Removing the Failing Code-Alarm From a 2002 Jeep Wrangler TJ

I’m phrasing this title carefully, in case another Jeeper needs some help out there.

And your standard Internet Warranty applies – at no time does Ramblingmoose.com take any responsibilities for any actions that come from this article.  You perform any work on your car at your own risk.  If you feel uncomfortable with working on your car, take it to a qualified professional.  I’m not a qualified professional, I merely took the time to find the files out there to remove the alarm from my car.

Again – take this as help, but you are doing this at your own risk.  It “worked for me”.

In the 16 years I have had the Jeep, I have done only two mods to it that effect the electrical system.

I upgraded the radio,  and that is powered off when the key is removed.

I ordered an alarm installed at purchase by the dealer.

That is the problem.  Since the car sits for a while between uses, the alarm was draining the battery dead.

I know that because whenever I went to run the car, it either would not start, or pressing the Disarm button would make a strangled noise from the alarm.  Most of the time the alarm was not working at all.

So in an effort to diagnose my electrical system, the thing had to go.

The goal is to render the car back to original manufacture or as close as possible to it.  Since the alarm noise maker under the hood had rusted to the point where it may do more damage than good in removing it, I’ll leave that and the valet switch in place.

I also ended up removing the bypass switch from the glove box and repurposing it as an ignition kill switch.

So the car starts without the alarm now as long as that switch is in the right position.

 

To determine whether you have the right alarm system, you have to look at the alarm itself.

Luckily for me, I had the model sticker still on the front after 16 years.

Taking that sticker and the number on it, I had to search to see if it made any sense.

No, it hadn’t.

I went back out into the car and flipped the thing over.

On any electronic appliance that transmits  over the radio waves in the US, there must have been an FCC Sticker.  That sticker has and FCC ID Number.  The FCC never forgets, and that information can be searched on.

That number told me that it was from Code-Alarm and that it was an EVS II (two).  It told me who was responsible for this at Code-Alarm and some other information that was all worthless.   You see, Code-Alarm, having being bought up by Audiovox which became Voxx International, those people and the original documentation are not completely available.

Documentation you will want to get.  This is a link to the original instructions by Code Alarm and Chrysler to the tech on how to actually install the alarm system.  In case my instructions get to be too much, check this link.

The View Behind the Knee Kick Panel of the Wiring Bundle After Work

To achieve this, you need to remove the knee kick panel under the steering column.  Two Phillips screws.

Then remove the shroud from around the steering column and key.  Two Phillips screws.

Both will give you ample room to work with.  I had a lot of trouble working in the tight spaces, and really could have used a “Jeep Chick” with her smaller hands and body.  But you do what you can with what you have, even if you are a bruiser of a guy like me.

The way I did this was to remove both connectors from the alarm control computer box and that rendered the car immobile.

There are two connectors, a 6 pin and a 22 pin connector.  The connection to the ignition is in the smaller 6 pin connector.  The wires in question are the two yellow ones of the same thickness – one is solid yellow and the other is yellow with a black stripe.

There is a third yellow wire on the 6 pin connector that goes to a kill switch in the glove box compartment.  I used this wire for testing and later for a kill switch.

Ignore the other wire harness for now.  I actually left it in place because I had to travel somewhere, but that is the feed to the alarm emitter under the hood (black and red), plus a bypass (brown wires).  The remaining wires are to a shock sensor, hood switch, light sensor, and back door switch.  I am purposely ignoring them for now since as I said, I left that harness in place.

From the original installation document:

  • Blue – Jumpered off the ignition harness (To be Cut)
  • Red – Jumpered off the 12+ Volt line in the ignition harness (To be Cut)
  • Yellow – To Ignition Side of the yellow ignition line (To be re-joined at harness)
  • Yellow with Black Stripe – To Starter Motor side of the yellow ignition line (To be re-joined with the yellow ignition line above)
  • Black – To Ground (To be Cut)
  • Yellow – Thinner solid yellow line – (To door on/off switch.  Reuse as kill switch)

Trace the thicker yellow and yellow black striped wires from the 6 pin harness back to the steering column.  In mine, everything was wrapped in electrical tape.

There is a yellow wire that goes from the wiring harness on the left of the steering column, and in mine, it was cut and spliced to the yellow and striped wires that came from the six pin connector.

I removed the spliced-in wires and had the original yellow wire parts from the jeep exposed.

Those two pieces must be reconnected to be able to start the car.  You can test it by clamping the ends together.  At this point the car was disconnected from the alarm, and the car was able to start when I connected the wires together.

Now, a variation.

In order to clear out the alarm box, the box was now hanging on the floor with its two wires.  The grey wire is the antenna to the alarm.  The yellow wire runs under the dash to behind the glove box.  That yellow wire had a switch on it and I wanted to use that switch as a kill switch.  Flip it one way and the car can be started, the other way and it’s never going to start.

Good idea huh?

Since the yellow wire on the steering column was too short for me to comfortably connect using butt connectors on that 88 degree (31 c) morning, I got frustrated and this idea.

