My Girl: Gettin' After It!!

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

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Wrapping up the year...

I must have only posted a few pics to Facebook; I thought for sure that I had blogged about this.

 Well, following the NH Overland Challenge, Angel and I were spotlighted and each received invitations from the organizers of Chaos' Offroad park to come in for guide candidate training. We were both ultimately selected and offered the opportunity to guide at the park. The commitment involved volunteering to guide at 3 events. I sustained some damage in Moab which had me in a bit of a precarious position in terms of continuing to strain the truck. On this occasion, I could still qualify as serving while riding shotgun in Angel's rig. It was unfortunately not ready in time for Moab, but it was the first opportunity for many of us to see it in action on it's new 1-ton axles. Well, new to this particular rig.
 I also finally got to see the Juggernaut in person.

 I really don't have much else to say about the trip. I just wanted to post the pictures.

 This was basically a stock Rover that was getting after it all day. A couple of times he got close to challenging the clearance to the step rails, but other than that, he had a good day on the trails.
 This thing was monstrous all day long. There were some early challenges in ensuring the right levels of transmission fluid restored back into the system. But once Angel got it dialed in, this truck just pretty much did whatever it wanted.

 They call this, "V-ditch"

I don't have much else to write. This was pretty much the last time I was off road. It was late July. It's now late November. I have terrible withdrawal. Terrible withdrawal.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

G.O.N.E. Moab Day 5- Nursing Wounds...

 The 5th and final day in town was intended to be an easy one. I had hoped to maybe visit the White Wash Sand Dunes, but I hadn't found any other takers interested in going. I wanted to see if my prowess in soft sand had improved since my earlier failings four years prior. I had also made tentative arrangements to make my way to Yellowstone National Park. A few factors contributed to me not going. One of the largest was my poor fuel economy on the highways towing the trailer. There were a couple more factors that I'll discuss below.
 I packed up my campsite and headed up towards the edge of town to pick up whatever was left of my spare rear axle. The spider gears had been sacrificed to help Dan from the NORAC crew get his rig back buttoned up. One of the upsides of returning this year was that I actually knew a few people that I could hang out in the area with. Before, I had a lot of time in the evenings to sit in a restaurant quietly alone working on the blog updates. Now, as is painfully apparent, the deferred approach has literally taken me months to accomplish. I also failed to do a few minor housekeeping activities I had thought I would be able to accomplish while in town. For instance, I had wanted to finalize a way of displaying the MD flag and have it displayed all week. I never got around to it once I arrived though. The above photo is one of maybe only two that I took the whole trip.

Ultimately, I have literally zero regrets from the trip. It was a great experience and it only became greater as I allowed myself to abandon the need for specific plans and instead just went with the flow.

Before leaving town, I thought it only right to visit our wounded trail leader Bill back at his condo. I knew he was in no shape to take on any trails even riding shotgun, and that he would probably be sitting somewhere by himself. I broke my leg pretty catastrophically half a lifetime ago, and I remembered how much of a pick-me-up it was to have my teammates and new acquaintances check in. So that's what I did.

My plan was to visit for an hour or so, and then head north to Salt Lake City and figure out whether I would stay in town that night or try to continue on closer passing through Yellowstone.

Well, Bill was not at all feeling sorry for himself. He actually looked to me to be more of a call center operator. He had at least one phone working and was fielding calls from various folks and also posting and reviewing event updates on a laptop. I had probably been there for an hour when, as I got ready to depart, a fateful phone call rang into the condo.

Slas E, one of the NORAC board members had called to relay that he was suspending his efforts on Hell's Revenge after noticing that his truck was struggling to make what should have been easy climbs in 4WD. He also reported having heard some clicking the day prior and thought maybe it was prudent to get off trail and get a closer look. It was sounding all too familiar to me. If it was, in fact, what I thought it was, it was beyond serendipitous that I had thought to bring the exact equipment we had used to extract my sheared axle shaft from my R180 differential. The only problem was, a friend with superior welding skills to mine had actually done the extraction. I just watched. 

