This story is about an adventure in life, an adventure in patience and grabbing an opportunity when it’s just a glimmer. It occurs over a long period of time, but really starts with a sudden and unexpected turn of events.
Fiona finally got a winch. It was the one item that I had wanted to buy from the day that I bought her and I thought about getting an aftermarket bumper as well, but it wasn’t in the budget at the time. Instead, I looked at getting a winch plate to attach to the stock bumper. The winch plate was going to run me upwards of $200+ and to find somebody locally that could fabricate me one, who wasn’t super busy, was basically impossible. Then I bought a house. There went any jeep budget I may have had, but a fair enough sacrifice and Fiona would just have to wait a while.
Fast forward a year and I’d been loving life in my new place and was about to start renovations of the outside of the house. I was working my day job & planting gardens in my back yard after work & on weekends when I wasn’t off adventuring. One moonless morning in April, I was headed to work on the local 2 lane wilderness highway at 5am. It was still pitch dark out and visibility was extremely low. Thankfully it wasn’t raining out, just dark. I approached a long uphill passing lane and was behind a slow moving Suburban truck. I signalled that I was going to pass and pulled into the center passing lane. As I reached the side of the Suburban, I suddenly saw a deer about to hop into my lane and another deer following behind it. With the truck on my left, the first deer now almost in my lane and the other one right behind it, I had no choice but to try to slow down because I knew I was going to hit it. Poor thing. Never knew what happened. Died instantly. The Suburban may have seen me hit it, as we were parallel on the roadway and the person hit the gas and sped away. I was completely shaken up and pulled over, onto the shoulder. There was no other traffic so I got out of the jeep and checked the front end, then ran out onto the road to check the deer. I tried to figure out if I could move the deer but there was no way. I thought to myself “If I had a winch, I may be able to move it” but there’s no way I could have without putting myself in danger. Vehicles started to drive by as I stood by the jeep shaking and trying to phone the police to let them know of the hazard, but I had no cell phone service. Nobody stopped to see if I’d actually hit the deer, or to see if I was ok, people probably thought I was stopping to check it. I saw that people were driving around the deer and realizing that there was nothing more that I could do, I decided that I had to get to work on time and left. I called the police again when I arrived at work, only to get a recorded message and gave up. When I drove home later that afternoon, the deer was gone.
So now there was some damage to the front of the jeep that was going to need repairs. It was definitely driveable, the stock bumper is very sturdy and the deer was a smaller variety so the main damage was to the bumper. My driver’s side fog lamp was knocked out, the same side fender flare was broken along the front, there was a crack in the grille just on the passenger’s side of the license plate and the plate itself was all bent up.
Fortunately, I have full insurance coverage and just had to take Fiona to the local insurance broker for an assessment. Summer happened and by August, I thought that I’d better get Fiona to the insurance broker. I had been thinking that this was a good opportunity to talk to the broker about a cash settlement for the bumper but have a shop fix the rest of the damage. The broker checked out Fiona and said that yes, he would give me a cash settlement of what the stock bumper was worth. I was really happy to hear that and started shopping for a new bumper and winch.
Now, this whole shopping for jeeps parts thing can be overwhelming because there are so many options! I really wanted a stubby short bumper but realized that if I hit another animal I’d be sacrificing my wheels, basically opening them up to be damaged. No stubby. Maybe one day. Then I had to shop for one that was going to give me value for my hard earned cash. I had chosen a Smittybilt bumper and winch through a warehouse parts store near Vancouver. I was getting ready to order, when my jeep friend Dan said his friend, Dennis, was selling a newer model bumper and winch made by the same company. I did some research on the bumper (already had info on the winch) and messaged Dennis. He sent me photos and information about both the bumper and winch and said that it came with a 20” light bar too. He was asking a very good price for them, they weren’t used for very long & he decided he wanted a stubby bumper lol. So I decided it was a great deal and my friend Dan had offered to drive it north to my house as he sometimes works north of my community and was taking a big truck load of supplies a few weeks later. So the wheels set into motion. Dan & Dennis met and Dan took the goods to his shop. He built a pallet to put it on, wrapped it all up and had it put on the truck. This process took about 6 weeks in total, working around everyone’s schedules but I wasn’t in a hurry because the autobody shop hadn’t called me yet. I didn’t call them either, as I had to wait until the bumper had arrived.
The day arrived when Dan (and his work buddy, aka brother-in-law) arrived at my house after driving all day from Vancouver, arriving at 10 pm. We got the pallet off the truck, I unwrapped it all and Dan helped me to put the bumper in my workshop & the winch in a locked shed, closer to where Fiona is parked (and I wouldn’t have to move it as it’s super heavy). Then the guys continued on their way. That’s JEEP FAMILY for you! Lucky for me, Dan happens to make covers for all sizes of light bars, his company is called Grootwear . Dan dropped off the bumper setup in early November. I was still waiting for a call from the autobody place but had Christmas plans and didn’t call them. Christmas and the New Year came and went and still no call. After dealing with my broken garage door ($$$$) and then frozen pipes on arrival home from my Christmas holiday (more $$$$) I finally called the autobody shop. They searched around for my claim and couldn’t find it! No wonder they never called! They had no record of it! An easy fix though, I passed on the insurance adjustor’s name and they called him, problem solved, they said they’d order parts and call me in 2 or 3 weeks, which they did. My jeeping friend & mechanic Craig had offered to install the bumper before Christmas and I said after the new year would work the best, after the body work had been done.
We set up a date for me to take Fiona to the autobody shop on a Thursday & Friday and I arranged with Craig to see if he could install the setup on the Saturday. All was set and I was excited that it was finally all going to come together after almost a year since the original incident with the deer and over 3 years since I bought Fiona!
When I picked up Fiona on the Friday afternoon I was so very happy to see a perfect grille and new fender. The old parts were in the back of Fiona, I plan to do something creative with the grille.
I confirmed with Craig and set out early the next day. We started to work about 10:30, first job was to remove the old bumper. Amazingly only one bolt was really stuck and once Craig got it off, the bumper came off relatively easily. To my surprise, the missing fog lamp was still attached by the wires! I thought it had fallen off when I hit the deer! I had looked for it & didn’t see it. Either way, the housing was broken and it was unusable. Then we had to run to the parts store for wires, primer/rustproof paint and a few other items. Got everything organized, stopped for some lunch and got busy again. There was quite a bit of fiddling to get the spot on the frame ready for the winch, Craig had to move a small pump to reach the bolt holes and once that was done he wrestled the winch on, and I held it in place while he got it bolted to the frame. He then hooked it up to the power source and checked that it worked. Success!
Now for the actual bumper. This was fairly easy, it fit on nicely and again, I held it in place while he got it securely bolted. The only thing left was to wire up the light bar and that took quite a bit longer. I had bought a switch to install on the dash by the steering column so that I could have separate control over it. He had to not only wire it up, but cut a spot for the switch and test out the whole system. When it was all completed, I was unbelievably happy! It looked great, worked great and I finally had the winch I’d always wanted and a bonus bumper and light bar!
Next week, Dan will be arriving in the north to work again and has made me a cover for the light bar. Photos to follow!
Sometimes things take a while to accomplish but when that window of opportunity opens just a bit, it’s great when we can push it wide open and make things happen!!