My Girl: Gettin' After It!!

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

Monday, June 27, 2016

GONE Moab 2016~ Trail Day 1: Hell's Revenge

Monday was the first trail day and the last day that all three of us intrepid adventurers would be on the same trail. Steve B had plans that would take him out of the area. Travis and I would share only one other trail ride before our respective itineraries would diverge as well. 

 We met in the Walker Drug parking lot for what would be my first ever Blue rated trail in Moab. Four years prior, Hell's Revenge qualified as a Red Trail; I rode shotgun in an extensively-built Xterra on what was then the second-to-last trail day. Now, although downgraded one rating level lower, we would be tackling it right off the bat.
 I had heard of Derrick Metz and his epic Alaskan journey, but this was the first time (that I was aware of) that we were meeting and that I would be seeing his rig in person. He had been on the east coast prior to relocating to the Colorado area (?), I think. It seems a fair number have been contemplating that move as of late.

 The Diesel-swap, solid-axle swap, first gen definitely garnered its fair share of attention.

 I might have been a little bit nervous...
 But I was not alone. Several of the other newer riders were scoping out the initial ascent.
Now we often say that a photo fails to do some obstacle justice, but this really is the case here. It looks super easy from this vantage point. But from behind the wheel, all  you have available to gauge whether you're on the right track or about to end up flat on your back is whether or not your rig is generally within the rubberized portion of the trail. And this is a bit of a steeper grade than the camera is letting on. 

 Probably the worst part for me was that you'd be climbing, climbing, climbing, and then you'll reach the top and be uncertain as to whether or not the trail continues straight ahead or if you have an abrupt turn in either direction. And there were a couple of the abrupt variety that the trail leader would radio back to the convoy to provide warning. However, our group got spread out a bit due to other travelers on the trail attempting to go the same direction as us as well as oncoming 'traffic' coming from the opposite way.
 There were a couple of things playing against us. For one, there was somewhere close to 20 rigs in this group. There was also this rogue tour guide that kept weaving up through our group and overtaking drivers on narrow passages. He would make his way entirely past our group, pull ahead a couple hundred meters and veer off the trail, only to come surging up behind our group again 30-45 minutes later. He was really in a hurry to continually get back in the way as opposed to either trailblazing ahead and staying ahead or taking a longer break and allowing us to gain some separation.

 My last trail ride with Hillary. I'm still sad over this. On the way out, there was some chatter on the radio between Steve and Travis about how nice Subarus are. It became a bit of a running game of "I spy..." every time we encountered one after that first travel day. Well, Hillary got upgraded into a Subaru after they got back to the east coast.
 There were few places where I felt comfortable getting out to take photos. I also was taking it easy as this was the firs trail that Veronica had been on post full Titan swap with 35s and the M205. (I had previously taken it out a few times with the R180, 33s, and extended half shafts.
 I tried telling Marcus and John that Jeeps are always welcome out here. Here's one of your brethren.
 And another one.

 I alternated between following Derrick and following the Diesel-swap.

First minor calamity. And if you follow this blog, you know I usually have at least one. In the course of chasing my electrical gremlins, I ended up buying all new components for my dual battery setup. As I swapped new parts in for old trying to isolate the fault that was causing my charging system to only intermittently charge the batteries, I revised how a few of the fuses were mounted in the engine bay. Previously, I had modified the housing of the automatic charge relay to allow the fuse holders to be located at that point in the system. I never liked the hack job look of it thought. I thought I had arrived at a better arrangement of attaching the fuse holders to the battery terminal posts instead. They were positioned relatively higher and closer to the hood, but I thought I was good by having insulated rubber terminal caps above the posts. At one point, I noticed that my radio and all other circuits fed from the auxiliary battery were no longer getting power. The radio dropping out gave me my first sign. This also meant that I no longer had power to the compressor for my lockers. I was a bit unnerved by this. When someone needed to stop to get spotted over an obstacle, I jumped out of the truck and tried to see if I had come down hard on the power feed that runs beneath the truck in conduit. It was unlikely but possible. 

That wasn't the case. Then I tried to see if the cab had maybe flexed a bit and crimped it somewhere along the feed to the bed. No fault there either. The convoy once again got moving and I had to abandon the search to keep forward progress. And I proceeded for maybe another 10 minutes until I got to this point and Veronica went to sleep. No power whatsoever.

I've done a bit of foreshadowing; so, now it was obvious what was happening. The tie down system was still allowing the batteries to shift just enough that they could make contact with the hood. The insulated boots either wore through or the current was great enough to arc through and burned out both fuses. So the fuses did their job. Great. But I didn't have any more as they were kind of an expensive specialty item. Not so great. 

