The Wait Is Over

After braving 20 degree temperatures and enduring pucker moments drilling into my hard top, I’m happy to finally have my roof top tent set up for camping…err…overlanding.

Installing the Rhino-Rack Backbone was no walk in the park. They provide incredible documentation and videos, but it’s definitely a 4-6 hour job for one person. Drilling the first hole was one of the scariest experiences I ever had. The rest of the holes weren’t a big deal.

Once I finished with the base, next came the crossbars. I chose Vortex since they’re plenty strong and have a flat profile. For legs, I went with the quick release RLT600 kit. This way I can remove the tent without having to unbolt stuff. They have locks on them, so the tent won’t grow legs. Everything sits a bit higher, but the convenience is worth it.

When I was assembling the crossbars, I ended up with some strips that had millimeter markings on them. I had no idea what they were for. The shop told me they can be cut to cover the bottom slot while giving you a way to position the legs if you ever disassemble the kit.

What I found out on the way home was the bottom of the bars have an open groove, where those strips needed to be installed. So the rails whistled all the way home, even though I was only going 35mph. I’ll put some black duct tape over the slots for now. I’d have to take everything apart to slide those strips in. Maybe I’ll get around to installing them in the Summer.

EDIT: I found the instructions for those six strips on page 7 of the RLT600 guide

Great. Now I have the rack and crossbars installed. Main Line Overland has been patiently holding onto my tent for the past few days, while I get the rack installed. I gave them a call to let them know I’d be by in a bit pick up the tent. It was a really great experience. I highly recommend that shop, real professionals who’s priority is doing things right.

I gasped when they pulled the Jeep up to the front of the shop. It turned out exactly how I expected. The tent was small enough to mount on the two front crossbars, to take advantage of roll bar support. The shape is pretty aerodynamic, compared to many of the other roof top tents on the market. It isn’t a wedge, which is IMO a ridiculous waste of space.

I’ve had my eye on iKamper ever since their Kickstarter project. They were shooting for $100,000, but got well over $2,000,000. Why? Because an engineer decided the market was saturated with horribly designed roof top tents and this guy designed a better tent. Now most roof top tent companies sell an iKamper knockoff.

I’ll post some pictures of the opened tent when it warms up a bit.

Preparing for Easter Jeep Safari 2022

I’ve been wanting to go to Easter Jeep Safari (EJS) for a few years now. I decided this is the year. 9 days of endless Moab trails, camping, and festivities. To be ready for the trip, I need a solid roof top tent (RTT) and roof rack solution. Choosing between the many options was tough.

Roof Rack

I had two basic design choices. I can go with an exoskeleton style roof rack. Very strong but looks terribly goofy on a daily driver. Alternatively I can buy a solution that requires drilling through your hardtop roof to attach to your roll bars for support.

I decided on the Rhino-Rack Backbone with Vortex crossbar kit. If it’s good enough for my favorite overlanding vloggers, it’s good enough for me. The kit should arrive on Jan 6th. You can bet I’ll be cringing between now and then.

Trail Recon is one of the best vloggers, please like and subscribe:

Roof Top Tent

For the RTT, the first decision is whether to get a hardtop or a soft top. This was a pretty easy choice. Hardtops are quick to set up and take down, typically <60 seconds. Versus the 10 minutes (or more) it takes to set up and take down a soft top. No contest, I went with a hardtop.

Next came the shape and design choice. I’m not a fan of wedge type RTTs. I think they look cool, but I feel that the waste of space is a deal breaker. I’m not very tall, so it probably wouldn’t have mattered to me. I just know I wouldn’t have been happy with the design. I love the design of the iKamper Skycamp Mini and the Roofnest Condor.

They’re similar, though given the history of the design, I couldn’t buy what I consider to be a blatant knockoff. iKamper has a reputation for quality and support. They earned my money. Its waiting at Main Line Overland until I get the rack installed.


The iKamper 2.0 mounting bracket is one of the reasons I picked crossbars instead of a platform. Once the roof rack is installed, the RTT can be installed and removed quickly and easily. If I went with a platform, I’d have to use their crappy iKamper 1.0 mounting brackets. I’d have to drill through the platform, and installation and removal would be PITA.

Once I’ve installed the rack, I will swing by Main Line Overland to get it attached to the crossbars. I plan to do that on a Friday, so I can head out for a couple days to test and tighten down whatever might shake loose. #loctiteFTW

Now I wait.

