• Proper Jeeping. Things get rocky on the way down Engineer Pass in Colorado - lengthy stretches doing 2 or 3 mph and still crunching the rock rails.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • The East had its charms, though. Much of this trip has been like living in a Jeep brochure, such as here, the full shot that opened the last text piece, from a pullout of Windsor Road in Westpoint, TN...
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Or here, set up for the night at the Panhandle Campgrounds near Guymore, OK.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • West of Alva, Oklahoma the lush green rolling land gives way to the definition of "The Plains." My view from the Panhandle Campgrounds, wondering if the storm was going to make it all the way to me. The wind did, the rain didn't.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • In the Oklahoma panhandle, headed west, the land opens up and invites you to see where it ends, or if it ends.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Pass through a tight right-left combo on Lake Road in Grenville, NM and the elevated plain land falls away to miles of valleys defined by towering rails of rock. Welcome to the West.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Colorado is where the trail turns into real trail, and things get real pioneer-y.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Coming from the southwest, Colorado also wastes no time climbing to elevation and looking like the Arcadian scenes on a bottled water label. Like here, near Aquila, CO...
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Or here, just off Hell's Hole above Wylie Gulch.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Or here, in Hell's Hole above Wylie Gulch. Some kind of Hell...
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Climbing up to Engineer Pass. If you end up in Lake City before the climb, stop by the San Juan Soda Company. Ice cream so good it's Irresponsible.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Or perhaps it looks more like those 5,000-piece puzzles your grandparents while away the time with. This is the west side of Engineer Pass.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Lots of abandoned mining cabins and materiel all over the Colorado mountains. You had to be a hard unit to make a go here. 
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • That's $2.59 per gallon. As i write this, gas in Los Angeles is about $4.50 a gallon. I've had zero complaints about the trail, and just as many about filling up on the trail.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • With prices like this, though, "No Ethanol" is the "Organic" of gasoline.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • The Colorado state flower is a Jeep, no matter what the state literature says. And there are some beautiful examples. This one was sitting in a gas station in La Veta.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Steve, a great guy who works at the KOA in Statesville, NC told me I had to get some Randy's barbecue before I left. I took his advice. The meat was perfect, but North Carolina's vinegar-based BBQ sauce isn't my favorite. I'm ok with Hot Dog Guy outside of Randy's and his joy for ketchup, though, even if it is a little creepy.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Why would you ever be in Oark, Arkansas? Who knows. But if you ever are in Oark, go here for lunch, the Oark General Store. Open since 1890. I had an Angry Bird sandwich and coconut cream pie. The. Real. Deal.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Arkansas gets my vote as the most beautiful of the eastern states. The Trans-America Trail there is almost nothing but tree-covered fairy tale roads through forests.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • You'd be amazed how many dinosaurs you find in small-town parks...
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • ... and pretty, dead buildings. This was in Kelso, TN and is the building featured on its Wikipedia page.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • About those Camaros. I've seen a lot of dead cars in a lot of yards, but if you have a Gen 3 or Gen 4 Camaro, you set that bad boy off to the side or put it out on display. I caught this one and the next two in less than 24 hours in North Carolina.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Someone placed that car there, and continues to mow around it to make sure it looks good. Good-ish.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • This one was placed next to the road opposite a T-intersection, not in front of the home on the property. The person that owns it does not want you to miss it. And you won't.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • A Dalmatian cow. That is all.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • The saddest post office ever.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • It's fly season, dragonfly season, turtle-crossing-the-road season, and butterflies season. Butterflies are the only one of those creatures to have zero sense of self preservation. Butterflies supposedly live for about a month on average, but they love flying into cars so much I don't think most last more than a few minutes.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • As with the hermits in the east, Colorado has its folks who don't want to be near people. They do it without hiding in the trees, though.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Back to CO, another view of the run up to Engineer Pass.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • Among the Alpine tundra near the actual pass.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
  • On the way down, headed to the water. Eventually.
  • Image Credit: Jonathon Ramsey
Our man Jonathon Ramsey is driving a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon on a 14-week, 14,000 mile journey across North America. Check out his first and second installments.

DOVE CREEK, Colo. – Last week I hopped off the Oklahoma panhandle into Grenville, New Mexico. After a tight right-left on Grenville's Lake Road, the tarmac fell away into immense, scrub-filled valleys rimmed by rock spires and elevated mesas. Pushing into Colorado from the southeast, elevation and high-plains beauty come quickly. It's like driving through the imaginary Arcadias on bottled water labels, or one of those 5,000-piece puzzle sets that grandparents and aunts devote months and bottles of gin to.

I'm shacked up in Dove Creek's surprisingly quaint Country Inn because rain. Here are some notes from the road.

