Fathers Day Jun 2005

Going to Elbe for the Father’s Day weekend (as we have for about 8 years now) is like visiting an old friend you haven’t seen in a while. Of course – this would be a friend who delights in giving you a noogie! Because while this is just about as fun as wheeling can get, it is rare a visit to Elbe doesn’t leave you a few reminders of your trip to bring home with you.I was present for the Saturday trip – which started in leisurely fashion with a late departure from camp (about 10:00 AM or so) heading out with Gary TJ and Lori, Tom Baker and his dad Art, Dirtball and Lori, Scrambler Mike and Moosenstein and me.

Elbe has changed some in the last few years – in some ways not quite as difficult as in the past.  Due to logging in the area, the slippery, bottomless, near impassable mud pits are a thing of the past.  I don’t have the new trails and their names matched up too well in my head with the changes that have happened, but I seem to remember that we spent some time on the Sunrise Trail, as well as the Mainline, and even some time on what’s left of the Busywilde.  But some of this involved time on the trail the Tamers helped to put in a couple years ago – and I must say – it is aging quite nicely.

The warm up was a twisty, turny trail through a newly logged area.  It made me very glad that I had the foresight to tighten the belt on my power steering pump the night before.  I’ll tell you, when you cut down all those trees, it makes things so much easier on the sheet metal, without all that brush and tree trunks scraping on the clearcoat and whacking into the windshield frame.  (Yes – I DO miss the fold down windshield I formerly had on my CJ – although Gary, being the helpful sort, keeps cheerfully volunteering to provide me that option with a little Sawsall Engineering to the Commando…..)

Being properly warmed up – now we left the clearcut, and headed back into the woods – this part being the trail the Tamers had diabolically helped to build (and you can imagine what that means….tight trees, sidehills, multi-attempt turns, etc).  We had had a kid in a new Rubicon with a hardtop back at camp, asking to tag along with our run.  He showed intelligence beyond his years, actually paying attention to Mike, when he said that this might be a little rough on his sheet metal and top if he came along.  Because while much fun – this was a trail that leaned you hard, hard, hard driver side down sidehill for the first half of the trail.  Either you were leaning a lot – or more than that.  Now, you didn’t really have to worry about rolling – there were enough trees around that this really wasn’t much of a concern.  But – between being leaned downhill, and the trees growing uphill – it took a steady eye, and judicious combination of steering effort and slow but steady forward movement to sneak the windshield frame past each tree.  Being the only one of the 5 rigs for whom this was a concern – I can tell you that its doable – but only with maybe a hair width’s margin for error.  I did kiss off a tree three times on that section of the trail – and fortune smiled on me, as none of the hits caused any apparent damage to the windshield frame or the glass.  And that’s a good thing – because I actually don’t know where you find windshield glass for a ’72 Commando.  I just don’t think there is a huge demand for that sort of thing.

Finally – the sidehill let up, culminating in a big rutted, tight, slithering, steep hill down into – THE MUD BATHS OF DESTINY!!!!!  Well – okay – not really.  But the trail heading into this particular little mud hole (just the hole, not the mud) was about door high for Moosenstein – which means – ITS DEEP!  Now – I was following Gary.  And over the years I’ve learned that you really want to think twice about following Gary too closely – especially if you hear the hint of a demented cackle coming from somewhere ahead of you.  I had been paying more attention to the trail at that point, than to really see what Gary was up to.  But then some unusual motion caught my eye ahead.  It was the slosh of brown muddy water, as if the bully of your youth at the public pool had ripped a perfect canopener  just as you walked past in your street clothes your mother told you not to get wet.  Not only was the water in this particular hole already near the top of Gary’s tub, but Lori was literally bailing out before it became necessary to release the lifeboats.  With the certainty of knowing that gravity pulls things down, and that our sun provides both light and heat for the Earth – I just KNEW I wasn’t going to follow him into that  muddy morass of miasmic muck.  But just as certainly – I knew a good show was about to unfold.  So I pulled M-Stein up into the more manageable slot next to the trough, and wasn’t disappointed.

Some unseen root or rock (oh – and Lori’s desire not to drown on the trial) had halted Gary’s first assault at the hole.  So he backed up to take another run at things – at which point the grill formed in the water a bow wake of tsunami like proportions, forming and foaming in front of his Jeep, with water sloshing in over the tops of the doors and the back of the tub, and finally totally submerging his hood under the murky depths as he dropped into an even deeper part of the hole.  But still making forward progress, the nose of his rig popped back up to periscope depth, and you could see he was still running straight and true.  He kept at it, mud spattered, rising back up from the depths like the Loch Ness monster posing for tourists – when finally – there was just too much muck left for him to overcome.  Engine still running, and wheels still turning, and actually almost fully emerged from the depths, it was just too slick for him to totally power out from the hole.  A little tug on the winch – and he was clear.  Part of the debriefing session that followed included clearing all the drain holes in the floor pan so as to let the 6 inches or so of water drain back out that had sloshed in.  Lori was glad to see that a fresh towel was available to replace the muddy and soaked one covering her seat.