The Rhino-Rack kit is due in on Jan 6. I’ll install it the following weekend, provided it doesn’t rain or snow, and that the temp is reasonable. Once the rack is installed, I’ll head to Main Line Overland to get the RTT installed.

From what some buddies told me, I’d do well to get the iKamper awning. If only so I can stay dry if I need to get out in the middle of the night, when mother nature calls. 🙂 Stay tuned for my upcoming install blog.

Midland Radio vs Wouxun

After reading this blog, if you feel inclined, please subscribe to NotARubicon’s YouTube channel. I learned about GMRS there. Very informative, and guaranteed to make you laugh. 🙂

Ever since Jeep partnered with Midland Radio, GMRS has become the new standard mandate for off-roading and overlanding. I like this direction, but frankly I’m not a fan of Midland Radios. They spend a lot on marketing, yet their radios are crap. Wouxun is eating their lunch.

Without diving into the weeds, the FCC has a ridiculous set of rules for GMRS (including their license requirement). For example, GMRS handheld radios are restricted to 5w, while GMRS mobile radios can go as high as 50w. Sounds reasonable, until a GMRS mobile user wants to talk to a GMRS handheld radio user on channels 8-14. That’s when things get ugly…read on…

  • Channels 1-7 are restricted to 5w, so those are the best channels to use when you’ve got a mix of GMRS mobile and GMRS handheld radio users.
  • Channels 8-14 are restricted to .5w and the FCC only allows you to transmit on these channels using a GMRS handheld radio. So while some of the better GMRS mobile radios can only listen on these channels, crappy Midland radios remove those channels because they think you’re stupid.
  • Channels 15-22 allow up to a whopping 50w. This is great for GMRS mobile radio users, but not so great for GMRS handheld radio users since they’re restricted to 5w. This might sound trivial, but will become more of an issue the farther away GMRS mobile radio users get from GMRS handheld radio users. If you get far enough away from each other, the GMRS mobile radio users won’t be able to hear the GMRS handheld radio users. So channels 1-7 puts both on a level playing field.
  • There are 8 repeater channels that can be used by GMRS mobile radios or GMRS handheld radios that support repeaters (unless you have a crappy Midland). These are also restricted to 50w. If a GMRS mobile radio user and a GMRS handheld user have repeater capable radios, they should be able to talk fine.

Here is a good website that breaks down the FCC restrictions:

2017 FRS/GMRS Channels

This stuff can get confusing if you’re not into all the tech, these examples might help clear the air:

  • If everyone has a GMRS handheld radio, wattage is restricted to 5w, so stick to channels 1-7.
  • If everyone has a GMRS mobile radio, wattage is restricted at 50w, stick to channels 15-22 (we tend to use channel 16, since 4×4=16 <wink>).
  • If some have a GMRS handheld radio, and some have a GMRS mobile radio, stick to channels 1-7. This will prevent GMRS handheld radio users from being able to hear GMRS mobile radio users, but them not hearing you.

You may have picked up on the fact that channels 8-14 are not very useful. At .5w, they’re pretty useless channels unless everyone is using handhelds and you’re not too far away from each other. Or if you all have FRS handheld radios.

The best advice for those users, go back to Walmart and ask for a refund, then buy a real GMRS handheld radio or GMRS mobile radio. GMRS mobile radio users will be able to hear others on channels 8-14 (unless you have a crappy Midland), but they won’t be able to transmit.

Most of the folks I go off-roading or overlanding with have GMRS mobile radios in their vehicle. The few that think they can get by with only a GMRS handheld radio, well, they soon learn that they need to get a GMRS mobile radio.

However there are a few good reasons for having a spare GMRS handheld radio in your vehicle. If you need someone to spot you over difficult terrain, hand the person the GMRS handheld radio. If you decide to get out of your vehicle, a GMRS handheld radio will come in handy. If your GMRS mobile radio dies, you have the GMRS handheld radio as a backup.

When I wheeled with Cumberland Crawlerz a year ago, I had my first GMRS mobile radio, a crappy Midland XMT115. Most of my buddies had GMRS handheld radios. For some reason they were using channel 11. Who knew? None of us. We were so used to CB. Now that we’re getting up to speed, I figured a blog would be a good idea.

Midland is crap. Why? Because they think consumers are stupid. So they remove channels 8-14. Why is that bad? Just because you are using a GMRS mobile radio that can’t transmit at the measly .5w cap, shouldn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to hear GMRS handheld radio users’ transmission. Midland also lacks many basic feature. You can’t toggle between narrow/wide band. They don’t support repeaters with split tone. The list is long…don’t waste your money on Midland…they’re crap.

