Last call…

For the past twelve years, i’ve observed an annual ritual that marks the beginning of winter… It has nothing to do with the calendar, digging out cold-weather gear, the phase of the moon or the location of leaves with respect to the ground. 

It takes about 15-20 minutes, depending on how warm it is outside.  But when it’s done, i am ready.  My mental register is reset and my body prepared for cold. 

Waiting as long as possible, hoping for just one more warm day where i can eek out that last moment before giving up til spring.  Watching the skies.  Adjusting my plans to push the envelope as far into the year as possible.  Me and the true love of my life… On the road.  Basking in an October blue sky and sucking down the cool, dry air.

Today was the day.  Some years i can make it til early November, but my gut told me today was it.  Returning home from an afternoon bike ride, i set the wheels in motion.  Literally.  Grabbing the dog, we hit it…

In the Jeep.  She is my one and only.  And today was likely to be the last day of true Indian Summer.  We scooted off to the dog park, taking back roads and hitting every bump in the road with joy.   As the sun got lower, the chill set in, and we had to head home…

Before we left, i’d taken the hose to the doors and top, and left them on the warm concrete driveway to dry and soften* in the sun.  We pulled into the garage, and i unloaded the mutt back into the house.  And the ritual began…

Untie the bungees and straps, reset the frame, snap the top to the swing frame bar.  Standing on the seats, facing rearward, pull the top forward.  Doing gymnastics that could get me arrested in parts of Utah, i pull the front of the top into the groove above the windshield.  While standing on the hood. 

Climbing off, i tuck the flanges on the back of the top into the grooves.  Climbing inside, i then begin the brute force portion of the event – thwacking the support bars until the top is stretched and the cross beams are locked in place.  Re-stretching and aligning the velcro supports around the door frames.  Hanging the doors and making sure all’s well with the alignment.  The final maneuver? Release a gigantic sigh and call it a summer…

Winter.  Bring it…

From a Spring trip... He was smiling just as much today...
From a Spring trip… He was smiling just as much today…

* There is an art to putting a soft top on a Jeep by yourself.  Best trick i’ve learned is to warm the black canvas top in the sun for an hour or so before attempting to stretch it onto the frame… i’ve busted open many a knuckle through the years attempting to put a brittle-cold cover back on my baby on a frigid day… hence the need for precision timing on the re-install… Too warm a day and i’ve probably jumped the gun, wasting precious jeep-time.  Too cold?  i’ll be bleeding from the fingertips and it’ll take an hour…