My Girl: Gettin' After It!!

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

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Two days late...

I'm sitting here on a Tuesday night realizing I didn't post a weekly update on this past Sunday.

There was, in fact, a good amount going on.

I'm working on getting the club incorporated, but my recent tax scenario robbed me of the funding for that and a good chunk of what I had tucked aside to go towards the lockers. And there are also the family and friend engagements/commitments that pop up.

There are some days I wish to be a hermit somewhere off in isolation wrenching on the truck. But then I realize also that I'd have no one to go offroading with or to share the results of the various adventures.

Basically this entry is to state that I have no new pictures, got no shop time on the truck, and didn't go anywhere interesting.

I started a new job yesterday. My truck no longer travels 120 miles roundtrip into exurbia and back. Although she looked fairly suited to the scenery of the 24+ acre jobsite under development there, I now take her into a downtown DC garage where she is very much an anomaly. We park on the lowest level out of sight.

Veronica may have a pending sponsorship in the works, which would be really cool. I think it helps to justify her state and existence in this form.

I also put together some concept art which I provided to a very talented graphic designer in hopes that we may be able to get some decals made for this upcoming run.

I'm thinking of hosting two official club runs each year; a winter and a summer run. Between the various other clubs I affiliate with, there would be plenty of year-round offerings.

My time in the past week has been devoted to researching particulars for the outing at the end of May.

This coming weekend I am going to try to take care of an errand for a buddy which may lead me in close enough vicinity to do a little bit of wheeling south and west of the city. So there may be that to speak of. Otherwise, I'm hoping to get my electrical system sorted out which was initially the goal for this past weekend.

These posts need to become a lot more interesting...

Sunday, April 20, 2014

It's not rocket science...

I kinda feel like Apollo 13 right now, the Hollywood version that I saw with Tom Hanks. A lot of my builds of late have been rushed; however, overall I was fairly satisfied with the outcomes or at least the demonstrated potential of some of the prototypes.

Well the wheels started to fall off...figuratively...during the night ride I did at Dictum Ridge in GWNF back on 3/21/14. March GWNF Writeup To refresh, the factory harnesses that connect the the lights in the bed had loose connections and the lights were flickering on and off as I hit bumps. A couple of times, the HAM radio lost power too. Although the CB is fed off of the same auxiliary supply, it seemed to be unaffected.

Also, right before that outing, I had a low-speed collision which then coincided with my Mass Air Flow sensor throwing a code. That, fortunately, appeared to have been resolved in time for the trip.

Well fast forward to the time of my writing this. The Service Engine Soon light was back on yesterday (off today inexplicably), neither of the rear bed lights all...and the front LED bar isn't powering on either. It had failed to light up once before, but when I flicked it off and back on, it powered up with no issue. Well for two days straight, nothing.

Unfortunately, this post isn't at all visual, but it sets the stage for, 1) me attempting to once again commit to weekly updates; and 2) the complete tear down and re-routing of my entire auxiliary electric system.

The truck tool box looks like a bird's nest:

It started off neat enough...before the inverter got added. Then I added the solar panel (which got crunched down at the Cove for Big Dogs and is now caulked up) and the extra wiring for that. Then the rear winch got added. And I tapped the LED bar off of something in there too. So it needs a do-over.

I neglected to mention that my neighbor came by and wanted my help (and the electric impact gun) to loosen the retaining nut on his landscaping edger. Well, I hopped into the bed of the truck, hooked up the Dewalt, flipped on the inverter and WHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE. The overcurrent warning immediately came on. I hadn't even tried to use the impact gun. When I did, nothing. (Another Apollo 13 moment). I ran an extension cord out from the garage to the driveway and the gun worked fine.

Now, I do have the habit of leaving the CB on, but it doesn't draw that much juice to warrant there being so little available to power the impact. So I definitely need to mount an intervention. Need to find some good, low cost, water-resistant, and vibration-resistant connectors. Is there such a thing? Otherwise, I'll be soldering everything from here on out. Fortunately, I have until May 31st to carve out some time to get it done.

Hopefully, by next Sunday, I will have also installed the new PA speakers I picked up to replace the prior too which were mounted too low. The one in the rear got absolutely crunched at some point stepping down off of some ledges, and I think the front spent so much time underwater that it finally let go. I used my Goodyear tire rebate gift card to pick up the replacements. Looking forward to getting some uninterrupted garage time logged in the coming weeks and having some photos to show for it.

This is also the start of the dedicated FB page for this blog. It wouldn't accept the URL as a valid webpage last week. Today it did. So, I'll post announcements there to redirect here.

Until next time.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Mettowee Off Road Extreme Park and Gremlin the same weekend.

This is probably the longest pause between completing a trip and then committing the events to a writeup. But things happen. I had a pretty important test to take this week for which I should have used the entire weekend that I went wheeling and devoted it to study. Well, I passed with an 89%. I'll take it.

