It was about 11 hours drive with stops for fuel. Veronica does not have nearly the range per tank that she did back in '12 when we trekked out to Utah, but she also couldn't do what she can do now. I guess that's a fair tradeoff.
This was another ride that I was not planning to do. I had joined the GLX facebook group back when I was planning on doing the Drummond Island, MI run last year. Sadly, I didn't have any takers from the group (or any group for that matter), but I kept my eyes generally on what this group was up to all the same. (Avid followers of this blog know that I ran up to Drummond solo and battled valiantly against deep mud for several hours before finally arriving at the Marblehead formation). I had first been introduced to the club while down at the National Xterra Meet in TN back in 2013. One of their main officers, Ryan, has been to a few of the east coast events that I've been at, but we weren't in the same trail groups and didn't interact much then. But I figure it is kind of a mutual courtesy thing to be aware of the other groups' activities and look for opportunities to link up.
That opportunity came this past weekend. I am less and less of a road warrior these days. Most of the outbound routes to go west I've now covered. So the appeal to see something new has lessened some for me. That used to be a big motivating factor when I first started the blog. It was probably 75% of the motivation to head to Moab. I had never driven that far west, and then this random event gave me a reason to do so. And then 4x4 driving bit me...hard. (It also happens to be some of the best off roading you can do stateside).
So it was going to be a long drive. I wasn't going to really know anyone. It was going to be far. And if I broke anything, it was going to be rough going. Yeah, I'll pass. And I did pass.
And then my wife showed me her calendar for the next month. And it was going to be more solo daddy duty and no weekends wheeling or wrenching. This past weekend was THE only weekend for like the next two months. In that case, I HAD to do something worthwhile.
And suddenly, it wasn't too far. It was going to be a nice long break. And since it was so far, I was justified in staying the night to camp. And since I was going to have several solo overnights with the kids over the next month, it was ok if mommy had a couple of solo overnights just over this weekend. Gas prices are also the lowest they've been in a while. This time last year, I think we were in the $3.39 range or so for regular. Gas was in the $2.39 range. No time like the present.
If I was going to make that long of a trip to do some offroading, there was no better time than the recent present. Funny how that logic shift happened.
I've been wanting to go to Badlands since I first heard there was a Badlands. I also envied the group photos I had seen pop up on the GLX page following their prior events that I'd been monitoring. As I now know, their most iconic photos were being taken at the Rock Quarry section of the park. And the Rock Quarry makes Marblehead look like that one coin-op fire truck ride outside of a grocery store by comparison. And I had fun at Marblehead and there is a fantastic view at the end of it. But really only one or two trucks could be on it at a time. Several entire groups occupied the Quarry simultaneously and there were lots of obstacles of varying difficulty all within an area accessible by trucks ranging from mild to wild. Enough of the jibber jabber. I'll post some of my photos.
There were two photographers with the group. I may have to take some time and pirate a few photos later for inclusion in the Year-in-Review video that I'll be working on.
There really isn't a photo to correspond with this next tidbit, but the trip almost was cancelled - for me at least- about 4 hours into the drive.
I was in West Virginia, possibly WV part two as I crossed into and out of WV twice traveling along 70 West. Anyway, the midwest had been getting rain during the week. We started seeing it on the east coast just as I departed around 9am. After about 4 hours of varying intensities of downpours, ranging from just mist, to drizzle, to torrential, and moderate, I was getting a little unnerved. I didn't want to arrive and be in for an absolute slog fest through mud replete with gratuitous winching. But at this point, I had already announced that a crazy Marylander (I've adopted MD now) was going to make the trek. A guy was also bringing some discounted, used half shafts that I wanted to purchase as trail spares.
Back to the point, on one of the numerous seemingly endless cycles of ascents and descents, I came up behind a minivan slowly chugging their way up the hill. I went to accelerate past them to the left and the truck just shuddered, sputtered, lost all throttle response and just coasted. I fed more throttle and nothing, then a jerk, a sputter, a little more effort, coast, etc. It was VERY disconcerting. So I was able to signal and coast back into the right lane and then onto the shoulder. "What's wrong girl?". Even Maddy woke up and was like, "This is NOT the business".
