Another of My Favorite Beers of the Year: taking off the Jeep top

I love Rites of Passage stories. Not only the big ones, like going into the woods and killing a lion, but the small rites of passage that are everywhere. We need to pay more attention to these rites of passage and the power they have in our lives. I recently wrote about one of my favorite rites of passage that lets me know it is springtime. I drink one of my favorite beers of the year while turning on my sprinklers.

Another of my rites of passage in the spring is taking the top off my Jeep. I have had and currently have lots of Jeeps and there is something cleansing about getting the top off of them and driving around with no doors.

On the day I take the top off, I park my Jeep outside in the sunshine and have a beer. This is my looking-at-my-Jeep beer. Fabric soft tops shrink in the cold and expand in the heat, so one needs to not rush into this work. Looking at your Jeep and letting the sun works its magic so no zippers are destroyed this year is an excellent use of time, no matter what others may say.

After this beer, I start unzipping windows and moving the soft top out of the way. A year’s worth of snow, rain, dust, and mud make their presence known. I have to be very careful with the zippers — many soft tops have been destroyed by rushing through the zipping and unzipping process. By now, my shirt is covered in dirt and my hands look like I have been gardening.

Once the top is off, I take the Jeep for a quick spin. The most important equipment for this trip is sunglasses. I head out to a highway and get up to speed, which blows the dirt and dust loose that has been trapped inside the Jeep. It’s like driving in a sandblaster. Dust gets into my ears and nose but as long as I have my sunglasses, I can usually see to make it back to the house.

Next, I get the garden hose and pull the plugs in the Jeep body. It’s amazing to me how much mud I can make from the inside of my Jeep. I have another beer while I flood the inside of the Jeep and watch the water pour out onto the street below. Now, I sit and look at my Jeep in the sun, finish my beer, and let the sun dry everything. This is generally as close as I get to washing my Jeep. Jeepers wash their Jeeps from the inside out or when it rains.

Top Off Day is an awesome rite of passage. Once the top comes off, it signals that Spring has sprung. Days are getting longer. Days are getting warmer. Days are getting better.

I will soon be spending more time outside, more time with my friends, and more time with my family. The school year will be ending soon and summer is right around the corner. It’s time to get engine oil changed, small gas engines started again, and gardens planted.

Spring is a time of growth. I love the desert in Idaho in April and May. The desert greens up and is beautiful with flowers that only bloom a few weeks of the year. Before the summer heats up and makes the desert brown, it is a vibrant, green place that smells like sage. Animals are getting active after the long, cold winter.

The first trip of 2020 with the top off in the big Jeep. (Photo by Joyce Miller)

As I turn a corner in the desert, a cool wind comes blowing through the Jeep and cools me down as I was getting a little too hot in the bright sunshine. Driving an old Jeep — on an old dirt road, with the dust drifting, in the springtime — will change your life if you have never done it. It’s cathartic.

Usually, my Jeep top comes off sometime around Easter. The weather is getting warmer but the mornings are still brisk — it might be 30 degrees. I love the early drive to work that makes me put on a coat or a sweatshirt. I feel that cold air rush through the Jeep on the way to school. The only need for coffee on mornings like this is to warm up — if you drive a Jeep, that early morning arctic blast is plenty of wake-up juice.

After school, the temperature might be in the 70s or 80s. My black Jeep seats are hot from the spring sun shining brightly on them. Until I get up to speed, it is almost too hot sitting at a stop sign and makes me wish I was in shorts. Once up to speed, there is no better feeling than a Jeep drive at 50 miles an hour on a 75-degree day.

Sometimes, an unexpected April shower will soak everything. It’s part of the deal. Seats get wet, but it isn’t as big of an inconvenience as non-Jeepers think it is. The Jeep is dry by the next day. The sun usually comes out and starts drying everything as soon as the rain passes. Jeepers learn not to leave electronics out where they can get destroyed or stolen.

In the fall, I have another day where I put the top on the Jeep. It is another rite of passage, but not a fun one. I don’t spend as much time putting it on as I do taking it off. Usually, I have waited too long and can’t use the heat of the sun to stretch out the fabric. I have to use a heater and a garage to warm it up enough. I am in more of a rush, so I have to remember to be nice to the zippers. If I destroy one, it is almost always in the fall, not the spring. Putting the top back on is far more utilitarian than cleansing.

As for now, the sun is shining and I think I need to take a spin in the Jeep. It’s only suppose to be 65 degrees today, but it will feel perfect.


Written by: Nathan White