My Girl: Gettin' After It!!

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

A domestic man...

So now that I am home for the next few months on my offroad hiatus, folks know that I may conceivably be available to work on odd jobs and projects. My honey-do list is about a mile long, but that did not stop my mom from asking for help to install her new receiver hitch on her very  not new Acura and assembling a hitch-mounted bike carrier.

I started this post yesterday, but then internet issues prevented further drafting.

What should have been maybe an hour or so of work took the better part of the day, primarily because I was involved and things tend to not go smoothly. The rest of the weekend that I salvaged was devoted to getting my new Cooper tires mounted on the stock rims and the Duratracs shifted from the stock rims to the spare set of steelies.

 So the hitch wasn't bad. One bolt goes through the factory tow point with some 1/4" metal shims (3). Two go on one side of the tow loop and one on the other. Then you line up the hitch and drill up through the trunk pan to allow for two more bolts to be affixed to either side. Again no biggie. The toughest part was removing the spare tire, believe it or not. She's had the car since 99 and apparently never had a flat. The bolt to release the tire had rusted and seized. I put some english on it and snapped the damned thing. Oh well.

Hitch is mounted in probably 15 minutes, allowing for reading time and tool collection essentially.

The carrier took a little while longer, just because the assembly wasn't exactly intuitive. At one point I thought we had a problem but it turns out I had selected the wrong carrier to mount in the first position. I swapped them after confirming which gets loaded first, and we still have a problem. Everything fits in the down position; unfortunately, it wouldn't fold up without interfering with the bumper.
 Now all we needed was a receiver extension. I have one for a 2" receiver. Unfortunately, my mom got an 1-1/4" receiver. And no one makes one as we found out. Of course, we find this after driving to Home Depot, and then to Lowes, and then finally to The Hitch Man out in Waldorf. I knew I couldn't just send my mom out to find it because she never would. So we drove in my truck. She thought of the experience as bonding. It was more like my mom giving me stream of consciousness dialogue for the better part of 2-1/2 hours round trip.

I knew ultimately we would need to go to the Hitch Man as I had stumbled upon his store (which is called that) while donating some bicycles to the Salvation Army in Waldorf. He's across the street off of the MD 5 Business road, Leonardtown Rd (?)

I was intrigued and went in. He had all sorts of DIY ready fabrication elements for making one's own trailer, or, as would be the case, bastardizing  your own 1-1/4" receiver extension. As he explained on the occasion of this visit, they don't really offer them in this size because the extension reduces the rated capacity of tongue weight and trailering capability by 50%, and since the 1-1/4" is already rated below a 2", it is impractically reduced. My mom's hitch was rated as 2,000 lb towing and 200 lb tongue weight. You can do the math.  For a bicycle or two, she should be fine.  But now I had some welding to do. So much for getting her stuff knocked out first thing on Saturday.
 It was probably about 4pm by the time the metal had cooled down, and I got the thing painted and the carrier re-mounted. She was happy though. And I guess that made me a good son.

I had little energy left at this point to try to tackle the nursery; however, getting these rims fitted with some rubber would help free up some space in the garage. The Coopers have probably been stacked in there for going on 2 months. I intended them to be the summer tires to relieve the Duratracs from some wear and tear up and down the highway, as the compound which makes them perform exceptionally in extreme cold (Snowflake on the Mountain symbol) also makes them a bit susceptible to premature wear in hot weather. Fortunately, they've not been wearing down too badly given the delay in opportunity...and get them mounted up.
 It was going to be a bit of a pricey endeavor because I was effectively getting 8 tires mounted and balanced plus an alignment.

I was not happy with the franchise that I visited also charging a "Difficult Mounting" fee due to the size of the tires. Granted, 285/75/16 is not my stock size, but it is maybe 1.5-2" more in diameter and a few pounds heavier. It was a bit over $300 for the whole episode. I will be swapping the tires on and off myself, but I don't possess the know-how or the means to mount and balance a tire. One can dream though. Maybe I'll hit the lotto and add a ridiculous garage onto the lot. It will be bigger than my residence, much to the chagrin of the Mrs.

