Day 5 – Desert Rat (690 miles)

I knew if I wanted to do the two Arizona Badge Of Honor trails this weekend, I need to get to Desert Rat by Friday, so I can be ready for Saturday and Sunday. That meant today had to be a long day.

On one of my gas stops, I connected with a retired Jeep Gladiator owner who had a Harley-Davidson Street Glide on a trailer, and a 6 week old kennel puppy as a riding partner. Turns out he’s a retiree who’s keeping busy delivering kennel dogs to the kennel’s customers. On this day he also delivering his bike to the person he sold it too.

He decided it was time to move on from riding a Harley. Interesting person. Similar to me, I sold my Road Glide a few weeks ago, to focus on overlanding. I asked him a bunch of retirement questions, and he was happy to share his experiences and insight. He was going to Albuquerque too, so we had ourselves a mini convoy.

Interesting last couple hundred miles. I got to see a couple fairly big dust devils forming along the way. Luckily there were only a couple light, short rain showers. When I got to Desert Rat, they had my custom power loom waiting for me.

What a relief, now I just need to remove the cable that I hacked, and run the new cable to the battery. I’ll try to take care of that in the morning.

Day 3 – Swimming to Missouri (490 miles)

I left Cincinnati at 0900, and decided to go until I got tired. Well, since I had a good dinner, and a solid night’s sleep, and a good breakfast, I was able to make this a long day.

It rained the entire way, so not much to photograph. Well, I did find a new feature in the Jeep. A volume knob. I know, I’m so easily amused. ๐Ÿ™‚

Did I mention it rained? Yeap, 6th day in a row. I feel like Schleprock from The Flintstones, with the black rain cloud always following him. At least so far on this trip. LOL

Day 2 – 4 Wheel Parts Rocks! (440 miles)

Payload of gold

Number 102 of 500

On my way to 4 Wheel Parts, I found myself trailing this cool Tonka truck. After two miles, he turned into the same log I was going to. We were both getting work done. Awesome collectable, very, limited run from 2014, very rare.

Winch disappears into Rubicon steel bumper

The winch mounted in the Rubicon steel bumper looks awesome. I do need to replace the hook with something less clumsy looking. Its a Warn VR EVO 10S. Yes, I went with synthetic instead of steel. Why? Weight. #yeaThatsTheTicket

WTF!?

I’m gonna guess this is an eCar charger. I’m also gonna guess the guy behind him might have to whip out a golf club and go all Jack Nickleson on him if he takes any longer.

Day 1 – Pittsburgh (346 miles)

Nope. I won’t pass him.

The first day is usually the most boring. So here are some boring images and videos

I love Joe Rogan’s podcast, now on Spotify. He had Elon Musk on a week or two ago. If you didn’t listen to it, make the time, you won’t regret it. ๐Ÿ™‚ A couple days ago he had Neil DeGrasse Tyson on, and I spent today listening to it.

Imagine your Tesla needing to change lanes, and communicating to other Teslas that its about to change lanes. Imagine your Tesla hitting a rough stretch of road, and communicating with other Tesla cars about it.

Myea, saw this in front of a Toyota dealership
Sad

Day 0 – Packing the Jeep

I packed the Jeep. Stuck to my packing list. Yes, I resisted bringing the kitchen sink. Canโ€™t wait until the winch is installed, thatโ€™ll give me more room. Havenโ€™t put water into the container yet. Just realized I could have taken the ends of the front steel bumper off. Iโ€™ll do that when Iโ€™m in Moab. All in all, a HUGE increase in space, AND my approach is much more weight concious.

Packed and ready to go

Stopped for gas, saw a CAT Scale sign, why not get my gross weight while I’m here and the tank is full. 5540, that’s 260 under the GVWR. I’ll save another 100 (?) when I remove the rear seats (ran out of time). The new Jeep already has steel bumpers, and has a 21 gal tank (vs 15), so unlikely I’ll ever go over GVWR with the JLUR.

I noticed Jeep fixed the door leak issue, where you got a waterfall when opening the door on rainy days. I guess it was a good thing that it rained on Saturday, or I probably wouldn’t have noticed. This must be new on the 2021s.

