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bigdaddylee82 UltraDork
7/29/19 3:29 p.m.

I'm an enabler and co-driver.

There's 2 of us, we're flying into Montrose on a Thursday at Noon, and have to be back the following Sunday night.

I thought I'd been to CO before, turns out Raton is actually in New Mexico... maps?  crazy right?


So, Brian's buying a TJ, couldn't find one he liked in AR, OK, or MO, so why not buy one 1000 miles away right?  Granted it's a really good deal.  He asked me to tag along, SWMBO saw an opportunity to have the house to herself for a few days, and eagerly encouraged our adventure.

Totally unknown soft top, 2.5l, 5 speed, TJ on 35" tires, with 4.88 gears, 8.25" rear axle swapped from an XJ, stock springs, cut fenders, 4 link rear, and no sway bars, in the Colorado mountains, sign me up!

So, maybe say a prayer for us.  What should we do and see along the way?  Anything neat in Montrose or Pueblo, or anywhere along the way? 

Google says to go south and hit 412 in NM, and take it all the way back.  Not crazy about toll roads OK.  We were originally thinking about going through Kansas instead. 

Any thoughts or suggestions?

mr2s2000elise HalfDork
7/29/19 3:32 p.m.

Pics of Jeep? 

bigdaddylee82 UltraDork
7/29/19 3:47 p.m.

Stole these from Brian's and my FB message interchange.





Complete with hot air intake!  But hey, it's got A/C!!!


mr2s2000elise HalfDork
7/29/19 3:51 p.m.

I will pray for you, as requested 

JohnInKansas SuperDork
7/29/19 3:52 p.m.

The stretch between Montrose and Pueblo is gorgeous, as is Salida south on 285, as is 160 east from Durango, as is... well, pretty much that whole corner of the state. You'd be starting awfully close to Black Bear Pass in Telluride... How confident are you in your (and the Jeep's) off roading abilities? I'd be tempted to make a bad idea worse and go try to get stuck, but I'm a dummy.

If you want nice quiet driving with no tolls, you can take 160 east from Trinidad toward Dodge City, KS. Lovely drive, open range country. Trade off being it is desolate. Take a jerry can of gas, stations are a little sparse. And try not to break down, I don't remember what cell signal was like out there the last time I drove that stretch.

Edit after seeing pictures: oh dear god yes. Do Black Bear. Post pictures.

Cotton PowerDork
7/29/19 7:48 p.m.

I would probably add at least a front bar.  My lifted CJ 7 was a nightmare on pavement without the front bar.

bigdaddylee82 UltraDork
7/29/19 9:02 p.m.

In reply to Cotton :

I have similar reservations based on hitting the pavement with the front bar disconnected on my TJ.  The enablee has driven a ZJ with no swaybars for close to 3 years, he thinks he'll be okay.  We'll see, we can't realistically take one with us, but we may be hitting up a junk yard or two on our way back.

Looks like there's a 4WP in Colorado Springs, maybe I can convince him to splurge on an Antirock before we're too far down the road.

Jim Pettengill
Jim Pettengill HalfDork
7/29/19 9:04 p.m.

Black Bear isn't open yet, and probably won't be this year due to massive snowslides and avalanche debris piles in the San Juans after a really good winter,  Imogene opened last week from Ouray to the top, the Telluride side isn't open yet as of today, most of the other trails are open, except for Poughkeepsie Gulch (won't be this year) and the usual easy road between Silverton and Animas Forks - last week that one still had snow/debris piles 50 feet deep and the county has decided not to try to clear it out unless all the other area trails are opened first.

And if you're having to drive that rig 1000 miles in 3 days, you won't have much time to wheel. If you can spare maybe three hours, go up to Yankee Boy Basin just at the south edge of Ouray, it's a spectacular 8 miles up to around 11,500 feet or so, not difficult but spectacular.  Montrose is 25 miles north of me.  I'm in Ridgway.  

US 550 from Ouray to Durango (the "million dollar highway") is all paved, and one of the lower 48's most scenic drives.  You won't make time on it, but it sure is pretty, if you don't mind switchbacks with no guardrails.

With that size tire and diff ratio, y'all better have some stout axles.

TRoglodyte UltraDork
7/29/19 9:12 p.m.

Drop into Las Vegas nm. Thru taos pueblo see the cliff dwellings on the way.hwy 66 when you can  .  

MrRobogoat New Reader
7/29/19 10:56 p.m.

