Fall Foliage Ride with Blue Mountain Jeep Alliance

Blue Mountain Jeep Alliance had a Fall Foliage Ride on Sunday, October 16th. It was close by and the weather was beautiful, so I joined them. The ride started about a mile away. I packed lunch and drinks in the fridge and headed out a little earlier than I needed to, since I didn’t know if we needed time to air down.

10 Jeeps showed up at the Thunderbolt Lodge starting point. I asked the ride leader about communications, and it turned out there was no recommendation, and some folks had no radio. I came prepared as always with CB, GMRS, and HAM. This had me a little concerned, since it’s easy for a ride to break apart if there’s no communication.

I was able to take a picture of 9 of the 10 Jeeps that showed up for the ride. Different models, colors, and setups.

The first part of the ride was awesome. We spent most of it on the road and some of it on gravel roads. Lots of colorful foliage, guessing in a couple weeks it’ll all be gone.

The lunch spot was in a hiking trail parking lot. Most everyone took a hike to an observation post. I stayed in the lot to keep an eye on the Jeeps, and to have a sammish and drink.

As the group prepared to head out on the second part of the ride, I asked where we were heading, and nobody seemed to know. So we took off. After a number of bogies disrupted the ride, it got fragmented. I decided to peel off myself, not comfortable trying to hang with a group that hasn’t coordinated communications. Oh well, it was a fun ride none the less.

Needed A Leg Up

From the day I bought this 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, I knew some day I’d get rock sliders that can be used as steps. So many third party solutions, but they all look so, well, third party. I wasn’t aware Mopar made rock rails that stuck out just enough to provide a step. That is, until I joined Ridge Back Guide Service LLC on last month’s MLO New England 2022 Trail Ride Series in Vermont.

One of the Jeeps was a two door Rubicon that had really nice looking rock rails. Not too far out, but enough to step on to get into the Jeep. I spoke to the Jeep’s owner and he told me they’re made by Mopar. I was surprised, since I never knew Mopar made them. When I got home I found the Mopar Performance Parts Rock Rails on the Mopar parts site.

They came in a few days ago. I was a little concerned that they mount to the body and pinch welds, and not the frame like most third party rock sliders do. When I installed them, I saw they mounted exactly like the stock Rubicon rock rails. Three bolts attach to the body, and six bolts slide through the pinch weld holes. So my concerns were off base, since the stock Rubicon rock rails took a real beating at EJS2022 in Moab, and didn’t cause any pinch weld or body damage.

It took under 40 minutes to remove the stock Rubicon rock rails, and install the new Mopar Performance Parts Rock Rails. I reused the nuts and bolts, so I have a new set of nuts and bolts if I ever need them. As always I made sure I torqued the nuts and bolts down as recommended.

Easy enough for a cave man to install, and they look good, and function well.

My next blog post will take a couple/few weeks, since I’m waiting for my Goose Gear Camp Kitchen to come in. I hope it gets here soon, it’s getting cold outside!

Barney Rubble or Bam Bam

Following up from my last blog post, I’ve got to add some armor to my Jeep. First up, my front diff cover (M210) got banged up, and the bolts got shaved by the Barney Rubble (AOAA) rocks. The Tie Rod also got scraped up but I can scrape/paint it to prevent any rust from spreading, not a priority for me right now. The rear diff cover (M220) didn’t get damaged, but I decided to get both to be safe and so they match.

It took a while to decide on which covers to get. I knew I wanted nodular iron, recessed bolts, and I wanted them to be able to take abeating. I decided to get the ARB diff covers. They’ve got a solid reputation and are reasonably priced. None of the local shops had them in stock, so I had to get them on Amazon. I believe in supporting our brick and mortar stores, but stock is going to be a problem for another year or two.

I’ve never swapped diff covers before, so I did a lot of reading and watched a bunch of videos. As it turned out, it’s not difficult at all. But details matter, like the viscosity of the gear oil and additives, and the torque values for the bolts, and even how to deal with the old oil. I figured I was ready this weekend so I got to it.

There are tons of videos and reading material on how to do this, so I’ll spare you. I’m glad I paid attention to the folks who do this a lot. The toothpaste style 1qt bottles are worth their weight in gold. In fact, I was told to hold on to them once they’re empty, in case I can’t find them the next time I decide to change the gear oil.

