Nope, I am still here, I have just been busy between working two jobs, the divorce, and finding/losing the love of my life, it's a long story.
I am still working at the water plant, but wanted something to accupy my "free" time since the old farmhouse is so large and empty now (makes strange noises, I can't get used to being alone just yet). Besides, a little extra money doesn't hurt. I work my normal job from 7-3, then at this job, building lobster traps, from 4 to whenever, and usually Saturdays as well. It's nice, I've lost 20 pounds so far and acquired an air compressor, pneumatic tire changer (like the garages use, but older), and bubble balancer, which comes in handy. While there I met a wonderful woman, who owns a '77 CJ-5 on 34" Swampers (painted it herself and loves to wheel), and we became great friends. Her husband left her and we hooked up while blasting through my mud run out back (stress reliever after work one day), she even loved driving the Zuk! Well, her husband came back all apologetic and vowed to change his ways, so for the sake of the kids they're trying it one last time. It's a lot more complicated than that, spanning 2 months, but I don't want to go into more detail.
The ex-wife wants to get back together, as myself and many others knew she would, she now realizes what she had. But, there is no way I'm that stupid, I'd rather be single. She traded in the Jeep and got $4,000 for it, which was about $6,000 less than the low Bluebook (custom ordered with all the options), and I just did a lot of work to it to make sure it was ready for winter (new 31" BFG AT's, brakes, synthetic fluids, etc). I think she did it just to tick me off. Anyway, she calls about once a week to "keep in touch".
I have been wheeling about as much as I can. This includes snow runs with the chains, and I just completed the EMWF V (Eastern Maine Wheel Fest 5), in Machias, near the Canadian border (I'm hosting EMWF VI on Sept 19-21 in Stacyville, Maine if anyone is interested, it's a little milder). It was 2 days of Oh-My-Word wheeling, and everyone couldn't believe where the Zuk went. I did snap off the other rear shock, wrap the exhaust around the gas tank, submerge the CB located under the radio (again), kill both tail lights (when I smashed the rear bumper), toasted a U-joint, and bent a body mount with the chains. But, I was able to get through the day with only being towed 4-5 times, which was no more than anyone else. The last part of the trail was a mud run, about 200 yards long, and I took the bypass on the way out as I was told it was DEEP. Well, the Zuk still ran at the end of it, so I decided what the heck, if I kill it I have another in parts and I was having a great time. When the mud got over the door sill and I still wasn't 1/2 way through, I put my foot to the carpet, bumped it to around 6,000 rpms, held it there, and started praying. My co-pilot got nervous when the seat bottoms were submerged, but it kept going. Both headlights were under MUD for the last 100 yards, but it made it through, despite having to make my own part of the trail past the mired Toyota on 36's right at the end. I wish I had pics, but everyone was having problems (except the Badillac, which was sporting the 42" Swampers, welded D60/D70, with 500 Caddy engine, but it was the guys back yard), so no one could take any, and the trail rounded a corner as well. That Badillac was a little, well, intimidating (see pic, it's the thing with the "M" on the front). The run advertisement said no smaller than 33" tires, but when I asked about running 32's he said not to worry about it, he had run with me before (he ran his Kasier back then) and said I knew how to wheel, the restrictions were for other people, but I was still a little nervous.
At one point we got to a paved major road, and had to travel about 1/2 mile down it. I explained I was not road legal, running chains, and didn't want to get caught by the cops. My co-pilot looked at me and said it wasn't a problem, 3 of the people wheeling there were cops. He said they didn't mind as it was just a short distance, which is cool. Chains make a lot of noise in 3rd gear high range, and it's also a rough ride, but no one told me if there were any sparks. I decided to put them on at the last minute, took them off my 33" radials (winter wheeling tires), and put them on the 32" bias, which had new siped treads. The combo worked well, but they did a lot of deep roto-tilling, so I won't use them all the time. Amazingly I didn't break anything despite really beating on it in the rocks. I expected to snap and axle or two, so I brought complete spares, front and rear, plus a transfer, drive shafts, clutch, and other essential items.
So, that's about it. I went out again today and opened my muffler like a tuna can, so I need another one (thankfully I have a parts rig in my barn). I'm going to repair the rust (minor stuff), and weld in rock-rails so I can get an inspection sticker, my rocker panels are toasted, I pushed one into the passenger compartment (oops), and had to beat it down with a sledgehammer to get the door back on. I did get a new tow rig as well, because the tranny in my '95 Trooper is a little tired after 191,000 miles and countless tens of thousands of miles towing the Zuk. Did you know it's the same auto tranny used in Chevettes and Trackers? Yeah, well neither did I. The tow rig I got is a 1986 (mostly) Chevy 3/4 ton 2WD, with 350 and SM465. It's a lot of fun to drive and the 350 is warmed a little so it really scoots. I think I'm going to modify the bed to put the Zuk right in the back, that way I can still haul the Scrambler on a trailer behind it. It's a decent truck, and for $500 it was a steal.
So anyway, I am back, but am still working a lot, wheeling, cleaning the house, and sorting out the barn. I'm picking up my 305 for the Scrambler tomorrow, so that project is back on track again. It's amazing how much time everything takes when you want to do so much.