Offroad Consulting 101 @ Rausch Off Road Park

Here are some lessons I learned on Saturday’s Offroad Consulting 101 at Rausch Off Road Park. It was an amazing experience, highly recommended for anyone with a Jeep.

1. Make sure you are in 4L and not 4H, to avoid engine stalling.
2. Don’t forget to let some air out of your tires before going on trail.
3. Don’t forget to fill your tires up before leaving and getting on road.
4. Don’t be that guy signaling turns on the trail, bears don’t care.
5. Find a better way to secure Yeti cooler, maybe add a net to tie downs.
6. Make sure you’ve got the right GoPro mount for your Jeep!

Here are some pictures:

Rausch Baptism By Fire :)

Wrapped up some work stuff, and now preparing for tomorrow.

Wait. Wat? Its gonna rain tomorrow??? YAY!!!

What does that mean? I don’t know to be honest. Tomorrow is going to be an Offroad Consulting101 Class Off Road Driving Experience” class, learning from the experts what driving on trails is all about.

Being a beginner, I’m pretty sure I won’t have to hit any hard stuff. But when it rains, even the easy stuff can seem hard. That’s actually good. Baptism by fire! 🙂

I want the Jeep to be as dirty as possible, so I hope it rains enough to cover it in mud, but not enough to wash the mud off. Jeeps are made for this kind of shit.

Got my kit ready:
– Air pump (since I’ll need to drop PSI to half or so)
– Yeti 20 Roadie (to pack sammishes, Powerbars, water, etc.)
– Fire extinguisher (attached to roll cage to look like I’m serious)
– First aid kit (not that it’ll help if I find myself pinned under the Jeep)
– GoPro Hero 7 (charged, extra batteries, extra cards, remote, etc.)
– Powerpacks (can’t have too many power packs)
– Poweful LED flashlight (and extra batteries!)

Now I just need some good luck. 🙂

Scouting Rausch Creek Off Road Park

Rausch Creek Offroad Park, in Pennsylvania, has been on my list since I bought the Jeep back in December (when I was still in Florida). It’s not as tough as Rubicon Trail in California, but it’s the best off road trailing around these parts. I plan to hit those trails next weekend.

They don’t reopen until May 8th, but today was such a nice day I decided to scout the trip. I took the slowest route, no highways. Boy was it worth it. The roads are a little narrow, but what beautiful curvy rolling hills!

Gas was cheap, but I’m glad I wasn’t on my Harley. Drove through some horse shit in some of the Amish areas. My Jeep didn’t complain. Heck Jeeps are made for this shit. 🙂

When I arrived I walked across the street to take a selfie, and then walked back the the Jeep. I left the place around 1800ET, which, given the COVID-19 stay-at-home mandate, is about the time I usually go out to get supplies.

Exhausted from my legal “walk in the park”, I found a slightly different scenic route back. Got back before sundown. Looks like a two hour drive.

Nary a car on the road, which was cool, but somewhat creepy…

Getting my Jeep lifted…finally!

Ordered all my lift stuff in Jan, and by the time it all came in, COVID19 became a thing. Well, this would have been done sooner if FedEx didn’t drop the ball on two of my Extreme Terrain parts.

Apparently if you punch in my address in Apple Maps, it’ll take you 3+ miles away to some other spot, whereas Google Maps takes you to the right place. So the FedEx driver dropped off $500 worth of lift parts at the wrong place, and it took Extreme Sports and FedEx over a month to duke it out.

Investigation, and eventual conclusion, and FedEx issued a credit to Extreme Terrain for the lost parts. I waited for all that to pan out, then I ended up buying the parts from Rough Country, since Extreme Terrain could only use FedEx. I call BS, but whatever. I have all the parts I need now.

Anyhoo…fast forward to today, and I get a call from Dan at Jeff Daniels Jeeps, asking if I’d like to bring in my Jeep to get the lift installed. I had to mute my phone, I was screaming, so excited! Sent them the list of parts, so we can go over the scope of the work and cost. We agreed I’d drop off my Jeep at 0630 on Monday (you read that right, I think they’re vampires) so they could get started. Two days later I’ll go back to pick it up.

They’re loaning me one of their spare vehicles so I can get back home, since they’re 40 miles away. Why 40 miles away? Well, when you want something done right, you go to the professionals. I heard of them when I moved to PA, always figured I’d go to them to get the lift kit installed.

