My Girl: Gettin' After It!!

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

Monday, September 5, 2016

G.O.N.E. Moab Trail Day 3~ Backwards Bill

I am quite literally the worst blogger. It's only me reading these now. But there are at least two more days of trip information following this post. Let's just get on with it.

I have to draw way back into my memory for this post recall.

As I remember, the day started inauspiciously enough. I was supposed to follow up with another low key trail. Maybe Lathrop Canyon/Fallen Peace Officer trail. I am pretty good with the reading. Or at least I used to be. As far as I knew at the time, only Elephant Hill was cited in the trail catalogue as being off limits for pets. Well, as it turned out, my intended Green trail selection was also off limits. And poor Maddy and were excluded from the trail ride upon clarification from that morning's trail leader of the oversight (whether it was mine or the organizers).

Fortunately, so I thought, the Blue trail group for Strike Ravine would be meeting at that same rendezvous point in the next hour. That would afford me plenty of time to tighten a loose fog light mount and do some other general reorganization of gear.

I didn't count on encountering one Mr. Bill E. I usually don't type first and last names in the blog. If you tried hard enough, I'm sure you could surmise this gentleman's full govt.

As I'm on the far side of a gas station lot busying myself with quick post-trail checkup tasks, another group is assembling for a soon-departing Red trail. Bill's wife, Kelly approaches me to make sure I wasn't a misplaced registrant for their group. I assured her I had no business on a red trail and explained my calamity. I had also heard a couple of weird pings periodically the day before and was just curious if she thought they  had any significance. This is where I set myself up.

 Kelly said she didn't think it was anything ominous, but I should definitely mention it to Bill when he arrived. (They had two rigs in the group that day). A bit of foreshadowing here. She was now setting it up so that I would encounter Bill in person.
 She suggested I should just ride with them on the trail and they could keep an eye out.
 I kept telling myself I had no business on a Red trail this far from home.
 Bill can be as charismatic as he is imposing. A larger-than-life figure in the Nissan community, he didn't so much exit his truck, he emerged and bounded right up and over top of me. He outstretched one long arm out and immediately enveloped my frame. He had me, figuratively and literally. "Strike Ravine is a rock-strewn shit-show of a trail. You're going to do this one instead."

 He had clearly been provided some intel on me. I protested. The argument could be made that the truck had the right components installed. But she had previously been strained significantly and was only as of this week being put through her paces. And we're just going to leap up to Red? Today? And with me driving?

"What about the pings?"

"You're going to ride in line right behind me. It'll be ok, sweetheart".

I'm pretty sure it went that way.

 So I just made myself Bill's shadow. I walked around right behind him. I positioned my truck right behind his. I don't think he could have farted the whole day because I would have felt the pulse of air on my torso. (He's taller than me by a fair margin).
 So I was partly manhandled into riding. And also, strangely, upon only having met him briefly a few days before, I trusted him emphatically. And I told him this.

We were on a trail with the monicker "Bill" being led by a guy named "Bill" and although I had always rejected the nickname of Bill for myself, you did kind of have three of a kind. Sort of. Close enough.
 This entire time, I busied myself taking photos of the other rigs because I was quite literally sh*tting bricks.

 These women were driving their own rigs, I believe solo. They had to coddle me some too. It was both emasculating and comforting. ha ha.

There is a section on Backwards Bill named "Wipeout Hill". It's basically at a portion near Seven Mile Rim which is run in reverse. I had done Seven Mile Rim as a green trail 4 years prior. However, when run in reverse, I was told there was no bypass for Wipeout Hill. Everyone has to run it. Having seen things like Tipover Challenge and Hell's Gate on Hell's Revenge, I felt I wanted no part of any named obstacle on this ride. Basically the names draw from the truth of what has happened at one point in history or another to some hapless enthusiast.

Tip-over Challenge. Guess what? Some fools done TIPPED. OVER. And it's more than a tip. It is a precipitous and calamitous drop if you are unfortunate. You actually just hope that the shock of free-falling is enough to kill you before impact.

So Wipeout Hill. Hmm. What could that imply? You are going to WIPE OUT your very own existence if it goes south. Why would I want that?!

The reality is, I was thinking "We somehow were able to bypass that area running it in the opposite direction as a Green trail. This must be some sick hazing ritual where they're gonna make me do this unnecessarily to see if I soil myself".

