My Girl: Gettin' After It!!

My Girl: Gettin' After It!!
My truck on her maiden voyage in Moab 2012

Sunday, February 23, 2014

GPAX 7th Annual Shocker Run- Rausch Creek 2-2-14. F.O.R.C.E. in full effect

I am literally gushing with residual excitement. I got home about an hour ago. My truck did everything I wanted it to do today. It was a combination of vehicle preparation and driver competence being in sync for once. In the past, I've taken the right lines, but had low-hanging obstructions hinder progress. At other times, the truck was set up well, but I either took a stupid line, or didn't approach with enough momentum or throttle and had to self-recover. Today, in the snow, up at Rausch Creek, we had our groove together. And it was good fun.

 So this turned out to be a dumb idea. After the MLK weekend trip, I set out to upgrade my radiator skid with a 1/4" column leveling plate left over from a building project. Well, I thought the heavy duty hinges would be good to help make up the angles needed to attach at the lower cross member of the frame and the upper winch channel bracket.
 But there were some weather challenges over the past few weeks and I spent some time out in the snow playing and recovering people instead of working on the dumb thing.
 And then I decided I didn't want to weld directly onto the cross member, but instead through-bolt a bracket and weld to it instead. Well then that changed the geometry and the stupid plate I made didn't quite fit right anymore.

 I was again distracted by snow and played instead of working on it. All in all, not making good progress and the dilemma of trying to make something good out of a bad idea nearly kept me from getting the truck ready for the huge ice chunks and rocks that would await me if I did decide to go to Rausch Creek for the Shocker Run. GPAX runs very well organized and attended trail meets for Nissan enthusiasts. They are also well sponsored and there are significant give-aways at stake. So the night before, I finally got my act together.
 I scrapped the first bastardization. I started with a new plate, cut it down to size, made new weld nuts to attach the oil filter access door salvaged from the stock radiator skid, prepped the plate, welded it up, and even retouched the painting of the stinger and was done by 9pm. It was clearly meant to be. I've never been quite that productive and efficient at the last minute, in my long history of last minute mods.
 Maddy and I had no plan of lodging or who we might meet up with or anything. But I took her to work with me Friday morning, and as soon as we could excuse ourselves we did. And we made a bee line to O'Neals. I stopped here last year when I went on my first off road trip following Moab when I didn't really know anyone who wheeled. We parked out front and Rob rolled right up on us while I was trying to send out a post to anyone who might be in the area to meet up at O'Neals.
 As it turns out, the staff that was working that night remembered me and my truck from the year prior. Back then I had the Zombie decals on there and I'm generally the token anywhere I go. As soon as I walked in, one of the servers was like, "Oh my God. Is your truck outside?!"

"Wow, you guys remember me from last year?"

Then Rob quipped, "You're probably the only black dude that comes here."

And although she was probably a little embarrassed by the suggestion, she countered, "Well, we all had a really good time that night, and I remembered him."

And that was true. So the manager came out 'cause we had taken some pictures of my truck last year, and he said that he had his truck out that night, which he pulled around front for these photos to be taken.

The stacks shoot FIRE. I repeat, the stacks shoot FLAMES.

 So this visit, we admired his truck, which is really cool. By this time, more guys showed up, but for some reason, I was the only one who took him up on the tour. Initially he wasn't going to shoot the flames, because he has to really gun the engine and it was a bit late at this point. So, just know that if he really guns it, it'll do more than the quick bursts captured in the video.

 He replaced the headliner with some of these promotional placards from the bar. His shifters are also tap handles. It is a really cool truck. I was appreciative of him taking the time to show me all of this.
 Back inside, this was about the full gathering of folks that came to O'Neals the first night. When I went there the first night last year for the MDXC night, no one from the groups were there. I just hung out with the locals the first night and then the guys came after wheeling on the second night. On the eve of GPAX events though, it appears everyone knows to come out and get primed for a good day of wheeling the next day. I think a couple of the trail leaders got a bit too primed and didn't make it to the lineups the next morning, which unfortunately resulted in a bit of a scramble to identify proxies. But that was ok.
 So Maddy and I were going to try to camp in the truck in lieu of accommodations to make the trip a little more financially viable. Well, the temperature dropped like 20 degrees from the 59 deg we had in Rockville to the 39 deg and dropping we encountered upon crossing the PA line. Rob was kind enough to extend an invitation for us to take up a spot at his cabin as he had a few last minute cancellations. It was more so for Maddy though. If I was dumb enough to sleep in my truck, I deserved to become a Bro-sicle. But Maddy had no choice in the matter. So thanks Maddy. The bunk was much more comfortable.
 Suzuki 'manufactures' a rebadged and body-styled Frontier. I knew they made them and there are a few guys on the forums who post pictures, but I think this is the first that I've seen where a dude actually wheels it. Which isn't really exceptional because they are essentially the same truck as mine. But they are rare to see in general, and even rarer to find a guy with the audacity to wheel one amongst Xterras and Jeeps. We chatted some at O'Neals the night prior; so, I was glad to be able to snag a few shots of the truck in the daylight. He's got the equivalent of the Pro-4x with the locker, which I was unaware of as an option.
 Outside the cabin. Rob actually did share his bacon and eggs. I was lucky. He normally doesn't apparently.
 I'm normally prepared and ready, but I had a bit of a mishap when fueling up in the morning on the way up. We were rushing a bit to get registered at 8am. When we stopped at the gas station, I set up the pump and engaged the handle prop to allow the flow of fuel while I ran inside to get goodies for the trail. When I came out, the pump had stopped and I naturally assumed it had topped me off. About 2 miles from the gas station, I saw that it had only dispensed me to about half a tank. So after I registered, I had to speed back down the mountain, fuel up at another station and then race back. At that point, the groups had already lined up and I was 'that dude' scrambling to air down, stow my tire, etc. Then I drove off with my tire iron and accessories for lowering the spare up on the toolbox, and El Presidente had to flag me down when they fell all out onto the trail. Not a good look. But we redeemed ourselves later.
 I declared myself as a 'photo journalist' as I began walking around snapping photos during the driver's meeting.
 It's an interesting phenomenon in that we know one another by aliases as opposed to first names. Like the driver of this Frontier is "ManWithBeard" and he has a fiery red beard. I do not know his name though.
 There was well over a foot of snow on the ground. Many of the Green groups- there were nearly 5 at one point- were trying to take the same, well-traveled trails which were already rutted or had tracks which made traversing a bit easier. The problem, though, was that with as many drivers as there were, it created quite a bottleneck. Our trail leader, RebelGD decided to blaze a path up the Power Line road trail. It was ballsy. He actually ran it a bit forwards and then reversed to pack it down some. We had an Xterra in our group with Fuel Max tires. He actually did unexpectedly well considering this. I expected him to need to be tethered semi-permanently to someone the entire day, but I only really counted 3-4 brief recoveries needed. I got him twice and nearly had my first attempt on him at the Power lines, but someone else linked him up before I could make it back down with the co-lead riding shotgun in my truck.

