In 1997 I left my hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia to go to college in Utah. My best freind’s parents just bought him the new wrangler (1997 Blue TJ, Sport Edition) and our cross country road trip was amazing. I still remember driving across Kansas at night with the top down, gazing up at the stars for miles and miles. It was incredible and I was hooked. Upon arrival in Utah I rode my bike to and from my my job at a local mountain sports store, saving money for a down payment. Soon I was driving home my own Jeep, a 91 YJ in black. I took that Jeep off road into the foothills above our city at least 2 or 3 times per week, exploring every inch of off road trail I could find. My weekends were filled with camping trips and campfires, and more than one first kiss occurred overlooking the city from the vantage point you could only obtain in a Jeep. My hardtop was stolen after leaving it in a parking lot all summer, but that didn’t matter to me. I just bought a bikini top and from quadratec and put on thick winter clothing for my daily drive to work at Deer Valley Ski Resort. My roommate and I especially enjoyed driving across the lake to explore the old ghost towns and abandoned mines in places like “Eureka“ and “Silver City.”
I met my future wife Erin in the year 2000, and she immediately joined us on our adventures, offering words of caution as we perilously ignored signs and repelled down into old mine shafts to explore their contents. The Jeep let us go anywhere and we took tremendous pride in our ability to conquer any hill, overcome any obstacle, and felt more connected to the outdoors than we ever had before. Erin and I were married in 2002, and decided together that our now very battle worn YJ was probably reaching the end of it’s life. Together we bought a 2000 TJ, black, with a hard top. We continue to explore the off-road trails in northern Utah, and even got featured in the summer 2006 edition of Jeep Owner Magazine produced by Chrysler!
When our first child was born we traded that TJ for a Jeep Liberty. The thought still makes me cringe and fills me with regret. Remember, this was long before the 4 door wrangler existed, and if you’ve ever tried getting a baby seat into the back of a lifted Jeep you know it’s not easy. The Liberty was not the same as a wrangler, and it taught me an important lesson. Over the years more kids came, and so did more Jeeps. I restored a 1996 YJ and sold it a year later for twice what I bought it for. Used that money to buy a 2006 TJ and drove that for a year before selling it for more than I paid. Wranglers hold their value so well, especially when you know what to do with them.
In 2014 I bought a JKU. By now we had 4 kids, and I wanted everyone to enjoy the amazing experience of Jeep life, so I installed a 3rd row seat so everyone can ride:
We went to Easter Jeep Safari in Moab,
So in 2017 we decided to do something we’d never done before: Buy a Jeep brand new from the dealership. We did our research, weighed the options, and chose a 2017 Rubicon Recon Edition.
This was our sixth wrangler, and this time we were determined to do it right. We looked for the very best in modifications, carefully weighing our options and ensuring each improvement had merit. Almost feverishly we added each item faithfully testing them on trip after trip. After lots of research we lifted the Jeep with a 3.5” Metalcloak Dual Rate kit, with every intention to go full game changer as we could afford it. Falcon 3.3 Shocks soon followed, along with many other small modifications. By the time our Jeep hit its 1 year birthday we had already logged over 20,000 staggering miles. How could that happen? We thought back at the amazing year and remembered multiple day trips to Moab, weekend trips to national parks, and an epic family vacation that took us up through Idaho, down the Oregon coast, to the Redwood National Forest in Northern California, and finally to Crater Lake National Park before returning us home. Our Jeep was unstoppable, and the kids beg to take it over Mom’s Honda Pilot anytime we go somewhere.
We now have 5 kids: Jake (13) Ellie (9) Lola (7) Katy (5) and Ethan (2) and I’m a member of a small group of guys we call the “BROAB” (name came from our first boys trip to Moab) and we group text Jeep stuff all day long. They all have amazing Jeeps and we have a great time doing off road trips or just getting our families together for a relaxing drive in the canyon. https://youtu.be/DNGY671-Mnc
My dream is to one day own a garage with one of every type of Jeep: a Willy’s, a CJ, a YJ, a TJ, my JK, and maybe one day a JL or JT (we’ll see!)
We maintain a YouTube channel that started as a way to save our family adventures so we could watch them and share them. If you’d like to subscribe to it you might enjoy some of the things we post: http://YouTube.com/mclerran11
Here’s what we’ve done to our current JKU, in order:
-Red Powertank 10lb, mounted to the roll bar on the rear driver’s side of the trunk.
-CB and Ham radio for communication:
-Bestop 3rd row seat: https://youtu.be/f6_vD1twA9Y
-JK Trailgater Tailgate Table by Outback Adventure Products: https://youtu.be/86HcYhMsxcA
-Middle seat support for rear bench seat
-35” BFG All Terrain K02 Tires
-Rugged Ridge XHD wheels with protective trim rings
-Metalcloak Dual Rate 3.5” lift
-Teraflex Falcon 3.3 Shocks https://youtu.be/i-1T-UOQ6GA
-S-Pod with 8 switches
-Brawlee LED light bar for the rear tailgate
-K&N Air Filter
-K&N cabin air filter
-Mopar Bull Bar for Rubicon Bumper
-Interior lights all upgraded to LED
-Drake Off road fire extinguisher Mount https://youtu.be/A6K58TY7FiY
-4” LED cube lights mounted on the cowl (with a custom minimalist mount I’m designing myself)
-Smittybilt 12k X20 winch with synthetic rope
-Metalcloak Integrated Armor system for a JKU
-Tom Woods 1350 drive shafts
-Full set of Metalcloak control arms
-Metalcloak HD steering kit
-Teraflex Falcon Nexus 2.2 stabilizer
-JCR Off road inner fender liners for Falcon Shocks
-Nemesis Off road fender flares