I was happy to find the gaskets are reusable, that made the job easier. Once I replaced both diff covers, I wiped both diffs down and went for a 10 mile drive over rough roads. When I got back I checked, and nothing leaked, so I feel like I did a good job. I wouldn’t want to do this for a living, but it was a good experience.

Before this last trip to AOAA, I planned to get diff skid plates. I thought diff covers were bling. Boy was I wrong. The front diff cover hit a rock, and if the impact was just a little harder, my gears would have been damaged. Luck, and a lesson. These two images of the outside and inside of my front diff was an eye opener.

I was happy to find nothing more than slight metalic peach fuzz on the diff cover magnets. I kind of expected that in the front, but was surprised that the rear was nearly perfect too. Good to know Jeep nailed it when they assembled my vehicle.

I’m glad the diffs are protected now, and to be honest, yea, they kind of look cool. If you’re a Mall Crawler, none of this matters for you. If you off road, might want to upgrade your diff covers. Lesson learned.

Next up, if I can summon up the strength, is to replace my stock Mopar Rock Rails with Mopar Performance Parts Rock Rails. The stock rock rails are not beat up too bad, but the new ones stick out far enough to help getting in and out of the vehicle. They’ll also help when folks swing their doors open without paying attention, and when folks leave their empty carts in the mall parking lot.

EJA trip to J.E.E.P Fall Trail Ride 2022

I’m at Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) with Evolution Jeep Alliance (EJA). It’s a beautiful day and I’m guessing there are at least 200 Jeeps here for the event. The groups are about a dozen each, and I’m in one of the blue trail groups. Be right back, gotta air down.

Early view.
A quick walk around.

Off we go! Welp we lost a 1985 CJ at the start. As it turned out his U-joints failed when he was trying to shift into 4L. He turned around and hopefully got back home safely, hope we see him again.

Many ways to deal with deep muddy ruts like this one. I prefer to climb up one side to avoid having the side of my Jeep drag against the muddy wall and potentially losing a fender flare or two (ask me how I know). The pitch and roll meter never went over 15 degrees, so the video looks extreme due to the angle of the camera.

“I never had anyone go that way Don!” – EJA lead
“There’s a method to my madness!” – Me

Ok it’s getting gnarly now. Hello Barney Rubble. How can this be a blue trail?!

This is the last stretch of Barney Rubble…the part before was ^%}[+}=€\#%@$!!!

Urban legend has it there’s a hairy Sasquatch in the bushes. If you take a selfie with it you can get a sticker at the front office (see below).

All good things must come to an end. I had a blast, can’t wait to join y’all again!

UPDATE: I discovered on the way home that my steering stabilizer lost a fight with a Barney Rubble trail boulder. I drove home at 20mph and got home late in the evening. It’s Monday morning and I’m heading to the dealer to get a new one. Luckily I have a Clayton relocation kit waiting to be installed. Here’s a picture of my previous Jeep, where the shock was mounted low and it died on Crawl Daddy (Rausch) last year. It was mounted low on my current Rubicon and was in much worse condition. I’ll be installing the new up higher up to protect it.

MLO New England 2022 Trail Ride Series

What a weekend! When Main Line Overland shop told me about the upcoming MLO New England 2022 Trail Ride Series (in partnership wtih Ridge Back Guide Service LLC), I signed up right away. I have so much to learn about overlanding.

I’ve done a number of cross country solo trips to Moab, UT, to the Colorado Rockies, Texas, Sturgis, Sedona, AZ, and more. They were all awesome experiences, but it was all about the destination. When it comes to overlanding, it’s all about the journey.

Overlanding is self-reliant overland travel to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal.” – Wikipedia

When I was in the US Army (79-85), I drove my M151 (aka Mutt) through anything our commanders sent us through. I got pretty good with the 4-speed, even with the horrible suspension (pucker moments), with or without the 1/4 ton trailer. So I think I got an early start off road.

On Friday I had to re-mount my front bumper skid plate the night before. I removed it when I relocated my steering stabilizer. I snapped two bolts when I tried to remove them using an impact wrench. I was able to get the broken pieces removed (images). I attached the skid plate using the six bolts around the front edge. I figured it’s safe to go on this weekend trip without the rearmost bolts. I was right, it held together fine.