I connected one end of the switch to one end of the yellow steering column wire that came from the ignition key switch.  The second end of the kill switch went to the other end of the yellow steering wire.  That second end of the wire disappeared in the wiring harness of the car.  Both ends were tidied up with crimp connectors, then taped over with electrical tape.

The kill switch was tested and then left in the car on the on position.

I got out of the car after putting all panels back in place and taping any dangling wires down.

 

End note:  I was at the point where the car would not start on the third day after driving it enough to charge the battery.  I just got back this Wednesday morning.  This was done and mostly written on Saturday after working on the car as I did it.  As I tested the connections, I’d turn the ignition enough to see if the starter motor would start.  Made sure to test it each intervening day but never drove it – so the battery was not really topped off.   This morning the car started like a champ and said that it’s ready for duty.  (He’s a Jeep after all) 

So we’re golden and I found the problem!

 

Some History about Code Alarm and what happened with them after I got my Jeep.

Code-Alarm was a company that contracted with Chrysler for their installed car alarms.  The Jeep TJs were not coming from the factory with an alarm.  The alarm was installed at the dealer.  My dealer in Norristown, PA did a fine job of putting everything in place and it worked well for 15 years.

In the intervening years, the niche manufacturer Code-Alarm got bought out by Audiovox.  Audiovox later renamed itself as Voxx and that is where it is today.

So the Alarm in my Jeep is an orphan product.  If you have one in your car, it may be a good idea to look into removing it or replacing it.  In my case a wee little switch is enough.

Maybe Voxx International can help.  Or perhaps Chrysler/Jeep or whoever is owning them these days.  Or maybe they could just bring back the Jeepster

Yes, You can sell your car from your living room recliner, but why would you want to? Especially if it is a Jeep Wrangler.

A Jeep Wrangler is a funny thing.

I never get into that car without having a big silly grin on my face.  They are just that fun to drive.

Mine isn’t particularly modified, other than what I did for every other car.  I always bump the size up on the tires “one size” than the manufacturer shipped it with because it almost always makes the car much better to drive.  Handling is improved.

In my case, it made the speedometer more accurate.  But that’s an aside.

It’s not one of those mudder Jeeps that you see where your eyes are looking at it’s bumper.  But I do take care of it.

For a car that is 16 years old, you wouldn’t know it.  They hold their value and I won’t let this one slide through my fingers.

As a Jeep Wrangler X TJ is the last gasp of AMC Engineering, it’s built to last.  I could rebuild the thing in my driveway.  The motor is a 4 Liter Push-rod Inline Six Cylinder hooked to a five speed manual transmission.

2002 with only 47,000 miles.

Oh and I’ve been driving Jeeps since 1996, so yeah I like them.

So do others.  They hold their values and they’re in great demand like few other cars.  “Classic” Jeep Cherokee drivers are in the same boat.  In fact, they’re the same car, different body.

When I see an article on a car forum about them, I’m bound to look.  This one in particular caught my attention and had me laughing.

Two guys, of course, talking about Jeeps.  That link has the video I’m talking about.

“Jeep Chicks” do exist, and they’re wonderful and rare creatures who always, without a doubt, are worth getting to know.

But here were two guys.  Self appointed “experts” who were bloggers for www.jalopnik.com which can be an entertaining site to begin with.

Mind you, neither of them have ever owned a Jeep Wrangler, but hey that’s why they are “experts” and writing about the cars right?

Um, Yeah.

One guy was in love with the Wranglers.  Smart Guy.  Talking about how we always seem to enjoy being in the beasts and going on about our business and occasionally taking our cars on adventures and … you get the picture.

The other one was saying Land Rover was the best and Jeeps blah, and so forth.  Ranting about Angry Faced Jeeps and “Jeep Bros”.

Yeah, Self Appointed Expert.

Neither owned one.

I remember the Land Rovers that they’re talking about in the video.  The lines I remember the most were “British Engineering” and “Buy One for Wash, One for Wear” – meaning they broke down frequently and were rarely trustworthy.

 

You couldn’t give me one.

Never did I have a problem with that Jeep, but I have had to tow-rope a Land Rover out of a stuck spot once or twice.

Sitting in my recliner, laughing at this video, and waiting for the time to take the dog for his walk, someone pulls into my driveway.

He’s looking at the Jeep.  I sit up.

He spots me.  He’s in a posh-ass Mercedes Benz.  The kind of car you make rude comments about because the driving style is … over privileged.  You know the kind.  You think “I’m not letting him in” on the interstate.

That kind of guy.

Roof down, bald head glistening in the afternoon sun.

And he’s gesturing me to come out and talk to him.

Did I mention Over-Privileged and Mercedes Benz?  Of A Certain Age (Over 50)?

 

Yeah, you know the type.

 

And he’s gesturing to me to come out and pointing at my Jeep.

 

I unroll myself out of the chair to my full length, and walk out to the front porch.

 

Before I step out of the house I hear “You sellin’ that Jeep?!?!”

 

I’ll admit the car is cherry.  Not a thing wrong with it, but “Nope, it’s not for sale”.

