We just finished up Jeepin with Judd and there are a few things I would like to share. First off there were tons of Jeeps this year and I mean 1000s The Judd website was pretty clear as to what was needed to go on the trails and yet somehow people still missed it. This is not a complete list of things needed but it is a good starting point and I would recommend them before trail riding.
What is NOT a tow point: Bumpers, leaf springs, axles, and most importantly, tow ball hitches.
What is a tow point: Bolted D-Ring mounts, not welded, we all know weld break. Most off road bumpers come with D-Ring mounts and a soft shackle will hook into a D-Ring with ease. You should have a minimum of 2 tow points, one in front, and one in the back. If needed there are D-Ring Reese hitch mounts that just slide into the hitch and they work well. See link below.
RECOVERY STRAPS WITH LOOPED ENDS:
No chains or hooks, why? Because they can kill you when they break and fly into the back of your head or strike an onlooker in the face. The old days of yankin someone out with a chain are done. Tow straps are Cheep and they work to pull someone out of the mud or tow someone back to camp, just NEVER try to snatch with one. The best method to recover is a KINETIC RECOVERY ROPE. Not cheap but they work wonders on pulling people out of a hole. They stretch and then transfer that energy to give you extra power and not stress you hook ups.
Too many people showed up with no CB this week. There are instructions given and useful information when it comes to what side of a hill is a better ride, or a better challenge. It also lets you know where the lead is and when the tail gets past a certain point. If you get hung up you can let others know. If you have to take a break you can ask. When you are clear of a hill you can inform the person behind you it’s safe. There are plenty of options when it comes to CB’s from cheap handhelds to dash mounted less than $50 models. A full setup with everything needed from radio, antenna, mount and antenna wires is less the $100 and money well spent. It’s a Jeep and it gets wet so putting an expensive radio might just be asking for someone to break in. Keep it simple. Learn a bit of radio etiquette before ratchet jawing yourself on the radio. It’s always good to respond when you are given instructions; I can’t tell you how many times I would ask for something and not know if the tail could even hear me. Short waves are the next thing and need some tuning to get the right channels in.
Pretty simple, have one and learn how to use it. Make it mounted in the right space so in a jam you can get it in a hurry. Second count and a fire will get out of hand very fast. It is not just your jeep, but the environment that can suffer. Make sure it’s the right kind, and service it so it will work when you need it. See the link below for a good guide or what kind to buy.
BASIC SET OF TOOLS:
Something is better than nothing but a cheap set from walmart is just that, cheap. A good set of select tools will be your best friend when you have to drop a drive shaft off to get home. Vice grips, hammer, screw drivers, wrenches, zip ties, duct tape, electric tape, a breaker bar and anything else yo might need. I had to change the front drive shaft and it took forever to get the 12 small 8mm bolts that would only turn 1 click at a time. I sure wish I had a nut driver that day. It took awhile to find a shallow wall 1 ¼ socket to put the new yoke on too.
Seat belts will save your life. ALWAYS have it on when in a moving vehicle. If you fall out, you can get run over. If you roll you can get crushed. If you hit a tree you can smash your face on the windshield. And no a tow strap does not count and you can’t share a seat belt.
Sometimes you might need more than a light pull, a tug or a push. This is when a winch comes into play. They are not cheap, but the day you need one and don’t have one you will wish you had put one on. This applies triple if you are on a trail alone. See the blog below about that. It is always better to have a wheeling friend along for the ride. You can get a winch with a steal cable or a synthetic rope. The rope cost more but weighs less. If a cable breaks it becomes a deadly whip, if a rope snaps it tends to just fall. Not always so have something draped over the mid section.
Full Tank of Gas
Health Information Sheet
First Aid Kit
This is by no means a complete list but it is a good start to get you out on the trails.
