Hi, welcome back!
So, back on May 1st, 2021 we said farewell to our dear and beloved 1995 Jeep Cherokee, Ol’ Blue. We had just finished 4 days on the Mojave Trail that March, which Ol’ Blue completed without any problems. And we weren’t expecting any problems, we knew her trail capabilities were top notch! I mean, she’s been a pretty tenacious little beast on any trail we’ve EVER tackled with her…sometimes doing so well, and taking us places that shocked and sometimes scared the shit out of my wife, Maria and I!
So, her trail prowess has never been up for debate and was not the reason for our splitting up. If there was any “reason” at all with her, it would simply be the fact that she became my daily driver. That was never the plan for her. Along with that, the other reason was all of the long highway drives we were doing to accomplish all of our adventures….you know, the drives both TO and FROM the trails. Those drives were sometimes pretty brutal, with Ol’ Blue’s lack of ANY creature comforts…no air conditioning, no heat, no good sealing rubber around any of the doors or windows which meant she was really noisy…the wind noise was very close to unbearable at times, really wearing me and my nerves completely raw.
And this last drive home, the one from the Mojave Trail trip, got me thinking of another brutally, long drive home. A drive I did back in September of 2018…the drive to Reno, Nevada via Sacramento and back home again. That was the initial drive that got the idea bouncing around in my head to consider purchasing a different adventure vehicle.
But, more on that later.
Ol’ Blue was tired. Hell, she had a lot of miles on her…like just shy of 300,000 when she sold. But there was absolutely nothing wrong with her at the moment of the sale. She was mechanically sound with no major repairs that needed to be done and was actually driving the best she had for awhile. It just felt like the right time to let her go.
But, let’s go back to that story of the long drive that started the ball rolling to buy a new adventure vehicle.
Back in 2018, I was driving Ol’ Blue back home from Interbike in Reno, Nevada. The route I took home was: Interstate 80 West from Reno, to Sacramento and then Interstate 5 South, through California’s dreaded Central Valley, home.
The trip was 548 miles. Google Maps said 9 hours and 29 minutes. Well, with the massive headwind through the Central Valley, let’s add 2 hours to that drive. Yeah…Ol’ Blue hated headwinds.
So, over 11 hours in the Jeep, Mid-September, no air conditioning, no stereo (it worked, you just couldn’t hear it), the wind noise was unbearable but also inescapable. I don’t remember how hot it was through the Central Valley, but I remember it being very hot…for what felt like an eternity.
Finally I happily started climbing the Grapevine…”happily” because climbing the Grapevine means I only have another 2-ish hours left before I am home. That made me happy. As I am climbing, I look over and notice, a Subaru Outback.
I’ve noticed Subarus before, I look a them all the time….I’ve owned a few and I love them. But it must’ve been the circumstances that I was in at that moment, the suffering I was going through that made be pay special attention to this particular Outback…plus it looked to be the same year (1999) as the one we had before…in the same color!
I also noticed that the driver looked happy and what appeared to be completely content. His windows were up and he looked rested, calm, cool and comfortable…probably enjoying some of his favorite tunes on his stereo…in his quiet drivers seat.
Shit man, I really wanted that, I thought to myself. And, as I was noticing all of these things, it reminded me how much I loved my old Subaru Outback. It was a great car!
So when I got home from that shit-show of a drive, I talked to Maria about the possibility of selling Ol’ Blue, taking the money from the sale and buying a used Subaru. She said she didn’t want to do that.
OK then, that was the end of that. But the seed was planted.
Fast forward to Spring of 2021…almost 3 full years after that fabled climb up the Grapevine.
It’s the end of March, all 140 miles of the Mojave Trail are done, checked off the bucket list and in the books. At one of the campsites, my good friend Dave and I had a good talk. We talked about how the Mojave Trail was the perfect type of trail that we wanted to do from now on….trails that weren’t too technically difficult, making them wonderfully stress free.
We talked about not going out just to conquer obstacles or push our vehicle’s capabilities as well as our off-road skills.
We liked the idea of mapping trails as part of the journey to a destination, not picking the trail just for the sake of the trail. We talked about our adventures utilizing trails that were a little more mellow…where the trail obstacles were part of the journey and not a big stress factor.
This conversation got my “I wanted a different adventure vehicle” juices flowing again.
But, I kept it to myself, and finished the trip. When we got home, I started looking and researching. I looked at lots of other vehicles, that fit my “new” needs in an adventure vehicle. I made up my mind that this next vehicle will be checking all of my important boxes, if possible. It was going to be hard, because I also had to accept that there were going to be some compromises to be made.
