Father’s Day at Elbe Jun 2013

Father’s Day at Elbe – 2013

Tahuya might allow you to put your rig into 4 wheel drive.  And Walker can be a day of off-roading.   But Elbe always delivers on the promise of full blown, down and dirty, locked and rocked, in-and-out-of-body, world class, bring and use all the tricks you know, double dog dare ya WHEELING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I will tell you – it was an Elbe type of day, and not a better Father’s Day could be wished for than the one we had.

And so it was, that on one of the prettiest days of the year so far, 4 Tamer rigs headed out to see what Elbe had in store for them this Father’s Day.  Mary and I brought the children (Lola and Kona) in Moosenstein;  Anthony and Tiffany came in his beefy Jeep; Rudi, Melissa, Cassy and Alex were in attendance, and Karl came stag with his Jeep – the Lava Lamp special.

The Lava Lamp Special – you say?  (And yes – I do….)  Okay – I’ve been trying to decide what Karl’s Jeep has morphed into over the years.  When he was just a young tyke and first came to our shores in his shiny, unbent, mainly stock TJ – I never knew he would grow so big, tall and tough.  Them are some stringy squirrels under the hood, still kickin’ it after 200,000+ miles of brick-on-the-skinny-pedal driving a set of 37” Pit Bulls, bouncing off the rev limiter.  But it did come to me when I saw him playing on the rock pile at Reiter earlier this year.  No matter what line taken or how he approached it – Karl just kinda kept slowly bounding and rebounding from rock to rock like the blob of wax inside a lava lamp.  Come out and watch him play sometime and see if you don’t agree.

But I digress.  I’d love to tell you what trails we ran – but I just haven’t been there enough over the last few years to remember their names.  I think we started up the Mainline, then to the Sunset Trail(?)  Anyway – it was the one close in that’s a left out of camp, and then a right up the hill.  It almost doesn’t matter – because with the timber sale and wood cutting that has gone on – this, for much of the day – looked like a trail I’ve almost never been on.  I know we ran the Busywilde backwards from how we usually run it – but none of us could really figure out how we got there – and by that time – we were so sucked in – we were there for a very long time.

The trail mods started early.  Or maybe I’m just getting too laid back in my trail driving.  Mary and I had been going up the first hillclimb to the top, and turned left, and started slogging in  and out of some very deep slots – but nothing that really was unusual.  Well – until the body torqued around in a particularly twisty spot.  Much to our surprise, Mary’s door popped open and swung forwards towards the front right tire.  Before I could get the clutch in – the Jeep lurched down and to the right into the hole, wedging and crushing the door into the berm against the grain.  It pushed the hinges back a few inches, and bent the latch forwards at about a 110 degree angle.  I know Gary had always told me I’d never keep the door handles on my Commando – but I don’t think he ever figured their demise was going to occur quite in this fashion.

So – the first of the day’s body work involved a little custom metal modification courtesy of Rudi – using a sledge hammer, a wrench (used to bend metal,) baling wire, and a bungee to get the door closed enough for wheelin’ work.  We were considering the possibility of doing a Dukes of Hazzard welded door to shut it, but Mary protested – citing the possible need for an emergency bale out for a potty stop somewhere up the trail.  The bungee/baling wire latch won out and did the trick just fine.

In the meantime, Karl decided he was going to play amphibian by taking the hard line through a deep  puddle up ahead.  I think his was the first (but by no means the last) winch of the day.  He got hung up on something and Anthony and Tiffany had to help him off his perch.

Of course – a sunny day on the trail and good friends usually inspire me to come up with a good wheeling song.  And this one is still under development, and probably needs a lot of help from the rest of the club.  But I started working something up from Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop.”  The chorus I’m working on goes something like this:

“I’m gonna pop my clutch

Take my ARB and lock it

I’m gonna lift up, goin’ 36 up

This is Wheelin’ Awesome”

(Keep singing it until another line comes – or just wheel and keep singing it….)  I’d really like to make a video for the Christmas party – but I’m REALLY going to need some help to make that happen.

