Four and a half weeks left before I head off to my Moab>Rubicon month long trip. I just found out that the leader of the Rubicon group I was going to latch onto had to cancel. I’m going to keep practicing while I look for another group to join.
Last Sunday I joined Off Road Consulting on their Rausch Creek Off Road Park guided Badge Of Honor (BOH) trail ride. They’re a group of professional trainers who are current or former military vets or contractors. They teach you how to think, how to decide on your line, and how to get from point A to point B as safely as possible. They know a thing or to about off road wheeling.
I took their intro 101 class about a year ago, and a few months later I took their 201 class. I learned a lot. When I saw they were offering a guided trail ride that included all three BOH trails, I signed up right away. I knew the spots would be taken fast, and boy was I right. A buddy tried to join, but didn’t make the cutoff. Bummer.
So the day included the three BOF trails. They offered to spot the first two trails, but told us in advance that they wouldn’t spot anyone on the hardest trail, Crawl Daddy. Totally understandable, however with full steel belly skids, Dana 44s w/front/rear lockers, heavy duty brakes, 35s, and a winch, they were Ok with it, after reminding me I signed all those waivers, so they’re off the hook if there’s any damage or injuries.
The first was Trail #11 (BLUE), which is challenging, some mud, some decent sized rocks, some off camber stretches that’ll have 1-2 of your wheels in the air, but not so much that a stock Jeep couldn’t get through it. That was our warm up.
The next trail was Crawler’s Ridge (BLUE/BLACK). Tougher. Bigger rocks. And some very challenging (and maybe a bit scary) stretches where you’ll hear your Jeep slam on some rocks if your tires slide off the slippery boulders. This is where the investment in armor comes in. That said, there was one log that was ridiculously trecherous, we had to move it, since everyone needed to be winched over it.
The final trail was Crawl Daddy (BLACK/RED). Some folks rate it a 9 (where Rubicon is the only 10 in the US). I have to admit, the first couple times I tried that trail, I was on 33s without lockers, and I did poorly. A couple weeks ago I did it on 35s, but I couldn’t see ahead of me, had a bit of spotting. This time we had pros spotting us, and that made things so much easier. Doesn’t mean I didn’t sustain some damage, but thankfully it was to my rock sliders.
I had a blast, can’t wait to apply what I learned on my next Cumberland Crawlerz ride! Here are some more pics:
My west coast overlanding buddies are sticklers for standards. They hammered home the significance of Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). That’s the most your Jeep should weigh, including all your passengers, cargo, fuel, etc. Every modification you made factors into the GVWR. Like replacing bumpers, adding a winch, installing skid plates, getting larger wheels/tires, swapping axles, etc. Jeep doesn’t offer a lot of wiggle room, so this is something you should probably pay attention to.
So based on that, my new estimated GVWR is 5450. This is of course an estimate, and not a Jeep recommendation. Of course Jeep legal needs to make sure they’ve got their diaper on. 🙂 Apparently if someone was inclined and had money/time to burn, a documented adjusted GVWR is possible. Guessing only rich companies would bother to go down that road.
So to be totally honest, I did all the mods mentioned in the first paragraph. For my June trip I installed twin storage drawers, a fridge and slider. I had no idea if I was under or over the GVWR. I guess if I knew in the beginning this was going to be the direction I was taking, I would have been more careful with my purchase choices. Where weight would be one of the highest priorities. Oh well, live and learn.
A Jeeping/Trucking buddy told me I could get my Jeep weighed at a local CAT Scale location. I just needed to install their Weigh My Truck app on my iPhone, and configure it for payments. The nearest one is 20 miles, and they’re open 24 hours. I went there after work. I parked in the front most yellow square, where trucks’ front axles are positioned. I used the app to pay the $12.50, and I crossed my fingers.
I wasn’t as far off as I thought I’d be. I weighed in at 5400, that’s 50 pounds under the new GVWR. Not too shabby. Well, my gas tank was almost empty. Figure 15 gallons would fill it, so 15 gallons at 6.3 pounds per gallon is 95 pounds. The fridge was empty, that’s another 20 or so pounds of food. Add 5 gallons of fresh water in a container, that’s another 31.5 pounds. All together that’s another 146.5 pounds.
