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04.21.2012
Everyone Starts Somewhere

stuck AAV

My enthusiasm for the trail was sparked during my service in the Marine Corps. It was a natural attraction since my job was to deliver infantrymen to a fight via Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV). So over the years I became accustomed to mud pits, rocks, hills, sand, jungle, etc; and loved every moment of it. There was no obstacle too big, no jungle too dense, no rock too… rocky? Needless to say, there were several occasions where infantry Lieutenants didn’t agree with my aggressive driving habits. What can I say? Train hard. Anyway, I eventually earned a reputation amongst the “grunts” for being a fun ride.

Comparatively, my daily driver was a 2wd ’87 Suburban – a tank in its own regard, but unfortunately the only things it had in common with an AAV were the troop capacity and MPG. I quickly realized that my beloved Suburban would never be practical off-road, and this would not do.

I needed a new ride; something that would be comfortable for long hauls, but that could withstand significant abuse. So I “downsized” to a ’96 Tahoe LT with a small block 350 V8. It was pretty obvious that the only dirt this Chevy had seen was on the soccer field. Which was perfect – a babied SUV for my first toy.

I planned and saved over the course of two deployments. There were many late nights on duty where my only companion was an off road magazine and a laundry list of how I’d build my Tahoe. Naturally, the first thing I did once I got home was send my grocery getter to the shop to have a 6″ Fabtech lift installed. Don’t forget the 35×12.5 BFG AT’s, black steelies, 4.56 gears, an oversized transmission oil cooler, Borla headers, a dumped Flowmaster, K&N intake, new throttle body, stereo, milk, etc, etc.

The long nights of planning were worth it. This once mommy wagon was now an off road Cadillac – a perfect daily driver that could break away at a moments notice. I eventually joined a group of country boys in my unit (D.co 3rd AABN) that in their free time either A) talked trucks,  B) drove trucks, or C) fixed trucks.

Our group had everything from standard pickups, to custom welded creations that were far from street legal. And each month we organized a trail drive that took us from the legendary Pioneertown, through the muddy hills, and into Big Bear. All in all the trips weren’t about the complexity, but instead they were about the camaraderie we felt by working together and adapting to the trail. It was about the adventurous lifestyle that enthusiasts like you and I crave.

I’ll never forget those trips to Big Bear and all the antics we pulled on them, but those days are definitely over, and I had more or less conceded that i’d never wheel in Big Bear again. That is until Bushwacker tasked me to coordinate with the 2012 Jeep Jamboree. And it just so happens that the Big Bear Jeep Jam fits perfectly into our schedule… What an awesome opportunity to relive some amazing trails, connect with the outdoors, and experience true Jeep culture!

This will be my first Jeep Jam, and I can’t wait! The Big Bear Jeep Jamboree is less than a month away, so it’s time to check all the nuts & bolts on the TJ, top off the fluids, and get ready for a great weekend of wheeling. Be sure to drop by and say hi if you’ll be there, if not then check out our build page for more info on our JK, WJ, and TJ builds.

I’ll see you on the trail -