I tried to re-enter traffic and she sputtered again. No warning lights. No grinding or anything. Just no response either. At least not the type of response you want on the highway. I shut the engine off and thought for like 3 minutes about what it could be. Is the transmission slipping? If so, why now?
I decided that if the truck turned over, I would keep driving. If she didn't turn on, I was done. Started up without hesitation. Fed her some throttle and she leapt gingerly forward like nothing was even the case. For the next 4 hours, I drove like a grandma in the right lane and about 3mph below the speed limit. I passed no one. A couple of times I fed her some throttle and there was no hesitation. It was so weird.
And it made sense in a way. Not long after she shuddered...maybe 20 minutes or so, I was into dry weather and pristine pavement the rest of the way. She didn't hesitate once. My wheel position sensor is a bit wonky from getting snatched sideways and possibly having held onto the wheel during that recovery. I had thought maybe that had somehow caused my ABLS to engage, but it wouldn't engage without illuminating.
So knowing that as a potential cause for the power loss, I felt emboldened to at least ride the trails, but just take it easy. In that sense, I had determined it was reasonable to attend as a spectator to review the trails and conditions at the park for subsequent trips or visitors interested in the terrain.
I got up and walked to the campground bathroom thinking the motion would jumpstart circulation. Nothing. I put my foot underneath a freaking hand dryer and was still getting nothing.
So, it was like 5 in the morning. Still dark. I didn't want to start my truck and be the only wimp that had to run his heat. But I was also like, "I like having toes." What to do? I also then got worried about Maddy. I normally let her stay in the tent with me. But last time, she did the Macarena on my face 4 times during the night. Ok, maybe she just walked in circles a couple of times, but it was nonetheless ON my face which was annoying. I wanted to make sure she was ok. Well she has fur and was chilling comfortably in the truck which was toasty from her body heat. I cuddled up with her and tucked my feet underneath her body. After an hour like that, I could feel the toes on my left foot.
So here I was huddled up in the truck with my dog, worried about being embarrassed in front of a bunch of dudes that I don't even know. Come to find out, several folks actually had their trucks running and slept in them at some point (after having pitched tents), a couple of guys had a special tent setup with a heater, and others made similar accommodations. I guess what it comes down to is: don't mess around and get frostbite trying to be tough.
Not a problem. I engaged three switches and Veronica daintily sauntered up onto the rock outcrop and out of the water. My passenger remarked, "It's that easy, huh". So I thought. Lost another fairlead in the process. I actually have enough salvaged parts of a fairlead to rebuild at least one. That wouldn't be the last of the carnage.
I tried to get a few extra straps and I tried to win some autodeflators that I was going to give to Steve S. if I won, but I did not win the extra straps or the deflators. Steve will have to obtain his own deflators.
These are action shots from this guy Chris. I obtained them for this blog in no particular order.
|Doesn't it look like my rear axle might be in pain?|
When I look at my rear axle in this picture, (or what i see of it evidenced by the rear wheel), I'm just like, "Does that hurt?!" I guess it is sexy in the same way that some women can pull off wearing high heels. You know it hurts but they do it to get a rise out of you maybe (or maybe 'cause it makes them feel sexy and it is NOT about you admiring them). Well, I hope that Veronica feels sexy in this photo, because she is.
Too bad we didn't focus on NOT knocking my oil pan loose. I have a loose oil pan now. I know that it is loose because oil does not stay in anymore. I only noticed once I got home. I washed the truck. Came inside to do my taxes. Went back out to swap on my highway wheels and tires because the Duratracs were overdue to be rotated (only by 1000 miles or roughly the distance of this trip) and I noticed that the driveway was still 'wet'. It wasn't water.
So my truck is on engine dialysis where I am cycling in new oil to replace the captured lost oil. Although I'm sure the gasketing could be reworked or new RTV sealant could be applied, I want to get a brand new pan and fix it once. Then, since they are so difficult to come by, I'll keep the old one as a trail spare. So that's lemons out of lemonade.
And now that my taxes are done and the govt. did not pillage me this time, I can probably pull the trigger on ordering some real skids which I should have done in the first place.
Longer post and past my bedtime, but well worth it to be back blogging again...and wheeling.
Enjoy. Until the next one.