James: Do you really need to know how old I am ? OK, OK, I'm 43 and self-employed. My shop is located on the family farm which we've owned since 1839 and it is near a small town in Southeastern Indiana named Batesville. This area used to be well known for furniture manufacturing but now it's more well known as a manufacturing hub of caskets and hospital beds. We used to farm (wheat, soybeans and corn) and raised hay for our beef cattle. My dad put me out on the tractor to plow when I was eleven years old. Hobbies include: playing pool, riding my mountain bike, dirt bike and quad, planting trees and taking care of trees I've planted, reading and learning about all things woodworking, manufacturing and outdoors related.
Lined up to begin the Kokopelli Trail in May 2009
Brian: With a forum name of Woodsman do you mind sharing more about the craft and work that you’ve done?
James: I started messing around with woodworking when I was maybe 13 or so. I'd build simple stuff as well as fix up/refinish furniture from auctions to resell. From age sixteen on, I cut firewood for extra cash and would cut and hand split somewhere between sixty and eigthy face cords (ricks) of hardwood per year all through college. I would throw and stack around fifteen thousand hay bales for several area farmers each summer and I also worked summers and weekends during college for a local farmer painting buildings, scooping manure, moving cattle and hogs and other fun stuff like castrating little pigs. Hard work doesn't scare me. I earned BS degrees in industrial technology and business and after turning down a couple of engineering jobs because they would require long commutes (or relocation) I discovered a newly founded company just three miles from home which produced custom wood products. I was the first person hired in a management position and I took on every opportunity to learn and after nine years I was overseeing every aspect of the business except sales and accounting. Truth is that I took on so many responsibilities that I turned into a workaholic averaging seventy or more hours per week for several years in a row. I decided to get out and "do my own thing" in 2003. I now produce all types of custom furniture, millwork, cabinetry and library furnishings. Most of my work has gone to schools and libraries in New Jersey and Maryland but I've done residential work as far away as Denver. In 2008, I added a portable sawmill and dry kiln to the operation so I can mill wood from our farm or from other sources.
Running Tipover Challenge on Hells Revenge during Cruise Moab 2010
Brian: Is the FJ Cruiser your first offroad vehicle? If so what led you to owning an FJC? If not what was you’re the first vehicle you took wheeling?
James: Again, I grew up on a farm and was doing fieldwork on tractors when I was eleven. If I did something wrong or got a tractor stuck I would get chewed out. I never really thought about needing an off road vehicle since I wasn't into "mudding". When I graduated from college, I took a trip cross-country to visit my dad's cousin in Potlatch, Idaho. Having never been west of the Mississippi before, this really opened my eyes to "what's out there". After college I got into riding 4x4 quads and had a Sportsman 500, Kodiak 400, Grizzly 660, Polaris Scrambler and Kawasaki 650, all of which were 4x4. My employer leased a Dodge Ram 4x4 for me and then a Silverado Z71 but I never did any off-roading with them . . . since I was always working. There was an article in the August 2004 issue of National Geographic Adventure magazine about driving offroad from Canada to Mexico in a Jeep Rubicon and that really made me think. The uncommon looks of the FJ Cruiser captured my attention when it hit the lots and I remember discovering the forum and spending hours looking at the other rigs and trip reports. As I got more into it, I looked closely at the Nissan Xterra, used Land Rover Discoveries and Jeep Wrangler Rubicons. In 2007, when they announced the new Sandstorm color, that sealed the deal and I purchased mine in November of that year.
Three-wheeling my way through a tight spot on Kane Creek Canyon during Cruise Moab 2010
Brian: What modifications have you done to your FJ Cruiser to date?
James: When I started modding my FJ, I was looking at everything based on function. I did not want it to look like a JCWhitney catalog puked on it.
1st mod, upgraded wheels to AR Teflon Chambers and tires to Nitto Terra Grappler LT285/70R17E
2nd mod, OME med front springs and Superflex rear coils
3rd, Exp One front bumper with Superwinch
4th, Bud Built skids front to back
5th, ToyOutfitters lower links
6th, dual battery setup
7th, BajaRack roof rack
8th, Exp One rear bumper
9th, Radflo full suspension with 2.5" bodies
Other, rear storage drawer, CO2, Springtail rear rack (removed to take weight off of door and make more room for drawer and fridge), Edgestar fridge, Total Chaos upper control arms, roof rack mounted storage boxes and more.
Lined up with Lee's (1911) FJ40 and Dan's Lexus LX450 in or near Dark Canyon during a Bill Burke led trip in May 2010
Brian: What upgrade is your least favorite? Or what modification would you do differently if you had to do it over again?
James: When I started shopping for an FJ, I was looking for a base model with locker and steelies. My dealer found one for me but my vision was clouded by all the gadgetry of the accessory packages so I changed my mind and bought the loaded FJ at the last minute. Considering that I've replaced most all of these "extras", I regret the thousands extra that were spent for these options on the loaded FJ. Those OEM sliders are gone, OEM wheels gone, dash pods aren't really very useful IMO, six disc changer not used since I listen to MP3, OEM roof rack gone. You get the idea. IMO, buy a basic FJ, mod to preference and don't buy the extras twice.
Brian: What future modifications do you have planned for your FJC?