As always my route will avoid states that don’t recognize my Pennsylvania concealed carry permit, hoping to avoid the PITA factor. The blue colored states have a reciprocity agreement with PA, the read ones don’t.

Reciprocity FTW!

That’s fine, I’m concentrating on Arizona, Southern California, Utah, Colorado, and maybe Texas. I plan to do some trails in southern California, around Big Bear. Rubicon Trail is most likely not going to happen since there’s still snow there, and since the new Jeep is all stock (just adding a winch in the coming days).

I was a le to transfer over (from the old Jeep) the Dometic Hard Wire Kit, and the ARB Dual Compressor under the passenger seat. So the fridge is cold, and I’m able to air up/down. Two priority items. ๐Ÿ™‚

I left the Murder Spork, Axe, and Hi-Lift, since I didn’t have time to get secure mounts for them. I also left the spot and flood lights behind, since installing them would require more work.

I want to use the AUX switches built in to the new Jeep. Much work left to do, some of it will be done during this trip, some once I’m back.

Snazzberry Happened Today

After driving two door Jeeps for two years or so, I’m finally in a four door Jeep Rubicon. Most of the dealers were sold out of the Rubicon four door model. After making some calls, I found that Videon had one in Nacho color. Not crazy about the idea of being taunted with Nacho jokes. I tried to buy it, but the sales person wasn’t available.

A few more calls, and I found that Jeff D’Ambrosio had one in Snazzberry. WTF is Snazzberry? I went there to look it it. The color made my heart stop. It really is that awesome. ๐Ÿ™‚ It had some features I never saw before, like Off-Road Plus mode. That function lets you enable off road features at higher speed. Like locking the rear diff, keeping traction control on, while doing 60 in the desert.

Another unexpected, yet very welcome, feature is Selectable Tire Fill-Alerts (STFA), which should come in very handy when airing up to the desired pressure using my ARB Dual Air Compressor. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m hitting the road on Monday, and there’s so much left to do. I need to remove the rear seats, but I guess that can wait until I get back, since I don’t have a platform for the cargo area. I’d rather be prepared in case I find one during the trip. I’m traveling all over the US, so the likelyhood is slightly greater than zero that I’ll find and install a platform before I get back.

I need to order a winch and mounting plate, so I can have it installed when I’m in Moab. Rustie’s Off Road Products Rusty’s Winch Mount for steel Rubicon for a front bumper. I messaged them through Facebook, hoping to pick it up when I go through Alabama.

4 Wheel Parts (Carlisle, PA) has a few WARN VR EVO 10 winches in stock, will see if I can pay for it today and swing by to pick it up on my way out on Saturday. I love patronizing local shops. A winch should be rated 1.5x your GVWR, so 5800 x 1.5 = 8700 (10000 is the safest bet).

I’m sticking to steel, even though I learned a lesson on a recent Off Road Consulting Crawl Daddy guided ride. I got stuck, and my steel winch cable was not wrapped properly. That made things tougher than necessary…so I got a well deserved lambasting on YouTube.

“Ok, ok, I learned my lesson. I will always re-wrap my steel winch cable.” – SUSUSUCIO #RIP

I don’t think I’ll have time to get the dual storage drawers installed, since, like I mentioned, I won’t have a platform soon enough. That’s OK, since I have a couple Expedition 134 storage boxes, and several Forerunner Cub Pack boxes. That should be enough to store most of my stuff. I’ll need to hit Home Depo or Lowes to get some heavy duty canvas tool bags, to store my recovery tools, and other heavy stuff.

I’m excited, didn’t think things would come together like this.

Propane and Blue Trails with ORC

Four weeks before I head out to Moab>Rubicon. I planned to get my propane tank filled on Saturday, and to join Off Road Consulting on their guided blue trail ride on Sunday.

First thing’s first, fill up my new 5 LB propane tank. Now that I finally got the Powertank mounting bracket, it was time to fill ‘er up. I called the local Lowes, HomeDepo, Walmart, and some gas stations, but they only offered 15 LB tank swaps. Well that sucks. I reached out to some of my overland/camping buddies, they all recommended calling the nearest Camping World. Nice, they do fillups even on 5 LB tanks!