But – progress down the trail was not to continue immediately.  Because Scrambler Mike, so captivated by Gary’s performance, began to believe in magic, (and hoping that Gary had pushed a whole lot of water out of the hole) and took the same route through the same hole, really wanting to have the same results.  It was not to be.  Mike gave it one heck of a shot, and actually did continue motion for at least one forward/backward cycle.  But 2 major differences accounted for the altered outcome.  1.  Mike’s rig isn’t as tall as Gary’s.  and 2. Mike has a diaphragm spring clutch rather than a  3-fingered style.  About the 2nd time Mike hit his clutch while in the bottom of the deep brown sea, his brain started whispering to him that this was probably a mistake.  And sure enough – left foot up – ann-nn-d  – NOTHING.  Just a running engine – but no gears, no tire movement.  The mud had settled in behind the clutch fingers, and the clutch would not engage.  Time to heat up the winch.  Tom Baker, being the generous spirit that he is, donned his Navy SEAL wet suit and scuba tank, and plunged in for the cable.  Well – actually – it was more a careful stretch across the hood – but that winch cable was WAA-AA-YY under water.

Now – I’ve seen a lot of trail repairs throughout the years – and I know all about trying to hose dirt out of a muddy clutch to get moving again.  Which is not a bad concept if you actually have a hose.  And lots of clean water available.  And a some pressure with which to squirt the water at the clutch.  Having none of the above at hand really caused quite a bit of head scratching.  Oh – and also indicated it was lunch time.  But after lunch, I saw yet another attempt at a trail clutch wash that was a first for me.

First try was a small plastic water bottle with a slit cut in the cap.  I filled the bottle and handed it to Mike.  Mike put on the cap and stuck it next to the clutch fork.  Then he squeezed the bottle, trying to force water into the bell housing and hopefully behind the tines of the diaphragm spring.  Then handed the bottle back out to me, where the entire process started over again.  After the gallon of fresh water available was used up – there was no noticeable improvement.  In fact – almost nothing had dripped out of the bell housing.  Time for more aggressive measures.  Gary and Mark had scouted up the trail, and within relatively easy dragging distance was a bridge with a clear stream under it.  Not deep enough in which to get Mike’s clutch under – but at least a better source of water.

So – 2nd try was on the bridge.  Water running underneath – then we had to figure a delivery system – thinking the water bottle method lacked both in pressure and water volume.  So – Mike is laying under his Jeep, Gary has pulled an air hose out.  One end goes on a vacuum source at the engine, and the other is in the stream sucking up water.  Once the hose is filled with water – the end gets transferred from the vacuum port to the air compressor – now blowing more water into the bell housing with more force.  And – this was starting to look good!  Clean water going in, muddy water coming out, very good – Mike laying down on the job under his Jeep – getting totally hosed.  But – after 10 or so attempts by this method – still no improvement.

So – attempt number 3 – maybe we just needed more water.  So – the thought is we need a lot of water, and a bath of sorts.  Finally – the first use of duct tape on this repair – the drain hole at the bottom of the bell housing is covered with duct tape – and after some screwing around with it, we finally manage to control how much water is leaking out.  Then – finding some hose, and rigging up a siphon from a cooler – we fill the cooler full of water sitting on the door sill, siphoning water out using the hose to the bell housing, which is being sprayed into the bell housing at the hole for the clutch fork by Mike,  and keep filling the cooler with water from the stream with another gallon jug passed from Tom Baker to me, while Dirtball works the clutch with his hand.  If the words “Rube Goldberg” come to mind – you are starting to get a pretty good idea of the direction this trail fix is headed.  How many Tamers does it take to get Mike’s rig rolling again?  Apparently all of them!

Well – a number of rinses and a few attempts at some spin dries on the “heavy duty” cycle later, making sure of course that Mike is pretty thoroughly soaked, we finally decide that maybe he just needs to come out of the woods on a strap. Even another 5 or so gallons of water just doesn’t get the job done.

And so – the rest of the trip is relatively uneventful.  With Mike either on a strap, or on the winch cable, we all slowly proceed out the trail, stopping only once when we discover that Mike has broken a shackle bolt on the front left of his spring.  And that repair was actually pretty simple, given that he was already pulling himself over a root on his winch.  We just put the cable higher up in the tree, and he pulled the front end of his rig in the air enough to pop a new bolt in place of the broken one.

And just to show that regardless of what happens, things seems to work out when you’re all Tamer’s together on the trail – once out to the logging road, we figured it was time to head back to camp rather than continue with the next portion of the trail.  Just as well too.  About 45 minutes after we hit camp, a robust thunderstorm washed through the area, complete with repeated close lightning strikes just above our heads, and massive amounts of water dumping from the clouds.  Without Mike’s misfortunes, we’d probably have still been out on the trail somewhere, getting our own type of hosed from the downpour.

But – I have to say – it was some of the best trail fun I’ve had so far this year!  I headed for home after supper to spend some quality time with the lovely Mrs. Moose.  Whatever further tales of Elbe happened Sunday – someone else will have to relate.  But rest assured – wherever you have a few Tamers gathered – there is sure ‘nuff a story waiting to happen.


Another great couple of days at Elbe. What can you say other than it was a blast…
Minor damage here and there, but that is Elbe..
First day we had Me (GaryTJ) and Lori, Mark (Dirtball) and Lori, Tom (Moose), Tom (B) with his dad (Art), and Mike (R).
Only casualty was to Mikes clutch that got packed with mud and was inoperative.
Second day was  Me, Mark, Tom and Art , Robb in his cruiser, Danny (440) with Julie and the kids.
Moose went to spend the day with his wife, and Mike loaded his Jeep and took it home to clean out the mud from the clutch.
Casualty’s were to 440’s r/f axle and winch cable.
Also, Congrat’s to Robb… this is the first time in like 8 years that he has gone to Elbe and Not broken a windshield.