James: I have several upgrades waiting to be installed including Metal Tech upper and lower rear links, sPod, upgraded horn, LED bar and work lights, and the stereo upgrade that's been hiding in the closet for longer than any warranty is good for. Also, I have a new drawer almost ready to install in the back and will upgrade my fridge slide with a small drawer underneath including a serving/cutting surface.
Parked near Teapot Rock during a November 2010 trip into the Maze district of Canyonlands
Brian: Following up on that. As one of the long standing members how has this forum changed over the years in your eyes?
James: At one time, everything was a new subject to be explored and discussed. Every new mod was exciting and now it takes something a little more exceptional to excite the crowd. Except for a few new features such as Crawl Control the FJ is still pretty much the same. The crowd changes as time goes by, life happens and that continually breathes new life into discussions. Also, Facebook has certainly hurt the trip reports area. It's super easy to post pics on Facebook but a bit of a hassle to post all the links on a forum thread. So many great adventures and pics go unposted because it's a hassle. This is the section that really got forum users, including me, excited back in the day. We need more good trip write-ups !
Climbing out at the end of Cliffhanger during Cruise Moab 2013
Brian: Where all have you been with your FJC? What trail/park/location is your favorite?
James: I just got back from a trip across Wyoming. We started in Bear Lake, Idaho and worked our way east over several passes and lots of dirt roads until we reached I25. That was a 3,800 mile trip for me. I've been in the Maze district of Canyonlands twice and will be returning in three weeks. My FJ has been at six of the seven FJ Summits, three Cruise Moabs and a few other trips in the area including the Kokopelli Trail and a trip guided by Bill Burke. Of course, throw some Indiana and Kentucky wheeling into the mix too. I'm really liking Wyoming and can see trips there becoming an annual requirement.
Brian: What park/location that you have not been to yet would you like take your FJ too?
James: A few places on the list include: Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Tennessee, Texas hill country, a road trip to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, and everywhere out West, Northwest and Southwest ! I am exploring the possibility of storing a vehicle out west somewhere so I can just fly out and hit the trails. Although I would be paying storage fees, this would save me a bunch of driving time as well as gas money. Not sure whether this would be the FJ or something like an 80.
Top of the World Trail near Moab before the FJ Summit July 2013
Brian: Can you tell us a bit about your involvement in the FJC Summit?
James: Earlier this year, Chris Davis asked if I'd be interested in joining the crew. I met Chris in the dinner line during the 08 Summit and we've been on a couple of Maze/Canyonlands trips. Having been at the 08, 09, 10, 11, and 12 Summits I felt like being involved would allow me to give back a little bit, meet more people and contribute my organizational skills. My main task this year was getting trail leaders assigned for all the runs and watching and learning what needs to be done around Summit headquarters. I look forward to working with Matt Robb, Jonathan Harris and Chris Davis in the coming year to make Summit #8 run smoothly.
Leading a group on Elephant Hill Trail before the FJ Summit July 2013
Brian: What has the FJCruiserForums done for you and what can the forum learn from you?
James: IMO, the most powerful thing about the forum is that it brings people together from all over and all walks of life. Sure I knew a few people from here and there before but I can now honestly say I have good friends scattered from the left coast to the right coast. Friends are constantly offering me their spare rooms and couches when I am passing through on trips. I can offer input on many things FJ related which I've either tried or observed. I also enjoy getting people out on the trails and showing them what their FJ can do. The best example of this is our "Pre Summit in Moab" trail rides. This isn't an organized even but we simply go out and run Moab area trails. Many of the people this year and last were pretty new to wheeling and hitting trails like Top of the World, Hells Revenge, Metal Masher and Elephant Hill really open their eyes to what the FJ is capable of and just how much is out there waiting to be seen and explored.
Entering Wyoming from the Idaho side October 2013
Brian: Has anyone on the forum inspired your build or been a go to resource for you?
James: I haven't spent much time in the build section. However, some of the most memorable builds which pop up in my head are from the earlier days of the forum. Dragon's Sun Fusion, The Scorpion, Air2Air's build, MissFJ's straight axle conversion and RadRod57's Sandstorm build. I've learned bits from all over and I am subscribed to several threads of interest for possible future mods.
Brian: What has been the most memorable experience with your FJ Cruiser?
James: It is difficult to name just one as it has taken me through and over plenty of great terrain. I would say the trips into the Maze district of Canyonlands were the most memorable. Sliding down the snow-covered Flint Trail switchbacks, experiencing all the different terrains, hiking down to the unmolested Harvest Scene and camping at the Dollhouse and Maze Overlook were all pretty great.
Headed towards Granite Hot Springs in Wyoming October 2013
Brian: What advice do you have for someone new to the FJC or the forum?
James: Don't be afraid to get out and wheel even if your FJ is stock. Just be careful, go with others and don't get in over your head. Join TLCA and go to events and meet people. You will learn from these experiences and this knowledge will help you make better decisions regarding which mods you really need for the type of wheeling you do. The FJ Summit is probably the best place to do all of this. You can run the trails with a stock FJ, meet and chat with lots of great people, look at hundreds of modded FJs and go home with a bunch of new pictures and memories.
Congrats James, I'm glad to see your involvement with the Summit and our Pre-Summit Moab trips as well as the rest of your involvement in the FJC community is being recognized. Job well done buddy!:bigthumb:
The hill country in Texas would be a great place to take an FJ. Next time I visit the fam down there it would be a good reason to drive instead of fly. Except the driving to get there part!