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Posts Tagged ‘Off-Roading’

There’s nothing that chaps my hide more than visiting off-road areas which you would expect to be pristine, be instead literally covered in piss jugs, litter, tires, trash, etc.  Unfortunately a small minority of off-road idiots do everything wrong from not keeping to actual designated trails and destroying habitats to leaving their trash where they camped.  It’s really disgusting that these kinds of people are even associated with the average off-roader or off-roading group.  I simply do not understand why they don’t  TREAD LIGHTLY or PACK IT IN/PACK IT OUT!!! Their actions affect ALL off-roaders and give us all a bad reputation.  Unfortunately years ago due to inconsiderate and destructive off-roaders, several off-road trails on an Indian Reservation here in San Diego were closed.  Well the Toyota Land Cruiser Association San Diego Chapter called Beach N Toys is trying to change the bad reputation of off-roaders from years past.

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Beach N Toys has been actively trying to repair the damage done by these unruly rogue off-roaders.  This past Sunday the Reservation granted our club rare access to previously closed trails to clean up trash and do some much needed trail maintenance.  The Reservation was greatly appreciative that a group of responsible off-roads was willing to do the dirty work created by others who have a careless attitude towards the environment and the sovereignty of the Indian Nation to which the land belongs.

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Sunday morning the club met at a cafe near Lake Henshaw then headed towards the Reservation to meet with the tribe’s sheriff.  After obtaining keys to various locked gates throughout the trails we headed to the first camping area.  Thankfully the first campsite is clean and there’s virtually zero trash that needs to be picked up.  After regrouping, we headed out on the off-road trails to the backside campsite and unfortunately came across a brand new gate with a lock that wasn’t included in our set of gate keys.  Unfortunately the keys to this gate were on a different set which were not included in the keys we were given.  So we all turned around and headed to a trail called Rough Road which goes to an old fire observation tower.  Once we got to the tower we could see the signs of litter.  Most of the litter however is broken pieces of wood from the deteriorating fire tower.  But there are shards of broken beer bottles and Plexiglas everywhere!  So, out comes the beach N toys trash bags and we all start gathering as much of the broken glass and rubbish as we can.

We started headed back down Rough Road but diverted at the Y to a road that connects further down on Rough Road.  We can tell it hasn’t been travelled in a while as the shrubs are crowding the trail and brushing up against the trucks.  More than once we came across trees that had fallen on the trail.  One tree was large enough that we needed to winch it off the trail then chainsaw it into pieces.

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Overall it was a great day.
Great that our group cares enough to help repair the damage done by others.
Great that we’re rebuilding a relationship with the tribe and attempting to prove that there are responsible off-road still out in the world.
And great that everyone completed the trip without any problems or breakdowns.

Granted we have a long way to go, but our club is one of the few groups who are actively trying to help and that makes me very proud to be an off-roader.

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After months of hunting, we happily welcomed a new addition to our off-road stable on Monday.  For the last six months we have been searching Craigslist, IH8MUD, and various other off-road forums to locate the elusive 1994-1996 Toyota Land Cruiser preferably with Lockers.  When we finally located something good, we found that the truck had already been sold in the past hour or sometimes just minutes ago.  We had traveled hundreds of miles to view vehicles that were listed as “Good Condition” only to show up and find the entire undercarriage of the truck is covered in rust or oil and the gas tank is being held up by a piece of rope.  To say we were disappointed with the availability of quality trucks within our price range was an understatement.

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Thankfully about two weeks ago a friend of ours heard through the Cruiser grapevine that a quality FJ80 might go on the market soon.  It was a Gray Toyota 1996 FJ80, with Lockers and only 167,700 miles.  It already had front and rear bumpers, a winch, a 3” lift and even came with an awesome radio and a CB.  Although it was slightly out of our initial budget, it was everything we wanted.  As soon as that rumor was out, we were trying to get in contact with the seller.  Unfortunately one of our other cruiser friends was also in the hunt for a new-used cruiser as well.  We didn’t want to undercut our friend, but thankfully our friend found out that we were hot to trot on the truck, he backed out and put in a good word for us with the seller.  To our excitement the seller agreed to sell the truck and we exchanged money for the title on Monday!  I had a smile ear to ear as we drove it home.

 

BUT with the smiles comes the tears.  Since the addition of the FJ80, we’ll now need to say goodbye to our old 1983 CJ7 Jeep, lovingly named El Blanco.  We’ve done multiple overnight off-road trips with El Blanco and lately he’s completed every off-road challenge flawlessly.  It’s funny, when you put so many man-hours into restoring and fixing a vehicle it starts to develop a personality and earns small place in your heart.  I can still remember selling my very first truck that I bought at 16 with my own hard earned money.  Years later, I cried the day it drove way with its new owner.  I will miss El Blanco when we finally sell it.  Even though he’s old, he’s a fun and quirky little Jeep.  Like a breeder selling a puppy, I won’t let El Blanco go to anyone “unworthy”.