 

This is how weirdly random it is.  The guy is driving down the street and looking at Jeep Wranglers and saw me in the window looking at a video about Jeep Wranglers, and wanted to buy mine.

 

Huh?

 

“I saw the sign in the window and wanted to know”.

 

“Oh The Sign”.  That explains it.

 

I have a neighbor across the street.  Same year Jeep that has been left out in the rain with the roof off for as long as he lived there.  Someone came by and opened his door and took the door tops off the car.

 

So I put a sign in my windows that says “Look up, You are on Camera, and there is nothing in the Car”.

The neighbor keeps the doors unlocked.  It made it easy for them to walk off with pieces from the car.  I can take the doors off the Jeep for extra breezes and less car if I like.  One bolt per door and I’m done.

My car is locked, has an alarm, and is on three video cameras.  Idiots who steal live everywhere.

I explained all of this to the Man Of A Certain Age with a sense of amusement.  All the while chuckling in my head at the pure strangeness of the situation.

“I Can’t sell that Jeep. I wouldn’t be able to get another one that nice, they aren’t making them like that any more!  Sorry, he’s not for sale.”

Yes, He.  DJ as in Darth Jeep.  Unlike a car that is a rolling computer room on wheels, a Jeep Wrangler truly has a personality.  He’s got a black body, tan roof.  Black and tan like I like my beer.  Nice HD Radio that also plays my phone with a cable and … just basic mild mods that you would not notice unless you look very close.  Nothing out of the ordinary.

It’s one of the last cars that doesn’t have insane amounts of things that interfere with your enjoyment of the vehicle.  No On-Star or other nosy nonsense that listens in on what you are doing.  The computer in the car is mild and does not interfere with what you want to do.  The transmission is a 5 speed manual, I’ll shift when I damn well feel like it.

Oh and I get 23MPG highway which is pretty good for a car that just makes me smile.  “Beep Beep! I’m a Jeep”

Besides, since nobody who isn’t a truck driver can drive a stick shift, so the worlds least secure vehicle is safe in a mall parking lot in a questionable area.

He pulled off and blew through the stop sign on the corner.  I shook my head at him and the situation and went into the house laughing.

The next day I took that Jeep out for a drive, again.  No destination, just driving around.  “I can’t sell you, it’s like selling a good friend!”  I had my dog Rack in the car.  He looked up confused.

Mind you, my dog Rack is not so sure of the Jeep.  It’s a little too real to ride around in a car with windows made of Cling Film and held in place with velcro and zippers.  You hear the next car a little too loudly, and the wind noise is a bit intense above 65.  But the speed limit here is 65 MPH on the highway and why would you want to go faster than that anyway.  Just keep up with traffic and let others get the speeding ticket.

Pulling back into the driveway I hear myself saying “I couldn’t sell this car.  It’s just too damn good, too much fun, and I can’t see myself stepping down to a used Toyota!”

 

If you have ever been at sunset in a Jeep Wrangler on the Seven Mile Bridge with the roof down, stars coming out overhead, and the warm tropical breezes caressing your body, you will know why.

I hope to make that trip again some day…

Yes, You can sell your car from your living room recliner, but why would you want to?  Especially if it is a Jeep Wrangler.

I Think I Sold A Jeep

I have been driving Jeeps since 1996.  Real Jeeps.  Jeep Wranglers.  None of that cushy living room sofa giant beast crap out there that you suburban types like so much.

Sure, they’re a bit on the simple side, even crude.  I can see the sheet metal that makes up the part that we call The Bucket when I sit down in it.  That is by design.  It doesn’t need extra frills like layers of plastic to muffle the noises and make things all “pretty”.

Plastic is optional, it will just break anyhow.

It is as simple as you can get for a car.  At least it was.  Mine is a 13 year old Jeep Wrangler TJ4 Liter Inline Six Motor designed by AMC.  That motor could be called the last gasp of AMC before it was bought by Chrysler.  Chrysler knew a good thing and kept it in production until 2006 when they went with a V6 that is slightly smaller.  It’s predecessors date back to the early 1960s, so you know it was a keeper.  Pushrods and all that sort of mechanical “stuff” made for a tough motor that really didn’t need a lot of electronics to keep it going.

I’ll keep my straight six, thank you very much.

I had a repair to do to it because, Jeep.  You see Jeeps have the reputation of being tough but they also have a problem with their electronic controls.  You get a check engine light that comes on around 40,000 miles and people scratch their heads and say “It’s a Jeep” and walk away.  Meanwhile that light stays on and you’re annoyed.
No.  I don’t.

Thanks to my buddy Craig who gave me his old code reader, I was able to find out that the throttle body sensor wore out.  I replaced it in my driveway.  The only grief was the mosquito bite I got while bent over the hood.

No codes, no lights.  Happy Jeep, Happy Jeeper.