  • For lack of time and space, I only mentioned the Jeep Collection in Suwanee, Georgia in passing last week. Once more: if you're a fan of Jeeps and you get to the Atlanta metro area, I highly recommend a visit — and look at the pictures at the bottom of this article. The 2018 Wrangler Rubicon I'm driving now sports Willys icons on the gear shift lever, windshield, and wheels, and when you turn the rig on, a graphic in the dash cluster morphs from a Willys into a JL Wrangler. Jeep insists on carrying the torch of its origins, so I found it edifying to sit in all four of those origins at the Jeep Collection. I can tell you this: the Americans who fought WWII were a lot smaller than we are.

  • What am I driving? The Monroney titles it a 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 4X4, with a base price of $40,495. It's been plumped with these options: Leather ($1,495), Customer Preferred Package 24R (Cold Weather Group, $895), Trailer Tow HD Electrical Group ($795), LED Lighting ($895), Electronic Infotainment System Group with 8.4-inch Uconnect and Alpine Premium Audio ($1,295), Steel Bumper Group ($1,295), Trail Rail Management System ($195), All-Weather Floor Mats ($130), 8-Speed Automatic Transmission ($2,000), Premium Black Sunrider Soft Top ($595), and 17-inch black wheels with polished lips ($895). Add the $1,195 destination charge, and a customer paying MSRP would need to pony up $52,175 to take it home.

  • Regarding my previous list of aftermarket bits, the Mopar rock rails are so well integrated that I forgot to mention them. They have come in handy. The Mopar grab handles, however, aren't so handy. The hard rubber grips hang from the roof by nylon straps, next to the front windows. When the Jeep gets rocking on ragged trails, the grab handles start knocking on the windows. If I need to hold on with my free hand, I'm using the steering wheel. Perhaps the grab handles should retract. Or go away entirely.

  • The rig weighed 5,060 pounds before I departed SoCal, hauling nothing more than myself and a full tank of gas. I haven't weighed again because I'm still sorting out final fitment. Will do in Seattle before launch to Alaska.

  • Two-door Wranglers have an 18.5-gallon tank, four-door Unlimited models get a 21.5-gallon tank. The EPA rating: 18 city, 23 highway, 20 combined. I took possession with 9,016 miles. I've stopped at Shell 31 times to pour in about 440 gallons of regular unleaded to drive 7,243 miles. Including the full tank that came with the Jeep, the math registers a 16.5-mpg average. I have no complaints, since that takes into account a few hundred pounds of stowage, doing 65 to 80 miles per hour during highway stints, and lots of low- and high-speed spells in 4H.

  • The Jeep wave is a real thing. I'd read about it, but hadn't prepared for it — it doesn't exist in L.A. I believe the first waves started in North Carolina, but that might only be where I began to notice them. Ferrari drivers wave at one another, but there aren't that many Ferraris on the road. I find the Jeep wave a peculiar phenomenon because the further west you go, the more Jeeps you see. By the time you get to Colorado it stops, thank heavens, because everyone has a Wrangler in Colorado. It's the state flower. I've got to keep my head in the game and be ready to wave again in Utah, though.

  • The Jeep family does more than wave. When I stopped beside a rural Arkansas road for a break, a Grand Cherokee passed me and pulled over. A woman hopped out and came my way, asking, "You all right?" I said yes. "You sure?" I said yes again. Her name was Sundi, she's a member of the Seven Slots Jeep Club of Arkansas, and she was lovely. She said she stops for every Jeep that's pulled over — "It's the Jeeper code." Her daughter, nicknamed Sunshine, had a yellow jeep with a sun painted on the hood. When Sunshine lost her life in an accident in her Jeep, Sundi said she was going to get rid of her own Jeep. But Sundi said Jeep club members helped her immensely through the trial, and she decided to keep Jeeping in memory of her daughter. As we said goodbyes, she referred to Sunshine again, saying, "I know she's got her great big red and pink and white wings wrapped around you for the rest of your trip." Sundi and Sunshine, thank you. I'll take it.

  • Colorado is where the Trans-America Trail turns into a trail. Dusty roads to nowhere, mountains everywhere, cattle, mining and pioneer relics. Slow going through Wylie Gulch and Devils Hole in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests. Even slower for miles once I turned off Devils Hole, a mere preview for Engineer Pass. After climbing up the east side of the Pass out of Lake City, it's tame beauty all the way up to the Alpine Tundra. Coming down, not so much. Steep, constant boulder fields, more Jeeps and side-by-sides than flies, doing two or three miles per hour and still going bump on occasion. But a beauty only seen in dreams. It's like living in a Jeep brochure out here.

I'll be back from the end of the trail on the Oregon coast, assuming the wildfires don't stop me before that.

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