to be able to do things
the easy way these days - but look close, behind that starboard
gas can. That, friends and neighbors, is a brand new, genuine
Hi Lift jack - a "heavy duty" model that I never
even knew that they made.
a mature adult, I was in no hurry to take my new toy to
out and try it out. Besides, where in SW Florida would you
go to use a Jeep?
Can you say "Everglades?" Sure, I knew you could
- and a beautiful day in the neighborhood it was too. For
a larger, clearer version of the pictures, click on them.
|Although "Luz-y-luz" has added an exciting dimension
to our travels and explorations, the fact is, the Rubicon
is not going to replace our Suburban as the family car. There
is simply no way to pack six people inside this four-seater
Click Pics To Enlarge
|Of course, there are those days when the kids
and I can get out Jeeping by ourselves. In that case, we only
have one seat too few.
Lest anyone get
too sympathetic, Meggie wasn't forced to ride in the back
because she's the baby - she got to ride in the back because
she's the meanest, and she put up the toughest fight. (Just
ask Jim Parker about that nosehook!)
I suppose it goes without saying
but, "Don't try this at home."
Aside from the fact that the kids were only out in the
trail racks long enough to snap a few pics calculated to
make the grandparents crazy, it would not be a good thing
for anyone to get in the habit of taking their family out
into this area by themselves - and never without adequate
Although the pictures may look treacherously hazardous,
the fact is we went everywhere without
resorting to the air-lockers. The tires they put on this
thing have an aggressive tread, and the limited slip was
almost all we needed; we wouldn't have needed four-wheel
drive but there were times when we wanted to use low range.
Unlike the ancient "twin shifter" Jeeps we had
in the old days, you cannot use low range these days without
We never needed the air-lockers, but some of the slimy,
swampy embankments were slick enough that we did get to
try them out. They are electronically actuated by depressing
a switch - depressing the switch once locks the rear and
twice locks front and rear. With the differentials locked,
the traction was remarkable so there was no real risk of
Even if we had managed to stick it, the Warn 9500 has the
power to hoist the Jeep up into a tree; Lord knows there
were plenty of trees.
All that neat, macho go anywhere business not withstanding,
it is best to have someone else along in a second vehicle
if you intend to go out into the Everglades. As anyone with
any swamp experience knows, the risk isn't getting stuck
- it's getting the engine stopped! No offense intended to
Jeep, or anyone else from Detroit, but nothing mechanical
Once that engine quits, you and yours will stay in that
vehicle with the windows rolled up for about five minutes
before the 100 degree/100 % humidity outside starts to look
good. Once you've been out of the Jeep for about five minutes,
you'll realize that beautiful though it surely is, the Everglades
will eat you and yours for lunch - literally.
Remember that Off commercial years ago where the guy stuck
his arm into the glass box full of mosquitoes? That's nothing!
Get stuck in this stuff and you'll cheerfully trade your
Rolex for a can of bug spray . . . not that ordinary bug
spray will help you much out here.
One other thing that I should mention for the benefit of
those who elect to "try this at home," that slimey,
scummy stuff on swamp water will cling to the undercarriage
of your Jeep. If you don't make a diligent effort to wash
it off . . . well, imagine driving around for a month with
a good sized fish wedged between the body and the exhaust
Crawling under a slimed Jeep with a water hose is a nasty
job - it's the sort of thing where a teenager comes in very
Anyway, after a few hours we
were satisfied that the four-wheel drive worked properly,
and confidant that the air locking differentials were functioning
as they should, so we decided to go leave the swamp and
head for a beautiful stretch of beach to watch the sun go
Unfortunately, vehicles are not allowed on public beaches,
and most of the places where you can drive to the beach
are blocked off. As one might imagine, I was never able
to drive thru there in my Trans Am.
|This is definitely not Trans Am territory -
or four-wheel drive territory either, unless you have the
right skid plates. It took about three minutes for Jeremy
to convince me that those diamond sill plates were not put
there just for looks.
Fortunately, and perhaps
coincidentally, Jeremy is about to buy his first car, and
Luz has got him convinced that he must have a Jeep too.
"With two Jeeps we can go anywhere,"
they say, "With two Jeeps we can take everybody,"
they echo. "With two Jeeps . . ."
I suspect that my oldest son will desperately need the
services of a Chiropractor one day - he's pushing 6' tall
now, and that's a lot of boy to be wrapped around Luz' little
Life is good. I feel like a kid again, my son is buying
practical transportation with a real frame underneath that
can withstand a collision, and my children are devouring
travel books with Luz.
||What a wonderfully lovely pair of sweet, smiling, innocent
faces. It's hard to imagine all the devious, conspiratorial
scheming that goes on between these two. Oh well, having women
manipulate your life taint necessarily a bad thing.
Of course, I do realize that
there may be no real conspiracy going on. It might be that
twenty some-odd years of investigating crimes of one kind
or another may have carried over into my personal life.
Being a cynical, skeptical, suspicious kind of guy by nature,
it is entirely possible that I'm imagining things. This
feeling that I have that something is going on is probably
all in my head.
Anyway, conspiratorial ring-leader or not, Luz certainly
has a wonderful knack for making me feel good about things.
She's just about got me convinced that I can turn back the
clock, try again, and perhaps do things a little better
Maybe if I'm especially good, she'll make me another baby
to play with.
All things considered, Luz may be the best thing that ever
could have happened to my family, and Lord knows I am grateful
for all she's been and done. I know I cannot braid Megan's
hair like Luz does, I admit that I don't have a "feminine
side," and nobody ever accused me of lighting up any
room with a smile - but I can find Colorado, Wyoming, Utah,
Arizona, Alaska and anywhere else that this young lady dreams
Our second Jeep is coming and
I'm thinking that life is going to get a bit more interesting
around here -- stand by and we'll take you with us.