Well – I finally started realizing we were heading down the hill that is usually the end of the Busywilde.  (We were making it the beginning.)  But that was all pretty civilized.  The timber sale was not a clear cut – so there were still plenty of trees around,.  But the woods were much lighter.  In years past – you could be in the Busy at 3 PM and feel like night was about to fall.  Not so this year.

Now – the nice thing about Elbe is that – with all the trees and mud and basically rolling terrain – there really isn’t much danger to be had.  Challenge – certainly.  Dirt and mud, of course.  None of this rolling down a hill 6 times or anything like that.  Okay – possibly you go over in a water hole – you could drown – but that hasn’t happened (yet.)  In fact – I remember my first Montana Divide Ride in the late 90’s – a PNW Group from over on the peninsula (Good Time 4 Wheelers I think) were running a tape loop video of running the Busywilde.  The Montana boys were looking at it literally horrified with jaws dropped saying, “You wheel in THAT!!??!?!?”  (Keep in mind that most “built” folks at the Divide Ride that year were sporting a mild lift, 31’s – and for the extreme types – running a locker in the rear – oooo – be still my beating heart.)

And so – I saw the first challenge – a little down hill drop that had a number of routes down it.  Some boulders, some big holes, then a more tame route around a stump and down.  I hadn’t seen how Karl or Anthony decided to descend this obstacle to the little open bench below – but I figured it was time for some fun.  I just KNEW that Moosenstein could walk over the stump under one wheel and the boulder over the other – and avoid the big holes threatening to swallow him up in the middle.

Well – it was a hopeful thought – until either I missed the line just a scad, or he slipped off one of the items – or possibly any combination of the above.  All of a sudden, we pitched nose down HARD, flipping Moosenstein’s tail in the air; then heeled over driver’s side down – laying it all the way on the ground.  And then the sideways motion reversed just a bit – and with a little gas – we drove out of it none the worse for wear.  (Well – I thought it was a hoot.  Mary was a little more concerned, and the dogs were positively beside themselves.)  We moved out of the way so Rudi could get down.  I was feeling pretty special – waiting for the applause that – didn’t really come.  Karl hadn’t seen my descent, Anthony didn’t have his camera out, Rudi saw the whole thing and was too horrified to do much, and he also didn’t get his camera out in time.  (And no – I wasn’t going to back up and do it again either…….)

…..because it was at that moment, that someone – possibly Rudi – noticed something didn’t look right on my front right spring shackle mount.  Like it had parted ways from the frame.  And so it had.  I’d love to tell you that when Gary welded this on 10 years ago, he’d provided a lifetime guarantee.  Or maybe he had – good until the end of its life – which apparently was right now.  I started thinking ratchet straps and cozying my way back out the way I came.  Rudi mused out loud, “Gee – too bad we don’t have a welder.”  At which time Anthony responded, “I have a welder.”  Man – the 4 best words I had heard all month, even including “You’re hired Mr. James” (which I did hear within the last month.)

The welder was good news, not so bad news.  Good news that we had a welder – bad news that we didn’t have a grinder – or a wire brush – but we did have flat and round files with which to clean the surfaces to be rejoined.  So – we took rounds – Rudi on the file, me on the file, even Tiffany on the file (way to GO, Tiff! – and thank you.)  Until we were able to make things match up close enough to start welding.  The juice was too hot, and the wire balky – but Rudi got to making sparks fly – and got hanger and frame all glued back together.  It didn’t matter to me that it looked like bird poop dripping down a crappy toupee’ – it was holding together.  I asked Karl whether it was shorter to go back or to go forward.  I believe his words were, “It’s shorter to go back – but we’re almost at the bottom, and then you just start driving out.”

This would prove to be about as accurate as describing playing the clarinet as, “You blow in this end and run your fingers up and down the holes.”  Thinking we were just driving out – and trusting in Rudi’s bird-poop weld – I simply said – “Trail on!”