We noticed that there was a Jeep sitting in a driveway a block or three from the house on our dog walk.  Someone was putting it out to pasture… or rather selling it.  Good price too, 8900 for a Wrangler that was newer than mine.  Of course mine is Cherry and in Good To Excellent Condition With Low Mileage (45K) but that’s a different story.
Or Brag…

I don’t think they’ll miss that Jeep.  There was a Black TJ sitting next to it all lifted and chromed and basically pimped out.  So there’s still a Jeep “In the family” for when they want to go ride.

I saw it, and wondered how long it would take to sell it.  One day it was gone.   I thought it was sold.

I walked past the property and up to the park when I saw that Jeep making a very tight turn.  Too tight, the wheels rubbed with a “VRRRRT!” sound.

If you put too tall a tire on a Jeep, they will rub.  You can fix that by loosening a bolt.

That was exactly what I told the woman who was going to buy it:

“Hey, you’re rubbin’!”
“Oh you heard that?  I don’t know…”
“It’s easy to fix!  Just a bolt!”

I went into my Jeep Guy Geekery full on at that point.  Showed the woman then and there which bolt and told her to look online for my blog.  “I did the same thing.  Put 31s on mine and took all sorts of pictures to show you what to do.  It’s a 15 minute fix if you rush, 5 minutes if you take your time!”

I told her to keep an eye out for the AC Controls since the resistor pack burns out.  You can fix those too, but they’re annoying to get to.

I’m on my third one.  They usually last about 20,000 miles if you keep it on 3 instead of 4 like I always did.  4 is just too damn loud but you don’t hear it once you’re over 55MPH anyway.   Soft tops are loud, no way around that.

She smiled and thanked me over and over and took off with a quick chirp of the back wheels.

New learner to a stick.  You need a stick, at least once in your life.  A stick shift gives you a healthy respect for what your car does.  Much more of a primal feel instead of the numb computer-room feel of an automatic transmission, especially one of those new Continuously Variable Transmission.   Those things turn your motor into a constant drone that gets wearing after a few minutes.  The motor runs at peak torque the entire time and never changes.  Monotonous.

I went on my way.  Never saw her or the Jeep again.  The motor sounded like silk so she got a good one.

I know I did.  You see, I went in for an overdue oil change the other day.  The man behind the counter hinted strongly that he wanted to buy my car.

Nope!  I don’t want a computer room on wheels.  I’ll stick with my car.

“You know, I understand I can get classic plates for it now.  How about THAT!”

I left with an oil change and a new air filter and a big ol’ smile on my face.  If that car doesn’t make you happy every time you get in it, why have it?

In Retrospect A Cadillac Wasn’t The Right Car To Take Offroad

Admit it.  We have all done some pretty bizarre or boneheaded things in our days.

If you haven’t, I bet you’re not all that much fun.

Yeah, I said it.  You’re not that much fun.

We all know someone who decided to launch a trash can onto the roof by putting it on top of a piece of fireworks then lighting it in their front yard.

We all know someone who used to build go carts in their back yards.

We all know that neighbor who insists that Raccoons are great pets.

All of that happened in my own childhood in my own sheltered suburban upbringing in the fabled city of Cherry Hill, NJ.

So get off your damn soapbox and hear the story of one of my own boneheaded trips.

You see, I like to travel.  Truly.  I like to get out and explore and see things not necessarily in my own backyard.  I used to go on my bike and ride out of my protected neighborhood to the wild place called Woodcrest Shopping Center.  It would take me out to Berlin Road, then over the I-295 bridge and the NJ Turnpike Bridge.

It was a world away, and it made me feel like I achieved something in my own pre-teen mind even if it was only a mile and a half off from the house.

Later when I got my first car, we started to explore.

I’d go down to a semi-adjacent town to visit a friend.  Somerdale, NJ.  An older settled burb that was a little less Wonder Years than my own home.  It felt different. 

We’d go further on until we got hooked on going offroad.  I still have my third Jeep Wrangler, but the first was a CJ-7.  The CJs were a rough buckboard of a car that were so uncomfortable that I traded it in on a compact car in Indianapolis after going for a visit one year.

But while I had it, I discovered the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

South Jersey is nothing like what “You People” think of when you think of New Jersey.  No closely settled homes in rows where you might get a good meal on a Sunday afternoon, those places have their own charm, if you grew to know them.  They’re also kind of polluted, since they are too close to New York City or Philadelphia.

The Pines are where the roads turned to dirt.  There never was a real reason to settle these areas since the soil was basically beach sand and you couldn’t farm other than Cranberries.  If you look from the skies all you see are pine trees, berry bogs, cedar water rivers, and small towns in the middle of a vast “empty” area.

But if you explore them, you find a beautiful forest unlike any other place that was surprisingly easy to get to.  They’re latticed like a good pie, Cris-crossed by groomed fire-trails so that when the dry summer season hits, the fires can be stopped before they burn down those little towns.

You really didn’t need a Jeep to go through those areas, but it helped.

We’d drive down to the Carranza Memorial and see the monument to the man who died flying back to Mexico to speak in New York about the children’s fate back in the pre-war era.  Those same children saved their pesos to build that monument.  Now, you can get there and picnic easily since the state built a small parking area.

