TRAIL REPORT: FINS N’ THINGS [Utah]

The group left Burley Idaho around 9:00AM, and we finally pulled into Moab around 2:00PM. Stopping at our houses for only about an hour, we quickly emptied the Jeeps and prepared for our first Moab trail:  Fins N Things.

After a quick air down and a drivers’ meeting at the base of Baby Lion’s Back, we were soon scaling up the incline that is a much tamer version of its’ feared (and closed down) parent not too far away.

A quick air down for the Jeeps at the base of Baby Lion’s Back.

All the Jeeps scaled up the face of BLB and headed toward the steep descent on the other side.  However, a pair of Jeeps that passed us warned of 6 foot deep water crossings and mud.  After a quick inspection, it was decided to skip that and head back the way we came.

Heading down Baby Lion’s Back.

We decided to run the second section of Fins N’ Things to save a little time, as it was late and we had been in the Jeeps for over two days at this point.

About to take Frank up a nice set of Ledges on Fins N’ Things.

Fins N’ Things is named after the fins on the back of the Stegosaurus – one of my childhood favorites.  This is due to the trail’s almost constant up and down motion.  When coupled with the smooth, slick rock, you can see how the name fits.

More fins.

The light continued to get lower and lower as the shadows grew longer and longer.  It was time to leave the trail and head back to the house for some much needed R&R.

I highly recommend this trail for any Jeeper that goes to Moab.  It was a perfect warm up and let us PNWers get a feel for the slickrock and also gave a taste of what is to come in the following days.

I am pretty sure a stock rig would have no problems on Fins N’ Things.

Heading back as the light continued to get lower.

Roadtrip: Off to Moab

Remember when you were a kid on the night before Christmas?  It was the one time of year you actually went to bed early.  The torture of it all however, was that you were so excited you could not fall asleep.

Last night I felt like a 6 year old kid in jammies trying to fall asleep before Santa showed up and drove me off to Moab in his Jeep.

Wait.  That sounds weird.

Anyway, today we are off to Moab for a week to explore some trails and have a great time.

The group, on Highway 84 to Moab.
The group, on Highway 84 to Moab.

Keep up with our adventures right here on Off-road Vegan!

Product Review: Artec Dana 44 Axle Armor Kit

One of my favorite mods for the Jeep is armor.  I don’t think having a super capable rig is all that important if you slide off a rock and slam open your oil pan/transmission/diff cover/transfer case/gas tank/etc.

The Artec installed on my 2013 JKUR. I applied the custom paint.

So the Artec Axle Armor Kit has been on my wish list for some time now for the following reasons:

  • Appealing design will allow me to upgrade the actual axle in the future, where sleeves really limit this;
  • Price point ($249)
  • Ability to order from Northridge 4×4 (free overnight shipping)
  • I feel the truss design is stronger than a sleeve/gusset approach.

I ordered the kit in the Summer, and stalled on the installation.  This was purely due to cost and the PITA factor.  I would need to remove the entire axle, put it in our Ford Fiesta, and drive it to a shop to be welded in.

Thankfully, the guys at 4 Wheel Parts in Portland hooked me up and offered to weld it in for a great price (along with some new Alloy USA ball joints).

This kit is amazing because:

  • It is built of SOLID, thick steel plating
  • Had amazing tolerances for fit
  • Includes some great armor: Front LCAs, Gussets, AND the truss

The only real downside to installing this kit is the fact it needs to be welded in by a competent welder.  This is due in large part to the metals on the axle – the cast on the pumpkin has some sensitive welding needs.

But that downside is not due to Artec, it is just the nature of the beast!

Report from No Roads Required off-road Show

Every now and then I have these moments where I just love living in Oregon.  Like the sudden smell of cedar, or the first snow, or a beautiful 80 degree morning in July.

But the converse is also true.

Last night I worked on cleaning Frank for hours and removed the top and doors in preparation for the annual “No Roads Required” show at Portland International Raceway.  So of course, for the hour drive it would drizzle and be FREEZING.

