I did give my Ignite talk at the Sherbino and it went fantastic! I hung out at Cimarron Books and Coffee grading on Friday morning.
And then the XJ I’d been looking for popped up in Denver so I canned my plan for a hike of Whitehouse on Saturday and jetted for Denver.
Saturday I bought the new Cherokee, rented a Uhaul tow dolly and began the drive home. Sunday I zoned out working on my quilt and then returned the tow dolly. I stopped for coffee and spilled the ENTIRE LARGE THING in my bag of papers.
So how was your weekend? I need a weekend from my weekend.
After we left the Mountain Games, it was time to head back to the Western Slope. I had a meeting Monday morning in De Beque but that left us all of Sunday for exploring. I had hoped to drive up to the Roan Cliffs high point but by the time we got to Rifle, it appeared that wasn’t going to happen so I holed up in a Starbucks to get some school work done.
When I came out of Starbucks, however, it was looking like things had cleared up so I did some quick Googling of the JQS Road. It was clear from the few things I read that the road was all but impassable when wet. But, I reasoned, it really hadn’t rained much so we set out to investigate. I walked the road for a little bit and decided that it seemed nice and solid, even a little bit dusty. Once we got past the parking area for the open OHV area though, the road turned to baby poo. (Seriously, baby poo is the name given to mud that is totally SLICK. It coats your tires and essentially renders you useless.) If you’ve ever driven a vehicle on a rutted, muddy road, you know the disconcerting feeling of drifting around vaguely where you’re steering but knowing you really have no control at all and that is exactly what was happening. Fortunately, I got the Jeep turned around with no issues (getting that beast stuck alone is a giant fear of mine), but holy cow what a mess!
It was only about 4:30 and that meant that I had plenty of daylight left with the gloriously long days this time of year. Rather than just sit down with my book, I decided to make the drive up to Meeker. I’d never been there and I’m always up for an exploratory drive so away we went. Meeker is a super cute little town—I didn’t really stop to take any pictures since I planned to take the scenic route home and wanted to have enough daylight but I will definitely be back to make a more full exploration.
Instead of simply going back the way we’d come, Sprocket and I headed down Rio Blanco County’s 13 Road. At first it was in great shape but as we continued south a couple of deep ruts appeared. Fortunately, this time the road wasn’t muddy and we were able to just keep on going. Somewhere along the way we passed into Garfield County but I couldn’t tell you exactly where because I was distracted by the elk. Lots of elk.
First it was this relatively small group:
But then it seemed like every field that I passed was full of them!
All I could think was how excited my dad would have been with the whole thing. I’m sure Sprocket was thinking I was driving like him with all the quick stops when I spotted a herd but since I would roll down the back window so he could have his sniffs, I think he forgave me.
We had such a great time. Besides high alpine hiking, there really isn’t much that I like better than exploring new dirt roads!
I’d done some research on approaching it from Green River, Utah and I was excited to try it from there since I really love exploring the Bookcliffs but there appeared to be no good trail reports on the upper part of Right Hand Tusher Canyon Road. There was one post where the drivers abandoned their attempt mid-way up the road because they figured there was nothing up higher for them and another on Peakbagger.com that claimed that the road was really terrible and required high-clearance, 4×4, and possibly a locker or traction control.
I finally decided to go for it (and take Amanda along with me for the adventure). Of course, a road of unknown difficulty level is the perfect place to take a vintage Jeep on it’s first off road adventure with you. 🙂
It was a long dirt road that was occasionally a little bit rough but really wasn’t that much of a challenge. I used 4-wheel drive in one place to crawl over a couple of rocks and I used low range 4-wheel drive to drive one step hill with a little bit of a loose, washed out channel. Besides those two places, the road was a really easy drive.
This is the hardest part of the road, the rock is loose to the right and necessitates driving fairly far towards the “edge.” I tried going up with just my hubs locked but found I needed to shift into low range to make it easier. A locker may be helpful here but is certainly not necessary.
Immediately after a rain, I wouldn’t attempt this solo or without a winch since there are a few places that look like they might turn into some slick, deep mud but overall, it was a pretty drive up into the Bookcliffs (that accesses a prominence point! more on that soon!).
After work last Wednesday I just needed to get out and do something real. As soon as I got home, I changed, loaded Sprocket into the Jeep and headed out to explore along County Road 9.
It was a little blustery but after a long stretch of dreary weather, it was great to be outside.
I was able to drive almost to the end of the road. I decided not to drive through a giant mud puddle mostly because I didn’t want to wash the Jeep. But seriously, Francis looks at home here doesn’t she?:
If you’ve followed me for awhile, you might have realized that I am sort of a Cherokee aficionado. I got my first Cherokee in 2009 which I replaced in 2010 with a 5-speed. After The Little Red Jeep reached the end of its life with me, it was replaced by yet ANOTHER one. Plus, I have my sweet vintage Cherokee. If you hear me talk about my cars, however, you’ll mostly hear things like “XJ” or “FSJ” (or “SJ”). I’ve picked up the Jeep model parlance.
So what’s the deal with all of these different models? Where did they come from? The following is a description of SJ Cherokee trim packages from its inception in 1974 to the end of its run in 1983. Click to jump to a summary table.