Definitely recommend the million dollar highway, and if you like looking at big holes in the ground, go check out the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

I actually just flew in to Denver and bought a 1993 Audi S4 today, with the intention of making a loop through the western slope before driving back to NY (by way of Columbia, MI; Chicago, IL; and Ann Arbor, MI -- roughly 2800mi total), but it seems unlikely we'll cross paths due to timing (I'm not planning on leaving Arvada until the 7th).

Bummer about the Black Bear Road, I really would have loved to get a first person account on here due to it's reputation in this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzWyZ-jM9Is

jfryjfry Dork
7/30/19 3:24 a.m.

If you do happen to go on 160, there is a very small town called elk falls near independence.  I spent a year and a half there when I was young. 

You would see a pretty cool place if you stop at elk falls pottery.   It is my uncle and aunt’s and they do everything from beginning to end including digging the clay. 


Jim Pettengill
Jim Pettengill HalfDork
7/30/19 10:21 a.m.

Black Bear isn't all that technically difficult, except for about 100 yards at what are referred to as the stairsteps, but it is dangerous because of very tight switchbacks that require you to do a K-turn with a real 800-foot shear drop on the outside of the turn.  I've done Black Bear in a stock Toyota 4X4 pickup and a stock Wrangler with no problems, but every time I've done it, I encounter someone in the dangerous area who is in very deep trouble due to stupidity.  The last time was someone in a Chevy crewcab dually pickup (!) with the outside wheels off the edge, pulling the rear of the truck back on the road with a hi-lift jack, just approaching the abovementioned turn.  He eventually make it off the mountain, but that vehicle had no business on that narrow trail.  Another time was a guy in an early Bronco who was showing off that he could make that turn without backing up by putting two wheels up on the bank, rolled the truck, landing on the road below the turn about 1 foot from the 800-foot drop.  Like I said, stupidity/testosterone poisoning.  If you are cautious and precise, Black Bear is not really difficult.  Most of the trails in the San Juans are beautiful, but nowhere near as difficult as the trails in Moab.  FWIW, as the song mentions, the sign did used to be there, but it got stolen many times, so it's gone now.  CW McCall, real name is Bill Fries, served as mayor of Ouray for three terms back in the 80s and still lives here. He's in his late 80s and quite frail, but he's still got the voice.

redco2 New Reader
7/31/19 11:10 p.m.

Definitely pray for you. Also, a Jeep owner here that's why I saw this thread. Usually, when we would travel using our jeep, we just find a fun off-road track. As of the moment, I am installing this skid plate (here is a photo: https://www.jeepsareus.com/sku/82215183.html) will also go for a trip about 6 hours drive from home. Good luck to us! Your Jeep also looks good and hot! Dunno why a dirty truck makes me want trucks more! 

bigdaddylee82 UltraDork
8/4/19 12:52 p.m.

We survived! 

There were some minor issues, but Brian bought the Jeep, and we drove it back.  As others said Hwy 50 between Montrose and Pueblo is absolutely stunning!  

Got up at 3:30 AM on Thursday for a 6:00 AM flight, Northwest AR Regional to O'Hare, O'Hare to Montrose.  Drove from Montrose, CO to Clayton, NM, spent the night in Clayton, NM Thursday night, rolled into the hotel parking lot about 12:30 AM.  Friday we mostly just drove, stopped in Amarillo for lunch with some friends/family, minor hiccup about 30 miles west of Tulsa slowed us down, and I finally got home at 2:20 AM Saturday morning.

It was an adventure for sure! The Jeep was mostly as described, was a little quirky, and managed the trip with only some minor issues.

I don't want to do it again anytime soon, but I'm glad we did it.

I've got a few pictures.  I'll compose my thoughts, add some pictures, and update this soon.

bigdaddylee82 UltraDork
8/4/19 8:32 p.m.

So my buddy Brian messages me, "I I think I've found 'the' Jeep, but it's in Colorado, you interested in a Roadkill-esque road trip?" After he described the Jeep to me, I'm pretty sure I don't want to drive/ride in the thing 1000+ miles. I leave it at, "let me think about it, I'll get back to you." I then tell SWMBO about Brian's crazy idea, and she doesn't hesitate, "I think you should, go." Pretty sure SWMBO just wanted the house to herself for a few days. Two against one...

Brian lives about 2 hours north of me, I pick Brian up at his house, Wednesday afternoon.  I've got an aunt and uncle that live nearer to Northwest Arkansas Regional (XNA) about 2 hours west of Brian's.  We spent the night at my aunt & uncle's place in NWA, party hard with them, get about 2.5 hours of sleep, on the road at 4:00 AM, for a 6:00 AM flight out of XNA. Great way to start a 48 hour road trip.