 I basically just went and got lost for 1-1/2 hours over at Potomac Yards while waiting as there were apparently quite a few customers ahead of me.
 Steve B was kind enough to have already painted these steelies gunmetal grey before I picked them up from him on Craigslist, which is how we initially met. Funny now that I've gone wheeling twice and camped once with someone from Craigslist. I'm just glad he didn't murder me instead. There are murderers on there sometimes. It's not even funny.
 Now, I subscribe to the Frontier/Navara enthusiasts group on Facebook. I'm sure that if a few of those guys saw how I keep my interior, they would likely faint...and then when they regained consciousness, they would report me to Truck Protective Services. I really h ave tried to clean this off, but it is so persistent and ingrained that now the mud refuses to come out under ordinary means. I took some time Sunday to try to do a little bit of detailing. I've noticed that when I take my truck in for service, they don't even bother to put the plastic down. They also refuse to do the little vacuuming and window washing that used to come with oil changes. I guess they look at Veronica and are like, "She will not improve."

 I at least took some time to wash the exterior again, and get all that blue protective coating off of the white lettering. The windshield got cleaned for the first time in 2014.

That's pretty much all that happened.

I am seriously contemplating removing all of the carpeting out of the truck and bedlining the floorboard. My goal, with some electrical relocations, is to maybe get the interior to a point where I can maybe hose it out or at least damp mop it to get the mud out. It might even mean that I'll have to invest in some of those neoprene seatcovers for a bit more moisture resistance. We will see. I'm asking around of others (especially the Jeep crowd...blasphemy I know) for benefits and drawbacks. We probably all recall some of the missteps that have arisen from me emulating Jeep behavior.

Til the next time.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Still catching up.

If you do enough of these runs, you'll start to cover the same territory heading outbound. As this was the case here, I don't think I even bothered to take a photo until I was at a rest stop somewhere in Ohio. I departed that morning at about 130am. I had thought initially of waiting until morning, but I wanted to beat rush hour. I wanted to beat everyone's rush hour. I figured I had gotten enough rest and that should I become drowsy upon covering a few hour's ground, I could at least rest somewhere well away from metropolitan gridlock.

As it was, I paused briefly in Hagerstown, MD traveling from 270 to 70 which is where we had met up with Cruzer on the Rock Run trip. I actually took the wrong exit and stopped this time at a 7-11. Just grabbed a quick coffee, as I was already feeling quite drowsy. I stopped for the night/morning in Breezewood in PA right before the junction to 76. We just stopped for a few hours to sleep in a Starbucks parking lot

 I don't remember where this is, but it was one of numerous gasoline stops. I've added too much wind resistance and weight to this poor truck. We have very little range these days. Later in the trip, I actually decided to add a bit more pressure to the tires, and combined with the strong, Canadian petrol, (also expensive) we were getting some very good mileage again. More on that later.
 I made it into the state of Michigan some time around mid to late morning, and still had several hours to go North to make it to Drummond Island. I strive to find a Hooters on every trip, and this was no exception. The franchise in Bay City, MI is well worth the stop and sits on an industrial plot of land overlooking the marina and whatever this body of water is. I'm not going to lie; I was not particularly interested in the geography. It wasn't until I arrived at Drummond that I realized it was surrounded by Lake Huron. I need to do better.
 I found the shadiest spot by this tree and deployed Maddy's cabin conditioning elements to ensure her comfort. Even so, I limited this stop to about 30-35 minutes.

 I shot this while pretending to be perusing something on the phone with the camera on reverse mode. I chatted with "Kendra" about the upcoming trip,which she thought was a cool idea. She admitted she'd never been to Drummond, but heard it was sleepy/boring. There are a few other islands up there though that promise a more raucous time, but neither of us were aware of any offroading opportunities on the others. I decided to stay the course. Besides, I already had the sticker on my truck for Drummond.

Kendra also relayed to me that the owner of this franchise owned a few other businesses in this complex including this brew house. Unfortunately, it was closed at the time of my visit. I had thought to pick up some samples for Steve S. Schade.

 I don't know why I took those two photos.