The closest Camping World is in Swedesboro, NJ, about 30 miles out. I got up early on Saturday and headed out. I got there in less than 40 minutes. One of the guys took the tank to get it filled, told me he’d be back in 10 minutes. Perfect, just enough time to look around the place for camping supplies. ๐Ÿ™‚

I ended up buying most of the stuff that was on my list, the rest I suppsoed I’ll need to get from REI or Cabela’s. But I digress.

They’ve got half a dozen bays where they do maintenance, repairs, modifications, installs, you name it, they do it. I asked one of the guys if they can mount the propane tank to my Jeep, just to see what they’d say. Apparently they’ve had Jeep owers come in to do just that. They would have to order a bracket, and it would mount over the left brake light, and it would involve drilling. I could probably tackle that myself, but then, I plan to strap my two RotoPax fuel containers and the 5 LB propane tank to the spare using a dual mount strap.

I headed back home, and prepared for Sunday. I planned to join Off Road Consulting on their guided Blue Trail ride. I left the fridge behind this time (overkill for a 6 hour ride), and took my Yeti Day Trip Bag instead. Pre-packed it the night before, with some liquids and sammishes, and stuck it in the fridge.

I got up early on Sunday and got to Rausch 30 min before the group was scheduled to head out. There were so many people there, they had to split us into two groups. I was in the first group of 8 Jeeps, we chose to do the harder blue trails. The second group was probably another 20 Jeeps, doing the easier blue trails. Of course being in the first group, we all raised our hands when asked if we’d like to do Crawler’s ridge.

Of course I took a few panoramic shots.

I took a a number of videos of the group going up the most challenging part of Crawler’s Ridge, guessing nobody got any video of me. #sigh

I managed to knock my right rear fender flare off. I misjudged a trench and slid into the wall of dirt. Luckily it was a minor slip and there was no damage to the fender flare. The plastic clips are designed to break away, and they did. I ordered some replacement clips, and its back on. I decided against using nutserts for the rear fender flares, since they are nice and secure using plastic clips. The front flares required nutserts, mentioned in another blog post.

Off Road Consulting is a group of veterans and ex contractors who train folks like me, as well as military, government, corporate, etc., folks on off road riding. They’ve got a ton of classes, including 101, 201, 301, recovery training, guided tours…if you have a Jeep and want to learn how to wheel, they’re the folks to connect with.

I Got Yer Number Crawl Daddy!

Four and a half weeks left before I head off to my Moab>Rubicon month long trip. I just found out that the leader of the Rubicon group I was going to latch onto had to cancel. I’m going to keep practicing while I look for another group to join.

Last Sunday I joined Off Road Consulting on their Rausch Creek Off Road Park guided Badge Of Honor (BOH) trail ride. They’re a group of professional trainers who are current or former military vets or contractors. They teach you how to think, how to decide on your line, and how to get from point A to point B as safely as possible. They know a thing or to about off road wheeling.

I took their intro 101 class about a year ago, and a few months later I took their 201 class. I learned a lot. When I saw they were offering a guided trail ride that included all three BOH trails, I signed up right away. I knew the spots would be taken fast, and boy was I right. A buddy tried to join, but didn’t make the cutoff. Bummer.

So the day included the three BOF trails. They offered to spot the first two trails, but told us in advance that they wouldn’t spot anyone on the hardest trail, Crawl Daddy. Totally understandable, however with full steel belly skids, Dana 44s w/front/rear lockers, heavy duty brakes, 35s, and a winch, they were Ok with it, after reminding me I signed all those waivers, so they’re off the hook if there’s any damage or injuries.

The first was Trail #11 (BLUE), which is challenging, some mud, some decent sized rocks, some off camber stretches that’ll have 1-2 of your wheels in the air, but not so much that a stock Jeep couldn’t get through it. That was our warm up.