Wouxun is widely known to make the most capable and feature packed GMRS handheld radios and mobile radios. Do yourself a favor, don’t make the same mistakes I made…buy once, cry once:

To summarize, avoid Midland Radios, a complete waste of money. I wrote this blog hoping to help my buddies wrap their heads around GMRS. I know it would have helped me a year ago. Hope it’s helpful.

PS, Dear FCC, you would do well to hire a teenager to fix your horrible license site.

Heroes, Past And Present

I remember the day. I lived on 50th Street and 10th Avenue, and was on my daily four block walking commute to my Morgan Stanley office building on 47th Street & Broadway. I was a Mac admin for Morgan Stanley’s Investment Banking Division (IBD) Creative Services department, a group of 80 or so Mac users.

The Morgan Stanley building had huge windows, almost floor to ceiling, with an unobstructed view of the World Trade Center. When I got to the office, all of my colleagues were glued to the window, watching smoke come out of one of the World Trade Center towers. The first plane had just hit. You could see the flames and the huge clouds of smoke.

Since I was jamming to my iPod during my walk, I had no idea anything happened. I just went to my desk and got ready for work. A few minutes later, I heard a muffled boom, and many of my colleagues started screaming and panicking. By that point we knew the first plane was no accident. Our department head yelled for us to all go down to the lobby, in case anything was going to happen to our building. I packed up my Apple G3 Powerbook and headed to the elevator.

When we got to the lobby, Morgan Stanley security steered us towards the freight elevators, so we can head to a lower level, safer than being in the street or the lobby. When we got there, the televisions were turned on and switched to the Bloomberg channel. We saw a number of helicopters circling the towers. CNN was speculating it was an attack, with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani doing a good job of calming people down, saying it is too soon to know.

Googled recent image of the building I worked in:

Most of us veterans had an idea of what was going down. But none of us wanted to openly speculate. We all knew we were on official lock down, with water, but no food. Our director was somehow able to get pizza delivered to us, to this day I don’t know if it came from a local pizzeria or our company’s cafeteria. We spent half the day watching CNN, hoping things would settle down, so everyone could get home.

We didn’t expect the Mayor to shut down the subway and bridges, but in hindsight it kind of made sense. But that left many of my colleagues – who lived far away – stranded. Some of my colleagues knew I lived a couple blocks away. I was able to accommodate a few of them, offering a hopefully safe place to rest and wait for the opportunity to get home.

Morgan Stanley eventually gave us all the OK to go home. When my colleagues and I got to my apartment, I turned on CNN and we were all glued to the screen. Luckily I had a bunch of camping gear, including a few air mattresses and sleeping bags. Thanks to a neighbor, we were able to cobble together enough surface area for all of us to rest on. Trust me, none of us were able to close our eyes.

I had a 5 minute walk to and from work. I had a tiny studio apartment with a panoramic view of the Hudson River, 28 stories in the air. Full transparency, we were poor and we lived in Section 8 housing. When my father retired, he and my mother built a house in Puerto Rico and moved there. I had the option to parlay the three bedroom apartment into a studio, and within a month I moved into it.

The studio was usually very quiet, but on that day all you could here were sirens and screams. It was quiet enough to rest, while we waited for the city to reopen the subways and bridges. Our eyes were glued to CNN, a staple at the time. As it started to get dark, Mayor Giuliani announced subways and bridges would reopen so folks could get home.

A few of my colleagues thanked me and headed out on their long walk. One lived in Hoboken, NJ, some lived in Brooklyn, or Queens. A few lived in upper Manhattan. Every one of them reached out to let me know they got home safely. I was told some stores were charging $10 for a bottle of water. Disgusting. I heard most of the stores that did that got shut down once the Police circled back to handle all the complaints. The next morning the remaining few headed out to make their way home.

Where we sheltered in place

We were told to stay home until we were given the OK to come to work. Two weeks later I was back at the office. My first task was to help relocate seven of our staff who worked at the towers to our 47th street office. We had a number of desks available, so I thought things would go smoothly. What I didn’t expect was the PTSD. They went through a horrible ordeal, and were still nervous and crying. Our Director sent them home for a few more weeks to recover.