From there you can hop on one of those sand trails and drive almost all the way to the Jersey Shore without ever touching tire to tarmac except to cross over the road.  We’d stop at Apple Pie Hill to take in the view from the highest spot in South Jersey, a whole 205 feet or so, plus the fire tower.  On a good day you can see Atlantic City, Philadelphia, and if you are really lucky and it is clear, New York City was just in view.

Beautiful spot.

But most of that time I did it in my Honda Accord that predated the Jeep.  A 1978 Honda.  You had to hope it didn’t break because parts had to come from Japan directly, and it rusted out by the second year in the front quarter panels because they designed little pockets for water and debris to sit in and corrode.

Surprisingly I didn’t get stuck.

When Mom got her new car, I knew I had to go explore with it too.  Great.  Me and two of my friends piled into Mom’s Car, an early 1980s Cadillac Sedan deVille D’elegance and headed out.

Mind you, since Jim was living in Medford, NJ, a beautiful suburban town on the edge of the NJ Pine Barrens Preserve, we knew we were going to see what this puppy could do.

Great, lets go to Atsion Lake.  Beautiful place where you were supposed to be able to see the Milky Way if the night was clear.  I never did.  I always believed it was a myth living in the light polluted areas near Philadelphia all my life.

But we got there.  Easy to get to, open two lane black top and we could open it up.  Nobody else there anyway.

I got a gallon of Pump Water for a girl I was seeing at the time since she always raved about how sweet the water was there.  It just tasted like iron to me so I let her keep the jug.

After boring ourselves, we hit the sugar sand road that went east toward Long Beach Island.  Not such a good idea.   The first couple miles were great.  We wallowed past a pothole or three, but nothing really tough.

See that’s the problem.  Eventually those roads became the road less traveled.   Bringing a full sized Cadillac on a sand trail made no sense to anyone but us.  The pines closed in on the trail and eventually it got so that the trees were just on each side of the road. 

Beautiful spot but you just knew you weren’t in the right car when driving on the road felt more like you were going through 6 inches of snow.

When is the last time you saw a Cadillac going through a 6 inch snowfall before the snowplow hit?

You guessed it.  About five miles from Atsion Lake, we wallowed to a stop.

Jim said it first: “You’re stuck, Bill”.
“Yeah I know, lets see what happened.”

I was wheel hub deep in white beach sand.  That big Caddy buried itself to the transmission.

I popped the trunk and began to dig.  It moved easily and we were able to free the beast and back out of the road.

“Not a good idea, Guys, lets head back to the lake!”

We all agreed and got everyone back home.   I rolled into the driveway around midnight.  Mom was fast asleep as was Pat.  Giving the car a quick hose down, I washed away most of the evidence.

Mom drove the car to work the next day not knowing what happened.  She did have me hose down the driveway and ask how all that sand got onto it.

“Sorry, Mom, I don’t have a clue.”

Lets just say it was my education leaking out onto the driveway.   We never did the Caddy again.  The Jeep worked fine when it arrived, and until then we fed our offroading needs with my buddy’s CJ-7.

Now that CJ … that’s a story in itself.

But people do ask me why I keep my Jeep.  Because of times like that.  When I do go back to visit friends and family in New Jersey, I intend to do that trip.  It may be the last time I get a chance to go offroad, but trust me, I’m looking forward to it. 

In the Jeep.

Lizard Is My Co-Pilot – Picture

Lizard is my Co-Pilot
I shall not crash.

He helps me drive down green leafy streets.
He leads me besides still canals;
He restores my trip.
He leads me in the paths of travels
for his name is Lizard.

Even though I drive through the valley of the shadow of palms,
I fear only bad drivers,
For you are with me, your tail and your hunt, they comfort me.

Surely the cleanliness of your lizardry will follow me down the byways;
and you will dwell in my dashboard forever!

Enough of that!  I’m sure it will tick some fool off.

Apparently, my Jeep has been moved into.  I’m used to having these little things slip into my house.  They are never a problem, you can’t get bit if there are no real teeth.   They are entertaining to watch, and beneficial since they eat all those insects that love to bite me.

This particular lizard is in my Jeep.  The Jeep is in front of the house, all the windows are closed.  It sits in my carport, and apparently I’ve given it shelter.  The little thing is on my back seat.  It rode with me the other day to a restaurant and back and is none the worse for wear.

Jeep Wrangler Soft Tops aren’t exactly water tight.  Sure, you’re shielded from the elements, but there are gaps in the roof where geckos and lizards can get in.  Hopefully my little riding partner is smart enough to get out of there when he has eaten all the insects that decided to move in.

Boy I hope there aren’t any insects living in there…

Old Italian’s Tomato Garden – Humor

Being an “old” Italian who once lived in New Jersey and who is alone in the house at the moment, I can post this joke without any fear of offending anyone but myself.

Now if you really want to know where the bodies are buried…

Old Italian’s Tomato Garden

An old Italian lived alone in New Jersey. He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as the ground was hard.

His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:

Dear Vincent,

I am feeling pretty sad because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days.

Love,
Papa

A few days later he received a letter from his son.

Dear Papa,

Don’t dig up that garden. That’s where the bodies are buried.