TWO MINUTE TUESDAY: FIRST OFF... If you have never taken your doors off there is a nut holding the hinge pin on. Remove that before you spend 30 minutes pulling up on the door. It's a JEEP! Take your doors off. It's hot, it's dusty, it will get muddy.... I have had multiple Jeeps and let me tell you, it a great feeling when you are out there wheeling and the top is down and the doors are off. You are right there in the elements. Try it you will love it. It's better then cutting your Jeep in half.... for a girl. 1- Unfasten door wire under the dash. There is a small clip that has to slide out first. 2- Roll down the window and push your mirror in. 3- Wiggle and pull up on door. Wiggle the door.... 4- Once remove store in a safe place. 5- Put side mirrors on or use a round mirror disk on the AC vent. In Florida you are required to have side mirrors when on the road. I like the side mirrors and used them at Judd this year. They do good.
See amazon Link below:
Florida Jeep rides not responsible for mud, sticks or gators getting in doorless Jeeps.
Back at the turn of the last century February 23rd there abouts 1919, when the army core of engineers had discovered one of the worlds’s richest deposits of phosphate an unfortunate event took place just South East of town. On a stormy February night Abigail Whitburg was traveling to meet her fiancé through the Peace River watershed. Her horse had thrown a shoe and she decided that best thing to do would be to take a short cut across the river bridge and through the grass lands toward the south part of town. It was going well until a lightning strike spooked the horse and caused it to go off the trail. The buggy was caught on the old rail road track that used to run in from the east into Bartow. She tried in vain to get the buggy free but did not have the strength to push the buggy off the tracks. In exhaustion she climbed into the buggy for shelter from the storm and fell asleep.
The tracks were not used often, but on this night Number 2, a wood burning locomotive was on approach from Traverses. The engineer did not see the buggy until it was too late; he struck the buggy at full speed. Abigail was thrown clear of the tacks and managed to craw her way some 3500 feet to a tree for shelter. In the confusion she had gone south away from the tracks. her body was never found, the buggy was thought to be empty. Some time’s they say, that you can still see her under that tree. She is still waiting, wearing that old tattered dress. If you’re unlucky enough to spot her, beware, she is looking for a ride…
Every buggy has a story, even if it’s just a campfire story. – Matt Law
A few details in researching a background story... #2 is still in use today and has been featured in films like “O brother where art thou.” The distance from where that tracks used to run is around 3500 feet. The event took place on February 23 1919 .... insert spooky music here.
Because you never know when a zombie is going to chase you across a river....
There is a general rule to off roading that is clear and simple, don’t wheel alone. There are times that we go out into the woods to scout out an area for trail rides or off looking for snakes. There have been times we broke down way off the grid, or got stuck. We lost our clutch cylinder in Tiger Bay, back in 1987 we got stuck way back in the Strand south of SeaWorld. We do have a winch and recovery equipment, and I have no fear of getting out and walking through a hole to check the depth. But most of the time if the obstacle looks sketchy we just don’t go that way. Recently taking a short cut to the general store in Richloam we came upon just such a hole. I got out and walked forward to check how soft it was. I could have made it but my gut said no. The next day there was a post in Stuck in Florida SOS with a guy stuck in that very spot. So if you like to ride the best thing to do is find some friends or look up your local Jeep club and meet new friends. Here are 5 things to persuade you to ride with a club.
We often ride out to find and photograph wildlife. Sometimes that takes us into areas that if we breakdown or get stuck it could lead to a long walk. Not to mention that some places you just should not go. Insert banjo music here…
Following someone who has been there before provides a clear rout. They know where they are going and how deep each hole is. They know what to stay clear of and how to pick your line. They often know what areas are good for they level of your Jeep and will be there to encourage you to give it a try.
It’s more funner…. I Know its improper English but that word just fits the jeep life. A good group of people traveling together gives you a chance to meet new friends and old acquaintances. You can see what others have done to their Jeeps and ask about things you have been dealing with. A family friendly club was a big draw for us.
Clubs have meetings and that’s where you get to find out what is happening in the Jeep world. We often meet at sponsor locations and usually there are raffles. I have won some good and useful gear. The Orlando Jeep Club is also involved in charities. From fund raisers to raffles financial aid is given to local worthy causes. How to classes and safety lesions are part of meetings. Also planning and upcoming events are announced to you know where to go.