By the mid-1960s, however, Jeep decided to replace the Jeep Station Wagon with the Jeep Wagoneer on the “SJ” platform. This station wagon model was available in both two door and four door models and with or without four wheel drive. After 1967, two wheel drive was discontinued and after 1968 the two door model was also discontinued. The Wagoneer continued to evolve as a family vehicle and remained in production through 1991 as the Grand Wagoneer.
Introduction of the SJ Cherokee
In 1974, Jeep introduced the Jeep Cherokee using the SJ platform of the Wagoneer. The Cherokee was marketed as a “youthful and sporty” alternative to the family-focused Wagoneer and was meant to keep customers buying Jeeps instead of Ford Broncos or Chevrolet K5 Blazers.
The 1974 Jeep Cherokee came in two models. The base model had black window moldings and painted bumpers. The “S” model had chrome bumpers, Native American themed striping, aluminum wheels, a roof rack, and “bright” window moldings. Cherokees had drum brakes front and rear however front disk brakes were an option. In 1975, electronic ignition was added to Cherokees and The trim tape on “S” models was changed from the 1974 model year. This new trim was used again for the 1976 model year.
For the 1976 model year, in addition to the base and “S” models, the Cherokee Chief model was added with wider axles and fender flares, a low gloss black tape decal that showed “Cherokee Chief” in the body color.
In the 1977 model year, a 4-door Cherokee was introduced (this means that there were two SJ-platform four-door models as both the Cherokee and Wagoneer had four door variants). A wide track version of the Cherokee “S” was added in addition to the wide track Cherokee Chief. Four door models only came in narrow track versions. A new version of the “S” model trim tape was introduced and used for both 1977 and 1978.
For the 1978 model year few changes were made to the Cherokee line up. The following photo is from the 1978 Jeep sales brochure and it shows the differences between the different models. Clockwise from upper left is a 4-door Cherokee “S”, a wide track 2-door Cherokee “S”, a wide track Cherokee Chief, and a narrow track 2-door Cherokee “S”:
Front End Changes
In 1979, the Cherokee grill was revised with its most prominent change being to square headlights. The “S” model trim was revised again (for the 4th time) and used in 1979 and 1980. The “S” model continued to be available in 2-door narrow track and 4-door wide or narrow track models while the Cherokee Chief continued as a wide track only model.
A new trim package, the Golden Eagle, was also introduced. The Golden Eagle was a wide-track 2-door model with beige denim seats, a large eagle decal and tape striping on the hood, “Golden Eagle” lettering on the lower doors, “bronze tone” rear quarter windows, a brush guard. and painted gold wheels with a black stripe.
In 1980, Jeep added two trim packages to the lineup of “S” model, Golden Eagle, and Cherokee Chief: the Limited and the Laredo. The “S” continued to be the only model available with 4-doors and with a choice between wide track and narrow track versions. The Chief and Golden Eagle models were also unchanged from 1979.
The Laredo model was a two door wide track model with special striping (either silver and grey or gold and brown) and badging. It also featured extra sound deadening insulation, extra plush carpeting, a special seating package, and some interior striping to coordinate with the outside. The Limited model was also a two door wide track model that had gold and brown striping on the lower body and on the fender flare. The Limited also had a faux woodgrain finish on the dash, cruise control and other options—in many ways, the Limited resembled a two door version of its cousin the luxurious Wagoneer.
Top: Cherokee Laredo; Bottom: Cherokee Limited
For 1981, the Laredo package added a four door narrow track option in addition to the existing two door wide track model. The Cherokee Chief became the standard four door trim package while also adding a new body striping scheme option as well as an optional “blackout” grille. (I believe, but have not been able to confirm that the bolder of the two striping schemes was only available on the two-door model). The Limited and Golden Eagle were dropped for 1981. The “S” simply became an unbadged base model.
In 1982, the Cherokee was available as a base model 2-door, 2-door and 4-door Cherokee Chief, and 2-door and 4-door Laredo. All 2-door models were wide track while 4-door models were narrow track.
End of the SJ Cherokee:
The final year of the SJ Cherokee was 1983. The Pioneer model was added to the lineup in both two- and four-door models. It joined the Chief and Laredo that were each available in two- and four-door models. The base model Cherokee was only available in 2-door models but both wide and narrow track were available.
I’m not quite sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, I decided I wanted an “FSJ.” While we were living in Idaho, I briefly owned this green one but it needed a fair amount of work and Forrest and I sold it before I got a chance to even drive it. I never changed my mind about wanting one though and when an opportunity to bring this lovely beast home, I jumped at it.
Like all older vehicles, there’s things that need to be fixed, but it drove all the way from Denver to Ridgway (while towing the TJ…) and then yesterday took Dave, Jillian, and I to Telluride and then to Ouray’s Lookout Point like a champ.
Sprocket approves of the giant dog sleeping (ahem… cargo…) area:
Since it’s a 1977, it has the sexy round headlights. Jeeps have round headlights.
This lovely lady needs a name but I’m going to give it sometime to earn one.
P.S. Long time reader, Katie won the SKINourishment giveaway. Thank you so much to everyone for entering. If you didn’t win, I still encourage you to head over to SKINourishment and treat yourself today!