The main reason for the compromising you ask…well, because a Jeep, on solid axles, is (in my opinion) the most capable off-road vehicle you can buy. And I couldn’t sell Ol’ Blue and just buy another nicer, newer Jeep….I wouldn’t have enough money. So, that meant that I may have to compromise some off-road abilities. But, let’s also not forget, I will be using this new vehicle just like I used Ol’Blue…98% of the time ON THE ROAD!
That being said, let’s go over the boxes that the new adventure vehicle needed to check prior to purchase.
- Aesthetically pleasing…I had to actually like the way it looked. Plus it needed to have little to no body damage and really good paint
- Affordable…I have to be able to buy it with funds from selling Ol’ Blue
- “Turn-key” for adventuring…it needed to be ready with very little needs for modifications
- AWD or 4WD…either one would do.
- Good stock clearance…with the ability to do the type of off-roading Dave and I talked about…long desert trails, rough forest service roads all the way up to sightly degraded Jeep trails
- Comfortable…I wanted something that was fully loaded…it didn’t need leather seats, but I wanted all of the other stuff…air conditioning and heat at the very least.
- A great, stock stereo…Maria likes to be “in-concert” when we are driving
- Gas Mileage…it needed to get better than Ol’ Blue’s (absolute best case) 16MPG
- Storage space…Ol’ Blue was tiny on the inside, so I need to carry everything I used plus people or our dogs
- Rooftop cargo capabilities…it needed to have strong roof rails
- Long road trip comfort…two of our boys, Kreg and Nolan live in the Pacific North West, we want to drive up and visit them more…the new vehicle needs to be able to do that with aplomb.
- Safety…the new vehicle had to have high marks in collision safety.
- Easy-ish for me to do DIY repairs…I don’t think any newer vehicle will be as easy to wrench on as Ol’ Blue…but I need to be able to do a lot of my own work on it. Because I like to.
That’s a long list, I know. Many, many vehicles check SOME of the boxes…but only one checks ALL of the boxes, and that’s what we bought. Maria was reluctant for this purchase but she green-lighted it…and “kinda” gave me her blessing.
So after a ton of research on what to watch out for, what I needed it for, what options I want, and what model checks all of my boxes…I decided on a final make and model.
And along came Ol’ Blue’s replacement.
Sheila is a 2008 Subaru Outback. She is our 4th Subaru and our second Subaru Outback. She checks all of the boxes! 🙂
Here is how she checks the boxes:
- Aesthetically pleasing…when it comes to looks, the 3rd generation Outback is my favorite, she has no body damage and her paint is great!
- Affordable…we picked her up for $1000 less than Ol’ Blue’s selling price
- “Turn-key” for adventuring…3 skid plates to protect the under side with a set of good all terrain tires and she’s ready to go.
- AWD or 4WD…literally the best AWD system on the market…check!
- Good stock clearance…8.7″ of stock clearance!
- Comfortable…fully loaded…with heated seats (for use on freezing mountain and desert drives)!
- A great, stock stereo…8 speakers, and a hidden AUX input for Maria to access her phone’s music…perfect!
- Gas Mileage…20 city, 26 highway.
- Storage space…33.5 cubic feet, 65.4 with seats down compared to Ol’ Blues 35.7 with the seats down!
- Rooftop cargo capabilities…has luggage rack rails for a cargo box, basket and awning.
- Long road trip comfort…the cabin is super quiet, the A/C blows cold and the stereo sounds amazing…she is a pure joy to drive.
- Safety…NHTSA 5 star rating for both frontal and side impacts. Has both front and side curtain airbags for driver and all passengers…including a center rear shoulder belt. It also has an incredibly low 15% rollover risk.
- Easy-ish for me to do DIY repairs…So, far I’ve replaced the PCV Valve, both rear struts, front swaybar linkage and passenger side front axle…really easy.
We’ve had her since May 10th….and so far she’s been great! We’ve already taken her up to Portland and Seattle to visit the boys. She was a dream to drive! We got 27.4 mpg on the trip, which was amazing…even with the cargo box on top of her!
She’s been to Palm Springs twice already, has done an easy/moderate off-road day trip, a camp trip with Dave and Louie, a moderate off road trail and Rattlesnake Canyon on the way to Pappy and Harriet’s. She did it all with zero issues…although Rattlesnake, in the current condition it is in, was probably at the limit of her stock capabilities.
All and all, I feel really good about the change. It feels good to be comfortable on the drives, both on and off road and both short and long.
Stoked about it! Welcome to the family Sheila!
Stay tuned…for the next post, I will let you know what I’ve done to her to get her ready for adventure! Some of the repairs and mods we’ve done as well as her new head gaskets!
Good times…see ya next time!
But first, before you go let’s say one last, bittersweet goodbye to 4+ years of adventure with Ol’ Blue. She was a good girl. She was loved by all. We all used to say “she was a goer”…because she absolutely was. She did what EVER we asked of her.
As she drives off into another beautiful, California desert sunset…..good bye Blue.