So now we’re talking 5400 + 146.5 = 5546.5, fully loaded. That’s over my 5450 adjusted GVWR. I need to come up with creative ways to reduce total weight between now and June. I know I can shave off 50-75 pounds by removing the tools that I know I won’t need in June. #famousLastWords
First mistake, I got up late. I kept hitting the snooze button. That means I was tired, so in a way it’s a good thing I slept in. No point being tired and driving 100 miles to meet the group. It also gave me the chance to have a decent breakfast. Being hypoglicemic, nothing is worse than starting the day without food in your stomach, and a to-go coffee.
I had an epiphany when I got to Rausch. I ordered a MORRFlate Quad hose kit, hoping to finally give the ARB Dual Compressor (mounted under the passenger seat) a go. But. I ordered the one that didn’t include a pressure gauge. The hose kit is designed to pipe to all four tires concurrently, so my idea of checking pressure on one tire didn’t pan out. I just ordered the pressure gauge so I can attach it to the hose kit. So today I used Rausch’s air hose, which I think may be faster than using my compressor even with the hose kit.
Now to disconnect my sway bar links. This was easier than in the past, since now I have quick releases on both ends of the links, and a strap to hold the sway bar up. The links originally had a single quick release on the bottom, and a bracket to attach the sway bar link to, by swinging it up and attaching the quick release. Well as luck would have it, the upper brackets don’t work with after market wheel well liners, so the mod was necessary. Kudos to JKS Manufacturing for the sway bar link strap kit.
The Jeep handled very well, which is very reassuring, given I had 300 pounds of stuff in the cargo area. The fridge stocked with sammishes, ice coffee, and water, were easily handled by the American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) DualSport RT Suspension. I picked that solution since its designed for Jeeps that carry lots of cargo. I’m now comfortable that the build is Rubicon-proof! Well, I might still add a couple rachet straps over the fridge and drawers for added insurance. 🙂
I signed up for Offroad Consulting‘s Rausch Badge Of Honor trip on April 25th. Yesterday’s trip was an eye opener. The 35s are definitely better than the 33s on Crawl Daddy. I can say that because I realized half way though the trail that I’ve been there before on my first Jeep. Definitely a better experience with full belly skids and 35s…and a winch! A couple guys spotted me yesterday, but I got stuck twice. With that said, one of my buddies had no problem on Crawl Daddy, despite being on 33s and having no lockers! WOAH!!!
The first time I got stuck, I was centered on top of a huge boulder. I picked the right line, but my driver side front wheel slid off a rock, and BOOM there I was. Enabling both front and rear lockers got me out of that mess. The second time I got stuck, I couldn’t get over a wet/muddy fallen tree. My buddies suggesting winching myself out. I had to back up a bit to be able to get out of the Jeep, then I had to carefully make my way to the back of the Jeep to get to the winch remote control (I’ll keep it in front from now on).
There were a couple interesting conversations about synthetic vs wire rope. I chose wire since I don’t want to be stranded if my synthetic rope snaps on rocks, and because it was cheaper. But there are good arguments for both options.
After that, I was told there were two more tough stretches. I got through the first stretch without any issues. Then on the last stretch I had to rely on my full belly plates. That was it. I did it with the help of some folks in the Cumberland Crawlerz group, a great group of wheelers. I know what to expect today, when I go to wash the Jeep…a ton of scratches, from all the thick(er) branches that I had to drive through. Thinking seriously about getting some vinyl covering to try to minimize damage when I get to Rubicon.
When I got to the air-up area, I cringed about not having a gauge on my MORRFlate Quad hose kit. Ironically someone pulled up between my Jeep and a buddie’s Jeep, each of us were parked in front of a hose. Another Jeep pulled up between us, leaving us little room to get to our tires. He asked if we were done, um, nope, we just got there. He then pulled up his hood and filled his own tires with his ARB Dual Compressor. When I asked him why he didn’t use it, he said it was slower than Rausch’s air-up hoses. LOL
I just ordered a gauge for the hose kit. Bought it from MORRFlate, this way I can be sure the kit is put together as designed. The company made a point about analog gauges being less accurate at higher PSIs, so at 36psi analog gauges can be 3-5psi off, where digital gauges would be right on. I’ll keep my hand held gauge handy but I probably won’t need it going forward.
Even though I only wheeled half a day, it was an opportunity to meet up with the Cumberland Crawlerz group. I got to test the fridge and drawers on the toughest trail in PA, feeling like I’m good for Rubicon. Kudos to Joe and Cody for spotting me, and tolerating my cringing. 🙂
The closer we get to June, the more I’ll scramble for the most hair raising, pucker worthy Rubicon videos.