1997 Dodge Dakota Sport 5-speed manual transmission hard to shift

Hello,
I have a recently acquired 1997 Dodge Dakota Sport, 2WD, 3.9L V6, 5-speed AX15 manual transmission, with 160,000 miles on the odometer; not sure how many miles on the transmission.
Here is a summary of the symptoms that it is manifesting:
The majority of the time it is hard to shift into 1st, 2nd and 3rd gears, although occasionally shifting into all 3 gears is perfectly smooth (what I would consider normal). I would estimate that it shifts normally around 10% of the time.
When it does shift normally, ALL 3 gears engage normally (after shifting into 3rd normally).
When it does not shift normally, ALL 3 gears are hard to engage, but each has a different relative level of difficulty, with 1st being extremely hard to engage, 2nd moderately hard and 3rd the easiest (but still not normal)
Once 1st gear has been successfully engaged 2nd and 3rd engage normally when up shifting.
At a dead stop, all 3 gears are hard to engage as described above.
Since 1st is basically impossible to engage the majority of the time when I try to shift directly from neutral or any other gear, here is my workaround when coming to a stop (with each gear engaging with the level of difficulty summarized above):
1. Shift into 3rd 2. Shift into 2nd 3. Shift into 1st
On the rare occasion when it slips smoothly into 3rd it also slides like butter into 2nd and/or 1st.
Double clutching does not appear to have any effect.
Does anyone have an idea what the problem might be given these symptoms?
TIA
Luke
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lukeairig
Message origin: TRAVEL.com
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On Mon, 14 Feb 2011 16:40:58 -0600, lukeairig

How much clutch 'free play' is there? I suspect either clutch adjustment is way out, or more likely the clutch is just plain worn out.
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i had an 89 Dakota 4x4 started doing the same thing. ended up broke down on the freeway because the main baring had sezed and spun in the case. drilled a hole thorugh the case at 70 miles an hour on the freeway befor it had popped out of gear.
you might want to opened up and replace the bearings soon. cost me 3k to get a new trans at the time and wasn't all that happy.
at the time it was a supply and demand market for the trans. they had the supply i had the demand and the 3k.
wrote:

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