A couple weeks later, 300 of us got pink slips. Apparently Morgan Stanley thought it was the perfect time to outsource many of our IT positions. We were given very generous severance packages. Including a couple months pay, vouchers for our choice of training (one months worth), and excellent placement assistance. Living in midtown Manhattan, I decided to open an LLC and become a Mac consultant. I did that for five years before getting a call from Polo Ralph Lauren about a full time position.

Over the years I started to really appreciate our heroes. Firemen. Police. EMS. Doctors. Nurses. And many more. Since 9/11, I’ve always gone to ceremonies honoring our lost heroes. My respect and appreciation for our fallen heroes runs deep. Recently I’ve begun to realize there are new heroes that deserve the same level of respect. Folks who volunteer their time and effort to help others. It takes a special person to do this. Here are two that I work with.

David Sharp is our Project PMO. Hopefully won’t mind that I lifted this blurb from his LinkedIN profile. 🙂

After hours, I am a Life Member, Volunteer Firefighter/EMR with the Ivyland Fire Company in Bucks County, PA. I serve as Chief. I have held positions of Deputy Chief, Captain, Lieutenant Communications Officer, and President of the Firemen’s Relief Association.

Roie Gat is a fellow Mac Engineer, who volunteers his time as a Search And Rescue Drone and HAM radio operator. His LinkedIN profile.

The world has changed a lot since 9/11, but one thing hasn’t changed. Heroes exist, past and present. They deserve respect and support. Thanks for your time.

ICON Rebound Pro – New Shoes

I did a lot of research on wheels, and my decision aligns with my goal of keeping weight down, and not going overboard. My needs are different now that I’m doing less rock crawling and more overlanding. Yes, I need to air down when I go offroad. But I don’t have to air down as much as serious rock crawlers do. I usually take my tires down to 15 PSI, but I’ve always wanted to go lower. Not a lot lower, but to 10-12 PSI.

I looked into beadlocks, but learned pretty quickly that the only ones that are DOT approved weigh more. Not a little more….a LOT more. I’m talking 45-55 pounds. That’s a significant amount of rotating weight. I know wheel weight is not as important as tire weight, but it is still important. So beadlocks are out of the question, for me, since this is my daily driver, and I do a lot of cross country trips.

So I scratched beadlocks off my list. I wrestled with wheels that had deeper bead grooves, but they didn’t make much sense. After a few weeks I started to give up. Then a buddy FYI’d me about the ICON Rebound Pro. They’re not technically beadlocks, rather they’re more like bead retainers. They’re fully DOT compliant and they weigh 32 pounds.

Of the DOT approved beadlock offerings, weight varies but all are heavier. Hutchinson lists at 35.6 pounds, which isn’t too bad. Traction Off Road lists at 48 pounds. Both of these are designed to lock both beads, so not too surprised. The problem with these options isn’t just that they’re heavier, they also require a lot more work when mounting/unmounting tires.

One thing I thought about was rim damage. Traditional beadlocks have a replaceable ring, which is cool and all, but, not DOT approved. I’m not risking being stopped and cited for driving on highways with offroad-only wheels. Not only would that be costly, it would also be a huge inconvenience. Why spend money on wheels that you can only use until you get caught?

I looked at the Teraflex Nomad, and I love the built in air-down option. I also love that they sell rim protectors, full ring or even partial ring, and in different colors. However there were some concerns. For example anyone can walk over to your car and with a simple twist, your tires are down to whatever you set the valve to. I’ve also heard that some people found their air down valve came completely off when they were airing down. Nope. Not for me.

I want to secure my bead, but I want DOT approved, and I want the lowest weight of all beadlock options. So I decided to go with the ICON Rebound Pro. They’re DOT approved, and they’re light. The company picks up the phone, which to me is a huge plus. The outer rim edge is much thicker than standard wheels, so while they might get scratched up, it would take catastrophic impact to break them.

I like to go to 4WP, even if they’re 100+ miles from home. They have 90+ locations, they always have stock, and they hire very experienced techs and sales people. They’ve always done a top notch job on my Jeeps.

Side note, I love how the wheel looks when I’m backing up. I’m going to see if I can extend the camera out a bit, since the backspacing cuts the downward view a bit.

Goose Gear Platform

Sometimes you’ve got to make mistakes before you get it right. Take the choice of platform for your Jeep. I tried a couple alternate brands, convinced that I didn’t have to buy the good stuff. What a waste of time and money. I finally broke down and bought a Goose Gear full platform, and their fridge slider. I really wish I bought this brand in the beginning. Oh well, lesson learned.