I packed the Jeep that night. I figured with my iKamper out of commission (needs repair – don’t ask), I packed my ground tent stuff and enough supplies to last three days. Well as it turned out I forgot to bring my 2.5 gallon water container, my stove lighter, my coffee mug, and all my utencils. I really should have followed the list I use for all my other trips.

When I got to the camp, I pitched my tent by the water. It was getting dark, so I set up the kitchen. I realized I forgot to bring water and the stove lighter. So I packed things up and went to the local store. Came back and set up the kitchen again.

Then I realized I didn’t bring utencils or a coffee mug. You guessed it. I packed things up again, back to the local store I went. I was lucky, they were closing in 20 minutes. Came back and finally started cooking dinner.

The folks on the trip started their campfire, while I was starting to get low on blood sugar. I remember being asked if I planned to join them. I responded “I have to eat”, but it came out a little louder than I wanted. I sounded a little like Chris Farley at the end of this infamous SNL sketch. #hypoglicemia

Saturday’s blue trail was downright awesome. Beautiful scenery. Challenging terrain. Ok, for the Toyotas. Not so much for the Jeeps. Sunday’s green trail was even more beautiful, with easier terrain. I can’t remember seeing so much beauty in only a couple days. Overlanding is indeed about the journey.

I had a blast. I learned a lot. I understand why overlanding is a thing. I can’t wait to do it again!

My GMRS antenna snapped. It was a 5/8 wave that worked great. Luckily I carry spares, so I replaced it with a 1/2 wave. Works well on a trip with a dozen or so vehicles, but isn’t great for long(er) distances. I posted to the Expedition Portal to see what folks there think.


Stopped at a no touch pressure wash on the way back. That Virginia mud came off on the first try!

HAM and GMRS relocation

Now that I’ve got my HAM and GMRS faceplates mounted securely to a seat rail bracket bolted onto the front left passenger seat bolt, the next task on my list was to put both radio bodies in a secure and hidden location. At first I thought about mounting them in one of the Goose Gear platform cubby holes, but I decided against it since I want my recovery gear and tools to be put there.

I decided to route power for both radios to my LiFePO4 off grid battery, instead of through the firewall to the Jeep battery. This makes things so much easier. I decided there is plenty of room under the driver’s seat, back where the rear driver’s side passenger would sit if I had back seats. I didn’t realize there was so much room there. I decided to mount both radios on a piece of wood, and secure it with a 2″ piece of aluminum attached to the two rear driver seat rail bolts.

OmniGraffle diagram. Grey is the aluminum bar, black is the seat rails.

There’s plenty of room to mount the radio bodies side by side, and plenty of room on all sides of the radio, to enable cable management (power, mic, programming, and controller). There’s even enough room to insert/eject the microSD card used to back up and program the HAM radio.

Luckily I had a jigsaw with blades for all types of metals and wood. So cutting the plywood and aluminum bar was easy peasy. I used a Dremel to finish the cut sides to prevent sharp edges on the aluminum bar, and splinters on the plywood. I had plenty of stainless steel bolts of all sizes, and nylock bolts, and washers.

Once I had the 1/2″ holes drilled on the ends of the aluminum bar, and the two 3/8″ holes in the center of the wood piece, it was easy to put it all together. Mounting the radio brackets and the radios onto the brackets was a bit of a challenge (think race condition).

Once it was all assembled, I took it to the Jeep. I removed the four driver seat rail bolts, and set them to the side, since I bought M10-1.50 hardened steel bolts that were slightly longer. I placed the kit with the aluminum holes over the seat rail holes, and I put the seat rails over the aluminum bar holes. They aligned perfectly, so I put the bolts in but kept them loose.

I put the two front driver seat rail bolts in and tightened them down, then circled back to tighten down the rear bolts. I was expecting a wrestling match with some contortionism, but I was happy that things just fell into place. I slid the driver seat back and forth, plenty of room over the radios.

After finishing the wiring, I was very surprised how easy it was to do. It’s true that Goose Gear platform is the overlander’s dream come true.

Lido Radio Mount FTW

I promised myself when I was in the US Army (79-85) that I’d get my Ham license. I kept putting it off. I finally took and passed my Technician’s license test. Nailed it on the first try, only missed 2 of 35 questions. I was asked if I wanted to take the General test while was there, for free, but I didn’t feel right doing it, since I hadn’t studied for it yet. I plan to take and pass the General before the Fall.

