Apr 02 – PA to WV

500 miles in 10 hours. Lots of breaks. I stuck to the speed limit. 15.8 MPG, not bad with the roof top tent.

This KOA is right by the highway. I sleep like a rock, but those dummies racing their obnoxiously loud jalopies are annoying.

I finally installed the outdoor carpet in the RTT. The 3.5” self inflating mattress pad beats the heck out of the 2” stock foam mattress.

Apr 01 – Packing the Jeep

This year’s trip will be roughly 2,200 miles from PA to UT. I’ll be staying at KOA every night, to help compensate for the ridiculous price of gas. 🙂

Packing is a huge PITA, but I’m getting better at it every year. I made sure I had real overlanding boxes so I could secure, seal, and label my stuff. Two Front Runner Wolf Pack containers, two Front Runner Cub Pack containers, and two Expedition 134 containers for the bigger stuff.

I forgot to order Front Runner Stratchits, so I had to run to Home Depot to get a few cheap rachet straps to hold things until I find a store that has them in stock. Stratchits are so much better, since they’re slightly elastic, they don’t come loose when you’re offroad. I’m passing several overlanding shops that sell them, so I should have them by the time I get to Moab.

Both RotopaX 2 Gallon fuel containers and my 5LB propane tank are full and secured to the back wheel. Secured by a bicycle lock. The fridge is packed with sanwiches, drinks, and fruit. The 5 gallon water container is full of clean water.

I took a few minutes to install the Mopar Xtreme Fender Flare Extensions, so I don’t get pulled over for my tires sticking too far out. I ran out of time, so I didn’t get to install the 24″ adhesive outdoor carpet tiles inside the tent. I really want to leave the 2″ foam mats behind, this way I can store my Mountain Summit Gear 3.5″ R6 rated self inflating mattress pad, and my Big Agnes expanding sleeping bag, inside the iKamper when I’m moving.

Tires are inflated to the recommended 36psi, thanks to my ARB CKMTA12 dual compressor (mounted under the passenger seat), and my MOREFlate quad hose kit. I think I’m all set. I’m ready to sleep, gotta get up at 0600 and be on the road by 0700.

Main Line Overland LiFePO4 FTW

With roughly three weeks left before I head out to Easter Jeep Safari 2022, I was able to decide on the off-grid power kit. Starting with the battery, I decided on a 100ah LiFePO4 (Lithium-Iron Phosphate). After researching battery companies, it came down to Battle Born, Dakota, or Renogy.

I want this to last as many years as possible, and I want the best support. I decided on Renogy. Their 100ah battery is rated at 4,000 cycles, so the battery can be discharged that many times and still hold an 80% charge. The built in battery management system cuts off charging at 0C, and cuts off power output at -20C. Even if I don’t go out when its that cold, its good to know the battery is protected.

Renogy’s 100ah LiFePO4 smart battery isn’t cheap, even at Renogy’s Amazon store. I had to remind myself that its the heart of the off-grid kit, so I put it in my Amazon cart. An hour later someone sent me a message that the exact battery just got listed on Facebook Marketplace at half the retail price. I showed up with a battery load tester, tried to keep my composure when it measured exactly 14.6V. Half price for a battery that has 100% of it’s life left. 🙂

When I got home I looked for two major components that would be needed. A Renogy 30A Dual-Input DC-to-DC MPPT On-Board Battery Charger, and a Renogy 1000W 12V Pure Sine Wave Inverter with Power Saving Mode. I decided to source the components through the shop, since the price is pretty consistent no matter where you shopped for them.

High level goal is to have the LiFePO4 battery charged by the Jeep battery when it’s running. When the Jeep isn’t running, and a solar panel is connected, the solar panel will charge the LiFePO4 battery. My favorite part, when the LiFePO4 is at or near 100%, it’ll send power back to the Jeep battery. Pretty nifty.

I always go to Main Line Overland for these kinds of things. They’re able to get any components you need, their techs are extremely knowledgeable, experienced on some of the most extreme overland builds, and most importantly, they do some of the cleanest work. Very highly recommended by my buddies, and now I know why.

