Moses Lake Apr 2013

What keeps me coming back to Moses Lake are memories of years gone by.  The finer things, the core things – sun drenched dunes and sand kissed by gentle breezes, being warmed both in the sun and by the new hope of a warming from winter cold and sogginess – and of course – wheeling.  Moses Lake has for me generally symbolized the start of the summer wheeling season.  As a younger man – I’d made sure that the top was off Moosenstein (my ’72 Commando) by the time I headed out to Moses Lake. Yeah – very few of those things were in evidence for this year’s dunes run.  Although there is NEVER anything wrong with being out in the world with my fellow Tamers enjoying a little wheeling.

The lovely Auto-M and I decided to make it a day run.  The children (Kona and Lola) were being their typical heathen selves, and so we elected to leave them home for a day while we got away to play.  This would be year 4 of my “proving ground” runs with the Moosenstein makeover.  4 years ago – it started with addition of fuel injection.  At that time – the computer hadn’t learned my driving style yet (and perhaps the timing was just a bit too advanced in the AMC 304) and every time I hit the skinny pedal, the first reaction was to cough through the intake manifold before catching and running.  The idle was too high, and the throttle lag was annoying – and I went home deciding I had a little work to do.  3 years ago it was Auto-M’s Jeep on the dunes.  Last year was the infamous tale of John and Gina’s Love Shack dying on Ryegrass Hill, leaving only 2 Tamer couples (Mary and me, Nick and Teri) to wheel.  Moosenstein that year had virtually no brakes and overheated all the time.  Ugh.

Finally – this year brake work completed, a new fan clutch and shroud, and a few things dialed in on the FI (oh yeah – and a fresh AND full tank of gas) and pretty much I was poised to experience everything being right in my wheeling world.

Mary and I got to the dunes about 10 AM on Saturday.  As we drove along the dunes road – we came upon what likely looked like the Tamer camp.  There was what I was reasonably sure was John and Gina’s new, improved, non-motorized Love Shack (aka Love Shack 2.0 – tag line “If This trailer’s rockin’ the Viagra kicked in…..) and adjacent – a tent.  No rigs.  But the white JK doors at the trailer were a bit of a giveaway, the tire tread looked right for J&G’s new tires – but I couldn’t quite figure out who was in the tent sporting some All-Terrain BFG’s.

No matter.  While pondering the evidence, Karloo, Ruth and Isabel blew in with the Karl’s mighty Squirrel-Eater on the trailer.  So we all offloaded, and went on a Tamer hunt.

You can generally tell when Karl is on the loose – you hear that rev-limiter going “WHAAAPPP – WHHAAPP – WHHAPPPP” in the vicinity.  It’s always a great show, and a testament to the sturdiness of the little 4 cylinder they put in Jeeps in that vintage.  We headed south out of camp on a Tamer hunt.  In about 20 minutes, the radio crackles “Hello Moose!”  It was John and Gina who had spied me first from an adjoining dune.  And the mystery guests revealed themselves – it was Anthony and Tiffany (yeah – try to say that 5 times fast) and kids romping in the yellow Hummer.

Karl had been lagging behind Moosenstein – which I must say was performing well within my expectations for the first time in years.  Although the roof was still on.  I have bent it up so much wheeling in the past – I am a little concerned that I won’t get it back on if I take it off…..  I did not hear the rev limiter behind me, and Karl’s rig was being driven in a most civilized manner.  Mary and I assumed that Karl had become ill or something – and then we saw the reason for the reasonable driving behavior.  Ruth was piloting the rig!  Karl indicated that Isabel has it all figured out.  “Isabel cries when daddy drives, but is totally happy when mommy drives.”  You know Isabel – I’m sure many passengers who have ridden with your daddy can TOTALLY sympathize!

