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Looking Back

Jeep Life: 1st Mud Run

Munchkin getting ready to do a little mudding in the Jeep

We’ve been enjoying rain on and off for the last few days around here. It’s been wonderful. The temps have been cooler, and we can always use the rain – especially when it’s a slow, steady rain rather than a downpour.

On Friday, Daddy was rather eager to get out and do at least a little mudding as it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to play in the mud. Unfortunately, by the time he got home, I was already making dinner which meant I needed to stay home to finish it up.

It was decided that it would be the perfect opportunity to test out the Jeep and give Munchkin some time behind the wheel. I admit that it was rather odd to see Munchkin in the driver’s seat with Daddy as the passenger as Daddy loves to go off-roading and playing in the mud. Off they went to have some fun while I wrapped up supper.

My truck got a little muddy during the vehicle recovery process

As I was taking care of the evening chores with the horses, I received a call from Munchkin letting me know that they needed me to bring a truck out there as someone was stuck in the mud. (The Jeep is not set up for vehicle recovery at this point in time, and we didn’t have the necessary tow straps and what not in the Jeep yet.) I wrapped up what I was doing, and I was soon on my way to do some vehicle recovery.

It’s been a little while since I’ve received one of those calls. When we were on the east coast, I received those calls more often as there was some serious mud over there. The desert doesn’t have as much mud, and it’s generally limited to after a rainstorm. The mud was slick, and my truck definitely sank in the mud much more than the Jeep.

Upon arrival, I saw a small vehicle that was seriously stuck in the mud. The tow strap was hooked up and vehicle recovery began. It didn’t take long, but it was a messy process. After the guy was on his way, I made my way back home while Munchkin and Daddy carried on with their off-road adventure.

Overall, the first mud run in the Jeep went pretty well. It was a reminder that we needed to get certain things in the Jeep asap. (A tow strap with basic tools have already been placed in the Jeep.) It confirmed that we definitely want some bigger, more aggressive tires on the Jeep when the budget allows for it. Most importantly, both Munchkin and Daddy had a good time (minus a few frustrations for Munchkin as she worked on figuring out the mechanics of the manual Jeep).

DIY Jeep Clutch Extension

Desert Jeep

Driving a manual transmission Jeep – especially an older style – can be interesting when you have shorter legs. For my Jeep, the clutch has to be pushed all the way to the floor for it to engage which is rather difficult for this 5’2” person with shorter legs. It’s even difficult for Munchkin who has longer legs.

I could reach if I put a pillow behind my back, but even then, I had to use my tippy toe with a completely straight leg. I was also too close to the steering wheel for my comfort, and D certainly didn’t like it. While Munchkin didn’t need to pillow, she still had to do the crazy stretch which isn’t a good thing – especially for a younger, new driver.

I began to do some research into options for making the clutch work for shorter people. I quickly learned this wasn’t a unique problem, but there weren’t a lot of safe options out there. Yes, there are some pricey clutch extensions available that are geared towards serving disabled people, but I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of having to spend a lot of money on it. Plus, since D is also driving the Jeep, I wanted something that could be easily removed when he was driving.

We saw several “interesting” things that people put together, but they didn’t look all that safe. Using zip ties to secure a block of wood to the clutch just doesn’t seem like a great idea. We wanted safe, secure, and usable without it costing a chunk of change.

Jeep clutch extension

Ultimately, we decided that we’d try to come up with something on our own. It began with a block of wood to determine how much reach needed to be added to the clutch to make it work comfortably for Munchkin and me. Then, D started to look around the garage to see what scraps he had. Slowly, the ideas started to come together.

The rubber portion of the clutch pedal came off. D used some scrap steel to recreate the shape of the clutch pedal for the new clutch pedal extension. Scrap steel, steel tubing, nuts and bolts, and a large washer were cut, ground down, properly sized, and welded together. Several changes were made before the final product came together. Once it was finished, a coating of black paint was applied, and my new clutch extension was installed.

A closer look at the Jeep clutch extension

It’s now easy for me to push in the clutch. It’s very secure. I’m able to reach without needing to use a pillow, stretch, or sit too close to the wheel. I’m so thankful that D has the skills and creativity to put something like this together. It was all done with things that we had sitting around the garage, so basically, the only cost was the time that was put into it.