 Crossing over the pay bridge. I think the toll was like $4. I had expected the water to be brown and industrial looking, but it was a more beautiful blue than this camera's resolution is giving it credit.

 The guy in the booth here asked me where I was headed, to which he replied, "Oh you're going on a weekend to Drunken Island. I wasn't sure what he meant by that, but I was certain to find out.
 Headed in the right direction. Even from this point, it was nearly a solid hour before I reached the ferry point.
 I was almost giddy to line up and put the truck in position to ride the ferry.

 My truck is on a boat. My truck is on a boat.

 Alright. So I didn't initially know where I would go. My phone flipped out and would no longer do anything once I got near Canada. The Information Center was closed when I got into town around 7pm. I asked in town vaguely recalling there was a beach called Shale Beach or something. An older gentleman in the grocery store corrected me and said, "Oh, Big Shoal, yes," and proceeded to give me directions to it. I got there and had wanted to camp, but there were signs saying it closed at dark. There is another beach, Glen Cove (which I could not recall at the time) where camping is permitted. I never actually found that beach even the next day when I sought it out.
 So I drove around the island aimlessly until some kids in an ATV told me where the 2nd trailhead could be found. I decided to make this my campsite in lieu of camping on the beach.
 Someone also parked their low boy back here; so, I figured it was ok. The brochure did state that there are, at times, active logging activities taking place on the island. From here I went back to the bar near the center of town. Then Bubba, the  young bar keep, told me about Glen Cove and I drove back across the island trying to find it. I couldn't before nightfall. I went back once more for dinner and another brew before retiring to my camp site for the night.

 What's in those bushes?
 A baby bear

 And then the MAMA.

So I was a bit nervous after two outings back when those coyotes were all around the site. I brought the shottie out this time. Since Maddy and I were alone and not even really at a camp site, I was a bit more nervous since perhaps no one even knew where we were to check on us. We slept that night with the bowie knife and the 870 express. The night sky was the clearest with the brightest stars I had ever really observed. I didn't spend much time looking though 'cause, it was like midnight black all around and I was hearing things. I slept a very sound sleep despite that apprehension, probably because of all of the driving to get us to this point.

The next morning, we were breaking camp and I intended to take us up trail 27 and head to Marblehead. There was a photo on the chamber of commerce website that had set this whole idea into motion and I intended to secure the same shot with my truck. At that moment, a F150 pulls into the trailhead, but I didn't see any ATVs or dirtbikes in the back and wasn't really expecting them to wheel it either based on the accessories. They roll down their window and inquire excitedly, "Did you see them?!"

They go on to explain that they had seen a mother and her cub out on the main road and had followed them in to the trail head. Bears?! Are you serious?! I'm camping by bears now?! They show me the pictures and sure enough, they were a stone's throw from where Maddy and I had camped. And this thought made me wonder how long through the night had they been in our area. Actually, I should rephrase that. How long had Maddy and I been in there area?

Well we waited a bit, saw no further signs, and bid our new friends adieu. The woman in the truck had been coming to this area every summer for the past 20 years and had never seen any bears. How lucky were we to be in their midst on our first visit?

Apparently we were very lucky, as I got to see them with my own eyes a short time later. Armed with that information, I promptly secured Maddy in the truck so that she would not provoke the Mama if she reemerged. I kept the shottie handy and began packing up the truck.I pretty much partially broke down the camp and slung everything up onto the truck so that I could pack up from within the bed. Maybe 10 minutes into this exercise, I could feel Maddy shifting position inside the cab of the truck. She didn't make a sound to bark or even whine, but she was moving about a bit frantically from what I could tell. I look up from my chores and see the cause of her activity. The bears had just crossed the path maybe 75 feet ahead of the truck. I didn't want to shoo them away without getting a picture, but I was also not foolish enough to try to pursue them either. So we waited quietly until they reemerged some 20 minutes later. All the while I kept packing with one eye trained up the trail. When they emerged I got my pictures and then started noisily putting things away. That, as it turns out, was the last time we would see the bears.
 From there on out though, every time I exited the truck, I tried to make it a point to at least have my Bowie knife on me. I figured it would offer a fighting chance if Mama were to rush me.