Yep – that’s cold drizzle.

Anyway, I arrived around 9:30 and got my pass from Chad.

We soon set up and watched as the area filled in with vendors and other Jeeps.

A beautiful Jeep.

They had an RTI ramp, a ton of raffles, and awards for the best Jeeps in the show.  It was a great event!

Robert flexing out on the RTI ramp.

Trail Report: Rubicon Trail [California] Day 2

Buck Island Lake to the End

September 1, 2013

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So last night was just about a disaster.

There was a lot of partying in them thar hills – and shouting, and driving around, and being all rednecky.  So I woke up pretty grumpy.

Luckily, I was up before anyone else in the group.  So, I wandered down to the lake and decided to get my morning started with a swim.  I jumped into the lake with biodegradable soap and wash some of the trail off me.  It was VERY chilly (probably about 8,000 feet) but worth it.

I wandered back to camp and started to prepare our breakfast at about 7:30.

My coffee routine has changed over the years.  I used to lug a huge silver coffee pot when backcountry camping (which was stupid).  Then, I moved to French Press on Jeep trips.  But even that is a huge pain in the butt.  You have a lot of grounds to deal with (both fresh and wet) as well as washing out the press and all that stuff.

So my new formula is Stumptown’s Cold Brew coffee (small glass bottles).  I heat up some water, and add about half a bottle of coffee to half a cup of water.  Stir in some soy creamer, and voila!  Trail coffee that is easy and grounds free.

Back to the trail.

We broke camp and headed out around 10:00AM.

The first set of ledges right outside of camp proved to be an abrupt and startling challenge.  Chad would use his winch again on these, as the placement of the ledges were right in the wrong spot.  Running an open diff was much harder in spots like these.

We made our way slowly toward Big Sluice.

Chad coming over the large rocks on Big Sluice.
Shauna navigating the rock field around Big Sluice.

We arrived at a great spot for lunch, just past Rubicon Springs.  This was a large granite area that butted up against a cliff, with large boulders piled up at the base.  A the Rubicon River meandered  through the site, and filled a good sized pond, complete with a rope swing.  This would be an amazing spot to camp next year.

Our lunch spot along the creek.

We sat here for a couple of hours, enjoying the water and some good lunch.

After departing Rubicon Springs, we now had to face the final obstacle – Cadillac Hill.

Helpful signs in the small “town” of Rubicon Springs.

This is the end of the Rubicon, and you could say they saved the best for last.  This is a very steep climb with harrowing drops on the right side.  Four or five obstacles (mostly ridges) dotted the length of Cadillac.

Chad kicking up some dust on Cadillac Hill.

This was the only spot where I sustained any damage.  On one of the steep ridge climbs, a rock struck my brand new Bilstein steering stabilizer and I had to work to remove it.

Me working to remove the busted stabilizer.

On our way up Cadillac Hill, we had a visitor.  A Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.

Please go on with your business. Thanks.

The rest of the trail ended pretty uneventfully.  We aired back up around 5:30PM and left for town shortly thereafter.

Trail Report: Rubicon Trail [California] Day 1

Loon Lake Trailhead to Buck Island Lake

August 31, 2013

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I still cannot believe we are here.

Most people plan for years to come and drive the Rubicon Trail; we started planning this last Tuesday.

We start out in Grass Valley, California early.  Having pulled into town at a deadly 2:00AM and trying desperatley to find a hotel (on Labor Day Weekend) we finally found a room at the haunted Holbrooke Hotel.  I was not happy to spend $185 a night (plus they charged us $10 for the dog) but I was happy to get out of the Jeep and into some type of bed.

We dropped off our doors at a friend’s parents place at 9:30 and headed out for gas and to the trail.

A very expensive pile of doors at our friend's parents place.
A very expensive pile of doors at our friend’s parents place.

After fueling up one last time, and perhaps my second cup of coffee, we were on the road for the final stretch.