 So for this one, I struggled mightily. It's one thing to F- up your own rig making a bad situation worse through your efforts; it is a whole 'nother consideration to wreck someone else's setup. Bill's leg was broken essentially and Slas was no welder either. And basically anyone else we could have tapped was going to be on the trails for several more hours. I would have to give it the old college try.

We had also heard that Terry had a 'tool' for removing these stubs. In practice, it basically turned out to be a threaded extractor with a cross-brace that was positioned against the outside of the housing. One first had to drill and tap the hardened metal stub to get it to work. We had momentarily abandoned the welding effort to try a drill and tap approach, but the bits were making such slow progress that we feared it would be hours before we'd even be in position to start tapping the stub. And I still had waning delusions of still making it to Salt Lake City that day.

 I had called Dukes early on to get some pro tips but had missed him. I was finally able to get ahold of him to compare notes on why I was failing so miserably. I couldn't get the arc hot enough to really fuse the scrap metal we were using to the stub. I had assumed that my welder just didn't have enough oomph behind it until he confirmed that my welder actually had a nominally higher rating. He said I might need to check my grounding. At that point, it occurred to me that we had worked on my differential with it out of the truck. Therefore, we had clamped the grounding clamp directly to the housing. On our earlier efforts here, I had it clamped to a point on the frame or bumper. Although we had removed the surface paint, we were basically getting poor electrical contact that was limiting our fusion heat at the point of the arc. Correcting for this, I was able to make a strong weld. Our next problem was that we couldn't get a good hold on the scrap piece to extract it with enough force.
 By this time, Terry and others had arrived at the condo. They said that a slide hammer would work. So I improvised one by welding a washer to the end of the scrap metal and then tying a portion of shoelace to the washer with an open loop at the end. I got a BFH (big f-ing hammer) out of the truck and snatched that thing right on out of there. Mission accomplished.
 It was now much later in the day. More of the crew had returned and people were doing trail damage reviews of their rigs. Aside from the damage I had previously reported, I remarked that I was interested in getting some help (since I had been so helpful in resolving Slas' carnage) in figuring out my trailer wiring issue with the components I had brought from home. I wanted someone to show me which wires to splice. Bill immediately protested. "Why splice when I've got all of the factory components sitting in my shop in Colorado?!" The prospect sounded a lot better than the maintenance nightmare of trying to make sure my splices remained water-tight and avoided shorts for the foreseeable future.

 I was then made an offer that I could not refuse to join the group for dinner. The only dilemma was that I had already broken down my campsite. Granted, I had actually reserved it through Saturday, but I didn't want to go back and pitch a tent all over again.

 Once again, Bill was problem solver. He basically volunteered Keith's condo. "They have an open bed." So that was that.
 I had to try to find my way to their condo in the dark following dinner.

 Random shots of the rigs outside of the NORAC condo

 So  a few of those pics were out of order. You'll be ok.
 The area by Keith's condo happened to be where a concentration of the practical jokers were also staying. I therefore awoke to find my diff cover defaced as seen above. I left it on there the entire return trip.

 I was initially faced with the prospect of a solo return leg, but now I was back in a convoy.
 We stopped for lunch not far from wherever this is. It's been too long.

 The restaurant is in the distance behind me. I was still not the greatest at maneuvering the trailer under close quarters.

 Good job, me. I took a picture of the door so I could find it again if my travels ever bring me out this way again..

 It legit SNOWED during one leg going through the mountain passes. Fortunately, it wasn't accumulating.

I spent another day and a half with Bill and Kelly in their hometown. Since Bill was a gimp, Kelly was kind enough to chauffer me around as we tracked down the last few components needed to make the trailer harnesses that Bill had scrounged up operational.

 So after we got the components, Bill was like, "Well, you ought to properly mount it on your bumper."
"Bill, why won't you let me leave Colorado?".

