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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
They had an RTI ramp, a ton of raffles, and awards for the best Jeeps in the show. It was a great event!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On our way up Cadillac Hill, we had a visitor. A Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.
The rest of the trail ended pretty uneventfully. We aired back up around 5:30PM and left for town shortly thereafter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Note: This is currently my review on Yelp for the Cafe.
Vegan Cannonball Run?
I recently roadtripped down US1 from Miami Beach to Key West, for a day trip with my wife. On our way, my wife found a listing for The Cafe in Key West that promised to have some decent food. Reading everyone’s reviews also gave her something to do on the rather monotonous drive.
Once we got there, I was soooo glad we went to The Cafe. The place was empty and we were seated promptly. We started our lunch with an order of BBQ “Unwing Dings” and they were perfect – little sticks of fried tofu (think more tempura than heavy breading) – with an amazing asian-style BBQ sauce. Super awesome.
I also went with the veggie burger – I know, I am lame. But I am also a dude, so what do you expect? We wanted something quick and filling…we had to have the rental back in Miami Beach by 5PM.
Melanie got a marinated tofu salad (I forgot the name). While she said it was “OK,” she was weirded out by the warm tofu on a cold salad. She also said the tofu didn’t seem marinated, more “dunked in sauce.” It seemed like something she could easily make at home.
For me, none of that matters as the house made vegan burger was phenom. I also paired it with a tropical Mango Pale Ale from some brewery in the USVI which I highly recommend for those steamy Key West Summer days.
FWIW, we left lunch at 1:30 and pulled into the car rental place at 4:45 – record time!
When vegans die, they decide to skip heaven and go straight to Sublime.
Tonight my wife and I took our terrestrial selves into this South Florida vegan mecca for a special evening of drinks and dinner. We have been to Sublime before (in years past) but every time we go it just seems to get better and better. The happy hour is awesome (BOGO on cocktails and half off apps when you buy one full price).
First, I ordered the Tangito (a tangerine infused Mojito) and Melanie went with the classic Mojito. Both were very well prepared and just about perfect. For apps, you can’t go wrong with the Frito Miso (we’ve had this staple before) – which despite the name is anything but Fritos. It is a bowl of crispy/tempura-like cauliflower in a seductive sweet chili sauce that will blow your mind. We also went with something new for us – the Sliders…which, also blew our mind with their cheddary, Gardein-y, awesomeness.
But enough of the chit chat about the little stuff. Let’s talk entrees.
The choices were very hard. I ended up with the enchiladas – a gamble for someone like me who is a total baby with spicy food. It was warm, for sure….just on the upper end of my spice-o-meter. But, it was still crazy awesome and just enough food to fill me up without needing a wheelchair and a linebacker to roll me out. Melanie ordered the Mushroom Ravioli, which she loved and I tried a bite – but I am also a mushroom baby and wasn’t a super fan. Not a dig on Sublime, but a dig on my needlessly picky self.
It’s also cool that Nancy – the owner- makes it a point to chat with customers.
Dessert was definitely to go (how could we NOT order something?). Melanie went with the Chocolate Nirvana and I ordered the Strawberry Cheesecake. We tossed them in the car for the long drive along A1A back to Miami Beach. But, the floor heat might have been too warm for them as they both experienced a degree of meltage and, would have been MUCH better if eaten back at Sublime. I won’t review them since we totally messed them up.
Bottom line, when I think of a top shelf Vegan experience in the US, I think of Sublime. Our annual(ish) visits here keep reaffirming that this is totally one of (if not, *the*) best places in the country.