Ed Tenney at a recent meeting had reported that Elbe was really pretty hammered.  And I hadn’t seen what he was talking about – until another few hundred feet down the trail.  We crossed the bridge and turned the corner to where all the deep water holes used to be.  There were not so many water holes as in the past – but the stumps and roots, and the deep slot we were driving in were nothing like I’ve ever seen before at Elbe.  Door deep, roof deep, popping up over rocks and roots – and mud that afforded no traction, yet was glad to grab onto your pumpkins and cross members, keeping you from going forwards.  While Karl was mainly doing hammer-down and blowing through it, Anthony wasn’t quite having the same type of luck.  He resorted to the cable a time or two in order to climb a few slick roots.  Me too.  I wanted to baby that weld, lest the bird poop give it up in a most unforgiving place.  I didn’t want to try to clean and weld the mount again in 2 feet of muck 8 feet below the surrounding surface of the forest floor.

Well – having seen Karl motor (or Lava Lamp) his way up one particularly muddy notch, Anthony hammered down to make the courageous push – a-ann-nnn-nnd – knocked one of his front tires off the bead.  It is that type of problem at Elbe – that when you have full size drive train – you stand a chance of not quite fitting in the ruts – and bead poppage is one of the results.  And in fact – if you want to have a real problem on your hands – pop two beads.  And if you’re a real overachiever – just go ahead and pop 3.  Both sides of each wheel.

Well – Anthony proved to be quite the overachiever  because that is just what I came to understand was the problem.  The only tire still holding air was his front passenger.  Somehow – the other 3 were off the wheels, flopping uselessly around, filling with mud and goo.  And deep in the slot – so we couldn’t even begin to jack him up to set the bead with a ratchet strap and get air back in it.  So – we worked to get him out to a more workable area.  A pull on the winch was not enough pull to do the trick.  A pull on the winch using a snatch block was still not enough pull to do the trick.  We got Karl turned around and lined up ahead of him, wedged against a stump in case we needed to start pulling with 2 winches. However – we were able to find a different angle using a different tree, pulling more cable out so there was more tug to be had – and got the front tire up out of the muck and away from the bank far enough that we were able to get a hi-lift under it, getting it in the air far enough so we could strap around it and get it to start holding some air.

Brains were getting a little fuzzy by then.  It took Karl a few minutes to realize he had exactly the type of strap we needed, Rudi was working through every trick in the book he could figure to get the tire back on, Anthony looked a little dazed, and I was feeling pretty whupped.  Not sure why – I kept checking my blood sugar and taking more insulin from my pump – and wondering why my sugar levels were going up anyway (not good.)  And then – I realized that my infusion site (where my insulin pump sticks my insulin into me) was not where I had originally put it.  With all the sweating and bouncing and filing – my infusion site had rolled off and was just smearing insulin around on the inside of my shirt.  Hmmmmm.  So – before I could do much good with reseating any tires, I had to go reseat my infusion site.  But as Foghorn Leghorn in the Looney Toons cartoons would say, “I keep my feathers numbered – for just such an emergency” I also had the extra supplies needed to do a trail repair on myself.

That handled – it was back to the tires.  Anthony’s Vi-Air unit had plenty enough pressure, but not quite enough volume to get the tire to pucker out in the right direction.  Rudi and I got our Jeeps winched up the slot to get right beside Anthony since we both had York compressors – and Rudi’s York puffing on the tire really was blowing the volume of air sufficient to get the job done.  Now with air back in the 2 front tires, it was time to drag his Jeep up out of the slop and fill up the back two.  You know – when the 37” tires are off the wheels, Anthony’s back half looked positively low-rider-ish.  He could almost be one of those kids with their pants hanging down past their butt crack looking gangsta’ – which is close to what Anthony’s Jeep was looking, almost dragging it’s diff on the ground sitting mainly on the rims.  The tires were so far off the rim, we had to pull the wheel off to seat the inner bead, and then have 3 people pulling up on the tire until it started holding air.  And boy – it is a good sound when that 1st bead pops back on, and positively outstanding when the 2nd one finds its way back to where it belongs.  By the time we reseated beads on the 3rd one – we were getting pretty good at trail bead setting.  Not good enough to want to do it some more – but it was quite the refresher course.