It ended up being a fun afternoon sweating and sh*t talking in the driveway. I did eventually  have to get going though.

 I don't have much in the way of pictures of the return trip. I did film some interesting video which I'll have to see how well it came out. Basically it was me being road weary and trying to do silly things to keep myself alert and entertained on lonely stretches of highway. There may or may not have been some boy band karaoke involved.
 It never fails; just about every time I cross Kansas there's a threat of imminent tornado activity. Had to haul @ss once again.
 After a few days of hard driving, I gladly pulled into the driveway at home. No major issues. The setup worked very well. My organization of the trailer could have been better executed, but that also got thrown together with the finishing touches wrapping up at 2am the morning I was set to depart. So I'll cut myself some slack in that regard.
A few lessons learned:

-Aerodynamics and weight shaving.
      The roof basket is probably a non-starter for long trips like this. It made it convenient to access the tent readily, but I also don't think I really used the tent on the outbound trip. I think I largely slept in the truck anyway. I also didn't need nearly as much gear as I crammed in the trailer. If I save some weight, the truck might take some of those hills a bit better. The trailer empty was not particularly noticeable on my test runs down and back to Virginia Beach (3 hours from my home). There was NO forgetting it on this trip though.

     My pride and joy Whynter unit died after the first trail day. I just don't think it was ruggedized to support trail duty. It's probably fine for RV usage and camping, but it basically gave up the ghost after the first day on the trails. I still have to see if I can find someone local to repair it at least for use around the homestead. If I still want to go the overlanding route, it may very well be worth it to invest in an ARB unit.

-Electrical system revisions
    Electrical system revision 3.0 needs to be undertaken. Even though I had insulators at the top of the terminal posts of my fuse holders, They eventually wore through or still allowed an arc to form which shorted out the batteries against the hood. Made for a harrowing few moments trying to figure out why the truck was suddenly dead and working up a bypass.

-Carry ALL fuses
    This really is an extension of the above. I have common fuses, I did not have the two specialty fuses that blew on my setup. The reason was that they are fairly expensive. Well, I would have gladly paid double that to have had replacements when mine went out. I was a bit unnerved running my dual battery setup without those inline fuses, but the factory fuse harness was in place. So it wasn't like I was completely unprotected. It just doesn't pay to try to spare the expense. Have everything you need to keep your rig running when you are far from home.

I think that's about it for now. At least i finally finished the trip report.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Moab:Top of the World~ Day 4 I think. It has literally taken months to complete this...

What happened to me? I used to be so well-balanced and methodical.

Let's just throw together a story here. First: upload some pictures.


Now: Try to remember what happened 5 months ago.
 I do remember that I was not necessarily 'cocky' at this point, but my confidence in the capabilities of the rig were reasonably affirmed. We had zero over-heating issues with the truck through 3 days of travel  pulling a trailer or on 3 days of trail riding in high heat. We had jumped up to a Red-level trail and not really been in anything too crazy. Yes, I did have the concerns with the random "Slip/VDC" illumination, but we chalked that up to just having the steering wheel at too sharp of an angle for too long while in 4-lo.

The boot to the tie rod was torn, but...whatever. And no one was particularly concerned about the very slow seepage of power-steering fluid. I still had well over 98% of the original volume still in the reservoir. We were going to let it ride.
 There were some built rigs accompanying the crew. Once again, Bill was leading. And once again, I was to be his shadow. I was supremely confident in his leadership, but I still wanted to be close enough by where he could see me in the rear view and wave me off from any hairy issues.

 This was perhaps the first time that Keith and I would be wheeling a trail together. We were both out here for Moab 4 years ago, but I was literally the newest of the new and would have had no business on any of the trails he was running that year. Even now, I still had some anxiety as to whether or not I was pushing my luck.