Until then, I spent some time sorting out how I want to mount the new Yaesu FTM-400XDR (Ham) faceplate and the Wouxun KG-1000G (GMRS) faceplate. I don’t want my field of view blocked in any way, so I started looking for a seat rail bracket solution.

The first place I looked was at the RAM Mounts site. I’m a huge fan of their products, long lasting and durable. They make a really strong seat rail bracket (RAM-VB-196-SW2). I only saw pictures of it, but to be honest I’m not very impressed at the design. It attaches to the passenger seat rail bolts. I guess that makes sense, but the bar in between the bolts seems ready to tear into your passenger’s achilles heels. The top part of the bracket swings in different directions. Cool, but I want to move the whole thing out of the way when needed. The hunt continues. #sorryrammounts


Searching through some Ham forums, a lot of people recommended the Lido Radio Products’s L-Max-Deluxe. Ham Radio Outlet has them in stock, so I headed out to their New Castle, DE location. The design is so much better than RAM Mount’s product. It’s an arm with bicycle wheel style quick releases at the mid point and at the base. The top and bottom ends also had very hefty tension dials. The pivoting points had teeth, so there is no chance anything would slip. The base design is brilliant, giving you the ability to move the arm between vehicles.

I bought the L-Max-Deluxe and headed home. Once home I started to come up with the design for mounting the two radios (stacked on one plate) and the two microphones mounted side by side. I figured an upside down “T” design would work. So I ordered an extra plate designed for the Wouxun KG-1000G (has a 5/8″ hole for the faceplate to body cable). That plate would be oriented vertically, with the 5/8” hole at the top to accommodate the Wouxun face plate. The Yaesu face plate would be positioned beneath it. The bottom plate would be oriented horizontally, and would hold the two microphones side by side.

Once the parts came in, I confirmed it came with enough nuts and bolts to put it all together. But I knew i didnt have the right size bolts, since the two plates were probably not designed to be mounted to each other. I also noticed the four center holes on each plate were designed for counter sunk bolts, which the kit didn’t come with. I figured I’d take the whole kit to Home Depot and find the right length bolts and nylock nuts.

The folks at Home Depot were very helpful. I love that place! The staff helped me find the right size philips counter sunk screws and matching nylock nuts. We found sets of different length flat head bolts, and the countersunk bolts for attaching the two plates together. I spent roughly $12, and it was fun going through the exercise.

When I got home I put it all together. I planned well, since I had all that I needed, and a few left over nuts and bolts. The kit looks great, even with the four shiny bolts holding the two plates together. Maybe I’ll look for black counter sunk bolts later, or I’ll take a Sharpie to them.

The back of the kit has the quick mount/unmount plate that came with the bracket. It went onto the bracket smoothly, was secure, and came off without much effort. I drove around some rough roads, and was surprised how little the arm wiggled. I’m very happy with the setup. I plan to send a link to this blog post to Lido, so they can share with anyone else who wants to mount two faceplates on a heavy duty bracket.

Next I had t create a couple wire harnesses, so I could run the cables back to my LiFePO4 off grid power kit. I originally had one of the radios wired to the Jeep battery, but this makes so much more sense. Plenty of power, plenty of connections, and lots of power management for protection.

I ordered the 1/2″ PVC flame retardant sheathing from McMaster-Carr, thanks to a tip from the folks on JLWranglerForums. Removed the inline fuses, since the Blue Sea fuse block provides ATO/ATC fuse slots. Both radio bodies are in the passenger foot well area (for now – I plan to mount them both under the driver’s seat once I build a kit). It was easy to run the new wiring harnesses through my Goose Gear stealth full platform.

Once I connected the wires, I stuck a 15A fuse in both spots, and bingo, we’re powered up and super protected. It took some work, but was well worth it!

Next post will cover relocating my HAM and GMRS radios to under the driver’s seat.

Jericho Mt with Evolution Jeep Alliance

I joined Evolution Jeep Alliance (EJA) this weekend for a planned long weekend trip to Mount Washington (Fri) and Jericho Mountain (Sat).