 It would turn out to be a very muddy day. So much so, that I opted to just leave the waders on all day. There were, no exaggeration, probably 30+ water crossings just along 27. I got a lot of Go Pro footage which requires some editing. The water got deep enough that, based on the Ivy Branch near drowning, I thought a loss of forward progress would likely be imminent. I took the most bypasses I had ever taken on an outing for that reason. The bypasses were often a bit sketchier than even the main routes. And in those instances, I just had to grin and bear it while taking the main line. It would not have been so problematic if there were accompaniment and I were not so far from home. The terrain was definitely more challenging than what I am normally willing to take on during a solo run. I was also, however, determined to reach Marblehead. I had driven some 14+ hours not including breaks to get here.

 On Drummond Island, they distinguish between the trails suitable for full-size and those suited to ATVs with the monickers OHV Route (full size) and OHV Trail (dirtbikes, ATVs, etc). There were a few instances where they overlapped and an instance or two which, to my chagrine, some @ss named Justin switched the signs and caused me to pursue an ATV trail for 300 yards. I know it was Justin because he turned around a STOP sign and scrawled "Justin was here" in mud on the reverse.

I hate you, Justin.

 Out of nowhere, I came across this "Cabin in the Woods" setup. I turned on the Go Pro because, I thought, "If they murder me out here, maybe someone can at least recover the footage."

 Apparently it is a legit camp, but you have to go through hell to get to this point. Even if you run the easy trails in reverse, there's still a few gnarly points that you wouldn't want to take your mom's grocery getter over to reach it. Aside from a few Monster energy cans in the window sill, it didn't look like anyone had been here in a while. I kept it moving though. Sometimes monsters are active during daylight.
 Took some shots of the truck along this cove. You might be able to catch my Bowie knife in the shot.

 The first bit of rocks and stumps to be encountered. There were more, but up to this point, it had only been muck and mayhem. At one point, the trail became tremendously rutted. Deep ruts which would have likely exceeded my ground clearance. As it turned out, there had been a big Jeep Jamboree up here a weekend or two prior. Well, they did a number on the one section of 27. Fortunately, there were some bypasses that made a basket-weaving, criss-crossing of the most rutted sections. You still had to drop into and out of the ruts at a crossing angle, but at least the truck was able to flex her way through those and avoid getting quagmired in some of the deep, loose stuff. I thought I had narrowly avoided a bit of body damage when squeezing between trees in one such section. The latch on the passenger side jerry can holder got hung up on a knob of an immature tree. I saw it get caught up in the side view mirror. I grimaced, gave it gas, and kept going. It wasn't until I got back to civilization and had the truck washed in Canada that I saw that I managed to make two small indentations on the rear bed fender well. Oh well.
 Poser rock. I really actually needed to get up on this rock to avoid another one that was threatening to scrape the rear differential. But then I figured since I was so well posed, so be it.

 This is when I got out thinking it had been ripped apart and found it to be largely intact, just disengaged.
 They did a decent job of posting these at major intersections. All of the red areas denoted where high ground clearance was required. I had come from the south portion of the map, went east along the blue trail (bordering the water on the beach) and then back north along the red again to where the marker and my finger are. That whole section was about 3 hours worth of mud. No winching though. I was quite proud to have made it through all of that mess and not needed to winch. Got close to stuck plenty of times though. Oh, and the mosquitoes. Good gracious, the mosquitoes. They were like pterodactyls. It was terrible. The worse was that every bite actually HURT. There were also swarms of these large biting flies that followed the truck once we first got wet and would not stop following us until we got to Marblehead.

 Now we are getting to the step area. This was a small tease though.
 So, I didn't actually have a permit at this point. All I had was the sticker that I pre-ordered. I thought that everything was to be obtained from the Visitor Center. But the Visitor Center is only open from 1pm-4pm on the weekends. I decided we would wheel without the permit and then buy one before leaving town. It turns out, you have to buy them from one of the sporting goods vendors in town. Bubba told me that too when we got back off the trail.
 This is Marblehead. And this is what I wanted to drive my truck down over and back out of. I noticed these signs occur at the places where you stand a good chance of messing yourself up. The last sign had been back on 27 before the muck. I got some good video of going over this and climbing back up.

