X88 expeditions - Documenting and sharing overland travels, adventures, and expeditions

October 26, 2008

JKS Adjustable Bump Stops

September 14, 2008

Camp NL 2008 - Part IV

Some time after the teeter-totter we heard over the CB "Trailblazer - find some level dry ground ASAP and stop". What happened was that the rear Hotchkis anti-sway bar sheared either from hitting something or just from the stress of articulation (I didn't disconnect). So out came the grinder and it was cut off at the ends, leaving the 2 JKS disconnects connected. It was easier this way than to try and take the bushings out on the trail.
Just so you know, I wasn't the only casualty that day and therefore didn't make the TrailVoys look bad. We had a broken radiator mount from the deep water, an overheated engine, and 2 completely flat tires (on the same vehicle) right on the teeter-totter from slipping the beads (he was running 15 psi).

At the end of the day we came to the final water crossing. This one is notoriously deep and long but has a bypass, which I took. The bypass is on the right in the picture. Three vehicles tried the deep water with varying degrees of success ... but no one got stuck.

Overall a great experience, mainly because of the people and how well the TrailVoy handled itself. The guides were absolutely great as well as everybody else as we all pitched in and made the necessary trail repairs to keep us going.

Although this is not my primary mission, as I prefer "expedition-type" outings where the goal is a destination or point of interest (that's why I like the Peter Massey books so much), I would definitely do it again next year to gain further experience in driving over obstacles and adverse conditions.

The other part of the equation is the camaraderie present and the people you meet. I can't tell you how many good comments I got on the TrailVoy as the off-roaders I met were genuinely pleased to see people working on "non-standard" vehicles.

Camp NL 2008 - Part III

This was the deepest water crossing I did that day, although there was another deeper one later. In the middle picture you can see that the water was to the top of my tires so that would make it 32 - 34 inches deep. No problems with the air intake although the filter did get some splashes on it during the day, I can see the mud stains.
A couple of miscellaneous shots of the Trailblazer.
This was the most difficult obstacle of the day. Everyone got spotted through it very slowly. They call it the "teeter-totter" because if you position yourself just right, you can balance on 2 tires - front left and rear right. I have to mention here that the Mickey Thompson Baja MTZs are an awesome tire. They got me through everything that day, I think I only felt slippage once.

Camp NL 2008 - Part II

The summer around here has been uncharacteristically wet so we were warned that the Concession Lake trail would have its share of deep water crossings and mud. The trail was rated a 2-2.5 out of 4 which was the easiest of the bunch. However, after completing it (not without incident BTW), I would have to comment that this type of trail is not really for the lone traveler. A passenger (or second vehicle) for spotting duty is a must I believe. We had 9 vehicles (Jeeps of course - both Wrangler and Cherokee type, a LandRover, a Toyota FJ, and a TrailVoy!) and 3 guides which by the end of the day, came in very handy.

Here's a cross-section of trail conditions and obstacle types to give you an idea of the environment.

Oh, and nobody worry ... that tree was already felled when we got to it. It was just a little to low for my roof rack so we had to prop it up as I drove under it.

Here's an obstacle where all the parts of the Trailblazer worked very well together -- 4WD, LO range in the transfer case (2.7:1), 4.56 gearing, Auburn Ected electronic locker.

Camp NL 2008 - Part I

So this year I actually did a bit of advance planning and was able to go to Carlisle AND the annual off-roading weekend, called Camp Northern Lights, about 2 hours north of Toronto.

Not without my share of headaches though. CampNL has three full days (Fri - Sun) of trail rides so my plan was to either go up Thursday night or very early Friday. Everything was going great Thursday as I picked up the Trailblazer from National4WD and getting the 4.56 gears and electronic locker installed.

Knowing that the speedo would be WAY off, I brought along my laptop and the HPTuners program. And then like a rank "noob" I decided to try to reprogram it in the parking lot of a nearby Canadian Tire. Of course the absolute worst thing that could happen, happened. I scrambled the computer (or so I thought).

Lucky I subscribe to OnStar so I got a free flatbed tow (GM roadside assistance) to a dealership close by my home to the get the computer re-flashed (as I had the original PCMforLess tune on my laptop). Well the bad news came on Friday around 11 AM. The computer was not just scrambled, it was was fried. They wanted $900 for a new one. I told them to go **** themselves and got towed back home.

I then got on the line with PCMforLess and they very graciously helped out by sending me a replacement computer with my original tune PLUS the gear ratio change for $99 + overnight shipping to Canada with Saturday delivery.

