We pulled out of London, KY under a heavy cover of fog shortly after sunrise. After spending half an hour replenishing fluids, torqueing lugs and icing down drinks, we hit the road with a real sense of mission. The only thing between us and our destination was a six hour drive (that’s eight actual hours if you are driving an old Jeep) and some of the most advanced, laugh-inducing donkey trails passed off as highways I’ve ever had the pleasure to drive on. And drive we did.
When I was planning this trip, I tried to locate some interesting and scenic locations along our route to take-in as we travelled. America has so many cool and largely unknown locales that it’s nearly impossible to predict their potential.
I personally enjoy cruising through old and historic towns and just absorbing the beautiful architecture and scenery, not to mention the people. Cities like Georgetown, KY that have a unique way of making you feel like you had driven back in time to a day where life existed inside those tiny city limits. People wave from their front porches and passing cars. It didn’t matter to them that you are an outsider or just passing through.
As the last traces of fog burned off of the day, it was replaced by scorching heat and humidity. We kept the accelerator pressed and kept our grille facing northward. For we had been promised, upon our arrival in Toledo, a fulfillment of a bucket list item for any Jeep enthusiast; A tour of the Toledo Assembly Plant! Suddenly 65 miles per hour was not fast enough.
We were led to the factory by former Plant Manager Gerald Huber and as we approached the massive facility, we were amazed at the number of new JL’s that swelled in the parking lots. There were countless models in the colors we are most accustomed to seeing on the streets, but we thrilled at the sight of some newer ones, like Sting-Gray, Ocean Blue Metallic, Mojito! Green and Firecracker Red. There was even a mysterious purple hue veering at us from behind a high fence.
Photos are not permitted inside the facility, as our guide Daniel was quick to point out. He had given up his nightly activities to afford us this opportunity and we weren’t about to disappoint him. Plus he looked as though he knew the plant well enough that he could drive our little 3-seat golf cart out to the remote ends of the plant and our existence would simply fade from memory. We chose not to take any chances.
We arrived at the plant about an hour into the second shift. It is very clear and Daniel reinforced that Jeep is building the JL as quickly as they have ever produced any vehicle in the past. Demand is high and so is production. At the same time, the plant is being retro-fitted to begin production of the new Wrangler JT, a Jeep-based pickup truck. We wheeled our cart to the entrance of the new JT assembly area and were teased with a supposed JT that appeared almost fully assembled, under heavy canvas cover, setting perched on the assembly line. Just as we started to drool and clamor, Daniel hastily spun a donut in the electric club car, causing a sudden frantic feeling that we’d lost control, and we were gone.
The plant has so many things to offer a Jeep lover like myself. The state-of-the-art machinery and robotics that are involved in production are mind-numbing. We were able to witness a station that they affectionately call “The Spider” and even take a picture as it is in an area secluded from human assemblers. It consists of an army of sixteen robotic arms that work in an orchestrated unison with each other on a single Jeep chassis. Making precise movements, measurements and welds with the speed and grace of a ballet. It was truly impressive to witness but no less possible to comprehend.
With the road travel portion of the Toledo Trek 2018 behind us, we are looking forward to a weekend of four-wheeled, seven-slotted festivities that will include a parade through the center of town. We will try to capture some of the excitement from the Toledo Jeep Fest and share it with you. Until then…OlllllllO