Love,
Vinnie

At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.
That same day the old man received another letter from his son.

Dear Papa,

Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That’s the best I could do under the circumstances.

Love,
Vinnie

Wet Memories of Ponds Gone By

Today I woke up and managed to get the dog walk in before the weather changed.  Three hours later, it is 5 degrees colder at 51, still raining, and windy.  The skies are grey and the wind is coming in off the front that is settling in.

Sunny Florida indeed.

It’s winter and there’s always tomorrow.  It will be cool and sunny at least.  It got me thinking that this is the kind of weather that we would have when I was growing up in Cherry Hill, NJ in April instead of Wilton Manors, FL at what is statistically the coldest week of the year.

Much to the parent’s annoyance, it would be days like this that Pat and I would get on our jacket and our old clothes and go out to play in the yard.   In the rain, we’d have big puddles that would drain to the Cooper Creek behind the house.  We called it The Crick in the South Jersey accent of the day and it was a draw.  Just like any children of any era, they’d be drawn to the edges of the body of water and go searching, coming back covered with mud but happy with the latest adventure.

Over the years, we explored The Field until it became covered with baseball diamonds, and the gently descending prairie there of tall weeds.  In summer there were Blackberries to be picked and we could hide among the tall grasses until the afternoon wore down until dinner and the mosquitoes chased us away.

Toward the bottom of the field was a spring.  It was reliable and there was never a time that it had dried up.  Feeding The Crick, it was a source of entertainment for all the children of the little suburban neighborhood.  Winter it would freeze solid enough for us to go out with our shoes and skate across it.  One kid or another would be brave enough after testing it for strength, and that would be all it took, we’d all be out there sliding across with our smooth bottomed shoes until tired.  There were always one or more felled trees to use as a bench to rest, and many afternoons would be spent there sliding around until it thawed.

Once the Spring season finally arrived, the tadpoles would begin to hatch and that brought more entertainment.   We had the chance to watch the little things grow and catch them so we could see them closely.  What we would do with them was to look at them, marvel at the speckles on the tail that would be “eaten” away as they grew, look for legs to let us know that they were developing into a mature frog.  Our little pond full of tadpoles would become full of frogs that would be again caught and looked over.  We wondered whether that frog had been caught months before as a tadpole and if it remembered us.

The baseball fields got built and since they need a flat layer of ground, the big trucks came in and leveled the place so the little leagues could move in.  This was all before we realized how productive a marsh could be, nurturing the natural and the minds of children to find out the life cycles of the creatures within.  The fields got built and table flat, but they also left a bit of a cliff to climb.  We now had to get around the cyclone fence to get to The Pond and up to the table of land that was the parking lot that overlooked the left over bit of wetland.

What Man builds, Mother Nature will wear down.  Sometimes over long stretches of time, other times in an eye blink.  The fields were built in Spring, and by Summer, the edges which were not planted with any retaining grass, had silted up most of our precious pond.  By the time that the silting had stopped,  the wetlands were much more dry, the pond had shrunk to a sliver that was maybe a tenth of its former self

Over the years, we stopped going to The Pond.  It wasn’t really enough area for us to skate, the kids who were all within a year or three of each other were now into their teens, and it ceased to be a draw.  I remember that our little group of children now would instead of hovering over the natural, went up to the hill that overlooked the little league fields and watch over it for a while like a bleacher.   This hill was the berm that was built up when the State of New Jersey built I-295 from Delaware to its then end at Moorestown, three or four miles North.  We knew that we were 32 miles from Delaware because the mile marker on the southbound side of The 295 was in our own little world, overlooking our homes and what was once the prairie.  We still could use the hill for sliding down it on sheets of cardboard as if they were toboggans, but the area just wasn’t as fun now that it was a managed baseball park.

Luckily that kind of construction would be less likely.  A habitat that was left over would be called a Preserve and left to be natural.  The pond would be a protected area so that slivers of the endangered natural New Jersey would not be swallowed up.  The entire neighborhood was once a farm and that little area was left alone because it just wasn’t dry enough to be farmed.  So when the homes were built there, fill was trucked in and we had a time where we could enjoy what was left for children to explore.

Even on the cold raw rainy days of April, New Jersey has a lot of land that were left as a preserve.  When I got too old to explore the pond, I started driving.  After a series of cars, I got my first Jeep and did what every Jeep driver tried to do, I went off road.  New Jersey is a beginner’s paradise of off roading.  You don’t have to go and destroy the natural habitat in New Jersey because the Pine Barrens are set aside for you to enjoy and are laced with fire trails.  There’s a large network of abandoned roads, railroads and sugar sand fire trails to drive over and I was able to sate my needs for visiting the natural by not destroying the lands.

When ever I had someone from out of state make their predictably tired New Jersey Jokes, I would insist that those places that everyone cringes over are “Up North” and in the New York Suburbs “North of Exit 9” on the turnpike.  Next weekend, I’d drag them kicking and screaming out to The Pines where we’d invariably explore until we’d come across a “Cedar Water Creek” and marvel that there were fish, frogs and fowl in this place that was special and set aside from such things as a developer’s plow and baseball diamonds.