I visited them on a Friday and we spent a few minutes going over the plan. The Jeep was ready around lunch time on Wednesday. When I picked it up, I got a very thorough walkthrough, lots of answers to lots of questions, great advice, man what an experience. The icing on the cake was how beautifully they tucked the MPPT/Charger, Bluetooth monitor, and fuse box in the small cubby hole.

I requested a schematic, since I was going on a 5-6 thousand mile trip, and wanted to be prepared if there were any problems. I got a very detailed hand drawn schematic with color coded wiring, fuse information, etc. Coming the graphic arts, I’m impressed. I should frame it, after I take a picture of it and upload it to Apple Books for reference when I’m on the road. I’m so happy that I’ve got more power, smarter power than before.

Parts list:

For my solar panel, I decided to go with a folding, waterproof, and very duarable Bugout 130 Solar Charger. It’s 22×68″ open, and comes with a 20′ Anderson SB50 cable, and a Anderson SB5 to SAE adapter cable that I won’t be using. The solar panel will be deployed on those days that I’m not moving around. Since the 100ah LiFePO4 battery is charged by the vehicle when it is running.

Its a good thing I had the shop provide an Anderson SB50 by the rear right door, so I have a place to plug in the solar panel. Luckily right near it, in another cubby hole, is a Dometic hard wire kit that I’ll be running into the iKamper tent, so I can power my devices (iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro, etc.).

iKamper Skycamp Mini Dry Run

I had a short to-do list today. First, I stopped at Main Line Overland where they were holding on to some parts that I accidentally left behind when I had them install the iKamper Skycamp Mini. Then I headed to Valley Forge National State Park for a dry run on opening and closing the tent, and to take some pictures.

I love that park. The Rangers are very friendly to overlanders and RVs. They also never had a problem when I came by to test equipment and take pictures. Nobody seemed to flinch when they saw me opening and closing the iKamper Mini. Its not like I was going to spend the night.

So it took under a minute to open the tent. I may have cheated, since I didn’t open the side windows. Closing it took a little over a minute, since I had to do a bit of tucking in on the sides. Here are some pictures of the tent fully open.

The 2″ memory foam mattress that comes with the iKamper Mini is actually pretty comfortable. Though my plan is to remove the mattress and stick a layer of outdoor carpet on the floor of the tent. This is to prevent any condensation, though I don’t plan to go out if the temperature dips below 40F.

Once the floor of the tent is lined with outdoor carpet, I’ll be using my 3.5″ Mountain Summit Gear self inflating mattress pad, my Big Agness Torchlight 40 sleeping bag, and my really comfy pillow. That’s the combination I’ve used over the past five or six years. I confirmed it’ll all squish nicely into the tent when I close it.

I decided not to get a 270 awning right now. I don’t need it for Easter Jeep Safari. Instead, I bought iKamper’s Mini awning that’ll provide enough protection at base camp. I might add a rear facing awning so I can cook in the tailgate area when it rains.

More to come on my next project, a 100ah LiFePO4 off-grid/overlanding power kit that’ll replace my current 40ah kit. The kit will include lots of power management, so it’ll know when to charge from the solar panel (when not moving), when to charge from the vehicle battery (when moving), and when to send power back to the vehicle battery.

Two blog posts over a long weekend. Boy I’m pooped.

Lighting Up The Moab Trails

How long should it take to mount auxillery lights that came off of your old Jeep, to your new Jeep? It depends on the weather. It finally warmed up enough to get this done. 🙂 So I finally mounted my Baja Designs Squadron Sport Spot and Cornerning lights.

They’ve been sitting in my garage since I rmeoved them from my previous Jeep, so dusting them off was the first step, as well as spraying some electrical contact cleaner onto the wire connections. It was more work than I expected.

I mounted the lights onto the steel front bumper. This time I needed to mount them on my winch/grille guard (2″ tube). I didn’t want to spend $40 each for four Baja Design mounts, so I ended up buying some cheap aluminum mounts for $50 on Amazon for. I’m happy with the result.

Second, on my previous Jeep I used an sPOD device to manage all my under the hood switched wiring, I had to dig around under the hood to find the Rubicon’s AUX switch wiring bundle. Once I found it, it was a piece of cake. Ground wires went to a bolt that Jeep recommends for grounding lights (IOW not to the negative battery post).