We were on our way, apparently Brian was more excited than I was.

Turns out bourbon, wine, Chimay Grand Reserve, and ~2.5 hours of sleep the night before your 6AM flight isn't the best idea.  We had a rough ride, turbulence, and Brian got a little ill.  I got concerned when Brian got the bag out of the seat back pocket, but thankfully he managed to regulate, and the flight attendant was kind enough to bring him some seltzer water.

We flew into Montrose, CO with a stop in Chicago on the way, actually got into Montrose 30 minutes early.


The seller was pretty good at communicating, had provided a lot of photos and videos, and Brian and he had been texting.  We got to the airport early, so had some time to kill before the seller was supposed to meet us.  Would the seller show?


Stay tuned.

Dun dun dunnnn!



bigdaddylee82 UltraDork
8/5/19 4:29 p.m.

Hurray!  The seller met us at the Montrose airport, we actually saw the Jeep drive into the parking lot, before the seller called, and were almost at the Jeep by the time he got parked and called to let us know he was there.

We give the Jeep a pretty thorough combing over, while the seller was telling us about it, and answering the questions he could.  It's a pretty good starting spot, for what Brian wants.  The Jeep has a little unorthodox 8.25" rear axle swap, most folks go Ford 8.8 or Dana 44, if they're not going with one tons, but it's for sure an improvement over the Dana 35 it came with.  The Jeep has a professional looking Iron Rock Offroad rear axle truss and 4 link rear suspension install.  It has unknown but quality looking HD crossover steering, and adjustable front track bar, probably also IRO, with what we think are Rubicon Express front lower control arms, and stock front upper control arms.  The front Dana 30 has beefier weld on control arm mounts than stock, but no sway bar mounts.  It's got stock coil springs, with ~2" spring spacers, cut rear fenders, and front tube flat fenders to clear 35" BFG KM2s.   Both axles have lunch box lockers in them, Lock Rights allegedly, and 4.88 gears.  It's been wheeled, the body has some beauty marks, it's had at least one other set of rock sliders and corner guards on it prior to what it has now.  Full doors, a decent soft top.  That's most of the pluses.

It's a 2.5l, has some trail blemishes, some extra holes in the body thanks to previous rocker guards and/or corner guards, no sway bars, no rear seat, and close to 1/4 million miles on it.  The frame has had a half-ass, hide the rust rattle can gloss black paint job recently.  I picked at some of it, and had painted over dirt fall off, but even picking at the worst spots, it wasn't that bad.  The seller also claims to be having some transmission issues, I think he said 3rd gear was giving him some trouble, making noise.  More on that later.

Looking it over in the airport parking lot.


Brian on the first test drive.  I think the smile tells it all.


So the Jeep was mostly as advertised, the A/C wasn't great, on the test drive, but we figured it needed a charge.  It definitely had a rear locker, and the lack of sway bars took some getting used to.  Money and title was exchanged, and Brian owns a Wrangler!


Lunch in Montrose, at Froggy's Tacos on the sellers recommendations, pretty good stuff.  Followed by an obligatory stop at Harbor Freight for road trip tools and supplies, then O'Reilly's for some just-in-case fluids, and an auxiliary cable to play tunes from our phone on the Jeep's aftermarket radio.


From there, we made our first fuel stop, turned around a few times with a confused GPS, dealt with some detours, to get out of town, and were east bound on Hwy 50 toward Pueblo.

Adrian_Thompson MegaDork
8/5/19 9:12 p.m.

In for the next leg. 

Jim Pettengill
Jim Pettengill HalfDork
8/5/19 11:26 p.m.

Perfect timing, our Harbor Freight is brand new and just opened about 2 weeks ago.



bigdaddylee82 UltraDork
8/6/19 5:15 p.m.
Jim Pettengill said:

Perfect timing, our Harbor Freight is brand new and just opened about 2 weeks ago.



The cashier at Harbor Freight was chatting with Brian while I went to retrieve the free LED flash light from the coupon.  Brian had told her what we were doing, and she then apologized for the humidity she claimed Montrose was having while we were there.  Brian and I just laughed and said, "what humidity?" laugh  It's all what your acclimated to, but we thought the temperature/humidity felt great.

bigdaddylee82 UltraDork
8/6/19 5:49 p.m.