The platform is made of extremely durable sealed plywood. They’ve got platforms that’ll fit perfectly into whatever vehicle you have. In my case, a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited with the factory subwoofer, and with the rear cubby opening on the passenger side. It took a couple hours, but given the 65 pound total weight of the platform, wasn’t very difficult.

Lots of lockable cubby holes, which is very handy for securing stuff, as well as storing stuff that you don’t need to access all the time. Or stuff that you’d need to access after you’ve set up your tent and stuff.

The fridge slider was easy to bolt down, since the plate is designed for it to be mounted on either side of the back of the Jeep. I didn’t expect the slider to have a cutting board, since I already have a tailgate with one, but it offers some flexibility, which is always welcome when overlanding.

Speaking of bolting things down, I was very happy to find their platform uses reinforced 1/4″x20 threaded bolt holes, and plenty of them. A trip to Home Depot and I’ve got plenty of tie down loops and bungee cords for securing cargo.

Not sure if I’ll plunk down for a two drawer stack. I like being able to use my Expedition 134 and Front Runner Wolf Pack containers.

Mopar 2 Inch Lift

Transitioning from moderate rock crawling to overlanding, I’ve come to terms with the need to have the most reliable and supported kit. Nothing is more comforting than traveling around the country, confident that I can go to any Jeep dealer for support.

Mopar made some improvements to their 2″ lift this year. The new redesign (77072395AE) includes 2.5″ Fox shocks, and coil springs that no longer bow. Those were two of the complaints folks had about previous designs. Of course I ordered the kit at my preferred dealer Jeff D’Ambrosio (Downingtown, PA). I had them do the install, and I had them add a Mopar stamped Fox steering stabilizer.

I was asked to take it for a test drive, brought it back for a minor adjustment, and it’s been awesome since! The lift sits higher than I expected, but after some research I now know why. The Rubicon model comes with a 1″ lift. The new 2″ lift is supposed to add to that height, even though the 1″ is removed, so at the end of the day it is actually a 3″ lift. Mine sits 3 3/8″ high with the new lift – that’s after comparing the old height (which includes the stock 1″ lift) to the new height.

The install tech told me it’ll settle down to around 3″ after driving it a while. I’m totally good with that, since I’m looking at Teraflex Nomad wheels (17×8.5) and BF Goodrich KO2 tires (315/70R17C) 35″ tires. That’s as high as I’ll go, since I will be overlanding more than rock climbing. The lift is perfect for this combination. I hope to have the tires/wheels upgraded before Spring 2022.

I did a quick walk around so I can show how the shocks, coils, and steering stabilizer look.

Two corrections. (1) Jeep gained 2 3/8″ (2) decided to go with Teraflex Nomad wheels.

I found a slightly used Goose Gear stealth platform. Apparently it was installed then removed when the owner decided to consolidate his funds into one of his two Jeeps. Lucky me, I should be picking it up on Sunday. More to come.

Whatever you do, don’t tell my Jeep that I was flirting with the new Hemi model.

Mount Washington

A buddy placed in the top 50 in their hill climb race in 1995. A couple of us joined him in 1996. Unfortunately the race got cancelled due to high winds. The race officials let us drive to the top, since we already paid the Auto Road fee.

Back then the Auto Road was almost all unpaved. Today there’s only a short stretch that’s not (yet?) paved. Given the extreme weather up there, the ground supporting the pavement can erode, so if you aren’t paying attention, your tire might drive a few inches or a few feet, and you’ll be stuck, or worse.

Headlights are required in both directions, and the speed limit is 10MPH. Going uphill is best done in low gear, and the same goes for coming downhill. Luckily I’m in a Jeep, even if it is automatic, I put it in 4L and manually shifted to control my speed. I didn’t have to use the brakes more than a few times.

Luckily the wind on Sunday was only 20MPH, the temperature was about 55°F, and it was raining lightly. I had a raincoat on, so it wasn’t too bad. I had to carry paper towels to keep the iPhone lens dry. I managed to get some pictures at the summit and on the way down.

Tip Top House is amazing, the walls are made of rock, and the door is very strong. Not sure about the windows though, they seem a little on the flimsy side, but who knows, maybe they put shutters when they expect extreme weather. From the videos they have in their information center, the groups that stay at the summit do one week rotations. Doesn’t sound like fun.