We ended up removing them entirely, rewrapping the posts with electrical tape and continuing on. With the fuse holders removed from the configuration, I reclaimed nearly 1.5" of clearance which was sufficient to avoid any future contact or shorting out. 
 I was still easing Veronica back into wheeling. And with the minor electrical mishap, I was pretty much not going to be doing any of the optional action on this go 'round. I had also seen Hell's Gate done by several of the rigs 4 years ago; so, Maddy and I just ended up hanging out around the rocks. I had brought her over to watch a few of the rigs get set up, but another owner had their dog off leash, that dog turned and got aggressive with Maddy, and ended up giving her a small gash on her forehead. So I went to tend to her wound and we just stayed back at the truck. She was actually nonchalant about the whole thing. Maddy fought back and all, but as soon as I got her separated, she immediately went right back to sniffing at shrubs and tracking whatever animal's scent had initially intrigued her into meandering that general direction.

All of that is to say, that I happened to miss the moment where this particular Yota got a little tired and decided to take a nap (twice) in the gate. So the group ended up setting up winch lines to guide the truck up. The minor mishap occurred because the driver attempted to negotiate the chasm unspotted unbeknownst to the trail leader and organizers. No one was injured besides a little paint marring and bruised ego.
 For us, this photo was at kind of the beginning of the end. Tip Over Challenge may have been after this, but I wasn't getting tippy. The rest of the run was just negotiating gnarly climbs and descents.

It was a good day on the trails and definitely a confidence boost. Veronica had made it all the way out there towing a trailer and climbing through mountain passes without so much as even a slight uptick on the temperature gauge. The temperatures had been more temperate though and we were only in 2WD. I was glad to see that even in the higher desert temps, running 4-Lo, everything seemed to be working well. I was feeling a lot better heading into the rest of the week that we were likely to have some strong mechanical performances out of the truck.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Heading to Moab- the Westbound Convoy

We were to have been a larger grouping of as many as 6 trucks departing from the east coast and a few pickups along the way. As is what often happens even on rides of far lesser scale, there were mechanical issues, indecision, and just bad juju I guess that whittled our group down to 3 drivers. Nonetheless, we intrepid few set out over the course of 2-1/2 days to engage in some of the best wheeling this country has to offer.

I published basically the full album of photos for each day to our blog's Facebook page. So I'll just try to pick the highlights that tell the tale here. On the first trip, I posted updates everyday from the road. That last journey was much more conducive to that. I was alone and had little else in the way of entertainment available to pass the time on the road or between bouts of driving. This time around, I was fortunate to have kindred spirits with me. And far be it for me to waste good company by sulking off alone somewhere to pen entries in my diary.

I was solo for the return trip, but once I was actually headed home in earnest, I just made it a long schlog back and jumped immediately back into the humdrum and non-truck-oriented trappings of my modern life. I'll do my best to recount what transpired now that I'm some weeks removed from what was overall a pretty fantastic journey.

As often happens for me, the last of the packing and prep came down to the night before. By the time I got the trailer configured and things hastily tossed in and lashed down, there was only 2-3 hours before I was supposed to wake back up and drive the 90 minutes to our agreed upon rendezvous point. I was very concerned about being too exhausted to acknowledge the alarm and sleeping through the wake up. So I just showered and got dressed at 1am and drove to Hagerstown Premium Outlets and slept in the truck until my road mates arrived. 

Kind of a funny thing happened that I didn't discover until a day or so later. It just so happened that Potter happened to drive to this same gas station and observed my truck parked to the side. So he snapped a quick photo and posted it to our F.O.R.C.E. club page. I thought that was kinda serendipitous. I was definitely tired because I did not hear or notice either truck pull up alongside me. Normally I sleep pretty lightly when in the truck in unfamiliar surroundings. 

 This was going to be a running theme for the trip. With the larger tires and towing the loaded trailer, I basically was getting negative fuel mileage. I had been targeting 200-225 miles between fillups. I was lucky to get 175 or so under 'ideal' conditions. The hills heading out of MD and into WV were a bear, but they'd be nothing compared to my struggles in Kansas and later heading into Utah. Surprisingly, Denver was not too bad for me, but I guess that's a bit of foreshadowing.
 I tried to factor in a few spots along our chosen route where we could take in the sights a bit and grab a bite to eat. I think this was our stop in Columbus, OH. Unfortunately, they decided they would not be opening up their patio which would have allowed Maddy and I to be seated as well. We just hung outside like vagabonds. The crew was willing to move on, but it was my decision to bring my trusty companion and I did want to know if the food and brews here were any good in case I had the occasion to return in the future. They brought me out a pulled pork sandwich towards the end of our stop which I hastily wolfed down.
 Parking in a downtown area with a trailer was another challenge I hadn't quite factored in sufficiently. We did find this surface lot where we paid (kind of a lot for the midwest) for the privilege to park. Since I was taking up two spots, I also had to pay the rate x2. Anyway, as we're walkign back to the trucks, we see these two public safety officers looking the truck over. My first thought was "Great! I'm going to get cited for being out of compliance specs and I'm not even DRIVING?!" But instead, they were just admirers of the unique look of the truck. I breathed a big sigh of relief and happily answered their questions about why exactly someone might have a truck that looks like this and where we were headed.
 We're now in Day 2 of the drive. We stopped here  for fuel after departing from our campground not far outside of St. Louis.
 We were making terrific time and had made it as far as Salina, KS by lunch time. Amanda got on Yelp or some other app and located a new alternative lunch spot for us. This time, I was able to snag parking right outside of the brew pub and setup Maddy's cab arrangements so that she'd be nice and cool.
 And I got the last decal.