Events in the Central Florida area happen throughout the year. Heading out with a group gives you friends to hang with. Some clubs are involved in the event and are part of trail rides and spotting. Each year 100s of club members put time in testing and riding the trails so that when the event comes around they know the trails they lead. Jeepin with Judd is HUGE!!!! Orlando Jeep Club plays a big part in what jeepers do at the event. Trail rides are a big dray and when you get to ride in areas that are clean and diverse, it’s a treat.
The Orlando Jeep Club web site has information on how to join up so you can be a part of a good trail ride event. Look them up at http://www.orlandojeepclub.com
1983 June 5th
We traveled south from the Orlando area and headed out for our honeymoon. My Mom had given us a 4 day 3 night stay at the Hilton on Sanibel Island. Young and a full life ahead we made the trip with a little cash and some anticipation of getting to relax and collect shells on the beach. If you ever have been there you know two things, no See ums bite at sunset, and there is a wild life drive called Ding Darling. We had dinner at Timbers and drove through the Island. Lots of shells and a drive down a crush gravel road through a mangrove forest teaming with life, plenty of gators and birds to see. It was open and inviting. Back then things were a bit different. It was natural and had a rough appeal for the enthusiast and not too crowded.
2018 November 2nd
While staying at a Wycliffe Summit in Bonita Springs we decided to take the Jeep over to the island for a nostalgic visit. We took the long way through Ft Myers Beach… the road was under construction and thick with traffic. After traveling over the new bridge we headed to the wild life drive. Did I mention I don’t like bridges… tall ones. This bridge is pretty high and has a low rail that my Jeep tires could easily pop over. I continued to quote the verse that says God has not given us the spirit of fear.
A short drive through the Island brought us to the gate, the gate that was closed… a big sign said “CLOSED ON FRIDAYS” What? I just drove over an hour to visit this place. Google maps said it was open, but that is just the visitor center. They use that day to allow the wild life to spend a day un disturbed, and maintenance. Friday? Really? The guy on the phone said of course we are closed, its every Friday. We took the quick road back to the hotel and decided that we would return on Saturday. Had I known what I do now I would have probably skipped the trip and headed south to Big Cypress.
Saturday November 3rd
Loaded up and ready to head out we traveled over that stinkin bridge again. When we arrived, we paid our fee and to my surprise they paved the whole road. There was a lot of people there that day, cars, bikes, hikers, but not too much in the way of wild life. Some pelicans, anhingas, spoon bills, pipers, and egrets. No gators were to be seen. Perhaps it is better in the morning like most places. A pleasant and un eventful ride down a paved road was not what we had remembered. If this is what you are looking for, then enjoy your time, us we are looking for a bit more nature off the beaten path. Make the most of you time by getting out and walking down some of the trails and you will see more. Enjoy the surroundings of the mangroves and know that that’s natural Florida coast line, minus the paved road.
We did make a stop at a place on the Island called the Island Cow. They had a mix of foods and it was interesting to see all the décor. I had my first burger in a month, The Yeti. Smothered in cheese and some fries. Randy had two tacos, bang bang shrimp and grouper. The tacos were HUGE. Good price for the amount of food you get. After that it was back to the hotel. Next year we will be ready to head to Big Cypress, but until then we will be heading to Bartow for some off roading fun.
Early this year I put 33s on an un-lifted Wrangler and I asked the question, can you put 33s on a wrangler with no lift? Well yes you can and they fit without too many issues, but…
I have to ask this question, can we ever learn to leave things alone? When I was a teenager and I had my 71 Nova I put a 4 inch shackle extension on the back so it would lift the back end up. On my 1981 CJ7 I put a body lift made from deck rollers on turf mowers. We also did a spring over on the 82 CJ when we scrapped the 81 due to a very rusted frame and tub. I put new springs on the 95 YJ to make room for the 33” tires. So let’s just say I have done some lifts in the past. I was confident that this would be a task that could be done in around 6-8 hours… 3 days later… I still have to adjust the tie rod to get the steering wheel aligned.
