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.

Day 18 – Back to Arizona

Today I hit the road and headed to Arizona to meet some friends at Table Mesa Road. We all knew this BOA was a bit of a joke, in its current state. It is rated 1-4, when in fact hard stuff never got added, it’s a 1. 🙂 Oh well, we’ll see how easy it is.

Today I stopped at the Hole In The Rock, an interesting place that has a bunch of iron artwork. They also have proof that Bigfoot exists (you read that right!).

I also stopped at Wilson’s Arch, but like previous years, no way I’m climbing up to get a closer look. Thanks

Day 16 – Trifecta Loop – part 2

Completed the loop, and then did Ophir Pass (2hr). Got the 300 picture folder down to 90 pictures. I hope I don’t blow up the internet! Sorry it took so long to get these posted.

From the Million Dollar Highway, where you’re a couple feet from a ledge of a 500-1000 foot cliff, to the breathtaking views at altitude, to the wildlife…this kind of trip i a bucket list item for sure.

Day 15 – Trifecta Loop part 1

The first leg of the trifecta starts at Ourey, CO and ends in Lake City, CO. The ride was awesome, seemed to compare with blue trails at Rausch Creek Off Road Park in PA.

I started the day packing the fridge at the local Trade Store. At the end of the day I was able to find a cottage at Texan Resort at Lake City. It was a very comfortable, cozy cottage. I slept like a baby.

Day 14 – Short trip to Ourey, CO

Short road trip to Ourey, Colorado. Then rest up for the mountain passes I have planned for Tuesday and Wednesday. This will be more of a commute/rest day than anything else.

I got to drive by some streams, and saw some snow covered mountains. It was about 100 degrees, so I had to equalize the air pressure in the RotoPax 2 gal fuel cel. Not sure why they don’t offer a cap that handles that for you. Notice how it bulges. I saw an awesome Vietnam memorial with a real helicopter on display.

Day 13 – Steel Bender

Park Rangers told me today that Jeep needs to revise the difficulty rating for most of the trails in Moab, because UTVs have torn them up over the past couple months. I didn’t really believe it, because the trails that I’ve done in the past week were trails that I did last year, so I had badges and was familiar with the trails.

Fins & Things was exactly the same, since UTVs can’t tear up petrified sand dunes. 🙂 Same for Hell’s Revenge, not much to tear up. Poison Spider seemed tougher, I noticed some spots were, well, torn up. So today I did Steel Bender, a trail I hadn’t done yet.

The Park Rangers warned me that the challenging spots on this “6” rated trail makes it more like a 7 or 8. They were right. I got out of the Jeep 30 or more times, to survey, select the proper line, and negotiate the roughest spots. Anyone who knows this trail can imagine what would happen if sand and rocks that helped fill gaps all of a sudden disappeared.

Steel Bender was fun, even though I’m riding a stock Rubicon. You know, 33″ tires, and 1″ lift (don’t laugh, that’s what comes with Rubicons!). I’m sure it would have been a whole lot easier with my previous Jeep, since it had 35″ tires, a 2.5″ lift, and a full belly skid plate. 🙂

Today was my last day in Moab. Tomorrow I leave to Colorado to do four of their six BOH trails. Why four? As Albert Einstein once said to a student: “Because, just because”. I’m avoiding the two toughest Colorado trails for the reasons stated above.

Here are some pictures from Steel Bender, with some comments.

Day 12 – Poison Spider

Waited around at the Poison Spider trailhead but after an hour decided to take off on my own. Not always a good idea being alone on a trail, but I did the trail last year and knew what to expect. Or so I thought.

At the one mile mark a Park Ranger told me the UTVs have been tearing up the trails so expect it to be tougher than last year. Well, I know there are three tough spots, but I didn’t have any issues last year when I rode a 2020 Jeep Wrangler Sport S, with 33″ tires, and a 2.5″ lift.

I went ahead, and ya know, he was right. This year I found myself stacking rocks on the three spots. Well this year I have 33″ tires, and Rubicon model comes with a 1″ lift. So I’m 1″ less lifted than last year.

Ok, so 1″ lower, and a ripped up trail requiring me to stack rocks. I think I’ll put some money on Aleve stock. Time to decide which 35″ tires and 2.5″ lift to get.

Day 11 addendum – WhistlinDiesel In Action

I spent a year preparing for my June 2021 cross country Jeep trip, with two goals.

