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Jeepers Creepers
By Bill E. Branscum   ©2003
(Click Pics to Enlarge)

In a number of Jeep related things I've written, I have made it a practice to suggest that anyone who happens to be planning to bring their Jeep to Naples e-mail us, as we know the area pretty well. That may seem a little odd to those who are don't drive these contraptions, but the Jeepin' community was like that when I bought my first Jeep about twenty-five years ago, and that's one of the things I liked about it most.

I'm sure that some people see pictures in offroad magazines and envision a bunch of nasty, drunken brawlers with green teeth engaging in all maneer of reprehensible activities to the tune of "dueling banjos," but that has not been my experience. While there may be any number of Jeep owning "creeps" (my Megan's new word this month), and there's nothing to stop Joe Serial Killer from buying one, I've liked most of the people I've met through Jeep related activities - some of them I've liked a lot.

In September, a guy who identified himself as "Omi" e-mailed me, and wanted to know where I lived, as he and his friend Almo were going to be coming over from Miami. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but I knew right away that Omi was going to need a sense of humor - "Omi One Kenobi" seemed too obvious a nickname for the kids to miss.

Omi said they couldn't make it on Saturday, so we agreed to meet early the next Sunday morning and go riding before Church.

Omi and Almo showed up right on time.

Omi's '02 TJ

Almo's '98 TJ

We took them to the Picayune State Forest, a huge tract of land within about five miles of our home. It's a local playground for all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts.

In looking at the pictures, I admit that Omi, who we re-nicknamed "Omi Juan Kenobi" since he's Hispanic, looks like a bad boy from the hood, but the bottled water doesn't quite fit that image.

The fact is, Omi Ramirez is a recent graduate of FIU, with a BA in Psychology, who is preparing for Grad School. He and his wife Ileana own a computer company in Miami and "Ily," who also has a BA in Psychology, works for the Dept. of Children and Families.

A truly pitiful excuse for a serial killer.

Almo Cattani, and his wife Lisa, who are standing behind Luz, brought their three year old son Johnathan who is standing with Omi. Almo is a product development manager for a computer company called Alienware and Lisa works as an analyst for Blue Cross and Blue Shield. They also have a 5 month old son named Stephen.

He and I don't speak Spanish.

Lisa, Ily and Luz
They wanted to come see some of the mud puddles I had written about, so I took them out to Miller Blvd Extension, a dirt road connecting the Picayune Forest to US Highway 41 which is under water during the wet parts of the year. While we were taking pictures of Almo, he was taking pictures of us.
Almo 's '98 TJ doesn't have the benefit of the new ignition system and the difference was evident. Although he invariably plowed thru the worst of the water, he stalled out several times which neither Omi, nor I, ever did. The coil for each plug system certainly makes a difference.
Although both Omi and Almo had 4 inch lifts and 35 inch tires, our Rubicon managed to ford the water right along with them. Omi recorded the "Submarubicon" video - if it wasn't a video, nobody would believe that the Jeep would continue running with the hood under water.

Click for Video

Along the way, Omi decided to try climbing over an abandoned car.

"Omi Juan Kenobi"

Ooops - the force went to wheelspin!

Omi had the lift, but he didn't have the lockers or the gears that Almo did.

Although slightly disadvantaged by his ignition system in the water, Almo had all the advantages when it came to climbing. His '98 TJ has 4.10 gears, 36" Swampers, air lockers front and rear and a Terra Low X transfer case.
Then, he turned around and climbed the car from the other side.
Unfortunately, the time ran out before the fun did. By this time, it was about noon so we all went back to the house where my son Jeremy had pizza waiting - he had to work that morning so he was unable to go with us.
We had to pack it up and get to Church, but we all agreed that we'd had too much fun not to do it again. They told us about the 6th Annual Jeeptoberfest in Ocala that the Ocala Jeep Club was having at the end of October; we checked schedules and we all agreed to go.

I suppose we may one day encounter a Jeepin' Creep, and realize our mistake when he and his banjo show up at our front door, but we have a German Shepherd that would bite Jesus, and with the price of dog food being what it is these days . . .

Anyway, from what I've seen thus far, I guess things haven't changed so much in twenty-five years after all.

If you're planning on visiting the 'Glades in SW Florida, e-mail us and let us know.



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