Recently we took a trip through Green swamp and some places on the center grade road were way deeper then I have ever seen. Like up to the top of the hood deep. That makes me want a snorkel. Just to be safe. This was a good reason to get the motivation and start the install. Rain has been happening almost every day this summer starting in May. On occasion there would be a sunny day in the forecast, but we took those days to go out and trail ride. The day finally came in October that there was only a 10% chance of rain, it still rained on me while doing the install.
The job started off simple enough, jack it up and removes the wheels. Pull this pull that put this here stuff. Half my time was spent figuring out what the instructions were try to tell me and sifting through bags to find the right bolt. It was only at the end that my wife informed that the instructions had paired the bag numbers with the parts. Not to mention all the odd tools needed. Who would have thought that a 18 MM wrench was not common.
FIRST: WHY A LIFT?
A lift is needed to fit larger tires and keep the tires away from the wheel wells.
A lift is needed when driving in uneven areas.
A lift is needed when driving through water.
Wrenching skills required. 3.5 out of 5
Special tools required. 33mm socket, Pitman puller, 18MM sockets and wrenches. Drill bits.
The lift improved the driving experience on and off road. I would suggest that you take the time to pair up the bolt bags with the parts and find images to how they look when mounted. Also double check all tools needed so that you are ready. Have a helper to get the tools needed when you are under the Jeep. Even better have a lift. A lift would make this task 300% easier. If I had all the tools and a mechanically inclined helper it could be done in 4 – 5 hours. Bottom line, I did it myself. I feel as though I accomplished a major upgrade and saved over $1000. If you have any questions ask away.
SNAKES ON A TRAIL?
SNAKE!!!!! I shouted, I had just exited the Jeep to see how deep the next hole was, when a snake scurried from under my feet. I quickly put my foot down with just a glance, to my surprise it was not a Banded Water snake, but a venomous Cottonmouth. My wife could be heard saying, “He got one” I replied “it’s a Cottonmouth, bring my tongs.” She grabbed the snake stick and trudged through the mud to give me a hand. I have a special wife. David who was traveling in the Jeep behind me had come on the trip with sandals and socks. It was good that he had not stepped on this snake accidently. We go prepared, snake boots are always a good thing to wear while walking though Florida swamps and high grass. We have Rattle snakes, Cottonmouths, coral snakes, and even timbers and Copperheads in the north panhandle. Today’s ride did not disappoint.
We entered the east side at the Van Fleet trail. You can travel down South Bay Lake Rd from Mascotte to get in. It was a perfect day for trail rides. We took a left to the South on the Logging Rd, and from there to Center Grade Rd. As soon as we turned onto the Logging road we were greeted with our first puddle. It stretched the entire with of the road and ran around 30 inches deep. Keep in mind I have 33” tires on a 2007 JK with NO lift. But having been down the road in the past I entered with confidence… Woaaaaa that was deeper than expected. That was a preview of what was to come. We have had rain almost every day this summer beginning in May. I had taken my door off and that allowed water to rush in the side. Ha ha ha.. It is all good. That’s part of the Jeep experience. We meandered down trails to the North then west till we hit 471 we headed south across the Little Withlacoochee river to North Carter Rd. When the road turned to the West we took the less traveled trail into the unknown. This was a tight trail with low branches and ample water crossings. It was here that I found the Cottonmouth.
We traveled down several trails passing deer and gators till we found the Richloam fire tower. Florida trail blazer had posted a video about the tower back in June and you could still climb it. I was looking forward to this part of the adventure, climbing up old rickety rotting stairs is the type of thing I just might do. Unfortunately it is now labeled condemned with NO trespassing signs. No clime for me.
From there is a just a block up the road to the Richloam General Store, an old store that has been around for almost 100 years. It is now been restored and has a variety of old school snacks, toys, and candy from that time period. Local honey, craft brew soda, and a history lesson to boot. If you are ever traveling down hwy 50 it’s a nice break just off Porter Gap Rd and Clay Sink Rd. http://www.richloamstore.com/
We try to trail ride at least 2 times a month to get away from it all, often we also ride with the Orlando Jeep Club in the Central Florida area. If you have a Jeep and you are looking for a place to use it, then make sure you visit our YouTube channel and see what Central Florida has to offer.