The main thing I found from the first red trail was that really one just needs the ground clearance for a few select, non-bypassable sections. You could probably get a lesser built rig through but it would either require some technical excellence or a willingness to incur some pain. And with several greenish vehicles, it could end up being a slow and painful progression.
 But as we got underway, and things generally weren't too crazy, I was kinda thinking, "Man, this is just the cool kids gate-keeper. These trails aren't THAT bad." But then again, maybe I had spoken too soon.
 I'll have to dig up video from the section right before this. It might actually be this section. Basically there was a large void that appeared as if it would swallow my truck. I thought, "There's no way Bill wants me to follow him on this line". And then Bill got out and said, "Back it up and follow me on this same line".
 The long wheel base of the Frontier actually allowed me to surfboard right over the void by just keeping the passenger side on the narrowest of lips. It was actually quite incredible to mee.

This shot kind of depicts the ledge, but at the wider portion. Keith actually wanted more of a challenge; so, they intentionally had him try a few redirections on the way up.
 The Tacoma took the bypass that I had been eyeing. No shame in that.

 So we came to a second portion of the trail. There were really only one other tough section to this trail. Once again I was tucked in right behind Bill. I saw him direct Princess 2.0 pretty much up and over a pretty considerable shelf. He maybe had to realign once or twice to crest over. No exaggeration, it was probably 3-4 feet high. So I went to do it too. He didn't intend for me to attempt this.
 I locked her up front and rear. I sidewinded a bit to the passenger side. Bill instructs me to turn hard driver. I respond that the steering is really fighting me to reverse course. Veronica was not letting me turn back to driver. I disengaged the front locker, trying to avoid binding up the CVs. We're only at it for another 30s or so. Bill waves me off. Just as I throw the truck into reverse. POWWWW!
 A single tear rolled down my eye. I don't know what has exploded. But outside of 4th of July and Vin Diesel movies, explosions generally are not a good thing. I blew up the very same CV I had just swapped in at the beginning of the week. Ain't that a blip?!
 As it turned out, I finished the trail and the drive home on the very same CV that I was worried about in the first place. The swap was actually pretty uneventful. I learned a very important lesson that I will share here:

Whether you are with the R180 or an M205, if you have a front locker on an independent front suspension Nissan rig, one has to be careful not to steer too heavily in either direction during high traction situations. I'm pretty sure that's what grenaded my two CVs on the NH trip. I was cautious (so I thought) not to turn to too extreme of an angle on this approach either. But the slickrock offered even more traction than the moss-covered rocks of NH. Basically, if you aren't going straight up and down, you probably should not engage that front locker. My problem was that the locker itself was likely still bound up even after allowing the pressure to decrease, the locker itself may have still been engage. That ultimately led to the joint exploding.
 This actually started as a pretty fun stair climb.
 Bill had gotten out to spot a few of us. I actually was climbing with some gusto and taking really good lines. Bill was proud of me, and I was glad to have earned his praise. As I crested up the last shelf, Bill came bounding towards my driver side window before suddenly disappearing beneath my vehicle. "Did I just f*cking run over Bill?!?" Sheer terror filled my entire body.

I cried out, "Bill!"
 I didn't think I had struck him, but I quickly rationalized too things, "If I did hit him, if he isn't dead, he's going to get up and kill me. I don't want to have killed Bill. I also don't want to be murdered."
 What had actually transpired was that a portion of the rock ledge had broken free under his weight which sent him cascading down maybe 15 feet until another larger rock outcropping halted his descent.

We didn't know the severity at the time, but he actually ended up breaking one or more bones in his leg/ankle.
 This dude still got up and spotted the next several trucks. He thankfully did not murder me, as I had nothing to do with the calamity.
 However, when we got to the Top of the World, it was apparent that a pre-existing condition of Bill's along with the apparent severity of the injury itself meant that we needed to get the big guy down off the trail and to more serious medical supervision. We were fortunate that one of our companions on the trip was an EMT and had done great work to stabilize Bill's condition. Nonetheless, it was to be a bumpy and drawn out descent to get to town. And we were going to take that descent as quickly as we could comfortably get Bill down.
 A lot of times, people will get their trucks positioned up here. As long as I had known about Moab, I had wanted to put my truck up at this position. But now that I had the chance, it didn't seem to matter to me. I wanted to make sure the guy that had continuously looked out for me over the past two days got the care and attention that he needed now. So when we put it up to a vote, I along with several others indicated we would forego the poser shots in an effort to get down quicker. (It takes a while to position each vehicle up here one at a time. It could have easily added another 45 minutes or so).