We had started this trail at 10 AM – and now it was trending on towards 6 PM.  It was getting to be a long day.  I was starting to think the worst was past us, and the trail appeared to be getting a little easier.  And then it happened – a big root ball about shoulder high decided it wanted the metal top on my rig.  In the past – the side rear windows have usually just pushed in with no damage done – but not this time.  As I went forward, the root jammed into my top just behind my neck, shoving it back and curling the metal out and back.  The result was a loud “POP” as the window exploded all over my back and the dogs – who were not very happy about this turn of events.  Just after this happened – I could see the end of the trail – just about 250 feet away.  And still – there were about 3 or 4 trails out – the bypasses looking pretty much as bad as the main trails.  One down into muck, 1 into a trench of 2 feet of water over another 2 feet of mud before the bottom was found, and the easy bypass – an undercut straight up over a muddy root where you’d have to climb simultaneously with at least 3 tires.  The bypass required me to use the winch for at least the 5th or 6th time of the day to get up over a root.  About all that was left between me and the end of the trail was a few more slots.  By this time Mary decided it would be easier on the dogs if she walked them for a little bit – so she and they were out of the Jeep.  I saw some pretty deep ruts ahead of me, and I thought the line was to the left, so I didn’t end up way the heck out in the weeds and mud down the hill to the right.  So – I stuck to the left.  And the Jeep leaned over, passenger side down  and over a little more, and over a little more – and I was waiting for the rut to even out an-nn-nnd – it didn’t.  The passenger side tire just kept going deeper in that rut, and the final act was my rear left tire just catching a root sticking even higher above the ground than anything else.  I drove up on that, and in slow motion I just rocked over on the passenger side – and this time I could not drive out of it.  Lola was running around the Jeep in a most concerned manner – but it was actually just peaceful and still in the Jeep.  Soon as I got perpendicular to the ground, I turned off the engine – and I had a few reflective moments and what a wonderful day of wheeling it had been.  Tiffany was good enough to have me wave – just my hand at the camera peeking over the door sill, as she got a shot of the underside of my rig.  Anthony got around me through another bypass, and Rudi passed a strap over my head into the top of my cage.  It took very little to start me back onto my wheels again – and as soon as I was off my side, I got the engine going again – and drove back onto my wheels.  And another 2 or 3 muddy slots, roots, and rocks – and we were back on the road, not 3 minutes from camp.  Not a moment too soon – my brain, by that point, had totally turned to putty.

I got Moosenstein up onto the trailer, and Karl passed me an icy cold beer, which was the nectar of the Gods as far as I was concerned – and then we saw it – the last perverse act of a fun mishap laden day – one of my trailer tires had gone flat.  It was anticlimactic to put on the spare – and after hefting around Anthony’s 37” TSL’s – my 15” 205/75 trailer tires seemed positively feather-lite.

Karl was good enough to remind me (repeatedly) that he would have Tom Baker get the cowbell over to me as soon as possible.  Hell – I would not have been surprised if it had been waiting at the door for us before we got home.  I believe when Dirtball went turtle in the Hot Tubs at Hell’s Revenge in Moab, the cowbell got immediately FedEx’d and showed up the very next day.  As we talked about what Sunday had to bring – we discussed that parents to be Curt and Rachel said they were coming.  I heard tell that Rachel was getting close to the end of her pregnancy – and what trail preparations should we as Tamers make in case we had to add mid-wifery to our bag of trail repair tricks?  I can see it now……

“Forceps? – well these channelocks oughta do the trick.”

“Boil water? Hmmm – fill up this air cleaner with water from that puddle over there and we’ll hit it with this can of starting fluid sprayed past a flame from that cigarette lighter….”

Whaddaya mean the baby needs a little help?  Well – we’ll bungee cord mom’s ankles, and then Curt if you will just hand over the winch hook and a tree saver…..”

What – Curt’s passed out?  Here – a couple of jolts from those jumper cables oughta bring him around.  He can’t pass out now – it’s Father’s Day wheeling at Elbe – and there’s no time like the present for the next generation of Tamer’s to get an early start enjoying Elbe with their dad!

Thanks for Readin’ –