There are plenty of places to ride around in a Jeep in the central Florida area. Back in the 90s we often rode in the area South of SeaWorld and spent many hours looking for snakes and forging water holes. Most of that area is now developed and though there is still plenty of deer, the wild life is taking a hit from over building. This land is environmentally sensitive. Some species of snake require more land to live. Summer home ranges for the indigo snake can be as large as 273 acres they move from lower creek areas to dryer sandy areas during the year. When we build developments in the creek areas we are taking their habitat away. This area is mostly posted and labeled no trespassing. I have heard of people being ticketed while pulling out. Always remember that even if it’s not posted it is still someone’s property. When you wheel take your trash out, take care of the environment, stay on the trails, don’t park in high grass, it could cause a brush fire, and if you can get permission.
Other areas that are open to riding are the WMAs Wildlife Management areas require a day us pass. They can be purchased at the entrance by filling out a card and putting it in the collection box, or online at http://myfwc.com/license/public-land-use/ There are plenty of signs in the WMAs that tell you where you can and cant drive. Mainly stay on named and numbered roads. You GPS should help. During hunting season it’s good to be aware of what is around you, driving up on a hunter who has been in a tree stand for hours waiting for a deer is aggravating to say the least. Most of the roads are easy to drive on and some you could drive around in a car. They provide ample areas to get out and walk around, and plenty of photo ops.
Some of our favorites are Tosahatchee, Three Lakes, Tiger bay, Withlahoochee, Citrus, and Apopka Wildlife drive. See our YouTube channel for videos. If you are looking for a nice easy ride and want to see animals then one of the best is Apopka, keep in mind it is only open during select days and is still recovering from hurricane Erma. You will probably see more gators the ever at the pump station. Where ever you ride please always ride safe, let someone know where you are going, don’t litter, and tread lightly.
Visit 1995Wrangler / Florida Jeep Rides on Facebook for info and upcoming trail rides. https://www.facebook.com/1995wrangler/
Never before have we been wheeling at a place with a more ominous reputation… I was not sure if I would even go, I marked “Maybe” under the attendance tab for the event. This place has swallowed vehicles whole, destroyed more engines and vehicles than perhaps any place we know. To make things worse, it rained cats and dog the night before going. This place was also on our Jeeping bucket list as a place to see, but it is also under lock and key. It is not open to public and you must stay with an owner at all times, or be labeled trespassing. I am talking about Suburban Estates, down in Holopaw, Florida. Time to get SUPER MUDDY!!!!
The orange grove road going in was a sign of things to come, we had to engage 4 low just to drive down the dirt road without getting stuck, after passing several big trucks stuck in the road we made it to the gate. Brian our guide and key holder opened the gate and beckoned us to our doom… or so I thought. We took out the 1995 YJ, it sits a bit higher and we already had the doors off and a bikini top on. No AC, no doors and ready to experience whatever the Florida mud could throw our way.
We started across the parking lot area that was a lake the night before. First thing that happened was that our trail leader blew out his front drive shaft … in the parking lot… ok so I am thinking, well at least we might not go extreme. Humm, I would like to say that I was very impressed with what he could get through in 2 wheel drive, it made for some skilled wheeling and rooster tails shooting 25 feet back. I got too close behind him at one point and got plastered with 2-3 inches of mud on the windshield and hood. As we pulled down to the power lines a full size truck with a trailer was in a hole and being pulled out by a side by side. We had been split up into two groups, the lifted and no so lifted. I went for the mild run being slightly apprehensive of flooding my motor out. We don’t have a snorkel on either Jeep. Our first destination was South Beach, it’s the entrance to a long water crossing down the center of a canal/creek. But the entrance was currently blocked by a truck that had gone too deep. Another engine sacrificed to Suburban Estates.