So everyone be warned. After next week, I will no longer be referred to as a “Mall Crawler”, since I will have enough clearance to visit Rausch Creek for some serious rock crawling! How serious? Well, the pebbles at Wallmart are bout 1/4-3/8″ in diameter, which the stock 31″ tires could handle easily. I’m hoping Rausch Creek has a trail with at least 6-8″ rocks.

I have the low end Jeep model, but once the lift is installed, I’ll be as capable as the higher end Rubicon. The only thing that I forgot to include is detachable sway bar clips. Once I get that mod done, I’ll be able to disconnect off road and get that extreme axle flex to get over some of the bigger rocks. 🙂

So as I graduate from Mall Crawler to Rock Crawler, I’ll be making an untold number of mods to increase capability. I just have to be careful not to make the Jeep unbearable on highways.

Wait, highways…that’s what the Harley-Davidson is for! 😀

BestBuy? Not really

Now that I upgraded to a newer MacBook Pro that has USB-C ports (only), I came to the realization that my many super fast USB3.1 thumb drives are now old technology. I need to get rid of them before someone finds out I’m behind the curve on thumb drives.

Since I bought a CalDigit dock, with all of the high speed ports it has, I knew transferring the data from the old thumb drives to the new ones would be fast and easy. Now I just need to decide what USB-C thumb drives to buy.

I went with 64GB Sandisk Ultra Dual Drive USB Type-C thumb drives, which are rated at 120MB/s, to match the size of the old thumb drives. They came in two days after I ordered them from BestBuy.

When I unpacked the envelope, I noticed two of the four new thumb drives had a sticker covering up the “Made In China” stamp. The lables were the kind you couldn’t remove. Wow, someone went through the trouble to do this, when it really doesn’t matter.

How annoying. Trivial? Yes. But annoying. I hate liars. I really do.

Transfer speed from the old thumb drives to the new thumb drives averaged close to the rated 120MB/s per second. The old thumb drives were rated at 180MB/s. Not bad really.

If I had to do this again, I probably would have bought a couple more SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD. But the reason for picking the new thumb drives was because its what we use at work. This helps set expectation performance wise.

Hmm…wait…did I forget to wipe these things down before I opened them? I must be losing my mind with all this quarantine crap. Finding trivial stuff to write about. Maybe I should get out more. Maybe I should be more like Jack Black…

Teams: Love/Hate Relationship

With so many folks under shelter in place mandate, working from home is a wake up call to today’s business world. Where most of us who manage large numbers of computers in enterprise environments, the ability to work remotely has been a must in our position.

Whether the user has a teleworker gateway or connects over VPN, the user needs to be able to work on files, email, and of course conference calls. As stressful as the past few weeks has been, seeing your teammates on a Teams call instills a sense of calm. At least until you’re asked for the status of a task/project you’re working on…that’s a subject for another blog. 🙂

So yea, I’m connected at home, and Teams is working, and audio is mostly OK, but geez some folks sound like Max Headroom. In most cases the person with lousy audio is shoehorning all internet traffic over a single network, and running Teams through a VPN connection. Say. Bye. To. Quality.

So how do I address these issues? I have a dual-band router that provides a 2.4 GHz network and a 5 GHz network, and I use DD-WRT to manage traffic.

I connect my work and personal Macs to my 2.4 GHz network, since there’s plenty of bandwidth to get work done during work day hours, and I can Facebook/surf/study during the evenings and weekends.

I connect my iOS devices (iPhone and iPad) and my AppleTV to my 5 GHz network, which I tuned to prioritize VoIP. This way I can join Team meetings on my iOS device and benefit from excellent sound quality with minimal latency.

How good is it? I ran some tests with colleagues and family. Teams audio has minimal latency and compression…same for Facetime audio/video calls. To test I simply started some Teams calls using my work computer (2.4 GHz, no VoIP priority, and on VPN) and it was pure crap.

The switch to my iPhone and audio and camera is now very high quality. I still run Teams on my work computer for viewing when folks are sharing their screen.

Prioritizing VoIP on one network using a dual-band router is one reason there’s such a big difference. The second reason is iOS doesn’t have to go through VPN or a teleworker gateway.