 Various shots from the trail.

 The picture of someone taking a picture...picture.
 Second in command.
 Our trail leader.
 The various groups criss-crossed throughout the day. This was another trail group also here for the GPAX event.

 This is where we broke for lunch.

 I recovered a full-size Bronco. It was a sad day for Ford enthusiasts. I love the sound and nostalgia of these offroad behemoths. But they were having a terrible time on the trails on this day. A lot of it was owing to driver errors. With an S at the end. I tried helping with recovery, but the technique and execution was just not very good. They went from just having spun the tires too aggressively and creating a slick spot, to ultimately the guy in the brown Bronco snapping his driveshaft yoke and losing all power transmission to his front axle, effectively rendering him to one-wheel drive in the rear. They were blocking our progress and I was near the back of our convoy. He hadn't snapped his yoke when we first encountered them. I told them to hold on until we could rearrange the convoy to bring my winches up to help pull both. We heard a jubilant cheer at one point when the guy appeared to have freed himself. Then there was like a 5 minute period of excessive engine revving followed by a loud POP.

When I drove up to get into position they were all kind of marveling how my little truck was just maneuvering through the snow. I would not call it 'effortless', but I was concentrating on what I was doing and not just arbitrarily opening up full throttle. So we pull the guys clear and the now mobile blue Bronco  tried to pull his buddy up the hill. We took an opposite tack on a longer loop.

When we came around, they miraculously had made the climb out of the valley. But the blue Bronco was now on the side of the trail with it's hood propped. Apparently they had overheated the engine, presumably from excessive engine revving, and managed to burn up a spark plug line. There was a small fire. It was not a good day for the Broncos. When our day was done, we did see that the brown Bronco had made it out and was on a trailer. I didn't see the blue Bronco though.
 A couple of the recovery rigs out on the trail. I never saw the drivers though.

 This was after I made the climb and was setting up the winch to help the Jeep up the hill.
 Veronica earned her rest.
 A couple of parting shots of some of the cool Nissans that made it out.
 I think this is LizardKing's.

My camera was pretty much dead at this point. I'm sure there are some professional shots from the raffle that I will bootleg and post either here or elsewhere. The unfortunate thing with the weather was that some of the trails were downright dangerous. There was one 1/4 to 1/2 mile descent that was literally a continuous sheet of ice. We took it one at a time at like 5 minute intervals. You didn't drive it. You literally just approached the crest and bobsledded down. There was zero traction. The Jeep reportedly did several 360 spins like a figure skater all the way down, which was probably cool to see but terrifying to experience. Veronica is so long that every time we went sideways, which was often, she got wedged at a narrow point in the trail. either the rear 'teeth' on the bumper caught the snow embankment, or the obnoxious stinger nosed in. When it did, I could throttle either forwards or backwards which straightened me out for the next slide.

Our trail leader astutely opted to have us actually exit the park as there was a main road which connected to  a portion of the trail in this area instead of taking a turn that would have returned us back into the park. Ultimately, other groups that came into this area continued into the park and became trapped in a bowl for 4-5 hours awaiting professional recovery. Many of the organizers had volunteered to serve as recovery vehicles for the day, and they too were held up getting everyone up and off of the trails. Fortunately they were successful and no one was injured or suffered any catastrophic breakdowns.

The raffle set up consequently was delayed a bit, but this was understandable and updates were communicated to the rest of us who had managed to avoid this area.

The final good news of the event was that my string of unluckiness in these raffles was finally broken. The LED light bar that I had been pining over is now mine. I'm gonna be like Cruzer now and turn darkness into day. I'm thinking of repurposing the ill-advised Hi-Lift mount on the hood into a mount for the 30" LED bar and then putting the jack on the lid of one of the side toolboxes.

All in all, it was a great event. Great folks. Very good performance out of the truck and my driving prowess has improved along with the build quality of the truck. As long as we stay humble and don't try to exceed our capabilities, I'm hoping for several years of enjoyment and performance out on the trails.

Thanks for reading. Until the next adventure...