 

So, soon we’ll be making new memories, taking new adventures, and undoubtedly working well into the night tinkering with our new treasure for many years to come.  The only thing now is to come up with an appropriate name for the new ride.

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For some of you that follow my blog, you’ll recall an older post about our 1983 CJ7 Jeep, lovingly named El Blanco.  We purchased El Blanco for $4000 and have put roughly about $2000 into him to make him trail worthy.   This last weekend all his upgrades got put to the test as we spent three days traversing the Mojave Road Trail.  The Mojave Road Trail is the famous trail that brought American Pioneers to California.  The trail is very unique to this day in the fact that most of the trail is still in the condition it was when the pioneers traveled.  The trail is approximately 140 miles long starting from an old Military fort and ending at Zzyzx Road.  We added on a couple additional miles by starting in Laughlin.  Traveling along the Mojave Road isn’t just any picnic.  There are virtually no trail markers along the way.  You’ll constantly be needing to check your trail map to make sure you’re on the actual Mojave Road.  Thankfully, “Friends of the Mojave Road” erected rock cairns at some intersections to show the way.  As long as these rock cairns are on your right side, you’re still on the trail.  However when it came to some washes, these cairns had been washed away so staying on the trail became pretty challenging.

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El Blanco was one of four Jeeps, three Land Cruisers and one Toyota Truck that made this journey together.  El Blanco was the oldest vehicle in our group and his old technology just couldn’t keep up with the newer suspensions of the other Jeeps and Land Cruisers.  Yet even through our slowness and the creaking and groaning of El Blanco’s 1983 parts, we completed the trip without a single hitch!

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We started the trip in Laughlin Nevada on Saturday morning.  At the trail head most of the Land Cruisers and Jeeps aired down the tires to around 20 PSI.  It really is amazing how much of a difference lower air pressure can be for the ride comfort factor especially on washboard sections.

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Our first stop was the military fort that kept the Mohave Indians in check while the pioneers were using the trail as the “Old West Highway”.  Today all that’s left of the fort is some old fencing, building foundations and real petroglyphs on rocks.

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We continued along the trail, which by the afternoon became pretty rough.  We all turned on our 4-wheel low and just rock crawled over some sketchy sections of the trail.  I can’t imagine horse drawn wagons going over this terrain.   It must have been one rough ride with many wagon wheel changes along the way.

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As the skies got darker and darker, we diverted off the Mojave Road and approached our first base camp for the night at Mid Hills.  We were at approximately 5,123 feet in elevation and it was freezing.  There was a strong wind blowing which made the outside temperature feel even colder.  As everyone finished setting up their tents for the night it was great to sit around the camp fire and talk about the days’ adventure.  That night was a COLD night.  Even with my 30 degree sleeping bag and me wearing socks and a jacket inside the sleeping bag, I was cold.  Finally the morning came and with it the warmth of the sun.  Slowly everyone packed up their camp and we were back on the trail.

Day 2 took us through some AMAZING Joshua tree forests.  The beauty of the scenery is amazing.  It’s incredible how you can distinctly see elevation changes in the landscape.  From desert scrub to Joshua trees to cedars and junipers.  Each live in a distinct elevation and you’ll see it switch from one landscape to another in just a couple miles.  Once back on the trail we made our way to the next landmark.  It’s a collection of money, survival gear, traveler’s signing book and frogs.  Yup you read that right… frogs.  Just past the monument there is a HUGE collection of various frog statues.  There are hundreds of frogs, some the size of large boulders.  Some small as a dime. Just past the frogs was a collection of bobble heads and past that a, collection of toy trucks.  So if you’re going to be traveling along the Mojave Road, bring a frog, a bobble head and a toy truck to add to the collection.

Around noon we diverted off the Mojave Road and made our way to the Lava Tubes to explore and have lunch.  Unfortunately the road to the Lava Tubes has the WORST washboards I’ve even been on.  It was so bad that both El Blanco and another Jeep’s hard top bolts loosened up and was rattling something fierce.  The Lava Tubes are amazing.  I really didn’t even know that volcanoes were so plentiful in Nevada/California, but you see the evidence of extinct volcanoes and domes everywhere.  The entrance to the Lava Tube is a staircase and unfortunately I noticed evidence of a recent tube collapse on the opposite side and saw the various cracks in the ceiling of the tube, so for me entering the tube was a definite NOPE.  However others in the group had no problem going into cave and snapping pictures.  They said it was amazing, and I’m sure they’re right, but I just didn’t feel warm and fuzzy about going into that cave.