A few of us met in Allentown at 1300 on Thursday. We drove about four hours to Brattleboro, NH. We got there just as it was getting dark. We split up and went to our respective hotels or BnBs, had dinner, and rested up for Friday.

Video courtesy EJA, that’s me at 00:46. We are pulling into Jericho Mountain

Friday was a little anticlimactic, since it turned out Mount Washington was closed. We knew before we left, so everyone found a way to keep busy that day. I chilled and went to see Top Gun, and found a nice dinner spot.

On Saturday all met at the Moat Mountain Brewery parking lot and planned to hit the road at 0900. It took about an hour to get to Jericho Mountain. I was about 2/3 of the way back in the Jeep convoy, so I got to see folks watching the us drive by. Not sure if they were liking it or just annoyed.

Once we got to Jericho Mountain, we split into two groups. Most of the Jeeps were highly modified and capable, so they went to the black trail. Jeep Badge Of Honor rates the black trail up to 9 of 10. They decided to use GMRS channel 6.

Those of us in more modestly built Jeeps took the green trail. Two of the Jeeps had broken front driveshafts, and one older Jeep had overheating problems. Never saw coolant boiling before. They took the shorter green trail and I was happy to keep them company.

If it didn’t rain I probably would have done the entire green trail, even if it includes a portion of the black trail. But I’m not willing to take unnecessary risks on slippery rocks, not interested in unplanned body or drivetrain damage. Besides I haven’t gotten around to relocating my steering stabilizer, so it’s in it’s stock position (too low). So three of us waited in the parking lot for the black group to return.

My GMRS lets me monitor two channels, so I was able to hear the few green group folks making their way back to the lot. The black group had excellent spotting, but had to winch a few times, as expected. I heard one Jeep slipped off a rock and is pinned to a tree.

We eventually all got out safely and met in the parking lot. I latched on to a small group heading to North Conway. A small blue car decided to squeeze into the convoy, almost hitting one of us. He eventually peeled off. Boy it’s folks like that who shouldn’t be licensed to drive.

I stayed at the 1880s School House Inn on Saturday night for $8 (had a free night at Hotels.com). They have an old restored gas pump in the lobby. The price hasn’t changed in a couple years.

I had breakfast at Banner’s, a little earlier than the group that’s convoying back home. Best omelettes ever! I had some time to kill so I topped off gas and air, and tidied up the cargo area. Including blowing out all the annoying flying cottonwood things. Did I have too much coffee?

I made use of the extra Strachits and used them to secure everything. There wasn’t much to secure since it’s a short trip, but that just meant there were more tie down loops available on the Goose Gear platform.

The EJA club seems very friendly and welcoming. They’re experienced, capable Jeepers. I’m impressed, and I hope to join them again.

Apr 16 – Moab, UT (Flat Iron Mesa)

I loved this trail. It has four sections. Hard, easy, hard, and easy. This hard sections are worthy of a 7. I’m not sure how I got over some of those big boulders without hitting metal. I must be getting better at finding the best lines. The easy sections are maybe a 4, where a stock vehicle can get through it if careful. Here is a video of the route. I’m also attaching images.

Apr 15 – Moab, UT (Kane Creek Canyon)

Had to pass on Kane Creek Canyon since it includes Hamburger Hill and no bypass. That’s a big no without 37s and a bigger lift. 🙂

Did Fins N Things on my own today. One of the easiest yet one of the most awesome trails in Moab. And it’s the one most folks start out with. So I kind of goofed around, at one point on the trail I tried all three descent options at a triple fork. I always tried the 2nd/3rd options, but never the first because it’s so damned steep! Finally did it, and it wasn’t bad.

Today EJS is having their raffle give aways. If I’m lucky, I’ll be driving home in a 2022 JLUR 4xe. Ha…at least I’ll finally pick up my registration packet. I picked up a free Tailgater Magnet bar. I also met Brittany and Kevin Williams of Lite Brite fame.

We to the Friday evening raffle. Didn’t win the Jeep 4xe. Didn’t in anything else. But had fun watching $210K of stuff be given away. Next year I’ll buy twice as many Teraflex tickets. 🙂

Apr 14 – Moab, UT (Golden Spike)

Overslept so I missed the Golden Spike group this morning. Unfortunately the route to Golden Spike is closed off at the Poison Spider entrance. so I took the day off today to rest up for the three remaining days of trails.