I mean, if people want to see it, there are easier ways to end up with poo in a grown man's britches.
 I watched a couple of trucks struggle with it. It unnerved me a bit more. They all made it up, but a few required a couple of run ups at it. And there was a bit of a crowd assembled as another group of organizers had descended on the area to capture footage of our group traversing the climb.

The main challenge is that the trail kind of switches back on itself while you are in the midst of a fairly steep ascent. You generally want to be aimed vertically in the direction of the climb. But due to large rock outcroppings, you have to change course a couple of times at a steep angle. Miscalculation could send you end-over-end, or initiate a pretty violent roll back down to the bottom.
 I'll have to post some footage of Veronica making the climb, but with the guidance of Slas E and Bill for the upper section, she actually made it a cakewalk. I literally just stared deep into Bill's eyes and was transported to a place where humans are devoid of emotion. They

Why is my winch line out?

Well, Kelly was driving Princess 2.0 for Bill. The rear locker was suffering some sort of malfunction and did not appear to be engaging. This meant that more throttle was necessary to try to maintain forward progress; however, the greater momentum and enhanced suspension articulation meant that the truck would rebound forcefully and unpredictably upon encountering rocks during the climb. It made for some harrowing moments.

So, the guy who was too timid with the truck that was unproven ended up dropping a helpful winch line back to some impressive builds and experienced drivers for whom Wednesday just wasn't there day on Backwards Bill.

It wasn't so much of an ego boost but a confirmation that I belonged on that trail that day and as a part of that trail group. It wouldn't be the last confirmation I got that day or with the crew.

 With a working rear locker, this truck would have been straight BEAST MODE on the climb. Supercharged 4.0 on 37s. What?! Drop Bracket. What?!

Gobs and gobs of power and articulation.

 At about this point, I realized that my tie rod boot is torn and that there's a fair amount of power steering fluid not inside of my truck. (As it turned out, I had overfilled the reservoir, and with the high heat, elevation, and work load, excess had bubbled out). My VDC and Slip lights had also illuminated at some point after the winching. Bill suspected it was because I had the steering wheel cocked at an extreme angle and was sitting idle while still in 4-Lo. For whatever reason, this can confuse the truck. I didn't want to chance confusing the truck with forgetting how to restart; so, I didn't dare shut off the truck to see if turning it off and back on cleared it. In short...I was a little concerned after finishing the horse shoe portion.

 Our group had bigger problems though.

As it turned out, Dan's impressive climb up Wipeout in his open-open diff Xterra was not without penalty. At one point, the back end hopped, caught some air, and then resumed contact with the earth. That was enough change in momentum from the tires free-wheeling and then momentarily being brought to zero angular velocity to send tremendous forces through the drivetrain. In other words, spider gears exploded.
 The symptoms were that there was intermittent loud popping from the rear end and the rear tires occasionally behaved as though he had a locker while turning.
 Upon popping the diff cover, these suspicions were confirmed.
 Although unlucky for Dan, I did prove to be sort of a black leprechaun for the group. I had packed a spill kit which included kitty litter and an oil capture reservoir. That's well enough. Bill had a spill kit too (but we used my oil reservoir).

But I also had something considerably more valuable back at camp: a complete rear axle assembly from Steve D's Frontier including needed replacement spider gears.

We were at a decision point after breaking for lunch and diagnosing the severity. Roughly half the group would continue on and complete the trail. The other half would run Backwards Bill...forwards? and seek an exit point back to civilization. My truck was in questionable shape (she was fine but I didn't know that). Dan was handicapped and a few others came along for mechanical support. We sojourned on a recovery mission. Despite the somewhat perilous circumstance, it was kind of fun.
 I also got to use my Ham radio due to the superior range over CB. I was able to maintain contact with the main trail group basically from our point of separation all the way back into town.
 Veronica was absolutely dwarfed by Princess 2.0
 This is where we dropped off Dan's rig.
 I swung by the campground, unlashed this from inside the trailer, threw it in the back of another Frontier and raced to the shop before closing.

 It was quite the eventful day, but as far as I can tell, I was right where I was supposed to be. The NORAC aka Colorado crew welcomed me as one of their own at this point. And for better or worse, this meant I was scrapping my Thursday trail plans to join them on ANOTHER RED TRAIL, Top of the World.

Join me 6 months from now when I get around to telling those stories.