The fee per vehicle was $39, plus a few dollars more for passengers. Having been here before, it was a lot more fun this time around. If you’ve never gone there, its worth the trip.

Jericho Mountain OHV Trail (NH)

I was able to find a camp spot a few miles from Jericho Park. Nice place, platforms for tents, plenty of space to park your vehicle, for $28/night plus $5 for some firewood.

I practiced setting a fire before I left for my June month long trip. Practice makes perfect.

I’m getting faster at setting up the tent. Or maybe its the platform, with the loop bolts on the edges, that makes it easy to get things set up. I set up the fire first, since I knew it would start raining soon.

Once the fire was going, it was time to pitch the tent. I never pitched a tent on a wooden platform. Every campground that offered platforms gave you a gravel rectangle, so you had to drive stakes. I just needed to run the guylines to the loop bolts. Easy peasy.

I’ve got to admit, this is a very good tent, very impressed by it. By the time the tent was pitched, it started to drizzle, then it started to rain, then it started to pour. It didn’t stop pouring. It poured all night. There was no wireless at the campsite, but I had four bars (ATT) so I was able to upload the photos for this blog post. I set the alarm for 0600 and went to sleep.

The plan for Sunday was to first do Mount Washington (the earlier the better), then go to the trail, however the priority every morning is breakfast then a shower. Well, as it turned out, the campground didn’t have any showers. That might explain why they weren’t full. Since it was still raining, and I knew I wasn’t going to stay two nights (without a shower!), I tore the tent down, packed the Jeep, and found a local hotel.

I had a couple nights available, so I used one of them that day. The following morning I hit the nearest diner for breakfast, then I headed out to the trail.

Since I couldn’t check in until 3PM, I went ahead and drove up Mount Washington. I got done early, so I hit the trail. The guy who manages the place advised me to do the Green trail first, before trying any of the Blue trails. Because “Our Green trails are like the Blue trails at Rausch.” Ah, ok, I’m fine with that. He wasn’t kidding.

The Green trail was challenging enough to get out and pick a line several times. I may have scraped a bit, but it wasn’t bad at all. I ended up doing the Green trail from the gate, to mid way to the West. I didn’t do the extended Green trail that heads West, since it turns into a Black trail, without an easy way to turn around. So I did the Green trails at the East side of the park.

After finishing the trail, I headed to the hotel. I brought the tent kit and some rope to the room, so I could find a way to hang the tent kit, so it could dry overnight. It all dried up by morning. I packed the Jeep again, and headed to the diner for breakfast.

They make great omelettes, and even greater coffee. After finishing breakfast, I hit the road. Apple Maps gave an ETA of 8.5 hours to get home, which after all the fuel/rest/food/bathroom stops ended up being 11 hours.

It was a fun trip. I got another Badge Of Honor (BOH), and I’ve already decided to go back once I get my 35″ tires and 2″ lift installed.

Day 30 – Back Home

I do a 30 day road trip every year. My biggest fear is that my USPS mailbox might explode while I’m away. As I do every year, I toss the SPAM back into the USPS mailbox “outbox” for the postman to deal with. Sorry, if my name isn’t on it, its not mine. 😉

This year I had to take care of two things when I got back.

First, I had to address an issue, where the ARB Dual Compressor mount (under the front passenger seat) rubbed against some of the electrical connectors under the seat. Apparently it’s a known issue, easily addressed by raising the back of the rails up 1/4″ or so. I went to Home Depot, got some A0B washers and a couple M10-1.5×40 (10.9) bolts and some red Loctite. It took 10 minutes to fix the problem, no more issues sliding the front passenger seat back and forth. The washer center holes are pretty big, so I wasn’t able to line them up perfectly, but who cares, it’s a very strong setup.

Second, when I got the Jeep, I tried to unscrew the bolts on the top tailgate hinge, so I could attach my Teraflex dual antenna bracket. I’m a klutz, of course I stripped the very first bolt. I have a tap/die kit, but of course the bit broke off. During the trip I researched tailgate reinforcement solutions. I have Jeep’s steel bumpers, so no plan to buy new bumpers. Based on some positive feedback I got from some serious wheelers at Moab, I decided to get the Smittybilt 7743. Very nice design, very rugged, and has two antenna mounts. I can finally mount my GMRS and CB antennas on opposite sides of the tailgate.

It also provides pre-drilled holes for a Hi-Lift bracket. I haven’t seen anyone with a Hi-Lift installed on this product, so not ready to buy it yet. I definitely want to mount my Hi-Lift on the outside of the Jeep. Once I see one installed on someone’s Smittybilt 7743, I’ll decide if its the right solution for me.