 There was a campsite set up here. In the future, this is probably where I would camp in the area. Not many people are built to make it here; so, you should have some seclusion for your private enjoyment.
 There are several large rocks and sign discouraging you from bringing  your vehicle to this ledge. It would have been a great shot otherwise. But if i couldn't actually publish the photo, then it wasn't going to be worth it to me to put my truck out there in the first place. I chose to abide.
 For good reason. It was about a 200 foot drop.

 I only put my body so close to the edge.

 I was ready to be out of the mud and not take any more risks at this point. Easy way back for us.

 This section of the terrain was very well maintained. The registration fees are hard at work, according to this sign.

 One of those nasty flies bit my poor doggy on her eye lid. At first I thought maybe she had taken a bump, but we only had hit one obstruction kind of hard and she was laying down at the time. I went to let her out and her right eye was sooo swollen. I was ready to abort the whole trip right here and there. I made a beeline back to civilization at this point. I wanted to at least get her ice to help with the swelling. And if it didn't reduce, we were going to find a vet.

 I let her out here near the water. She didn't seem any worse for wear.
 After maybe an hour though, the swelling had gone down and she seemed to be fine.

 I think this was the Jeep I had seen in the line to get onto the ferry. I had thought about trying to make friends but I decided to stick to my own agenda. Judging by the cleanliness of their vehicle, they had come the easy way and would not have wanted any parts of trail 27.
 I did go out and buy my passes. I was thinking maybe a nominal $5 or $10. Be prepared to drop about $37 for the two passes.

 Back at the bar.
 There were actually several bars on this small island, but since this was the first you encounter along the main street, and the largest, I just made this one my home away from home. They also had free wi-fi which helped since my smart phone was being pretty dumb otherwise.
 As I was preparing to leave, up rolled a Bronco that was pretty muddy and had a tire strapped to the roof. I waved to them and they drove over. It was a guy with two girls. They were a part of a larger group of friends that had come with some ATVs and side-by-sides, at least two of which were now already out of commission. I relayed that I wished I had run into them sooner to have had some backup on 27. I showed them some video of that trail and also Marblehead, as they were looking to head that way. The rest of their party showed up at that point. Although I contemplated staying in town another night and maybe running some of that trail with them, they weren't really set up to do any recovery. So it might have been me doing a good amount of recovery assistance.I wasn't really up for that and wanted to see about getting up to Canada a bit early. So again, I said adieu and was on my way.
 This girl's truck trumps my truck.

 So when she got out of the store I told her and asked if I could get a picture of it. She obliged.
 Back on a boat.
 The funny thing is, the GPS shows the icon of a Ferry in the top left corner to show that I'm on a boat in the water.
 If you are ever in this part of the world, the Sunoco in Detour just on the other side from Drummond has free air. You should stop in and buy something and then thank them for the free air. This is where I aired up.

 Canada is straight ahead.

So I filled out my paperwork in advance to bring the shottie into Canada. You have to get out of line and bring your paperwork inside. Before that, though, the Border Agents were like, "Your truck is so dirty, we should send you back and order you to get a car wash." 

I was like, "I don't mean any offense. I'm looking to get just as muddy over here too so I figured I'd leave it on."

They let me go on that count. They asked me several times why I had a gun. One of the legal reasons for bringing a weapon into Canada is for protection from wildlife. I told them about my encounter with the bears, and how I wished I had it with me when our camp was surrounded by coyotes not far from AOAA. Then I guess it struck a nerve because the agent started telling me about the trouble they've been having with bears and mountain lions. "It's good you've got it with you."

So you go in and pay the administrative fee. It is like $25 Canadian. And then you're on your way. 