We were east bound and down, headed toward Pueblo, and getting to know the Jeep.  We notice, that we were headed for rain.  I asked Brian if he checked the wipers, "nope, did you?"  Of course I didn't and we'd just left an O'Reilly's.

We got lucky, and actually had half decent wiper blades.

We were in the mountains now, thin air, 35" tires, and the 4 cylinder, we found ourselves making a long line of "friends" behind us, and really testing out 3rd gear that the seller had warned us about.

The Jeep was unnerving at first, with the 4 link, short wheel base, and no sway bars, we were fighting the rear locker every time we let off the throttle.  We got used to it, but the first 100+ miles, especially in the rain, and mountain road, there was a real pucker factor every time you let off throttle and the Jeep would try and snap to the right.

We spent a lot of time in 3rd gear climbing those hills, and we notice a roaring grinding noise when coasting down hill, or applying light throttle, down hill.  The first few times we heard the noise, I thought "great, we're going to lose 3rd before we're even half way to Pueblo."

Brian and I aren't master mechanics, but we were both farm boys, Brian still is, we know a thing or two, and have a lot of experience in Jeeps.  The more we heard the noise, the more we were sure it wasn't the transmission.  We'd both decided that the noise was coming from the rear end.  The seller had assured us that he'd topped off all the fluids, and snugged all the nuts/bolts, but the only fluids we'd actually checked were oil and coolant before we left.

We pulled off at the next opportunity we had.  Maybe there isn't any gear oil in the rear axle?  Maybe it's leaked out since the seller claimed to have topped it off?

Brian broke open his new Harbor Freight tool kit, and pulled the rear diff plug.

The diff is full of fluid, weird?

We got back on the road, really paying close attention to the rear end noise, and under what conditions it occurred.  We came to the conclusion that either the teeth, or more likely the die springs, in the locker are worn out.  The locker is slipping when coasting down hill, and grinding. 

We briefly considered hunting down a set of spider gears, or even going up to 4 Wheel Parts in Colorado Springs in search of a spring kit for the locker, but with some practice, modulating the throttle, we mostly learned how to drive around the issue, and soldiered on.

Brian even got the Jeep to do more than 65, with a little help from gravity. wink



wheelsmithy SuperDork
8/6/19 5:57 p.m.

Sweet! My old stomping grounds. 

Mont-rose. I travelled the million dollar highway often, between Durango and Grand Junction...Brings a tear to my eye.

In my days, 4X4s commanded a higher price in those parts than most of the rest of the country. 

I hope his new steed treats him well.


bigdaddylee82 UltraDork
8/6/19 6:12 p.m.

In reply to wheelsmithy :

Brian got the TJ at a pretty reasonable price, it'd be at least a $1K-$1,500 more locally.  The seller even knocked $500 off the price without much hesitation, when Brian mentioned airfare costs.  We were surprised, but then when we got to Colorado, there were 4x4s everywhere.  You name it, Toyotas, Jeeps, Broncos, rock crawlers, overlanding rigs, even saw a 4x4 Sprinter van, etc. we just figured the 4x4 market must be pretty saturated out there.

ridinwitcj73 New Reader
8/7/19 4:26 p.m.

I am said friend, Brian. With a little bit of luck and a whole lot of show we made it fine! I will definitely be visiting the Montrose area again. Thanks to bigdaddylee82 for being brave and going along for the adventure. Something I'll never forget nor regret. Cheers!

bigdaddylee82 UltraDork
8/7/19 10:03 p.m.

Brian, beat me to it, that's my favorite picture of the Jeep from the trip!

bigdaddylee82 UltraDork
8/7/19 11:20 p.m.

It wasn't long before we found ourselves at Monarch Pass. 

As most have pointed out, a lot of the other mountain trails were closed for one reason or another, but Monarch was on our way, Brian had already done a little research on it, and the seller said we'd enjoy it as well.



Now to call this a trail is a bit generous, it's more like a gravel road.  I'm pretty sure I could have driven most of it in my VW, but it was still fun to get the Jeep off the road, and see some amazing vistas.

We walked up to the top of that little trail behind us, at 11,375' I quickly realized how out of shape I am.  Put a chubby kid in a low oxygen environment, and have him climb a hill, you're going to hear some huffing and puffing.


The weather cooperated, and the clouds parted about the time we reached the peak, as though it was meant to be.  The views were absolutely amazing!


If you find yourself in the area, take the time to run up Monarch, 10/10 would drive again!


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