The next trail was Crawler’s Ridge (BLUE/BLACK). Tougher. Bigger rocks. And some very challenging (and maybe a bit scary) stretches where you’ll hear your Jeep slam on some rocks if your tires slide off the slippery boulders. This is where the investment in armor comes in. That said, there was one log that was ridiculously trecherous, we had to move it, since everyone needed to be winched over it.

The final trail was Crawl Daddy (BLACK/RED). Some folks rate it a 9 (where Rubicon is the only 10 in the US). I have to admit, the first couple times I tried that trail, I was on 33s without lockers, and I did poorly. A couple weeks ago I did it on 35s, but I couldn’t see ahead of me, had a bit of spotting. This time we had pros spotting us, and that made things so much easier. Doesn’t mean I didn’t sustain some damage, but thankfully it was to my rock sliders.

I had a blast, can’t wait to apply what I learned on my next Cumberland Crawlerz ride! Here are some more pics:

CAT Scales and GVWR

My west coast overlanding buddies are sticklers for standards. They hammered home the significance of Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). That’s the most your Jeep should weigh, including all your passengers, cargo, fuel, etc. Every modification you made factors into the GVWR. Like replacing bumpers, adding a winch, installing skid plates, getting larger wheels/tires, swapping axles, etc. Jeep doesn’t offer a lot of wiggle room, so this is something you should probably pay attention to.

A 2020 Jeep Wrangler Sport S two door has a GVWR of 5000 pounds, and a 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon two door has a GVWR of 5350 pounds. Since we installed Rubicon take-off axles and an AEV DualSport suspension lift designed for overlanding, I decided to call Jeep to see if those two mods affect GVWR. I had high hopes on the call, and was happy to learn that the axles raise my GVWR to 5350 (same as the Rubicon model), and the beefy lift gives it another 100 or so pounds (they actually said 100-200 but I’m being conservative).

So based on that, my new estimated GVWR is 5450. This is of course an estimate, and not a Jeep recommendation. Of course Jeep legal needs to make sure they’ve got their diaper on. ๐Ÿ™‚ Apparently if someone was inclined and had money/time to burn, a documented adjusted GVWR is possible. Guessing only rich companies would bother to go down that road.

So to be totally honest, I did all the mods mentioned in the first paragraph. For my June trip I installed twin storage drawers, a fridge and slider. I had no idea if I was under or over the GVWR. I guess if I knew in the beginning this was going to be the direction I was taking, I would have been more careful with my purchase choices. Where weight would be one of the highest priorities. Oh well, live and learn.

A Jeeping/Trucking buddy told me I could get my Jeep weighed at a local CAT Scale location. I just needed to install their Weigh My Truck app on my iPhone, and configure it for payments. The nearest one is 20 miles, and they’re open 24 hours. I went there after work. I parked in the front most yellow square, where trucks’ front axles are positioned. I used the app to pay the $12.50, and I crossed my fingers.

I wasn’t as far off as I thought I’d be. I weighed in at 5400, that’s 50 pounds over the adjusted GVWR. Not too shabby. Well, my gas tank was almost empty. Figure 15 gallons would fill it, so 15 gallons at 6.3 pounds per gallon is 95 pounds. The fridge was empty, that’s another 20 or so pounds of food. Add 5 gallons of fresh water in a container, that’s another 31.5 pounds. All together that’s another 146.5 pounds.

So now we’re talking 5400 + 146.5 = 5546.5, fully loaded. That’s over my 5450 adjusted GVWR. I need to come up with creative ways to reduce total weight between now and June. I know I can shave off 50-75 pounds by removing the tools that I know I won’t need in June. #famousLastWords

Rausch – Crawl Daddy

What better way to test the strength of the cargo area build (twin drawers filled with recovery and kitchen stuff, and fridge on slider) than to wheel the toughest trail in PA? I joined the Cumberland Crawlerz group on Saturday to hit Crawl Daddy. Rausch Creek Off Road Park labels it a RED trail (extreme). Jeep’s Badge Of Honor app rates it 5-9, the most extreme, with the exception of the grand daddy of all trails, the Rubicon Trail, which is rated a 10.

