JPFreek Field Reporter submitted story, by James “Bearded” Alumbaugh
I can’t drive to Moab, don’t hit the Rubicon trail and I’m not going to make the King of Hammers. As much as I would love to visit these Jeep “dream destinations”, it’s just not in the cards for me right now. However, I do manage to see some interesting locations that many do not and should not have the chance to visit. I follow trails that vary from tame to extreme, from boring to “how far do I have to walk if I get stuck”…and it is my job.
I have the privilege to follow the power.
I work for a company that supports electric utilities and the line crews that build the power lines to keep your lights on. I manage projects, procure material, organize schedules, estimate equipment needs, so on and so forth. But, far and away, the very best part of my job is that I am required to visit all of the sites for construction before everyone else does.
NOTE: Most power lines run through areas owned by either local government or individuals and is considered private property. In most circumstances it is trespassing to travel along power lines without specific permission to do so, as with any land you don’t own. The utility negotiates “right of way” in order to access and or build lines on this land, and that’s where I come in.
Driving down the “Right of Way” is almost a daily adventure. Yes, we have company trucks or could take someone else’s ride, but I drive a 2007 Wrangler JKU Rubicon: fully bumpered, winched, skid plated, lit up and turned up. I can bore you with my list of mods, but I will save that for another time or when someone pays me to brag about their stuff on my ride. I will say that I do keep an aggressive 35″ tire, but, really… you should.
I am currently planning a 14 mile job that has no good road access and mostly untouched for the last 100 years. Day 1 on the job puts me standing at the locked gate looking at the terrain, planning my route. The very first thing I notice in this stretch is several areas of standing water and nothing to attach even a winch to. I am not terribly worried, as I have a Jeep. I chuckle as I unlock the gate and pull in. I can feel the soft ground give way and I slide back into 4HI.
The Jeep digs in, flinging dirt and soggy ground everywhere as I progress towards the upcoming tree line. The next several miles sees muck and mud, hills and rocks, across a few streams and back to pavement. As I lock the gate behind me and finish up my notes for the first leg, I sit and admire my beast of a Jeep. Not much in life is better than looking at the mud caked on the fenders, roof, hood and dropping off my lugged sidewalls, knowing I made it — and there is more fun to come. I grab a quick picture (yes, I am that guy) and head back into the wilderness.
I make my way, careful to note the areas that need fill gravel and traction mats, as well as locations for staging areas for the dozers needed to pull everyone else in and around. The semi-trucks, crew trucks, fork lifts and all manner of equipment are likely to be stuck otherwise. Hills have to be flattened, ditches must be filled in and roads have to be built to get the job done. I smile as I push the Jeep through, as I am making the way for those less capable.
At the end of a good work day I look back and appreciate the fact that I own and love my Jeep. Keep your sports cars and pick-up trucks. Give me poor handling. Give me rough. Give me bad gas mileage and mystery sounds. Give me my Jeep.
And to all you Jeepers like me; maybe one day I will make it out the best trails in the world, but until then, after you get back from Moab, the Rubicon or Imogene, you will find me on some less traveled paths, following the power.
James won a $50 ExtremeTerrain.com gift card for the best JPFreek Field Reporter program submission for February. Send your story and photos today for your chance to win!