Shortly after I was back in the States I found a truck in Southern California that met all of my criteria. I talked to the owner and it sounded like what I was looking for, so I got on a plane (I was staying in Houston at the time) and went to check it out. I spent a fun weekend with some friends in San Diego before going to see the truck. It was in pretty good shape for a 15-year-old vehicle, had no rust and it ran good. The clutch wason its way out, but the owner had warned me of that when I talked to him on the phone. I haggled over the price and finally talked the seller down from $5000 to $4200.
I then got in and drove 1400 miles to Houston. The truck drove flawlessly the whole way… which was a good thing considering that I did not have a single tool with me. I drove through the desert of Southern California and thought about how much I wanted to just stay and run Surprise Canyon and Johnson Valley, but my truck was not setup for that (yet). I drove through Las Cruces (another rockcrawler's paradise) to El Paso the first day, doing 80 the whole time with one hand on the wheel. This was quite a different sensation from the CJ-7 I had owned previously! My only complaint was with the gas mileage, which was a mere 15 mpg on the freeway. I was expecting closer to 25 from the four banger.
After spending the night in El Paso I continued to Austin, where I had dinner with Robert Canon, owner of the famous FrankenTaco. Unfortunately Robert's truck was in California getting fitted for a Klune underdrive and an Atlas II transfer case, but I still enjoying talking shop with Robert. He is one of the funniest people I have ever met, and he knows his trucks too. From Austin it was back to Houston, where I immediately started ordering parts.
(Note: Many of the pictures on this page were
taken from Robert Canon, who did the trek from Texas to So Cal a few
months before me and is a much better photographer than I am.)