I’m happy to report the Partners Steel 22″ stove and the 5LB propane tank worked flawlessly. I was able to fry food and boil water at the same time. At first I thought I should have bought the 18″ stove, but there were times I needed to have a frying pan on one side, and a pot on the other side. It all worked out in the end. I did worry about having a stove so close to the propane tank and RotoPax fuel container, but a good number of Jeep folks had (almost) the same setup.

I missed not having my Baja lights mounted, since there were times I found myself needing more light on the trail. Now that I’m back, I’ll need to sort out how to use the four AUX switches that came with the Jeep. Not sure yet if I’ll need the 6 button sPOD, now that the Jeep has built in locker switches. So I may end up getting rid of that kit.

Since I ran out of time before the trip, I ended up not mounting the Garmin Overlander and bluetooth camera. I ended up using my iPhone and Gaia Pro or Maprika (yuk) on the trail, though the later is buggy/unsafe as it hasn’t been updated for iOS in nearly 10 years). I used CarPlay and Apple/Google maps on the road. I should mention though, the 8.4″ navigation unit that came with the Jeep is extremely accurate and easy to use (opensource!). I kept my US Atlas handy, but hardly needed to use it.

I didn’t have my Garmin Dash Cam 46 set up, because the small metal mounting plate went bye bye when the windshield on my last Jeep broke. I ordered a replacement so I can get it mounted again. It’s not only always a good idea to have a dash cam, it’s also an easy way to record your adventures. Even though I set the dash cam to record 1080x30fps, still shots come out sharp enough for blogs. 🙂

Another thing I didn’t have time to do before leaving for my trip, was to get my GMRS and CB wired up. I didn’t have a place to mount my antennas (see note above), and I wasn’t sure where I wanted to mount the radios. This turned out to be a good thing, since I had lots of discussions with other Jeep owners about how they’re communicating.

Apparently Midland sucks, don’t support repeaters, Rugged Radios are very well designed, reliable, and most are waterproof. I ordered a kit, should be in by Wednesday.

I’ve already begun to plan my Jericho Mountain 4×4 Trail (NH) trip for Labor Day.

Day 29 – Peters Mill Run

This trail is “easy peasy” as my Cumberland Crawlerz buddies told me. A stock Jeep can do it, so my stock Jeep Rubicon had no problems. However there were a few spots that required a careful line, to avoid light scraping.

I dedicate this to an unnamed person in the club. 🙂

Me: “Hey, you told me this was gonna be easy peasy.”
Buddy: “What are you talking about?”
Me: “I gotta pick a line, how can I pick a line and it be easy peasy?”
Buddy: “Uh, how can our hands look like our feet?”
Me: “What are you talking about? How do our hands look like our feet?”
Buddy: “Uhh…hands, feet…hands, feet…”
Me: “Ohhh, you’re starting to worry me.”

Just kidding, this is at most a 2 rating.

Here are some pictures of the parts of the trail that had rocks, most of the trail was just sand and gravel. Maprika seemed to work, but it occasionally tossed up spurious errors, and needed to be reset to pick up where you left off…hallmarks of an iOS app that hasn’t been updated in nearly 10 years.

I’ve got to be honest, this was one of the most fun trails I’ve been on this month. It was beautiful, relaxing, and easy to not get lost.

Buddy: “I did it in 2L and didn’t bother airing down.”
I was distracted by the dive bomber insects, should have taken closeups of the tadpoles!

Day 25 and 26 – Off to Windrock

I waited around at Hot Springs Off Road Park in Arkansas for several hours on Friday, didn’t find anyone who was going to do the two remaining BOH trails, so I decided to head East. Luckily I got one BOH while I was there (Snake).

I knew it would take two days to get to Windrock, figured I’d stay in Nashville on Saturday night. This way I can catch up with some old friends and then head out early to get to Windrock and grab a badge or two.

Day 24 – Hot Springs Off Road Park

I got to Arkansas today, hoping to get three easy to moderate Badges Of Honor (BOH). Pulling into the hotel, I think my Jeep was intimidated by a Jeep that was parked in the lot.

The easiest of the three BOH trails is Snake. I latched to Justin and Heather, a couple from Wisconsin, riding a two door JK Rubicon. They’re here to get their first BOH. I asked if I could latch on, they were nice enough to let me. It was a pretty easy trail, but there were a few sections that were tougher than they looked. It was a fun trail.

