So ask around the local hot rod/4WD community and find someone willing to fix it.
Are you certain its not a lifter?
A bad rod won't just tick it will sound like a hammer. I would say pull the bottom end apart, check the rod bearings and main bearings, along with the crank.
The only reason that the rod, itself, would be bad would be if you somehow spun a bearing or maybe hydro-locked it and bent the rod. If the crank is still good, (it should be if it really only ticks, as opposed to thumps or bangs) you might be able to get away with replacing the bearings, gaskets and seals (a Saturday project).
It sounds like you need a better mechanic... Rod and main bearings are not a terribly big deal, even if the crank needs replacing/regrinding.
...a well prepped, well driven, vehicle should do well in any terrain, including the highway.
Carburetors became obsolete during the last century... do what ever it takes to get fuel injection...It makes bigger grins off road.