Thursday, May 21, 2009

Little Sac trail conditions

I rode little sac this evening and thought I'd make a trail report. Overall the trail is in good riding shape. There isn't any reall mud; only a few soft spots. Many of the trails are pretty overgrown, but that's normal for this time of the year. I imagine with the warmer weather the trail maintenance folks will be out there to get it trimmed back pretty soon.

There were several trees down from the storms a couple weeks ago, but only one that made me get off the bike to go over it. I REALLY wish they would turn some of the downed trees into obstacles instead of just cutting them up and removing them from the trail. My favorite place to ride is the roller coaster trail in Castlewood State park at Ballwin MO. It's a fast, swooping trail that's a blast to ride going either directon. When I first started riding at Castlewood there were lots of logs that crossed the trail on roller coaster and getting to jump them during the ride was a blast. Unfortunately all the logs were removed from the trail and while it's still a lot of fun it just isn't the same; not nearly as challenging. I love obstacles and developing the skills it takes to maintan momentum when going over them. I realize that some people don't want to jump logs, but having logs on one trail in a park is not too much to ask for. The people that don't like them can just skip that trail or get off their bike when they get to the logs.

If anyone has been holding off from going to Little Sac due to worry about poor trail conditions, I encourage you to go. It's ready for you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

OJT Sayersbrook Bison Ranch Recap (Part 2)

Saturday morning was the epitome of camping for me. I got up around 6:30 which is VERY early for me, but I felt rested and excited about the day of wheeling. I set up my (sisters) handy coleman propane grill, fried some scrambled eggs with sausages and started percolating a pot of coffee. Turns out that coffee percolation isn't very efficient and it took over 30 minutes before the coffee had any taste, but the eggs/sausage were delicious and it was a great start to the day.

At about 9 everyone gathered with their jeeps in the big parking lot near the campground and discussed the plan for the day. We decided to break up into small groups of 5 or so jeeps and explore the park. Then we'd meet back at the pavilion for lunch where we could talk about the best places and head back out for the afternoon. I ended up joining a small group with Herb and Matt with Herb in the lead. Our goal was to hit the hardest trails first (marked as red on the maps we were given) because that's how we roll....

The only problem was finding the hardest trails. It turns out that there hasn't been anyone fourwheeling at the ranch for the last couple years so the trails were very overgrown. There is a nice paved/gravel road system that runs throughout the ranch and the trails all branch off this road system. We spent about an hour driving these roads looking for the trails, stopping every once in a while to try to figure out where we were and scratching our heads. Finally we decided that if we saw a break in the tree's then it must be a trail and that worked. We did end up going down a motorcycle trail once which was interesting. Luckily Herb was in front so he took out all the small trees that were in the way.

We also met with another group on the best trail we found during our morning session. They were coming from the opposite direction while we were driving down a shallow creek bed. Adam, a member of that group, had a small problem negotiating a turn while trying to avoid a tree (that he hit on his first attempt).

After Adam was winched back to level ground we did an out and back on that trail and had a great time. Plus I got to use my winch for the first time when Matt got stuck between 2 logs in a fairly muddy section of the trail. After pulling him back off the logs he made it over them just fine.

Next up was lunch back at the campground pavilion; which consisted of PB&J sandwiches for me with Diet Dr. Pepper to wash them down. Others ate better. For the afternoon trip we picked up another jeep in our group (Tony) and I was drafted to lead since I'd had a little success deciphering the map during the morning adventure. We took the original red trail that we had intended to take in the morning and we spent all afternoon on it. The first major obstacle was called "the waterfall" and it was crazy. A very steep, muddy, rocky hill with a ledge and sharp turn at the top. When we arrived there was already a group of about 6 jeeps playing around on the hill so we got to watch them attempt it before it was our turn. Rodger was the first person I saw go up and at first he tried to crawl it but with the mud and rocks he didn't make it very far. He ended up getting a run at it and used the momentum and lots of throttle to make it to the top. Here's a video of Rodger making the run:

Here a passenger view from Matt's jeep (might be NSFW due to language):

Unfortunately there's not a video of my run (I'm sure it just happened to quickly), but here's one of Tony at the top of the hill:

My only carnage of the trip happened on that hill. I made it to the top but it was a crazy bumpy ride. The steering wheel was bouncing all over the place an I managed to turn on my windshield wipers and headlights somewhere on the way up. Then when I tried to make the ledge at the top I needed to back up for a different approach. While backing up I put my foot on the brake and felt the jeep surge a little, that made me press harder on the brake which caused me to go back even faster. Then I hit a tree. Turns out I had my foot about half on the brake and half on the gas. Luckily the tree just dented the rear fender well a little but nothing broke. I hit it in the optimal spot, if there is an optimal spot to hit a tree. For the environmentalists, there was no damage to the tree that I could tell. I was a little embarrassed by the mishap so I put my jeep in drive, mashed on the gas and popped right up on the ledge like I knew what I was doing. The turn to go back down the hill was pretty scary because it felt like I was going to go rolling down the hill, but my spotter got me through it without incident. Ross was not quite so lucky (didn't break anything):

There were lots of good places on that section of trail, one was a hill that only the JK's could climb, there was a nice drop off that I accidentally jumped and a slab that turned out to be fairly challenging. During that time Jay broke a u-joint, Ross had to change a flat tire, and we spent a lot of time watching each other climb stuff so the afternoon went by very quickly and we headed back to camp for dinner around 5:30.

I want to get this posted up so I guess this trip is going to have a part 3.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

OJT Sayersbrook Bison Ranch Recap (Part 1)

This past weekend was the Ozarks Jeepthing members-only trail run at the Sayersbrook Bison Ranch. The event was organized by past club president and current club vice-president Aaron LaRose and it completely exceeded all expectations.