So on Saturday the replacement went in, I went through the security procedure, and I headed off to CampNL in Minden. I arrived just in time for the last dinner scraps and the for the weekend awards and prize giveaways. I then quickly set up my Tent-Cot and dozed off.

The next morning my friend Mike came up. He was going to ride shotgun and take some action photos and video. All the pictures are actually frame grabs from the HDV video we shot on Sunday on the Concession Lake trail. Check out his photography site at MikePhoto.com.

6:00 AM at CampNL headquarters
Driving through Kinmount on the way to the trail
Airing down with the Mil-Spec deflators

August 30, 2008

Penn’s View

The trail continues until it joins back up with the maintained Poe Paddy Dr which takes visitors up to Penn's View, the nicest overlook in the area.

I stopped at Penn's View for a nice lunch. No one else was around and the site was very relaxing. Its very quiet up there so I was surprised to hear some distant voices. I thought maybe that some hikers were coming up the trail but nobody showed up. I kept hearing those voices in the distance and started to think that maybe there was some old Native legend for the area (did anyone see Last of the Mohicans?)

As I took my camera out and started to take some pictures I realized what I was hearing, it was a couple of swimmers in Penn's Creek over 1000 feet down and across!

The maintained gravel road turns back into pavement at around the Greenbriar Gap. I headed north back to Penn's Valley Road and then back onto my route for home.

Overall a very nice diversion in the PA mountains with more available to explore.

Here are some pictures from the original Hummer article. I recognise the 1st two as Penn's View, but I didn't even come close to any water crossings. I wonder where they took that one?

Poe Valley

After a great couple of days in Carlisle, I planned my trip back home that would take me to the Penn's Valley route. I sourced this particular route from a now-defunct web site that was the online version of HMR Magazine (a Hummer publicaition).

Its a circular route that traverses the Poe and Penn valleys, you can see the Google map below.

I started in Spring Mills and followed the route to the Vonada Gap. Shortly after the road turns into graded gravel as it heads up to Big Poe Mountain at 2000 feet. These two pictures are after you crest the ridge and head down the other side.

Once down in Poe Valley you hit pavement again as it goes past Poe Valley State Park. The park however was closed and the small lake drained, I guess they were doing some maintenance. The road continues to Poe Paddy State Park where there was some camping going on. I drove through slowly looking for the trail turn off heading back up the ridge towards Ravens Knob. There is signage but you have to pay attention.

The trail up is basically a fairly wide shelf road that is not maintained so it is a but bumpy and rocky, but nothing serious for a modified vehicle. I did pass a mini-van s l o w l y driving down the other way which was prudent because some of the rocks could easily damage street tires. You can see steep drop-offs through the trees from the shelf road but it definitely is not the same as driving above the tree line in Colorado.

Once on the ridge, there are various spots with great overlooks, nice back-country camp sites, and a couple of side trails designated as forest roads. I think this area is part of a state forest so I believe camping is allowed. I wish I had more time to explore those trails though.

Some of this area falls within the Bald Eagle State Forest. There is a detailed map here.
View map in larger window.

Map References - Poe and Penn Valleys

All Truck Nationals

The All Truck Nationals is a huge show and exhibition that takes place every year in Carlisle, PA. Visitors and participants come from all over North America to show and see a wide variety of trucks and truck-related products.

I participated for the first time this year and was part of the TrailVoy club area which is spearheaded by Fishhunter911 (Joe). Here are some pictures taken by various club members.

Its really fun to get to see the people who participate and offer a LOT of help and advice online.

On My Way to Carlisle - Penn’s Valley

My original plan was to take an off-road detour on my way down to the All Truck Nationals in Carlisle, PA.

A slight change in plans however delayed the detour for the trip back as I had to head straight down with as few stops as possible. I did make one quick stop though. As I was crossing the bridge below, I noticed a vehicle by the side of the river, so I quickly looked for and found an access trail. I didn't have time to explore further, only take a couple of shots.

And then a little while later just before dusk, a nice early-evening sky showed up.

August 29, 2008

Going For The 4•5•6 - Electronics

Here is a picture of the switch installed. This seemed to be the only place to put it that didn't require removing the whole dash cover. And even here, because the metal knee plate underneath extends all the way to the right, there needed to be some cutting done of that plate.
The power lead was taken out to the engine bay where we used an "add a circuit" fuse tap like this one:
I tapped into a 10 amp position called "Ignition E". This way the locker can only draw power when the ignition is in the "on" position.