I visited the petroglyphs on the side of the road by the river. Hard to believe rock climbers are crawling up so close to these precious artifacts. I know Utah is serious about conservation.

The local Red Rock Crawlers scheduled their annual Hell’s Revenge night ride, so I joined them. It was exciting and scary. The best part was watching a couple dozen Jeeps send it on Hell’s Gate without any spotters! They climbed fast and didn’t make any mistakes. Definitely a great event!

Apr 13 – Moab, UT (Moab Rim)

Moab Rim is a sleeper. Never really heard of it. In fact there’s weren’t many hints that the trail is even used much. Apparently it’s a dangerous trail that has claimed lives, and therefore isn’t really discussed much. I mean, really, who ever even heard of Devil’s Crack?!

The first section of the trail seemed like a mix of Pritchett Canyon and Rubicon Trail. It’s rated 7 of 10, which makes it a hard trail. At the drivers meeting we were told “There’ll be some scraping.” Myea, I should be so lucky. #imawuss

Let’s talk spotters. Suffice it to say, with an experienced spotter, carnage can be minimized. With someone’s passenger trying to spot, not so much. The best intentions is no substitute for experience and capability. It didn’t take long to realize who not to allow to spot you. At the end of the day you’re responsible, accountable, and liable. So don’t be a wuss, just pick your spotters wisely. 🙂

I may have had the smallest tires (35s) and lift (2”), but I think I did well. There are no bypasses on Moab Rim. Dana (sponsor) was there with two Jeeps sporting Hemi engines, Dana60/80 axles, 40” tires, and what appeared to be dial reservoir shocks (etc.). It wasn’t a walk in the park for them either.

If you look at my Jeep you can’t tell it bounced off boulders today. I plan to get it on a lift and survey the damage when I get back, and likely upgrade the diff covers since I’m pretty sure they took a beating. Four more days of trails left. Having a blast.

Apr 12 – Moab, UT (Gold Bar Rim)

It was a little windy (10-15) so I parked the Jeep so the iKamper shell is against the wind, and I attached the two hydronic strut brackets to brace the hard top against the wind.

As soon as my head hit the pillow, got a flash warning of 30-40 mph winds with gusts up to 60 lasting all night. Already feeling and hearing the wind. The tent seems to be handling it well.

Not worried about the tent failing, but iKamper rated their tents up to 23mph winds so not taking chances. I try to get out of the tent and there’s no ladder.

I mean the ladder is there. But the foot end of the folding platform of the tent was lifted by the wind, resulting in the foot of the latter swinging in towards the car.

I ended up crawling out the side window, very scary. I packed the iKamper to went to sleep in the Jeep.

By morning I saw it was snowing, so far a couple inches. Well I won’t go wheeling in the snow, too risky. Guess I’m going to Moab Diner for breakfast and find other things to do today.

Apr 11 – Moab, UT (Metal Masher)

Today’s ride is Metal Masher!

It’s not the first time here. But when I did it last year, in took all the bypasses. Every. Last. One. I promised myself I would not take any bypasses this year. I’m proud to say I only took one. At the end. Because I don’t have the courage to creep down a 48” high 45 degree wall. Nuh uh!

The trail reminded me of Texas. Lots of dust, lots of challenging stretches. And a significant number of walls to climb over. I made it a point to follow a JLUR that is equipped like mine. 35” tires and 2” lift. I followed his line and found myself in trouble a few times. Nothing terrible but some metal was mashed. Apparently a winch mount bolt came off. Ruh roh!

Apparently this is one of my winch mount bolts.

I decided to follow a different Jeep. A two door TJ with 33” tires and a 4” lift. Close enough. I followed his line every time we got to a wall. Absolutely no issues. It’s amazing what a Jeep can go over if you take the right line, and go slowly. I followed that Jeep until the last wall. He went over it but slammed down pretty hard.

That’s when I radioed the tour leads asking about the bypass. “The bypass is in the left but not sure what shape it’s in.” I hightailed to the bypass and so did a dozen others. I guess I’m used to being the squeaky wheel.

Some pictures…

Metal Masher was loads of fun, more so than last year. But who am I kidding? The ESJ spotters were awesome! Tomorrow is Good Bar Rim.