The thing that is so special about the New Jersey Pine Barrens that was unintentional is that it is so accessible.  You could go off road in a Cadillac Sedan deVille if you wanted to in New Jersey, I know that because I took Mom’s Caddy back there.  You didn’t have to shred the land, someone already graded the roads and you could get in and see what it looked like before we got there simply by looking out the window and away from the trails.

Without major equipment you can’t drive across the Everglades.  It’s more heavily protected, but airboats go through it every day.  I can’t imagine driving through the Everglades, but I have driven through the Pine Barrens to get home when the Atlantic City Expressway was jammed simply by getting off at one of the exits, driving through Hammonton to get to the custard stand and going That Way to Atsion Lake and through Medford home.  Each time I did that, I’d have another person with me saying they never knew how beautiful New Jersey could be.

It is all in the view.  Sometimes the best view is out the window of a Jeep Wrangler going up a trail at 30MPH.

The Automotive Equivalent of a Burqa

A car tends to be a choice here.  A very complicated choice.  You weigh your life priorities, what you intend to do with the thing, narrow it down to some  few models, and then make a choice from that.  If you are lucky you can walk onto a lot and just get what you want and not get robbed too badly.

I drive a Jeep Wrangler.   Not a very efficient vehicle, but fun to drive.   I don’t have children, I rarely take anyone anywhere other than my dog.   I got it because I had a friend who had one back in the 80s and really enjoyed the times I shared in it.  So I bought my first and since I would take public transportation I would shrug off the 18 Miles To The Gallon it got, and drove it to places like the New Jersey Pine Barrens, Apple Pie Hill, Atsion Lake, and the “back way” to the Jersey Shore.

That Back Way could save hours and was an almost straight as an arrow shot through some thick forests of pine, on a Fire Trail that was unpaved at about 40 miles to the hour.

I don’t drive much now, and I don’t intend to.   It does drink gas rather quickly by today’s standards, but when I commuted it wasn’t so expensive that it felt like the relative cost to the environment of buying new and efficient outweighed the fact that I have a nine year old car with 42,000 miles on it and can get at least another 10 years at this rate.  

I just don’t drive much.

Cars do tend to fit your personality though.  I could have driven a long list of off road cars and for the little bit that I would go to the top of that Fire Tower at Apple Pie Hill so I could look at Atlantic City, see Philadelphia, and the lights of New York City from the same spot, all would have worked.  The trails in New Jersey are very easy to drive and I did it once in Mom’s old Cadillac Sedan De Ville.

There are some cars that blend into the background.  The Automotive Equivalent of a Burqa.  These cars tend toward the appliance mindset.  I have to go somewhere, I need the room, and I’m going to do it while I cart about my stuff.   Stuff could be the two-point-three children, the Car Pool, or just the little old man with a Fedora driving 45 in the fast lane on the interstate.

When I first learned to drive, we would be on the lookout for a “Hat Car”.  That would almost invariably be a Chevrolet Nova or Dodge Dart or similar.   A Sedan car driven by that old man with a Fedora, or a little old lady who you would see the top of some blue hair and perhaps white gloves.  Always driven way too slowly for traffic, and something to get around. 

I don’t really drive enough to see that sort of thing.  I would notice that if you had an old Camry here, they almost invariably had a Haitian flag or a sticker from a small Caribbean or Latin American nation on it.  Driving 35 in a 45 zone on Powerline Road in the Fast Lane and choking traffic back.   The Modern Hat drives a 10 year old Toyota Camry or a similar Ford Taurus.

They can be boring but not really anonymous.

I have a neighbor about three houses down.  I truly enjoy them, their children, and the times I’ve spent chatting with them were truly times well spent.   They’re wonderful people… they also drive a Burqa.

One of their vehicles are a Burqa.  They also have a big Dodge Ram Pickup, a real “Cowboy Cadillac” of a thing to haul their Air Boat.   It is Friday Morning and if they’ve got the day off, they’ll be driving down the block shortly with the Air Boat in tow to go west to Weston and launch for a day of Fishing.

I’m jealous but I can’t picture myself doing that.  I’d be miserable slapping Mosquitos and getting everyone annoyed as I turn brown then red.  Rehydrating yourself with Bud Ice can be fun though…

So what is this Automotive Burqa and why do I call it that?

They also have a Navy Blue Chrysler Grand Caravan. The Penultimate Minivan.  It has a “Salt Life” sticker on the back and I have yet to figure out what that means.  There are the stickers for each of the kids, a soccer ball sticker has been on it and a university logo from some local university that slips my mind.

Now, Mind You, I am sitting in my house low in the living room and while windows are open I can not see the street or their car down the block.   I have a very vivid memory of that Burqa, er, car, and I also have a mental block.

You see every time it drives past me, I realize that some person in that car is waving at me.  I can never put to mind who that person is.   It always happens once they have completely passed me.   I think it is the fact that the minivan is so much of the background of culture that this, the only one within blocks, just immediately falls into a black hole of my mind and I simply don’t see it.

