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.