I had been targeting the trip to Mettowee when Mike posted up on my wall or through a message letting me know about NEXTERRA sponsoring a trip to GG the same weekend that the park was opening up. I was conflicted. What were the chances I'd be able to even find anyone willing to drive all the way to upstate New York to go to Mettowee. Not that Sturbridge, MA is so close to home either, but at least that was going to be an organized ride. In the end, I decided to do both. I don't like having to be choosy. I also have limited time to whittle away at this offroad bucket list.

 I didn't take many from the road, but this is clearly one of them. I was supposed to leave around 3am. It ended up being closer to 4/430am. I hit a little bit of traffic just outside of NYC which slowed me down a bit. The night before was an awards ceremony at which I was being honored. Made for a bit of a late arrival time home. It was worth it all the same and this trip was a nice treat to get out and away from the city thereafter.

 I thought these bridges were interesting.
 I shudder to think of what the weekend trip cost me in tolls alone. It made me think of that movie with Justin Timberlake. Out of Time. In Time. Blah blah blah...Time. Basically everyone's genetically engineered with a rechargeable life expectancy, but to cross over into more affluent sections of the country, one must exchange some of their life currency to pass these toll booth-like border crossings. It kinda felt that way driving up to get to the NJ turnpike and then the various interchanges along the way. But all of that was to lead to CR 12 just outside of Whitehall, NY. It is in the vicinity of Lake George, NY.
 The event was "Spring Fling" but someone forgot to tell the forest that. There was snow on the ground.
 A lot of snow on the ground.
 A freaking lot of snow on the ground. Two feet worth in some places.
 I didn't get far onto the first trail before I needed to employ some advanced self-recovery work. Worst yet, it had been like 75 degrees when I last went wheeling two weeks prior; so, I had on shorts and a sweatshirt. and here I was trudging through snow that would suddenly go from 4" to 2 feet deep without much warning. I had snow caked and crammed down into the inside of the workboots that I wore.

 I got free after a little while. I next doubled back and went to a hill climb where I observed that there was no snow. However, no snow just meant it had thawed and rendered the remaining terrain slick with mud and slippery with a frosty dew-like coating on the rocks. I got rejected at all 3 climb areas to get onto the same trail. I briefly chatted with some Jeepers that suggested I try a trail that they saw some Truggies come off of. They were going to go back to their campsite to drink, but they took my number and promised to call and check in if they didn't see me tooling around after too long. Well, I went as far as the Truggies went on the trail. And when I tried to advance beyond the point where they stopped...yeah... I got stuck. I had to winch myself in reverse. The problem was that the snow was so deep that the tires would drop down into the ruts made my taller riding vehicles, and eventually the snow would pack up enough under the chassis to lift the truck out of the ruts to where they were no longer making contact. The key was that over the course of the weekend, with more trucks traversing the trails, the snow would get packed down more and the paths would be more readily passable. We were there early though on a Friday and not many, if any, had gone through a good majority of the trails.
 At this point, I had resigned myself to simply take a few photos of the staging areas and depart early for Sturbridge. I don't mind recoveries. I think they're good practice. But that was literally all I had done for the first hour. I had recovered myself probably 4-5 times. It was cold and it was getting old.

 At one point, I had noticed a very new looking Xterra with NY tags enter the park. We made eye contact at one point and did kind of a Nissan nod. For some reason, I doubled back after exiting here. The Xterra was attempting to make the same climbs I had been rejected on. He was getting similar results. I noticed he had the Pro-4X though. I asked if he had tried employing his rear E-locker. I don't think he knew he had one or knew how to use it. As far as I could tell, he pushed the button and tried to get it to go, but this was very clearly his first time out with the truck. I'm not sure if the locker might have helped a more experienced wheeler or if just the climb was not really going to be made. The two exceptions i saw were two built up Broncos. They climbed it like how most of us drive into our driveways. So there was some redemption there made by those two on behalf of Broncos following the cluster that I wrote about when we were at Rausch for the Shocker Run with GPAX.
 Well the crew in the '88 F150 above saw me trying to coach the guy in the X on how to make the climb and they suggested they would take their turn and show us how it was done. They too failed to make the climb after about 6 attempts.
 It must have inspired some solidarity amongst us rejects. Jerry (Xterra) asked if I was committed to leaving or would I be willing to roll with him a bit for mutual support/recovery if needed. I thought it was a good idea. As we got situated to make some attempts at another section of the trail, the F150 team (there were like 7 human beings crammed into the cab and bed) expressed interest in joining. We were now a convoy.