After Justin and Heather left, I stuck around, and was able to latch on to a family from Texas, in a green four door JK, we did the same Snake trail. This time I was able to avoid the trouble spots along the trail. My iPhone was overheating, so I wasn’t able to get any pictures or videos, sorry about that!

After a long day, it was time to have a real dinner. I found a nice place in town that made pulled pork platters, so I treated myself. I parked the dirty Jeep right in front of the place, they didn’t seem to mind.

Not sure yet what I’ll be doing tomorrow. If I stay, and nobody shows up to do the two remaining BOHs, I’ll have wasted a day. Maybe I’ll just head East.

Day 22 – Black Gap 4×4 Trail

So today I was lost near the Texas/Mexico border, afraid of being eaten by vultures, or being kidnapped. Ok, maybe they were pigeons. They have to eat too you know. Not sure which would have been worse. AllTrails, you failed me!

A confession

Then two super heroines Heather and Joan (aka Thelma and Louise) saved my life. Ok, I lie, its a blog. 🙂 I was finishing up when they showed up at the trailhead, just after I created the above confession video. They were there to do the Black Gap 4×4 Trail and were kind enough to let me tag along.

They had an easy time navigating the trail. Ok. I’ll admit it. They kicked my ass on the trails. Their Jeeps were highly modified. Heather has a Sahara Unlimited (JKUS) with 35″ tires and a 4.5″ lift, and a bunch of other mods. Joan has a Gladiator Rubicon (JT) with a cargo bed top, 37s, a 3.5″ MetalCloak lift, modified steering, etc.

I ride a lowly Unlimited Rubicon (JLUR), totally stock, except for a winch, which is worthless in this terrain. I had to work hard to keep up, I took a lot of chances, but happy to say I only scraped my underbelly a couple times.

I felt like Peter Griffin in Family Guy.

After we finished, they went on The River Road, which is an even more awesome trail! I have lots of pics and videos, I’ll add a few here. I need to increase my WordPress plan to post them all.

After we finished both trails, we got gas, we said bye and I took off. I headed towards Bridgeport, TX to hit the next BOH on my list, Northwest OHV Park trail. Unfortunately I didn’t time things right (the trail is only open Friday through Sunday) and ended up continuing on to Hot Springs OHV park in Arkansas to grab three more BOHs.

It’ll take two days to get there, the first leg of the Arkansas trip was scary. By the time I got within 50 miles of Fort Worth, TX, it started raining, and hard I started to pass yellow Road May Flood signs, and then right after that sign, I saw the flood gauge signs. I must have passed a dozen or so areas with those signs. The first couple showed less than one foot of water, I drove slowly through the water. The next couple were at two feet.

Pulled this picture off of Google

I decided to back up to a higher area that didn’t show any debris on the road, this way I won’t get swept away to a gnarly death. After a few minutes a small truck pulling a small trailer drove through it like it was nothing. How humbling, how embarrassing. My Rubicon got one-upped by an old Toyota. Ok, maybe it was the driver. I digress.

I finally got to Fort Worth, got a cheap hotel room, and crashed for the night. Tomorrow, I’m off on the second leg of the trip to Arkansas.

More pics!

Day 20 – Paisano Village RV Park & Inn

After two days of driving, I’m in Texas! I looked for a place to pitch a tent, and found Paisano Village RV Park & Inn, a few miles from the Big Bend National Park. I called and asked if there are any tent spaces available.

The owner asked me I was sure I wanted to sleep in a tent in 108 degree weather. To be honest, today is the 21st day of my vacation, and I’ve only pitched a tent a few times. Partly because it is 100+ degrees all over the West, and partly due to the fires in Arizona, Utah, and Colorado.

I asked her for the price, and the cost was reasonable, but I’m on a tight budget since my vacation is 30 days long. She was genuinely concerned about the temperature, so she put me on hold and came back with a lower price. It was still over my budget but health matters, so I took her up on the offer.

It’s rare to see such empathy and compassion these days. I’m sitting in a comfortable suite because someone cared. Not to be mushy, but thinking about it gets my eyes watery. The owner is an awesome person. I only talked to her over the phone, but what she did speaks volumes about what kind of person she is.

Guys, if you ever go to Texas to get Jeep’s “Black Gap 4×4 Trail” Badge Of Honor, think about staying here. And when you pick your route, go through the park, it’s just beautiful.