 I will always have an affinity for stopping in Hays, KS. We weren't projected to get here until dinner time, but we were still running about 2-3 hours ahead of schedule. So, instead, we just made a quick fuel stop and journeyed on towards Denver.
 Colorado was the first state sign that we felt compelled to stop for. It's also nearly tailor made for folks to get a photo opp with its ample and generous shoulder area which allows one to get well away from passing motorists. There was another couple departing as we pulled up. So we assume this is a thing.
 If I had known this would be my last journey with Hillary, I might have gotten more pictures of the young lass. (Steve's truck).

 I now understand why I sometimes get the random question on the page about how to troubleshoot RVs. At the time I started this blog, I did google searches for various travel-oriented phrases that would become this page's header and URL. Honestly, all of my top choices were already represented by some other product or blog. Roadtrek was the first thing that seemed free and available. Well, I finally encountered a genuine "Roadtrek" while out on the road. And I definitely snagged a quick pic of it. So hopefully no one tries to sue me or sends me a cease and desist letter. I'm not trying to steal market share or mislead consumers. I mean, if I can come into some real money, maybe I'll buy one and we'll just be one big happy family. We shall see.
 Steve setting up camp.
 Travis keeping a watchful eye out for...something.
 Pretty cool camper setup.
 For Day 3, it was a relatively short drive from where we snagged a campsite outside of Denver and Grand Junction, CO. Kannah Creek was always the destination. We got here just before they opened.

 We had hoped to link up with the group that was departing out of Boulder. They also stopped in Grand Junction, but they had something like 20 trucks and only ventured far enough off of 70 to hit the Shell gas station, tank up, and continue trucking into Moab.
 We were maybe 20 minutes apart, but with me lugging that trailer through the mountains, it would prove an insurmountable lead to overcome.
 Steve and I were at the same campground. The vacant site was to have been occupied by one of our compatriots. Midway through the week, the campground turned it over to any passers-thru that needed a space to crash. So I had a revolving door of weary travelers that would arrive just after sunset and would be gone by sunrise.
 This year at the Old Spanish Trail Arena, the setup was done differently. Only sponsor and trail guide trucks went into the arena. The rest of us participants were staged outside. Ultimately, this was good, but initially some of us felt like second-class citizens. It honestly was for the better. The entrance would have been a choke point for rigs that may have been arriving late or that may have been opting to depart earlier. Plus, with the nice weather, it was enjoyable to stroll through the lineup and interact with other drivers and check out rigs as folks pulled up. So this was a good change.

 I've got more of the pics of the various rigs in the album. I'll just select a small sampling here.

 You can't omit Chema's rig. SAS'd 2nd gen frontier. If you follow Nissans, you've seen this build. It's even more impressive in person.

Also debuting was Bill's "Princess 2.0". As it turned out, I would have the privilege of following directly behind it on two separate Red trails that I would not have ever imagined I would experienced on this trip.

 Parting shot.
 I had a CV with a torn boot that I wanted to replace; so, we promptly left at the end of the registration and check-in to head back to camp under daylight and swap it out. As I was working (and the other guys were drinking), a nice, older couple strolled up and inquired about our "4x4s". Not everyone that comes to Moab is a wheeler. I thought maybe they were hikers or were there for a guided Jeep tour. After we chatted for a bit, they bid us "Good Night", only to return 15 minutes later and say, "Yeah, we know a little something about 4x4s". They NEVER let on that they were about this life. We definitely weren't rude or dismissive or anything. But when he rolled back up with this thing on like 42s, we all felt like we had been Punk'd. Haha.

Well played, Sir and Madame.

That's about it for the journey out bound. I'll carve out more time to update on each day. Right now, the Mrs needs me to replace a serpentine belt on her Rogue. And I've gotta get it done with waning daylight now that she's finally back home.

'til the next update...