First mistake, I got up late. I kept hitting the snooze button. That means I was tired, so in a way it’s a good thing I slept in. No point being tired and driving 100 miles to meet the group. It also gave me the chance to have a decent breakfast. Being hypoglicemic, nothing is worse than starting the day without food in your stomach, and a to-go coffee.

I had an epiphany when I got to Rausch. I ordered a MORRFlate Quad hose kit, hoping to finally give the ARB Dual Compressor (mounted under the passenger seat) a go. But. I ordered the one that didn’t include a pressure gauge. The hose kit is designed to pipe to all four tires concurrently, so my idea of checking pressure on one tire didn’t pan out. I just ordered the pressure gauge so I can attach it to the hose kit. So today I used Rausch’s air hose, which I think may be faster than using my compressor even with the hose kit.

Now to disconnect my sway bar links. This was easier than in the past, since now I have quick releases on both ends of the links, and a strap to hold the sway bar up. The links originally had a single quick release on the bottom, and a bracket to attach the sway bar link to, by swinging it up and attaching the quick release. Well as luck would have it, the upper brackets don’t work with after market wheel well liners, so the mod was necessary. Kudos to JKS Manufacturing for the sway bar link strap kit.

The Jeep handled very well, which is very reassuring, given I had 300 pounds of stuff in the cargo area. The fridge stocked with sammishes, ice coffee, and water, were easily handled by the American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) DualSport RT Suspension. I picked that solution since its designed for Jeeps that carry lots of cargo. I’m now comfortable that the build is Rubicon-proof! Well, I might still add a couple rachet straps over the fridge and drawers for added insurance. ๐Ÿ™‚

I signed up for Offroad Consulting‘s Rausch Badge Of Honor trip on April 25th. Yesterday’s trip was an eye opener. The 35s are definitely better than the 33s on Crawl Daddy. I can say that because I realized half way though the trail that I’ve been there before on my first Jeep. Definitely a better experience with full belly skids and 35s…and a winch! A couple guys spotted me yesterday, but I got stuck twice. With that said, one of my buddies had no problem on Crawl Daddy, despite being on 33s and having no lockers! WOAH!!!

The first time I got stuck, I was centered on top of a huge boulder. I picked the right line, but my driver side front wheel slid off a rock, and BOOM there I was. Enabling both front and rear lockers got me out of that mess. The second time I got stuck, I couldn’t get over a wet/muddy fallen tree. My buddies suggesting winching myself out. I had to back up a bit to be able to get out of the Jeep, then I had to carefully make my way to the back of the Jeep to get to the winch remote control (I’ll keep it in front from now on).

There were a couple interesting conversations about synthetic vs wire rope. I chose wire since I don’t want to be stranded if my synthetic rope snaps on rocks, and because it was cheaper. But there are good arguments for both options.

After that, I was told there were two more tough stretches. I got through the first stretch without any issues. Then on the last stretch I had to rely on my full belly plates. That was it. I did it with the help of some folks in the Cumberland Crawlerz group, a great group of wheelers. I know what to expect today, when I go to wash the Jeep…a ton of scratches, from all the thick(er) branches that I had to drive through. Thinking seriously about getting some vinyl covering to try to minimize damage when I get to Rubicon.

When I got to the air-up area, I cringed about not having a gauge on my MORRFlate Quad hose kit. Ironically someone pulled up between my Jeep and a buddie’s Jeep, each of us were parked in front of a hose. Another Jeep pulled up between us, leaving us little room to get to our tires. He asked if we were done, um, nope, we just got there. He then pulled up his hood and filled his own tires with his ARB Dual Compressor. When I asked him why he didn’t use it, he said it was slower than Rausch’s air-up hoses. LOL

I just ordered a gauge for the hose kit. Bought it from MORRFlate, this way I can be sure the kit is put together as designed. The company made a point about analog gauges being less accurate at higher PSIs, so at 36psi analog gauges can be 3-5psi off, where digital gauges would be right on. I’ll keep my hand held gauge handy but I probably won’t need it going forward.

