Jeepin' in North Alabam'

Jeepin' in North Alabam'

I am at a loss as to why, but I am one of roughly ten gazillion guys out there who is hopelessly obsessed with owning a JEEP.  It’s to the point that I even capitalize the entire name in some sort of weird showing of reverence to the brand, the concept, the ideal. Oh.  I’ve got it bad, y’all.

I drool over the latest edition of the Mopar parts catalogue.  I basically sext-message used car salesmen whose Wranglers have hot lift kits.  I spend time reading about ridiculous concept JEEPs that don’t even make any sense. I definitely know the first place I’d go muddin’ in North Alabama if I secured a JEEP.  I’m all studied up on the disputed origins of the name. And you better believe that I know about the Wrangler wave.

I can try to objectify my interest – and I often do, to my wife – by saying that any outdoorsman needs a machine capable of getting him to those off-the-trail spots where the best parts of nature are nestled.  And as my friends can tell you, I’ve embarrassed myself enough already getting my push-button four-wheel Honda stuck in the mud.  So there is some argument for buying a true, all-American 4WD vehicle; one with solid axles, waterproof floors, and a reputation that will back up my frivolous off-road decisions . . . and maybe a winch for when the reputation reaches its limits.

But, that’s not really the whole truth.  It is more than that.  Come to think of it, my burning for a JEEP really has very little to do with practicality or need.  And getting my Honda stuck in the mud was probably more about wanting a JEEP than needing to go somewhere only JEEPs can go.  Whatever it is, the impetus is something so ingrained in the very essence of my being that I want in spite of near-total impracticality.

At the end of the day, I’m pretty sure it comes down to that good old American sense of adventure that creeps into a man’s soul and drives his actions to illogical extremes.  How do I know this?  Because I had an existential moment when I read these two Craigslist postings for JEEPs.  Talk about cathartic.  It was like spending an afternoon on Doctor Phil’s couch.  THESE GUYS UNDERSTAND ME.

Sigh.

Where was I?

Oh yeah.  So, short of flying to Enid, Oklahoma to respond to a Craigslist ad, what does a Huntsville Outdoorsman do to satisfy the thirst for all things JEEP?  In other words, what is this article all about?  Well, mostly looking.  The article about the best places in North Alabama to take a JEEP will have to come after I actually own one.

But the good news is, it turns out looking is pretty fun.  And you’d be surprised at the places to look around here.  Take a day, a half-day, or a weekend and kick some tires. Don’t bother with the major dealerships.  You might find a good-looking model, but you have to deal with all the conventional dealership stuff.

One of my favorite places is Gilbert’s Jeeps on the extreme western side of Athens, Alabama.  Gilbert’s is owned by a guy, Gilbert, who is basically just a JEEP enthusiast.  He maintains a pretty small but consistent selection of used JEEPS.  He told me he originally intended to focus on the classic CJs, but economics have forced him to expand a bit.  At any given time nowadays, he can be counted on to have a couple CJs, maybe even a throwback military version from the 1950s, and a good selection of YJs and TJs running up to the past few model years.  For some reason, he’s also been trying to sell a horse-drawn hearse and a condo for some time, too.  Don’t ask.  I don’t know.

Gilbert’s is the most convenient haven for JEEP enthusiasts and super-easy to deal with from a consumer perspective.  If you go, be sure to mention that Huntsville Outdoors sent you.  I am holding out faint hope that he’ll give me a friendly shout-out discount whenever my wife OK’s The Big Purchase.

But I should mention that mods aren’t really Gilbert’s thing.  If you want to buy a JEEP that is already modded out and maybe even – gasp – outfitted for street-riding, you should seriously consider heading over to the Peach State.  Specifically, Cartersville, Georgia, home of two of the best JEEP dealerships in the damn country.  Incidentally, the stores are literally next door to each other, and collectively constitute a real site to behold.

The Pre-Owned Jeep Store has a massive inventory.  Every year and model of Wrangler you can imagine has a good chance of being present on a given Saturday.  You want a rare JEEP Comanche? OK, I know, probably not.  But they have them.  How about a classic Scrambler?  Hell yes, they have those, too.

Don’t find what you like at Pre-Owned?  Mosey down the block to Elite Motors.  But be forewarned.  Elite is really a different class of JEEP store, and it caters to a different class of customer.  Their JEEPS have shiny paint jobs, 6 inch lifts, massive tires, blacked out rims, leather interiors, snorkel kits, Hemi engines, etc.  They are beauties, my friends, and they may cost you.

You know what else might cost you?  Paying a wrecker to pull your pathetic man-van out of the mud on Wheeler Wildlife Refuge after a day of fishing.  Don’t let that happen to you, my friend.  Go search for a JEEP.  Go out in search of adventure.  Go out in search of an American classic.  Get one before Chrysler goes under.  Get one before the Wrangler goes the way of the Ford Explorer and becomes just another metrosexual “cross-over.” If you don’t think it could happen, take a gander at the latest edition of the once rough-and-tumble Cherokee. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Long live the Wrangler.  Long live The Dream. 

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