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A few years ago, a photographer friend and I spent a couple of days exploring off-road trails and the amazing sights in and around Death Valley. Late one afternoon, in a desolate and isolated area north of the national park, with hills blocking the view and a perspective of the horizon, we came to a fork in the road.

“Which way do we go?” I asked with more than a little urgency.

“How would I know?” came the response?

“You have the map,” I suggested.

And it was at this point that I learned that the photographer didn’t read maps, and hadn’t been following our route as I thought. So now neither of us knew exactly where we were.

As I said, it was late afternoon. The sun soon would be setting behind the mountain peaks to the west, and I wasn’t about to spend a cold and hungry night out here lost in the wilderness. So I retreated. I simply turned the vehicle around and was able to backtrack, retracing our way along the trails and back to pavement and eventually back to town.

Fast-forward a few years and I’m at the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show a couple of months ago and I’m walking through the Mopar/Chrysler/FCA display and — voila! — I see the answer to an off-roader’s prayers: A Jeep Cherokee with a huge topographic map right on its hood.

It turns out that you can go to mopar.com and its section called Jeep Custom Hood Decal, pick from among the available maps, which include such trails as Hell’s Revenge in Moab, Rausch Creek in Pennsylvania and the Rubicon Trail, or you can do a search and find a topographic map for pretty much anyplace a vehicle might be able to take you.

And it’s not only off-roaders who can use this feature. Instead of a topo map, you can opt for one that shows city streets. You also get to pick the map scale, an accent color, and you can add a bull’s-eye to highlight a point of interest or destination.

Once you’ve finished, you submit your map online and you receive an email response with your map’s specific Mopar part number. You take the confirmation you receive by email to your local Jeep dealership, which orders the map decal and receives it (a process that takes 8-10 business days).

The cost is $295 (plus tax) and can either attach the decal, which is printed on automotive-grade 3M film, yourself or you can pay the dealership to do it properly.

The decals come with a three-year warranty from fade or manufacturer defect, though you are encouraged not to take your vehicle through a car wash with brushes that scrub its body panels. Hand-washing or brushless automatic washes are strongly recommended to preserve the decal’s integrity.

The decals are available for 2007-15 Wranglers, 2011-15 Grand Cherokees and 2014-15 Cherokees.

For more information, visit www.mopar.com/jeep-custom-hood-decal/

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at ledsall@cox.net.

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