Even though I only wheeled half a day, it was an opportunity to meet up with the Cumberland Crawlerz group. I got to test the fridge and drawers on the toughest trail in PA, feeling like I’m good for Rubicon. Kudos to Joe and Cody for spotting me, and tolerating my cringing. ๐Ÿ™‚

Here’s a good video that shows why I did Crawl Daddy as a precursor to Rubicon
With Crawl Daddy being PA’s most trecherous trail, its Moab, UT sister is Pritchett Cayon

The closer we get to June, the more I’ll scramble for the most hair raising, pucker worthy Rubicon videos.

New Shoes at 4WP

After spending a few months rolling with a used set of 35s, I decided itโ€™s the right size for my June trip to Moab>Rubicon. They were mud terrain which made them super gripping off road, but were loud and not great on the road.

I saved up a few months and finally plunked down on a new set of wheels and tires. I love BF Goodrich KO2 tires, my OEM wheels still have them. Theyโ€™re awesome on and off road. Though not great in mud, they get the job done. Picked up five of them at 4WP in Carlisle (35×12.50×17).

For wheels I went with basic alloy. Pro Comp Series 7069 wheels (17×9) with Pro Comp 8 spline keyed lug nuts. Iโ€™m not into bling, these wheels look nice and low key. Matte black.

I saved 24 pounds of rotating weight per wheel which is huge. They are quiet, where the old ones sounded like an Abrams M1 tank! Theyโ€™re also better gas mileage wise, 3 mpg from the trip back from from the shop. Not to mention instant *and* mail in rebates saved me about $40 per tire.

Next will be re-gearing, from 4.10 to 4.56.

Fridge, Slider, & Compressor

I finally finished mounting the Dometic CFX3 35 fridge, and the Dometic Fridge Slider. I took my time in deciding what bolts and washers to use, to get the most secure setup. Since it all sits on 3/8″ plywood, I wanted to get the biggest washers possible underneath, to spread the stress.

Turns out I went overboard as usual, so its definitely not budging when I hit Moab and Rubicon. ๐Ÿ™‚ The slider itself is secured to the plywood twin drawers top by 8 stainless steel bolts. The fridge is bolted to the slider by 4 black stainless steel bolts, this is optional if you use straps to secure using the handles.

I bought two 96″ Angled L-Tracks, I ended up using 2/3 of one, so I have 1 1/3 of the 2 L-Tracks left over. I tried hacksawing the strips, but got a rude reminder of how horrible hacksaws are. I ended up getting a Milwaukee Hackzall, which uses the same batteries as my impact driver and impact wrench. It made the cuts so much easier. I had to take a Dremel 4300 to the ends to make them smooth.

I had to experiement with different sized counter sunk stainless steel machine screws to get the strongest size while making sure the screw heads were sunken. Its really important for the O ring studs to slide smoothly. I like how it turned out. Strong and easy on the eyes. I might put a piece of the L-Track along the rear outer wall of the twin storage drawers, to help secure stuff behind the driver and front passenger seats.

I finally got the compressor wired up. Two 10 AWG positive lines (each with 40 AMP inline fuses), and a single 8 AWG ground wire. I made sure the wires were exactly the right size, and I used solder seal so the connections are solid and waterproof. I covered the wires with split wire loom tubing for protection.

This is one wiring job that has to be perfect. I learned a lot about how to create durable wiring harnesses for high power applications. I decided to run the wire from under the passenger seat, and under the carpet and through the A pillar on the passenger side, and secured to the big 3 battery terminal extensions.

Now for the moment of trugh. Was this all worth the time and effort. The ARB Twin Compressor (CKMTP12 converted to a CKMTA12) combined with a MoorFlate took 4 minutes to bring my four 35×12.50×17 tires up from 15 LBS to 36 LBS! Wow! No more getting back to the camp ground after dark.

Airing down is still a bit of a PITA. I used to use Staun Automatic Tire Deflators (made of brass), but they didn’t seem very accurate. Not to mention they take so damned long. So for airing down I use the ARB E-Z Deflator that was recommended to me by the folks at Cumberland Crawlerz.

Now I need to start planning how and where to store the Dometic PLB40 battery and the GoPower 150W Pure Sine Wave Inverter, since power management is so important.