First, grab as many BOHs that I can, starting in Arizona, then Utah, then Colorado. I had California on the list, but since my new Jeep hasn’t been lifted, has stock tires, and no armor, I scratched it off my list. I grabbed 1 badge in Arizona, the other badge wasn’t worth it (gravel road). Then I grabbed 1 badge in Utah (Steel Bender). I just got to Colorado where I plan to get 4 of 6 (the remaining 2 are too hard without mods). I now have 8 BOHs and I should be at 12 by the end of this week. Not too shabby.

Second, I had a bone to pick with Hell’s Gate, you know, the 45 degree descent/climb shaped like a vinyl record groove. I tried to do it last year, but I didn’t have at least 35s, and I didn’t have at least one locker. Well, today I was there with a Rubicon, and the spotters were fine with it since it has 33s and front/rear lockers. This was my year to finally conquer Hell’s Gate. Or so I thought.

Why this addendum?

To understand my frustration, you’ve got to understand the intersection of Darwin’s Law and Wheaton’s Law.

Take a guy (Cody Detwiler) who wrecks expensive vehicles and posts the carnage on YouTube (WhistlinDiesel), and you’ve got a Darwin Candidate just waiting for his number to be called. Maybe he’s doing it for profit, since you can make a couple bucks on YouTube. Maybe he’s a fiscally irresponsible trust fund kiddie? Is he just out of his fucking mind? Who knows.

Now imagine that Darwin Candidate coordinates with some buddies to destroy a truck on a famous and historical trail overseen by the United States Bureau Of Land Management (BLM). What do you have now? I’ll take “What is a violation of Wheaton’s Law for a dollar, Alex”…and likely a number of citations, fines, etc., from BLM and potential police involvement for reckless endangerment.

I don’t make it a habit of throwing people under the bus. I’m a firm believer of live and let live. But I’m making an exception now. I’m submitting a downloaded copy of this idiot’s video, along with my own video as evidence, along with a signed statement, to the BLM, so this asshat can get what he deserves.

Here is a URL to the video showing this idiot in action (if asshat hasn’t taken it down):

Front row seat to the “I’m a bigger asshat than ever” show.

Still wondering why the addendum? Let’s hope he enjoys someone fucking up his day, like he fucked up ours.

Day 11 – Hells Revenge

Today I latched on to a group of Californians riding five Jeeps through Hell’s Revenge. Here is one video that gives you an idea of the blast we had today!

Not quite Mickey’s Hot Tub, but a baby sized one. Nice and dry, no water or oil, so lots of traction. The pitch going in was 32 degrees, as steep as half a dozen other inclines we had to negotiate today.

Here are some pics of today’s Hell’s Revenge ride.

This weekend and Monday I plan to do Poison Spider, Top Of The World, and a couple others. if I’m not too tired when I get to the hotel, I’ll post more from today’s awesome ride!

Day 10 – Fins And Things

UPDATE: I changed the main picture. As it turns out, the fire was closer than I thought:

The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office in Utah says that winds picked up significantly on Thursday morning, and winds over 40 mph are expected throughout the rest of the day. As of the last update, the fire has grown to at least 400 acres and there is no containment.

Last year, when I went to Moab for the first time, Fins And Things was the first trail I tried. I was driving a 2020 Jeep Wrangler Sport S with a 2″ lift and 33″ tires. I don’t mind tell you you I had quite a number of pucker moments. I followed some others who were taking lines I didn’t understand, but that kept me out of trouble.

This year I’m in a 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, stock except for a Warn VR EVO 10S. No lift, stock tires are 33″, but I had front/rear lockers, and they made a difference. I locked the rear when it looked like my back tires would spin up some 30+ degree climbs, and I locked front+rear when those climbs didn’t involve turning.

It was warm, the sky was mostly clear, except for a fire some miles away. Didn’t see many people on the trail, except for a bunch of tour RZRs, and three or four Jeeps.

PS, I’m happy to report the ARB Dual Compressor worked flawlessly. I’m glad I didn’t cut any corners, and did a proper wiring job.

I’m in Moab through Monday. I plan to do Hell’s Revenge tomorrow, and if I have enough time, Poison Spider. That would complete the three trails I did last year.

I plan to do a few other trails that I’ve never done before on Sat/Sun, and then head out to Colorado on Monday.