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Around the late afternoon, J and I noticed that the gas gauge on El Blanco was reading ¼ full.  Yes we brought extra gas (6 gallons) but we had no idea if El Blanco’s gas gauge was even reading correctly.  There was another older Jeep and an older Land Cruiser that were also running a little low on fuel, so it was decided that us three vehicles would divert from the group just before the salt flats and make our way to Baker to refuel while the others scouted a base camp for the night.  I am SOOOOO glad that we did refuel, as even if we had used our 6 gallon backup, the sandy washes on the third day would have used up more than what we had allocated as a backup.  After refueling, we made our way back to the main group and the camp for the night.  Even though this base camp was at a much lower elevation (sea level) by 2:00 in the morning it was colder than at 5,125 feet.

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For you off-roading/camping/backpacking ladies… You know that doing your business with a group of people and with very little tree, bush cover can be challenging.  Hence the reason I purchased a FUD (Female Urine Device) just for this trip.  We nick named it Lady Jane!  Basically it’s a funnel like device that allows women to stand up and pee!  It’s a miracle!  No more squatting freezing your butt off while cowering behind a scrub bush.  Instead, unzip pants, arrange Lade Jane and pee like a BOSS!  Worth every penny!

On day 3 we were to traverse over the salt flats.  Depending the area rain, this section can be a nightmare.  Numerous people who didn’t pay attention to weather reports have attempted to cross, and got stuck halfway through.  But since it hadn’t rained in two weeks, we had no problems crossing.  At the edge of the flats there’s a travelers monument where each traveler deposits a rock onto the pile.  There’s also a geocache and a plaque in the middle of the pile.  I’m not allowed to tell you what the plaque reads as that’s part of the Mojave Road trail etiquette – DO NOT SHARE WHAT THE PLAQUE READS.  People wanting to know what the plaque reads need to travel there!

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There are two water crossings on the Mojave Road.  The first crossing was very minor, just a small slow moving steam.  The second crossing however was rather deep and for us nubie off-roaders, created some serious pucker factor.  We were the last vehicle in our group and we watched one by one each vehicle go across the water.  The plan was to put it into 4-wheel drive and NEVER let off the gas as to prevent water from being sucked up into the exhaust.  So as our turn neared, we crossed our fingers and slowly pulled into the water.  The water was probably a little under waist deep and halfway through we quickly learned that El Blanco is not watertight.  Shortly after submerging into the crossing, water was seeping through the doors crevices and even through the gear shifter!  We could hear the gurgling of the exhaust underwater and unfortunately we stalled 2/3rd the way through. But tried and true El Blanco started back up and pulled out of the water, draining from every crack, rust hole, and door crevice.

Past the water crossings you’ll enter the sandy washes.  This is where referring to the trail map is a must.  Some of the rock cairns has been washed away so it can be difficult to read which path you need to take.  More than once we had to double back or trail blaze to get back on the real Mojave Road.  This is also the section that you need to make sure you have enough gas.  Sand not only sucks up gas faster but also heats up engines quick.  One of the Jeeps learned this the hard way.  During the river crossing some mud and muck had built up on the radiator and blocked the airflow to cool the vehicle.  This caused some serious overheating the resulted in a cracked radiator.  But with a little bit of help from some JB Weld and some replacement water, the jeep was good to go!  NOTE:  If you’re going to off-roading anywhere – BRING JB WELD!!!  It’s a lifesaver!!!

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As we neared the end of the Mojave Road, J and I celebrated that El Blanco made the trip without a single problem!  All the effort going into making him trail capable was well worth it.  We were so grateful that we all made it out safe and were with such great friends.

 

Have a 4-wheel drive vehicle?  Then you MUST make this three day journey at some point in your life.  The scenery is amazing!  It’s not the simplest of trails, but if a nubie like J and I can do it, you can too!  Below are some notes just in case you do decide to run this trail.

 

Vehicle Paint – You will scratch your paint.  There are some sections of the trail that are narrow and you will brush against branches.

Gas – BRING EXTRA GAS!!!

Map – Refer to your trail map constantly!

Group – Travel in a group of people.  Most parts of the trail are in the middle of nowhere and miles and miles from help!

Insurance – Bring several tubes of JB Weld, extra tools/parts and water; Just in case.

Warmth – Bring jackets and warm clothes.  Even though you’re in the desert, the nights are frigid!

HAVE FUN!  – The comradery of the group you’re with, being isolated from civilization, combined with the beauty of the Mojave Road simply can’t be beat!

 

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