I betcha that detail opened some eyes. Hope this helps you remote workers. Oh, and I don’t hate Teams anymore. 🙂

RIP old Mac, hello new Mac

Funny how you get used to an old computer, never thinking of replacing it since, well, it works. Years go by, tons of work, Facebook posts, etc. Then one day….BOOM! #RIP #logicBoard

So last night I had to scramble to get a replacement laptop to finish some work. I knew I’d have to buy something with 1TB of space, and that it would take hours to transfer the data. Especially when the ports on the old computer don’t match up with the ports on new computers.

Apple had some referbished MacBook Pro laptops, but they’re expensive, even though they’re referbished. I needed a 15 or 16″ laptop, with a dedicated GPU (since I run two 4K monitors at home), 16GB RAM, and 1TB SSD.

The closest thing Apple’s referb site had was a MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2017), with 16GB, 1TB, but no dedicated GPU…for a whopping $2,000. Took a peek at their 13″ refurbished offerings but quickly moved on because, well, GPU.

I surfed over to Craigslist, didn’t see anything close to what I wanted. Then someone told me about Facebook’s Marketplace. Hmm…never looked at that part of Facebook. Glad I took the time!

I found the exact MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2017) I was looking for, and it with had a 3.1GHz processor and the battery charge cycle count was 10! The guy wanted $1,400 and was 30 minutes away. Got there quickly, confirmed the seller was legit, and got home 30 min later.

Ok now for the data transfer. I’m a huge fan of Apple’s Migration Assistant for home use. I wish Apple would make it enterprise worthy, but not holding my breath, they haven’t taken our request seriously. No money in it I guess.

I have a dual band router at home, running a 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz networks. I have the 5 GHz network set to give VoIP highest priority, and the 2.4 GHz network is left at it’s default settings. I connect my iOS devices to the 5 GHz network so I can have the best audio/video possible for Facetime (family) and Teams (work).

I connect my personal and work computers to the 2.4 GHz where I left the router defaults, and I’m able to get excellent performance.

Compared to trying to do Teams calls over a single band router, through a VPN connection…well, that’s just crazy. If you don’t have a dual band router, get one. Oh, wait, the stores are closed….oh well…


Getting back to the new laptop, I started the Migration Assistant transfer over the 2.4 GHz network, the estimated transfer time was 8 hours plus. Well, its 1AM and I start work at 9AM so that’s not going to work.

I ended up putting both computers on the 5 GHz network and starting Migration Assistant again. This time I got a 3 hours plus estimate. Sounds right, and I confirmed when I woke up at 5AM and found the transfer finished already.

Oh well, I’m a happy camper. I’ll pull the 1TB SSD off the old computer and put it in an enclosure so I can rsync the new laptop’s SSD to it a couple times a day. Yes, SSD drives fail too. Even though last night’s failure was the logic board.

F**k it, going for a drive

I know what it’s like to be cooped up in a hole for a long time. Nope, never been to jail, never even bene arrested. I spent 1979 in an secret isolated military location in Izmit, Turkey, my first US Army assignment.

I remember flying in to Ankara, and then sitting in the back of a duce-and-a-half for six hours, riding in an armed convoy to Izmit. My MOS was 13B, but my role was Special Weapons Technican. The US Army had an arrangement with the Turkish military, where we jointly managed a few dozen Honest John Missles.

The US Army’s job was to manage the warhead portion of the missels, maintaining them, and if ever necessary arming them. The Turkish miligary’s job was to maintain and manage the rocket portion of the missels. We held regular unscheduled training, where a siren would go off and we would all do our part, and none of us ever knew if it was a drill or the real thing.

Thinking back, it was an awesome experience. Those things were pretty big, originally designed to carry 1,500 pound nuclear warheads, fired off the back of a truck. At some point after my time there, the US Army switched from nuclear warheds to cluster bombs.

It was a culture shock for me, even though I was born in the Bronx and was raised in Hell’s Kitchen. Although I loved the time I spent in Turkey, its definitely something I carefully edited on my my resume. After all I knew when I got out of the US Army, that nobody was hiring Nuclear Weapons Technicians. 🙂

When I got to the barracks, a bunch of guys invited me to the “club”, where they had a full size 4.5 x 9 pool table. I was a pretty decent pool player at the time, but during my year there I got the opportunity to play with an excellent pool player. Geez, its been so long

to the Grand Bazzar, to trips to their red light district (bring a carton of Kools with you!), to çay with Turkish troops in foxholes. Fun times. Though I knew from the first day that I’d get out of the US Army when I got the chance. My buddies were doing stuff just as interesting

Not sure what made me reminise about Turkey. Maybe its because of the COVID-19 mess. I’ve been trying to go out a couple times a day. In the morning I go to WaWa for coffee. In the evening I check my mailbox and swing by ACME or Walmart. Can never have too many supplies. From the looks of it were in this for four more weeks. May as well have a routine to stay sane. 🙂

So its Saturday morning and I’m about to jump in my Jeep Wrangler to go for a drive. The tank is full (no gas shortages). Two dozen water bottles in the cargo area (can’t have too much water). Cash on hand (just in case). LTCF in my wallet, Shield45 in my console, along with 5 magazines loaded with hollow-points.