Easter 2016

Our girl all dressed up for Easter

Our baby girl is definitely growing up all too fast. I remember when she would wear a frilly, pink Easter dress with a matching straw hat for Easter. Times have changed, but not for the worst. It’s just different.

We’re grateful that even though Munchkin’s style in clothing has changed over the years that she’s always wanted to remain modest in her attire. I think she has a fun style all of her own which often means that finding clothing isn’t always easy. When you throw in her being super sensitive to how clothing feels (scratchy material and seams are a no-go), it can be a long process to find new clothing for the season.

Many of the old traditions have slipped away while we turn to new ways to spend time together as a family. Easter baskets and egg hunts have faded away. We do egg hunts now and again, but they’re usually not tied directly to Easter. Instead of filling up a basket on Easter morning, I tend to surprise her with a little something that she really wants/needs instead.

One thing that hasn’t changed is family pictures on Easter after morning church services.

Daddy and daughter goofy around

As is the norm around here, getting serious pictures of these two is rather difficult. They are always goofing around and pushing each other over. Lots of laughter takes place, and I may or may not get a good “normal” shot. lol!

I don’t mind as I love to see their special relationship in action. She loves her daddy, and her daddy adores her. It is important for a girl to know how much her daddy loves and cares for her. Munchkin knows what it is like to be treated with respect. She knows that her daddy values her opinions. He lifts her up. He knows how to balance being the serious father figure she needs while still having a blast with her. Yes, I’m very grateful that they have that special relationship.

It’s through her earthly father’s love that she gets to see a glimpse of her heavenly father’s love. When you’re a teenager faced with all kinds of decisions, it’s nice to have that real life example to hold on to when things get a little crazy.

Wordless Wednesday: Signs of Spring at Barker Dam

Blooming Joshua Tree

We haven’t had much rain, but the desert is starting to come to life. We saw some blooms on our hike at Barker Dam.

Blooming Yucca

Cactus

Blooming Cactus

Desert Flowers

Lizard sunning himself on a rock

Hiking Barker Dam Trail

Getting reading to set off to see Barker Dam

It’s hard to believe that we haven’t been out hiking since June 2015. We love the great outdoors and exploring, but my ankle injury put everything on hold for months and months and months. I’m still working on getting back to 100%, but I’m now at the point where I felt that I could start doing some short hikes. The first day of spring seemed like the perfect time to give it a try.

Hiking the Barker Dam Trail

We headed over to Joshua Tree National Park to take the easy Barker Dam Trail hike. The parking area was packed, but the hike itself was nice. The good thing about hiking around Joshua Tree National Park is that there can be a lot of people without the area feeling super crowded. (The prime climbing areas can be a different story.)

Looking at Barker Dam

Other than the allergy issue, we had an enjoyable time being back out in nature. We took our time and explored different areas. We weren’t in a hurry which meant we could take side trails and just explore. My ankle, while still lacking normal flexibility, felt pretty good.

Checking out one of the climbing areas

Of course, D wanted to check out the different climbing/bouldering areas, and he dreamed of when he’d, once again, be able to climb. He really misses it. He still has quite a few months before he’ll be able to even begin to do the basics, but he’s confident that his shoulder will get strong enough to start climbing again. I’m probably more hesitant than he is about the whole thing because I don’t want to see him hurt again. He still has the other shoulder that’s injured in addition to the shoulder surgery recovery.

Barker Dam

The water at the dam was quite a bit lower than it was last time we were there. The desert is just starting to bloom. We need a really good rain to get things going strong.

Looking at the petroglyphs

petroglyphs

Munchkin’s favorite part was the petroglyph cave.

Looking at the petroglyphs

petroglyphs

She enjoyed looking at the various petroglyphs as well as looking at the different rock formations in the cave.

Exploring the petroglyph caveOf course, it’s always fun when you can go straight through the boulder and come out the other side. 😉

Barker Dam

The weather was perfect thanks to a nice breeze. It was an enjoyable day. I’m looking forward to gradually increasing the length and difficultly of our hikes as I have missed going out.