What I’m Listening to: Brain Food playlist on Spotify
What I’m Watching: everything pirates, per Zach (5)
What I’m Reading: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng thanks to my wonderful Birthdays & Books buddy, Karen Dempsey!
My husband and I only own Jeeps – 4.75 to be exact – a ‘77 Levis edition (er, part of), an old Postal Jeep (er, most of), ‘98 XJ Cherokee, ‘06 TJ Wrangler, ‘20 JL Wrangler, and ‘21 JT Gladiator. Our love for adventuring with these less-than-efficient road warriors has puzzled friends and family for years. A combination of these vehicles have taken us on annual summer (and whirlwind weekend) trips to Colorado, back road expeditions in sandy National Parks, numerous trips to “local” Texas State Parks, to the tops of mountains, through rivers, drive-in concerts, and helped us expand our world while learning valuable lessons along the way.
You can have all the best technology, equipment, and information, but a bad line is still a bad line. My Jeep has axle lockers (better traction), a sway bar disconnect (greater suspension articulation), and off-road pages that give me valuable data while off-roading. Except absolutely none of this will help me if I get high-center on a rock. The same logic applies to work in local government. We can have all the software, policy, and data, but ultimately the path we take is what matters.
Getting Stuck is OK
Off-roading is all about problem-solving, much like most days in local government. About a year or so ago, we took the kids to Northwest OHV Park in Bridgeport, TX, one of our favorite spots. My husband’s TJ had lost traction on a rocky path and we were too far away to winch to anything. Before too long, some fellow Jeepers kindly showed us how to wedge rocks in different places in order to regain traction. It worked like a charm. The TJ popped right over the rocks, everyone cheered, and – the best part – we had learned something new.
“Human beings are not built to do big things alone; we are built to do them together.”
Regardless of where we find ourselves exploring, there are always fellow off-roaders helping each other through obstacles and cheering each other on, enjoying amazing views together, or just hanging out, regardless of whether or not we knew each other 10 minutes ago. In this space we are united by adventure, good weather, and the love for the outdoors – not by race, gender, political or religious affiliation.
One day, Chris had encouraged me to take a tougher line than usual. I miscalculated and found myself high-centered, unable to get myself clear. I tried lockers, shifting to reverse, adding rocks – nothing worked. At one point, several Jeepers came over and sat on the hood of my Jeep in an attempt to rock it free. Still no luck. Eventually, Chris hooked a tow strap to my rear bumper, told me to put it in reverse, count to three, and slam on the accelerator. With a CLING! CLING! of metal scraping rocks, I was finally free.
At this point, I couldn’t stop laughing. There is something beautiful about being humbled by your mistakes. But what is even more beautiful is having joyful strangers help you muddle through to the other side. It would have likely had a much different ending had I been out there by myself without others to share the load, much like those of us in local government after a hard day, a worse month, or a terrible pandemic-ridden year. We cannot do this work alone, nor should we.
One of my favorite things about being a Jeeper is the “Jeep Wave.” For those of you that don’t know, Jeepers like to wave at each other as paths cross on trails, roads, or at stop lights. Most times, we don’t know the other person behind the wheel, but it doesn’t matter. A Jeep Wave is like a little sunshine on a cloudy day; a friendly face saying, “hello!” And we could all use more of that these days.
We also like to play Duck, Duck, Jeep, which is where we’ll drop a rubber duck on other Jeeps to let them know we dig their ride. I’ve got a stash in my car and the kids and I love dropping them randomly. They’ll spot their favorite color or one with mods; sometimes one with many miles and just as many stories to tell.
These random acts of kindness remind me so much of the community that ELGL brings to those of us in public service. From Birthdays and Books, ELGL Mugs, Twitter check-ins, and more resources than I dare to count, ELGL’s acts of kindness and joy keep us going, even when times are tough.
Next time you see a Jeep on the road, no matter its age, size of the tires, number of mods, know that there’s a good chance the person behind the wheel is out for adventure of one kind or another and may that thought bring a little joy to your day.