No idea where I’m going. But I ain’t staying home today.

PS I’m actually going out for groceries but didn’t want this post to be boring.

70 degree day subwoofer wiring

I was so excited when I left work Friday afternoon. I had to take off my fleece jacket, I was sweating walking 300 feet to the Jeep. How can the weather shift so fast? Heck, I put down the top and took a nice meandering trip through the local suburbs, selecting the most twisty roads.

The 70° weather didn’t last though. I got home a couple hours later and it was 50°. I parked the garage and called it a day. That means tomorrow morning I’ll need to put the lid up, since the forecast calls for cool weather through the week. That should take all of 5 minutes.

The Rockford 8AWG wiring kit I needed to wire my sub came in. Now that I have all the wires and pieces I need, I plan to wire my Rockford Fosgate P300-12 subwoofer today. It’s a cheap sub, but its sealed and powered, so it sounds good and is convenient to install, and is easy to remove when I need the room. I removed it from my CR-V when I traded it in for the Jeep, leaving allthe wires behind (too much hassle to remove the wires).

I plan to run the power wire along the left side of the Jeep and through the firewall grommet. The audio-in and audio-volume wires will be run along the right. The ground wire can go on any of the D-ring tie downs in the cargo area. I’ll leave enough slack to move the sub around when I need to, and to make it easy to disconnect and remove the sub when necessary.

Once the sub is installed, I’ll start shopping for replacement speakers to improve the sound on the 8 stock speakers in the Jeep. They’re not very good, so for the same volume, better speakers will sound much better. I plan to stuff some polyfill into the holes to help dampen some of the resonance behind the stock speakers.

UPDATE: I got tied up with other stuff this weekend, so the work will be done next weekend. I’m off to Lowes to pick up a cordless/brussless drill now that Lowes dropped the price by 40%..

Oh deer…LEDs are so much brighter

No, I didn’t hit a deer.

After a couple close calls during my FL to PA road trip, I researched LED headlights and ended up ordering them so they’d be there when I got to my final destination. Luckily I didn’t hit either of the deer, but I won’t need to take any chances anymore.

The headlights came in and after reading the instructions I figured install and wiring isn’t too hard so I went ahead and knocked it out in the parking lot of a local mall. Pretty pleased with the result.

Thanks to all the great input from JL Wrangler Forums, I saved some money and lowered the risk level of riding at night in the Jeep. The DRL (halo rings) stay on while the iginition is on. The LED projectors are powerful, have a very clean lighting pattern, and a very sharp cutoff. I’m a happy camper. 🙂

Will be seeing some apartments tomorrow, hoping to be settinged into peranent digs soon. I had a couple hours to kill so I went to look at one that was listed on Craigslist. It was built in 1860. The apartment is upstairs, and you need to go up a steel fire-escape style staircase. You share the garage with the owner of the building. The floors have 1″ holes leading to who nows where, guessing they’re pine knots.

The building manager was very cool. If it weren’t for the fact that this apartment is in an alley, and has no fire escape…myea. Nope.

Day 4: Harrisburg, PA to Malvern, PA (84m)

Short trip, I know, but needed to rest for these final miles. I went too far the first three days, planned to do 250 miles per day, based on some input from friends who have gone long distances in Jeeps. I ended up doing 350 or so a day. I’m rested up now.

After doing research every night since I left, I ordered some LED headlights. Reading and posting to some Jeep forums, the most widely recommended headlights seem to be the Oracle Oculus Bi-LEDs. I’m not a fan of “halo” headlights, but the Jeep doesn’t have Daylight Running Lights (DRL), which isn’t safe. So DRLs are right up there with being able to see farther at night. So I’ll have to suck up the halo stuff.

No video for today, it was just an hour and a half. I’m finally here, gonna grab a cheap hotel and scout the areas. My temporary housing will be ready tomorrow (Jan 8).