It’s a Jeep thing, and it started in 2001 when my brother developed a taste for ‘4-bying’ in the Anza-Borrego Desert in California. 'Bush-bashing' to use the local vernacular. I was visiting in January 2001 and we’d been camping in a hired SUV with a bunch of friends; a Mitsubishi Montero to be exact.
|Simon and I January 2001|
In Australia this vehicle was known as the Mitsubishi Pajero. On enquiring about the name difference I was informed that Pajero means 'wanker' in Spanish, and here we were in southern California almost able to see the border to Mexico, so enough said. It was SO cold; I'd come from an Australian summer into the middle of winter here. There was SNOW on the ground en-route to the camp. My eyes bugged out of my head. I slept in the car wearing every piece of clothing I brought with me and any extra blankets I could beg from anyone. I was a wuss, but I was a warm wuss.
|Doug, Simon, Mary and I, January 2001|
The seed of adventure was now sown and not long after this a trip to the Jeep stand at the San Diego Motor Show sealed the deal for Simon.
This first Jeep was a white 2-door Wrangler; she was really hard on the backside over bumps and harder on the fuel gauge. I tried to always catch at least one shot of her during our outings; it seemed only fitting. I felt privileged to be her passenger. I've mentioned before I don't take lightly the fact that I've had an insight into American life tourists simply don't see, including these regular forays into 4WD/SUV only country deep inside the Anza Borrego Desert.
|Mary in her matching Wrangler, 2005|
It seemed that every time we went out in her we found some struggler in need of rescuing. Once this involved bees and an ankle bracelet, but that's another story worthy of an entire blog post. Negotiating the desert here is genuine off-road driving requiring a rugged vehicle that can take a knock; Toorak tractors and their chauffeurs do not last long.
Unfortunately someone took a fancy to this Jeep, stealing her and driving to Mexico, leaving the stripped shell in Tijuana. And I thought that was something that only happened in movies. Good things come to those who wait and have insurance though. She was replaced with a bigger, more luxurious black version and let me tell you this sassy miss is a lot kinder on the ass, if not on the wallet.
In the winter of 2010 I flew to San Diego to spend Christmas with Simon. Of course another trip out to nowhere in particular was in order, so we headed out past Julian and up toward Mount Laguna to take in some new scenery. The images above and directly below show part of the Sunrise Highway, I can’t tell you the elevation: somewhere between Julian’s 1288 metres and Mt. Laguna’s 1769 metres. Any way you phrase it that makes Mt Tamborine on Australia’s Gold Coast at 586 metres look like a seaside village. It was bitterly cold topped off with a bone-chilling wind. We stopped frequently to take photos and because of the sharp cold they were brief stops; usually just long enough for me to jump out and spin around once banging out a series of shots for a panorama. This is a panoramic knit of 9 images covering 360 degrees.
The next image is a 6 frame composite shot in Pine Valley in California, elevation 1681 metres. It was bone crunchingly cold but I had to stop and take in this desolate and strangely eerie scene of 150 year old pines killed by the Cedar Fire in 2003.
On our US visit in 2012 Simon took us out into the desert on a scorching July day when the mercury bumped into the high 40's. Fortunately for us the humidity was down around the 10% mark.
|Negotiating a rocky pass, July 2012|
Black Beauty always looked the goods, she had the walk and the talk when we went out into the desert, her smart exterior a shiny black hole in the sharp Californian sun. She was the perfect companion; smart, pretty and reliable, guaranteed to make it through the rocky bits with you. Seems it really is a Jeep thing.
|The breathtaking beauty of the desert|
|180 degree view of a narrow wash|