 This was the main drag leading into the park.
 We took one loop around the park which exited at an area where I previously had to winch  myself in reverse. Along the trail, we ran into the two Jeeps that I had first chatted with. As they were ahead of us, we piggybacked behind them and now had a 5 vehicle convoy. Then they got stuck. Jimmy (F150), his guys and I went and helped free them up. And they left us. Because Jimmy  had stopped his truck, he forfeited all momentum. We had a heck of a time getting him out of the deep snow. Had one of the Jeeps remained behind, we could have linked Jimmy with a tow strap and helped pull him along to the portion of the trail that was more well-traveled. As it were, I had to keep snatching him back via the winch and letting him throttle forward as far as he could before getting stuck again. In the passage of time, another Jeep driven by Jack and copiloted by his female companion came up behind us.We were now a group of 4.
 The trail exited out again by this main drag. After all of that recovery, I was again thinking of heading home. We had had a few entertaining sections of the trail, but I thought we did well to have emerged from that last exercise and that we might not be so fortunate if we ventured down into a steep valley and couldn't readily  get everyone to make the ascent back out.
Group photo!
 Judging from this pic, I mustered some courage. Jimmy took the lead and we went passed the area in the lower section of the park where I had previously gotten stuck. We took the higher of the two paths this time. At one point, Jimmy couldn't advance any further due to slick mud. We backed him out of the way and I marched Veronica up into the lead. The crew was impressed. Then we dropped the rear winch line back to link Jimmy up to Veronica and I pulled him the rest of the way up the trail. And the crew was impressed. Jerry and the Jeep didn't experience any difficulty. It made me think of adding those WWII bomber style decals to the truck to commemorate the various recoveries. We got to this clearing and the trail pretty much died off at that point. That and the snow became VERY deep to where I again started having trouble. We hung out here for a bit. I finally put on some dag bum boots that went up to my knees instead of sloshing around in my work boots which were now full of ice water.
 All in all, I wheeled for about 4-1/2 hours, not including recoveries. It was good times. I decided to get an early start on the drive down to Sturbridge. I had brought camping gear, but with as much snow on the ground as they had there, I wasn't interested in setting up on muddy earth and having the overnight lows dip into sub-freezing temps. Maddy and I headed South.
 We took a nap in the Cracker Barrel parking lot which was to be the meetup point the next morning. We were, of course, first there.
 After not too long, Josh arrived and showed us all that we've been parking incorrectly.

 Ernie was actually the first other attendee to arrive. When he pulled up with this as I was topping off my tank at the adjacent gas station, I was certain he had to be with the group. As it turned out, he was the group leader for the ride. The club president also came in his X.
 I kinda scoffed to one of the guys, saying something to the effect of, "Not sure that his X really warrants being trailered." Maybe 33's, but nothing else really crazy about it. Maybe some low-range gearing but I didn't know. Then one of the guys explained, "The way he wheels it, sometimes the trailer is the only option he has to get it back home again." Respect.

 His sticker game is on point. It warranted like 8 more photos. I have to go back through my Moab photos, because after talking to Josh, we determined we were both there in 2012. He basically goes every year. At the end of the day, he said for me to hit him up when I decide that I'm going back and we'll caravan out there. I thought that was real cool of him.

 Brother Frontier, Mike.
 I'm probably gonna black out my hood due to all of the failed, 'mods' I attempted on mine. The flat black looks good.
 Just getting to the trail head almost required 4WD.
 There was an uncomfortable amount of Jeep thing happening on this trip. I didn't understand. But I do love snorkels; so, we'll call it even.

 Traded deep snow for deep mud.
 There were a lot of dudes named Mike on this trip. If I befriend more people named Mike, statistically there will be more people I can select from when promoting opportunities to go offroad. No exaggeration, I think there were 6-7 Mikes out of 19 trucks assembled.

 It is a private logging property. A good number of stumps litter the trail. This photo doesn't do it justice, but this was a heck of a climb that we contemplated making. But the terrain was the consistency of baby diaper boo boo. It gave way to like mid-shin in places when walking. A two-ton truck had no chance of getting any grip without deeply rutting the trail. The leader, me, and Mike each tried 2 attempts each. Thereafter, i broke out two shovels and we patched the ruts back in so that the trail wouldn't be all chewed up once things dried out. Tread Lightly, son.

 I liked Dan's X (Green). We actually ran a pretty small, but swift moving group lead by Dave.
 After the lunch break, we formed a mega Green group as many trucks departed leaving an elite group and us. With the mud and the stumps, I was content to run moderate trails that day.

 There was a Suburban in our midst. He didn't tread so lightly at one point. An immature tree will never be the same. Veronica and I threaded through those same tight spots with virtually no issue. The spotter that had helped the 'burban stayed out to help the other Frontier and then guided me, but I honestly think I could have gotten through with no guidance. I have developed a pretty good sense of the truck's weight and balance when slightly off camber and threading trees. The snow  markers on the front bumper help. I think the spotter was at least impressed with how we got through it.

 Everyone airing up at the end of the day.

About 20 miles south of town, I stopped at a Hooters. The lot was PACKED. I thought, you know, Hooters is a popular franchise but this is ridiculous. I was over like two businesses removed before finding a spot. As I was walking to the restaurant I asked a guy, who enlightened me that, although we were still well into Massachusetts, this was UConn territory and they were playing in the Final Four to ultimately upset Florida. And by so doing, they helped me to win my office bracket pool. So all in all, it was a great weekend.