The AUX wiring bundle includes four wires. The AUX 1/2 switches use 12 AWG wiring, and are rated at 40A. The AUX 3/4 switches use 16 AWG wiring, and are rated at 15A. The spot and cornering lights are 2A each, so I connected the spots to AUX 3, and the cornering to AUX 4. I can combine them later if I run out of AUX switches.

AUX Switch Wiring

Switched
    AUX 1 (F93 - 40A) Brown/pink stripe
    AUX 2 (F92 - 40A) Green/pink stripe
    AUX 3 (F103 - 15A) Pink/orange stripe
    AUX 4 (F108 - 15A) Blue/pink stripe
        ,------------+------------,
        | Aux 1 (40) | Aux 3 (15) |
        +------------+------------+
        | Aux 2 (40) | Aux 4 (15) |
        `------------+------------'
Unswitched
    Direct Battery (F72 - 10A) Red/white stripe
    Ignition (F50 - 10A) Orange/pink stripe

I’m a stickler for clean wiring, so I made sure the cables were cut with just enough slack. Then I used solder seal connectors to connect the wire ends, with heat shrink sleeves to make the connection even stronger. Then, to show how serious I am about protecting wiring, I covered the wiring with heat shrinkable braded sheathing.

Did I go overboard? Danged right I did. Heck, I even labled the cables so future me knows which cables go to which lights. Nothing is worse than not knowing where cables are coming from or going to. I prefer to do things right and not cut corners. Not sure a shop would go to such lengths, but I always try to.

Once the lights were mounted, and the wiring done, and the switches tested one last time, I drove a couple miles to the nearest Walmart. They’ve got light walls at the back of the store, perfect for testing. I parked perpendicular to the largest wall, about 50 feet away.

I aimed the spot lights so the center is level to the head lights. The cornering lights are almost impossible to aim, so I used the fins on the lights to get it as level as possible. Once I’m on the trail, none of this will matter, but I sleep better knowing I did my best.

I’m not quite done yet with lights. I need two waterproof LED strip lights. One for inside the iKamper Skycamper Mini roof top tent (RTT), and for under the awning. Luckily those are cheap at REI.

Easter Jeep Safari 2022

Easter Jeep Safari (EJS) runs from April 9th through the 17th. Nine days of exciting trails and more! Early registration opened up today for members (non members have to wait another week). I logged in and picked from their (very complete) list of trail rides. I’ve been to Moab a few times, so I already have four of the Jeep Badges of Honor (BOH) for the area.

Most of the rides take half a day or less, though they do offer a three day ride. I passed on that one, since I want to get all the remaining BOHs. Pritchet Canyon is rated 9 of 10 so it’s off the list (no interest in gigantic tires and lift!). I can do the trails that are rated up to 7 of 10 (8 is sketchy). I wanted to do Elephant Hill, but the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are enforcing new restrictions, making it difficult to do. That’s OK, I’ve been there on my Harley.

This year I’m adding to the list:

The EJS registration web site was slow in the beginning, but after some of the earliest members finished registering it sped up I was able to pick my rides. They’re all rated 5/7 of 10.

There’s a shorter to-do list, heading to the EJS trip.

  • Cut a platorm to mount the fridge mount and my PLB40 battery to, so they’re secure, and have breathing room (not interested in drilling through my Goose Gear stealth platform!).
  • Mount my 50W solar panel to my iKamper lid (to charge a second battery).
  • Build a LiFePO4 battery box kit that the solar panel will charge (to power my non-fridge stuff).
  • Create a small power distribution box for the tent, so I can have light, and charge my iPhone (etc.).
  • Run some LED light strips and a dimmer along the roof of the RTT.
  • Mount my Baja Design lights to the winch/grille protector bar in front (using AUX switches under the hood).
  • Resist the urge to buy a 270 awning since its not needed for EJS…maybe for the Fall trip or 2023.

More to come once I start chopping away at the to-do list.

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.

Installation

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: https://bit.ly/3E7xCnS

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.