 Now there were excerpts on Wikipedia that made it sound like Kings Highway 17 was like the last frontier, a no-mans land for miles and miles. I was curious to drive it with my extra gas cans and see if I could survive an expedition like that. It turns out, the area is fairly well developed along the route. I've run into sections along 40 and 70 heading west where you could go further without encountering a gas station than was the case on 17 here in Canada. The only difference was that in the states, generally, you can pump gas with a credit card whether or not the station is attended. The situation was a bit more sketchy I think in the portion I traveled. Fortunately, most of my travel along 17 was during the day.

I slept here for the night. I had been in communication with a few members of the Canadian Nissan Truck Club trying to figure out an alternative location to try to do some wheeling. Darcy K. came through clutch with some info that lead me to a trail called Shoe Lake. I was able to pirate some wi-fi from Walmart, even though this location was closed after 11, and exchanged some messages with Darcy to get the whereabouts.

 So in Canada, they have these Cottage Communities, and this one has an unofficial trail.

It also seems, that offroading in Canada is almost like street racing in the states. Nobody seems to really want to let you know where to do it unless you are a part of that scene. I had a very hard time breaking into the underground. There's the Fast and Furious franchise. I was getting into the Slow and Muddy. It doesn't quite have the same ring, but that is what I tend to be into all the same.

 So there is a sign for ATV-ing and such.
 And there was this truck from NY that knew to come here too.
 I took a look at this and was like, "Great, there's a lot of mud." I had already had my fill of mud. Worse still, there were big rocks in the middle of the mud. So its not like you can take this with any speed at the risk of peeling something important from the underside of  your truck.

 I saw this sign and chuckled. No danger of me pushing 50 through here. But they meant 50 kilometers per hour. That, conceivably, is doable in dryer conditions.

 I got into some trouble right here. There wa a bit of a step up to a higher plane. I couldn't quite crest it though. I kept sliding backwards off of it. I tried bumping it a few times. And then it gave way.

 Pretty soon, I was high centered...and in more trouble than I realized. I went to use the front winch and was spooling out some line. Then it wouldn't spool any further. As it turns out, I had never refed the cable back in to ensure that it seated properly on the spool. We had done a few recoveries at Ivy Branch, an in the process, the cable bound up on itself. I couldn't get enough slack out in front of me to latch onto a suitable recovery point.

 So no my hopes and dreams of freedom were solely dependent on the rear winch. Oh, unreliable, temperamental rear winch. Will you work for me today? I had tested both out just to make sure they powered in and out before hitting the trails at Drummond. It was kind of a pre-launch test. But I only checked to make sure the solenoid responded to inputs for both directions. Now I needed the damned thing to pull like it had never pulled before. I ended up having to pull twice, first to the right and then left. Although there was a better line that I could take to the right side had I wanted to keep going, with the front winch compromised, and the rear still temperamental (there were a few times I had to jiggle the connection), I thought I had dodged misfortune enough times for one trip and ought to head back to civilization.
 I headed into town to find air. I found a free car wash which I decided to take them up on since the Canadian agents had given me a hard time at the first crossing. Although the camp leaders insisted they could not take any compensation, I requested permission to at least treat the kids to some refreshments since I had brought them, by far, the filthiest truck they would encounter all day. The kids were actually excited when I pulled up. They had tried flagging me down when I first got into town. When I was making my way out, they were like "We NEED to wash this truck. The other kids are going to love it!" So I obliged. They did a pretty good job.
 It was also the first time I noticed this. D'oh!
On the drive back, we had actually missed any fireworks festivities for the 4th. It was Saturday the 5th and we were somewhere about 3 hours north of home in a rest stop where there was actually an organized fireworks display visible over the horizon. It was close enough that the noise really bothered Maddy and she went to go to her favorite safe place in the truck. She normally goes to her safe place when I've exited if something causes alarm. This time, she was insistent in going here...with me still in the car protesting. She jumped the barrier and proceeded to wedge and wiggle until she had crammed herself down there. I had only intended to stop long enough for gas and a soft drink. But I didn't want to leave her there terrified. So I just leaned the seat back and got about 3 hours of sleep. She settled down to sleep too once she was in her safe place. From there, I woke up around 1am and made the rest of the drive back,arriving home around 4am. So ended my last excellent adventure.