So – grouped up – we took a slow heading back north to camp.  The cool thing about the dunes is that you can almost make yourself believe you are an explorer driving over the trackless spaces.  Not necessarily confined by trail and trees, there is a certain impulse to let your heart soar out and pretend that there is a little wild freedom left.  Down dunes, up dunes – crawling or full throttle.  Running a bowl, or just sitting on top of a dune with the engine off enjoying the quiet and a view of the lake – you can almost make believe that for a few moments – you are unbounded by the rules.  This is probably the other thing that keeps me coming back to Moses Lake.

Well – heading back for lunch – the Tamer band got a little split up.  As I was wandering in the bottom of a few piles of sand, I noticed what looked like a stream of oil – like someone’s rig was doing a long spooge.  It looked fresh, and it didn’t take me long to find the source.  Around the next dune bottom was a full sized Bronco behind, and a stock newer Dodge Ram pickup in front buried to its axles – tow strap between them pulled tight like a rubber band.  Not unbelievably – a bunch of testosterone-filled young men from Everett were standing around with that young man “boy- this was cool – AND stupid” look going on about them.   They pretty quickly ‘fessed up that they had no idea what they were doing.  That they would so easily copped to this gave me some feeling for their plight, and I quickly commenced to helping them out.

It took nothing to get a strap on the truck, and Moosenstein easily got that back up on top of the sand.  The Bronco, however, was another story.  It seems that these guys had watched a sand rail in the dunes jumping and doing wheelies – and they thought it would be an AWESOME idea to do the same with the Bronco – of course getting video of the whole thing.

Well – they got video alright.  (I did view it.)  They took a run at a dune (one with a very sharp crest, and pretty well guaranteed not to end in a good result) and indeed did get the Bronco fully airborne – all 4 wheels.  Going up is easy.  Coming down can be hard.  And IT WAS!  Couldn’t tell what damage they had done to the front end – but they had no front drive.  Probably sheared something off in the gears inside.  But the most masterful carnage is what they did to the 9” in the rear.  They probably had a lot of foot going off the dunes – because when they landed – they exploded the entire side out of the 3rd member in the back diff.  Last time I saw a break like that – it was Dirtball taking on a hillclimb at Rimrock.  But at least he was actually wheeling – and not just goofing off.

Anyway – Moosenstein could pull the Bronco on the level – but it was just too much weight to pull it up any hill.  I needed a few more wheels gripping the sand for traction – and got Karl on the radio.  We got a Tamer train hooked up – Karl in the front strapping me in the middle – strapping the Bronco on the end.  Not quite like the 3 car demo derbies at the Evergreen Speedway – but there was some similarity.  You want to get some work done – get 2 Tamer rigs together sporting 8 wheel drive – and you have an unstoppable combination.  We slowly but surely pulled that Bronco out to the road, and the young men were very thankful for the assist.

A late lunch showed the wind picking up in the dunes.  There was sand and dust poised to become a convincing menace as we ate lunch – although the sun still filtered through the haze, making for a toasty, lazy meal time.

There was more wheeling in the afternoon.  None of the Tamers broke anything.  Anthony made that Hummer traverse up and down the dunes like he’d been doing it all his life.  We were also joined by another interested person – Morgan and his daughter Sierra – driving a TJ.  They laid out their tent during late lunch – and I hope they had put some pretty good weights in it.  If things were getting blowy at lunch, they would become like camping in a sandblast cabinet a little later on.

We came in off the dunes about 5-ish.  Clouds came in from the west covering the sun, and by now the wind had REALLY come up.  The national weather service called for constant winds of 20 to 30 MPH with gusts up to 40 MPH – and the camp was fairly well obscured by this time.  I didn’t hold out much hope for the campfire promised by the firewood piled against LS 2.0 (the new Love Shack) and I can’t say I was too sad about our plan to be going home.  The drive home west on I-90 had some resemblance to the dustbowl years.  In some places – so much dust was blowing off the adjacent fields, you couldn’t see more than about 4 car lengths in front of you.  This continued until we headed down the hill into Vantage.

But that is a small complaint.  Just getting out and wheeling with our fellow Tamers was time well spent.  If you missed it this time, plan to make it to the next run to Tillmook for the Memorial Day weekend.

Thanks for readin’ –