There are few ways to describe the sensation of driving a naked Jeep (no doors, no roof) to people that have never done it.  When you can smell the smokey pines, hear the birds and streams as you pass above, and feel the chilly morning air swirl around your face and hands, you are in a very happy place.  Add in some great music, hot coffee, and great company and you have the recipe for a wonderful weekend.

Chad following on our way to the trailhead.

Our goal was to arrive at the trailhead a little before lunch; we were not too far off.  We pulled in at 12:30.  The place was PACKED due to the annual fund raiser called “Cantina for the ‘Con.”

We slowly meandered through the rigs parked all over, and found a place to air down and make final preps.

A video still showing the crowd at the trail head.

We hit the beginning of the trail – a filter called the Gatekeeper – at around 1:30.  The Gatekeeper is a small section of pretty large boulders, intended to act as a test.  Basically if you or your Jeep cannot make it through this section, it’s best to call it a day and turn around.

Frank taking a breather just after the Gatekeeper.

After Gatekeeper we continued on the trail until 7:08PM when we finally made it to Buck Island Lake. Being Labor day and rather crowded, it took us some time and strategic thinking on where to find a spot to camp for the night.

We continued past the dam and found an awesome pull-out overlooking the lake.

Setting up camp just before sunset.

After quickly setting up camp and having some dinner, it was an early night for us all.  We climbed into tents and tried to get whatever sleep was possible with the shouting, fireworks, drunkenness, and other fun (I think I got about 2 hours of sleep).

We were welcomed by an amazing Sierra sunset.
We were welcomed by an amazing Sierra sunset.

Our Dinner:

Hello from the Rubicon Trail!

There are a few hobbies in life that have an origin…that single focal point where it all began.  And this is unfortunate, as there are just as few experiences like standing on the hallowed ground, in the same spot as countless others ahead of you.

The trailhead area is packed for Cantina at the 'Con.
The trailhead area is packed for Cantina at the ‘Con.

Such is the Rubicon Trail.

I will spare you the litany of over dramatic  phrases and metaphors I could drop in this post, and instead cut to the chase:  This trail is the single “Pilgrimage” every Jeeper must make at least once in their lifetime.

I mean, it is so iconic that Jeep actually names the trim package for their most capable Wrangler after this legendary strip of dirt and granite.

For more information on the trail, check out the Wikipedia article.

For now, I will compile some photos and prepare to send along some information from the Rubicon!

Welcome to Off-road Vegan!

Me enjoying a Tofurkey sammy on the Steelbender trail in Moab, UT.
Me enjoying a Tofurkey sammy on the Steelbender trail in Moab, UT.

Life can be defined a string of epiphanies that drive some kind of change in our direction. While this may seem like an overly analytical way to define fate, I also think it is a powerful view.

If I never decided to create an account on Yahoo! Dating back in 2000, I would have never met my wife of 11 years.  If I never decided to haphazardly drop off my resume at IBM (in windpants and a T Shirt, mind you), I would have never worked for IBM and enjoyed the career that I do.

And, if I never ate vegan jerky and Field Roast hot dogs on all my Jeeping excursions, I would never have thought to create this blog.

It is not always easy being a walking conundrum.

My friends know me as a vegan, yet also as a shooter and owner of guns.  I am something of an animal-rights person yet I support hunting.  I worry about the state of our planet, and yet I drive a 14 MPG beast through the woods.

So I felt a great way to share these personal adventures would be through a blog.

My goals for this blog:

1. Start and hold an active and functional (read: Adult) discussion on many things that plague our society.  These can be politics, policies, gun rights, pretty much anything.  All sides are welcome, but we need to be respectful.

2. Share some kick ass recipes.  Some of these will be from the trail, and others will be shared from the home base.

3. Post reviews.  I want to post reviews for my Jeep friends on new equipment I am testing, as well as things a vegan finds useful while on the trail.

4. Share our adventures from the trail.  Provide trail reviews, photos and video, tips on places, or anything else we feel is worth sharing when on the road.

Sit back, buckle your seatbelt, and enjoy the qinoa tofu salad.

Scott

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