While we were in the South Beach area a scavenger hunt took place, somewhere a can had been painted Cat Yellow and hid in plain sight. If you found it first you won a prize. Across the canal we went and drove up and around on the other side. Fortune favored us, sitting up in a tree I spotted the can. My prize? A tire repair kit and a gift card to Racetrack, SWEET! We had a quick lunch and began heading out to North Beach. On the way we were treated to a few recovery opportunities, not mine, mostly Brian’s. I still can’t get over how much he went through in 2 wheel drive. The watery mud holes were frequent, most around 1 – 2 feet deep. Each hole had a different track to take, some to the right, some to the left. You had to ride close to see where the Jeep in front of you went. Some holes had massive pits and if you were just running through you would be sunk. We tend to ride towards the front of the pack; it makes it a better opportunity to see any wild life. At one point a big Red rat snake was sunning just to the right of the trail. I jumped out and grabbed him as he retreated into a dirt mound made from an old mattress, unfortunately he has too wrapped up on the inside for me to pull him out without harming him. To my regret I had to let him slither into his hole. If you’re a fan you know this was a hard thing to do, a cool find turned lose. The road leading to the North beach area was a muddy mess, how everyone made it though is a testament to what a Jeep can do. Even the stock LJ on the ride made it. The ruts were deep but the mud let your differential cut through without leaving you hanging.
North beach had a different feel then south beach with fewer trees and more of a hang out feel. A Creek with an old school rope swing, lots of side by sides and locals hanging out and cooling off in the creek. After a quick photo op we headed back towards the power lines. More muddy trails, more water holes, and more bogged out roads. We were covered in mud by the end, but had a great time. Thank you to Brian for being a great host and taking us through the legendary Suburban Estates.
Being part of The Orlando Jeep Club gives us plenty of great trail rides with a group of friends who are ready to recover your Jeep if you get stuck, most of the trail rides give opportunities for even stock, off the floor Jeeps to ride along. If you are in the Orlando area feel free to look us up or even come out to a meet and greet at a area Sonic to meet club members.
I stood motionless, not sure whether to jump in an attempt to escape the coming strike, or use the stick in my hands to deflect the thing away. I was the third person in line moving through knee deep brackish water off St George Island. The first person must have awakened him; the second ticked him off, and Me, I was the one with a Cotton Mouth now wide awake and mad between my knees, he was in the striking pose. Its mouth open wide, fangs projected, and was ready to launch. I jumped out of the way as we all made a good attempt to find where he had fled. It’s an adrenaline rush when you know you could be bit.
It was late summer 1976, we had made a weekend trip to the Island to validate that the Salt Marsh water snake was thriving. Someone had done a study and was looking in the wrong environment. To find them we would take three people and walk the tidal marsh creeks. One person would be in the ditch while two others walked the shore about 15 feet ahead of them. The startled snakes would retreat into the path of the person in the water. We must have captured around 25 in a half hour. Our intrepid instructor was Jim Stevenson. While in middle school, I enrolled in Herpetology classes for a FSU summer program. We traveled the pan handle capturing snakes for study. That is when I was not getting a S.W.Y.L.E.I. If you were not paying attention you were given a SWYLEI, sometime when you least expect it…. I received plenty of erasers on the head.
What we had done on this hot afternoon was split up into smaller groups to cover more area. We were on the north side, of the Island. Today the area is a State Park and still undeveloped. That’s what I like about the area, still the same after all these years. We never did find the Cottonmouth but we found plenty of other snakes. The area is now called Rattlesnake cove. 42 years later we are still traveling around in the central Florida woods looking for snakes. One of the things I have noticed is the decline of snakes in general. Sure we find plenty of Black Racers, water snakes, and garters. I have not found a big Diamondback in ages. Rest assured with Randy making me stop every 100 yards for flower photos, I get plenty of time to walk around and look. We have had rain for the last two weeks and I am inching to go out and ride some trails. The snakes are there, we just got to find some. If you see a snake feel free to photograph or film it, just not too close, send us a copy or post it up on the face book page and we will ID it for you. Who know we might even take a trip your way.
Till next time, Keep your boots on, your laces tied, and watch were you step, we are heading out.
Matt N Randy
Jeep Enthusiast, Pastor, Photographer, Artist, A husband and wife team that loves going out and seeing God's Creations.