Unfortunately for me the event got off on a shaky start when Thursday, the evening before the trip after I re-spooled my winch, I (
for some reason) flipped my differential locker switch as I was pulling my jeep back in the carport. But nothing happened. No "axle locked" lights on the dash. I then put the jeep in 4-lo and hit the switch again; nothing. That's when panic started to set in. I hurried to the house, got my tools and immediately took the dash apart so I could inspect the wiring. Everything looked fine. About a month earlier I had done the "locker bypass mod" which enables the use of the lockers in 2wd hi and 4wd hi, so I removed the jumper cables I'd installed and still, no lockers. I spent the rest of the evening until about 1 am tinkering with everything I could think to tinker with and nothing worked. So I looked on-line and found out that the Youngblood Jeep service department opens at 7 am so I went to bed, tried to sleep and got up at 6:15am so I'd be the first in line when they opened. Turns out they don't acutally start servicing vehicles until 8 am and after twiddling my thumbs for a few hours they told me the switch was bad and that the replacement would be $211 (installed) and they'd have one by Monday (the closest one was in St. Louis). I told them not to order one, paid them $85 for looking at my jeep and went home. I then took my dash apart, removed the switch and drove to work so I could test the switch in my co-worker Chad's rubicon. Turns out the switch WAS dead, and when I put his switch in my jeep it worked! Luckily Chad is a great guy and he let me borrow his locker switch for the weekend so my crisis was over and everything was back on track. And I needed to be at the group staging point in an hour; so I hurried home to pack and load the jeep for the weekend. I'm not sure what caused the switch to go bad, but I probably shorted it out with the bypass mod. Since it's not really necessary for me to lock the diffs in 2wd or 4hi, I'll keep my switch in stock mode when I replace it. Here's the $211 part:

My sister Tina loaned me a TON of camping gear that I loaded into 2 large tubs that fit perfectly in the back of my jeep. I ended up taking more stuff than I needed, but I didn't know what the accomidations were going to be like so I erred on the side of needing everything.

I planned to drive up with the first group and met everyone at the T/A truck stop in Strafford at 2 pm. about half the people had their jeeps on trailers and the other half are like me and are too cheap/poor to afford a jeep, trailer and a tow rig. We headed out at 2:30 and as soon as we got on the interstate discovered that Matt had a problem because his trailer was whipping around like crazy once he got above 60 mph. We pulled over on the shoulder of I44 (which is never a fun experience) and moved Matt's jeep to the front of the trailer and strapped it down really well. That fixed the problem and the rest of the trip was uneventful. It turns out that keeping a lifted jeep at 70 mph is no easy task and I burned about half a tank between Springfield and Cuba where we turned off on the way to Potosi.

The road between Cuba and Potosi was very hilly and twisty so I had trouble keeping up with the more powerful tow rigs, but we made it to the ranch a little before 6 and it was much nicer than I expected. They do indeed have lots of Bison and you drive over several cattle grates on the way back to the camping area. Next to the camping area is a nice sized private lake and a very nice covered pavillion/dock area. There was a large parking lot for the motor homes to set up, a clean restroom facility with running water, a hu
ge fire pit for grilling, a cool circular pit with benches and tables for evening bon-fires, a small sandy beach and a neat little amphitheater facing the lake. All in all I was very impressed.

I quickly set up my tent (with help from Casey) about 6 feet from the lake, set up my sisters Coleman grill and cooked an 8oz filet for dinner. People were arriving most of the evening and since I'd had a very rough time the previous 24 hours, I went to bed around 9:30 and slept like a baby; even with the pooring rain that apparently kept several people up most of the night.

By morning the rain had stopped, but unfortunately my iPhone was a casualty since I hung it in a pocket on the wall of the tent and it ended
up getting very wet. I tried to turn it on but the screen just went white and then wouldn't turn on the rest of the weekend. Luckily I took a few pics friday evening before it died:

This is turning into a pretty long post and I've got lots more to talk about so I think I'm going to split this up into 2 parts. More to come....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sayersbrook Bison Ranch trail ride

This weekend the ozarks jeepthing club will be at the Sayersbrook Bison Ranch in potosi mo for a club-only trail run. We are expecting about 23 jeeps to participate so it should be a great time. The plan is to head up Friday afternoon, camp that evening, wheel all day Saturday, camp Saturday night and head home Sunday morning.

There is rain in the forecast (surprise!) but I doubt it will put a damper on everyone's enthusiasm. It just makes things more challenging. Besides, I have a winch so no worries.

I've been working on my jeep in preparation for the run; I changed the engine oil and filter, transmission oil and filter, transfer case oil and the differential fluids, topped off the steering and brake fluids and re-torqued all the suspension bolts to make sure nothing comes loose. I also changed my differential covers to a set of RockCrushers (I seem to bang the diffs a lot) and those things are beefy. I also scored a craigslist hard top for the jeep last week. It's a little scratched up (as is everything else on the jeep) but it's structurally sound and I got a really good deal.

Those of you that read the blog might remember that I was planning on participating in the Ozark Greenways adventure race this weekend. Well, one of my teammates has had a foot problem for the last month and hasn't been able to train so I decided to skip the race this year. It kind of sucks because I've been running at least 5 miles every day for the last couple months and feel like I'm in pretty good shape. I guess if I can maintan the fitness over the summer I'll see if I can win the Sac River 12 Hour good time race this year. I came in second in the solo category last year (due to my headlamp running out of jucie) but this year I'll have a second battery on hand. I haven't been riding much lately due to all the rain but when summer hits I'll transition from running to riding. Running in 90 degree heat isn't nearly as fun as flying down the trails.

I'm really looking forward to this weekend, hopefully it lives up to expectations.