They’re great people and I truly enjoy having them and their kids as neighbors but pile them in that big blue black hole and they’re invisible!

I laugh at myself and am embarrassed to say, I just don’t see them.   Nice people though, and I’ll have to tell them this story once I get past my own shyness…

Craigslist Scavenger Hunt

Oddly enough, you actually can use Craigslist for things other than exchanging DNA, exposing yourself to social diseases, and things you wouldn’t want to explain to grandmom.

Craigslist is a website that is geared towards being a central place for people to post notes.  The notes tend to be categorized toward specific things and are also broken down geographically.   Select your Country, State, or City and you will have the list of items that people wish to talk about, sell, or purchase for that area.  Sometimes a city is broken down to more than one county, or you have a region presented together where you can select down.  South Florida is one of those, being about 90 miles from Florida City in the South to Jupiter in the North presents a need for that.   If you are in Wellington Fl near West Palm Beach, it is silly to drive to Kendall South of Miami for a free Palm Tree.

People do, but people are silly.

I’ve been reading the site for years now, and it is always entertaining.  When I lived in Philadelphia, I had a neighbor who was giving away an iMac and I got that and used it for a while.   Since I moved here, I upgraded that to another desktop Mac that I got on Craigslist as well. 

I need new tires.   Being out of work, I couldn’t see spending the $600-1000 for the tires I really want for the Jeep even at the low end.   I was looking at the Free Board the other day and up in Delray someone had two sets of tires that he wanted to get rid of.  They were for a Jeep and were the same wheels as I have on mine.  I went up and got them not knowing if they’d have the same or better tread on the tires, but this is the Scavenger Hunt aspect of the deal.  It ended up that one set had a tire that was shredded, a second that was bald and two that were approximately as old as the ones I have on the car. 

I took them anyway since my car had tires that were badly out of balance on the driver’s side and would shimmy to the point that it was fearful to go faster than 55. 

The end of the story was that I was able to use one as a spare, one on the front driver’s side, and my never used original spare on the driver’s rear of the car.  I took it out on I-95 here and it rode approximately normally up to “highway speeds”.  No they weren’t new but they were better than what they had and that person did me a great bit of help by posting those tires.

Thanks, Eric!

You never know how you can help someone and it is better than turning something into bulk trash.

Once I find another job I’ll get brand new tires, the car only has 41,000 miles on it and it is a 2002 Jeep Wrangler.  It will run much better on 31 inch tires than stock 27 inch tires too.

If you know anyone who needs a Business Analyst, Senior Business Analyst, Project Manager or IT Manager within commuting distance of Wilton Manors, FL, or other telecommute position, let me know! 

One thing that Craigslist is not good for is buying things that are highly technical.  Yes, sometimes you can get computers cheap or even free like I did.  The problem is that you end up buying something that may be broken or overpriced and suffer buyer’s remorse unlike anything you ever have had before.   It definitely is a “Let the buyer beware” sort of shopping.  “Where is, As is” was what they used to call it.

It is worth a look if you need something but go prepared to say thanks, but no thanks to the person and their item since there are a lot of unscrupulous people as well as scammers out there as well as the normal people who think they should just get full price for their 5 year old item.

On the other hand, if I find a bowflex or other weight set, free or cheap… It’s mine!

The Roof is Evil, and Must Die!

Strictly speaking, its already dead.

The roof in this case is a sheet of vinyl that is flapping around in the breeze normally.   It is attached to my Jeep that I trundle to work in every day.  Not the quietest of rides but there are benefits to having this particular car.

It is now more than 8 years old, and has just under 40,000 miles on it.  I’ve had Jeep Wranglers since the mid 90s, and one before that in the 80s when they were the old CJ7.   CJs were a very different vehicle, but that is a different story.

When the weather is just so, and pretty much what everyone would tend to call perfect, I look up at the sky and gauge the conditions.   Hands outstretched, eyes skyward, sensing the breezes on my hands and face, I step out from the building that I work in and lower my gaze to the dusty old Jeep sitting there waiting for it’s turn to shine.

And that is when I usually utter my line:  “The Roof Is Evil, and Must Die“!

I then take care in removing the vinyl top off of the car, stowing it as Chrysler intended, and then get in the car.  You see, this particular day I’m writing about, Monday was as close to perfect for me as it gets.   At 5pm, the birds were singing, the sun was shining, the breezes were light, and the temperature was a beautiful 75 Fahrenheit, or approximately 24 Celsius.  I got in the car for a 10 mile drive home.  Technically speaking my drive is just under that – 9.9 miles and is almost due North-South. 

Never mind that, its beautiful out, I have a convertible car, and I know how to use it!

I turned on a trance set from Armin van Buuren, put on the mirrored sunglasses, and a giant smile on my face.  All that expense of driving a vehicle that I get 18 miles to the gallon (I won’t convert that to metric, I won’t even try!) is worth it on a day like that.  They’re a blast to drive and when you’re in Florida with the right music (pick your own if you don’t like mine) even being stuck in traffic can be fun.