 We snapped a few pics up there individually while folks got a quick bite to eat.
 Then we started the descent.
 Because I had the big CB antenna and the Ham setup, I was entrusted to relay instructions back to the rest of the group over both bands.

 The trip down was largely uneventful. At one point, in my haste and strict adherence to instructions, I hugged the passenger side of a descent with a bit too much commitment and sheared my tow mirror completely off the frame. All that retained it was the power wiring. (I was able to repair it once we got to the convention lot).

The second thing was this obnoxious Jeep driver.

Mind you, we're hauling @ss trying to make sure we get Bill down off that mesa/mountain/whatever-the-f*ck as quickly and safely as possible. It's largely only a single track. And there are portions that are only one rig wide that are shared by up-travelers and down-travelers. Well, apparently for one Jeep guy, we weren't traveling with enough haste. And although several people had attempted to relay to him that we were trying to keep our group together, he kept doing precarious maneuvers to overtake members of our convoy one by one.
 Even though Bill was laid up, he was still very much concerned with trying to make sure all of our group were able to make it down together. There were a few people who were either newly taking on red trails or newly behind the wheel of a new-to-them rig and we didn't want anyone left behind.

I'm not quite the physical specimen that I used to be, but with Bill taken out of his normal role of protector, I felt it was incumbent upon me to take action. I summoned Angry Black Man.
 "If he passes one more of you, key up on the radio and I'm handling it!"

He passed, and I flew out of the truck.

"Hey! What's your f-cking problem?! I DON'T CARE. I've got a f-cking medical issue two trucks up that we're trying to get down off this...whatever-the-f*ck this is...and we're trying to keep our group together as quickly and safely as we can. You  need to BACK OFF. We good? I don't want to come back and make myself any more clear."

 I'm normally smiley and happy. But Papa Bear woke up and I didn't like him jeopardizing Bill or the rest of my adopted family for this week.

So, I probably wasn't as intimidating as I had hoped, because when we got down off of the...whatever...someone relayed that he had passed one more truck before settling in on his final position.
 When we got to the trail head, several of us extended our onboard air leads to be able to expedite airing up Bill's rig before they headed to the hospital. The Jeep guy did drive up to me and apologized, saying he didn't realize what was going on, and that he hoped our friend was ok. I had mellowed out some and just explained we were all one edge and just trying to keep everything moving, but that, aside from the trauma, it was a great day and a great trail to experience. He waved and left. Then they told me he had still passed one of us and I got slightly hot again. Just slightly.
 I knew Bill would be ok. The raffle was coming up. And I also knew there was some great scenery to be had on the return leg from there to the Spanish Trails arena.

 So I just slowly made my way back into town snapping pics of the rig against the beautiful backdrops.

 Raffle Night!

 I didn't get the top prizes I had gone after (like the awning or rooftop tents), but I did manage to walk away with another Trasharoo. At first, it was like, "Well what am I going to do with TWO trasharoos?" But now I have a V8 Pathfinder and it can maybe sport the other one. I've probably not talked about the Pathfinder yet. Yeah. We have one now. It's mainly because I dogged the hell out of this poor truck and the family was getting sick of me imperiling my ability to reliably transport myself or the kid from point A to point B.
 Apparently someone reminded me that I had also completed a trail by the name of "Busted Nut". I would think I would have remembered such a strong monicker :)

 I think they do this every year. It apparently  never gets old for them. :)

 Alright. I finally finished Day 4. Tune in February 2017 when I tell you about the 5th day at Moab.