Moses Lake Dunes Apr 2016

So – if you take a Timber Tamer out of the timber is there anything left to tame?
The gathering at Moses Lake would echo a most convincing “YES!”  (Or even Heck-Yeah!!!”)

Concerns about bad weather aside – Curtis reported he and Janessa hit the dunes about 1 AM Friday morning (yes – 1 AM – that is not a misprint) and Friday was a sunny day with no rain.  Anthony also was out in his INCREDIBLY bitchin’ race rig, on which I will provide test ride comments a little later.

Me?  I had a few things to advance at work (responsible adult that I am masquerading as) on Friday and allowed myself to be persuaded to meet up for a day trip with Curt, Wendy and girls in their Rubi and Chris and Ashley in their Xterra at 0-dark thirty Saturday  morning along I-90 near North Bend.  I blew by them at exit 31 with Cupcake, the indomitable Chevy Van, hauling ever more becoming trailer queen Moosenstein  a few feet behind.

Curt was thinking it was going to be a slow trip up the pass.  Little did he know that when Cupcake has his cruise control set on 65 – he is going to keep to that pace like the speedo needle has been superglued onto the scale.  As he dug down 2 gears to assist the 6 liter in maintaining speed to the summit, what DOES move is the gas gauge.  In a downward spiral – until we made it to the top.  (10 mpg hauling a rig – still not too shabby…..)

With breakfast at the Ellensburg Buzz-Inn, and then a good run to Moses Lake – we found the Tamer camp along the Sand Dunes Road – more or less in the usual spot.  A little after 9 AM, sun shining, wind not yet too ramped up, and the Tamers starting to rise and shine.

After a sign in with the Moses Lake Sand Commandos for the clean up and picking up a few plastic bags – we headed off in search of trash – and adventure.  Heading south and west to the far corner of the park – there was the usual combination of dunes to drive up.  And oddly enough given the caveat that what goes up – must come down – dunes to drive down again.

At one dune face, some Tamers were on top, enjoying the sun and at this point still a manageable breeze – while Anthony and Even drove part way up the dune face doing donuts.  Evan in his LJ (Long Jeep) was obviously doing some testing of his anti-gravity unit – trying to get sideways on the dune and then hitting the brakes.  Air Anthony provided a ride to Wendy Brady – and his anti-gravity ploy was to top the lip of the dune and get a little air.  I noticed his rig seemed to always want to kick its butt into the air – and he reported that was the weight of the front end.  As soon as it got off the ground, when the suspension dropped – it took the rest of the front end with it.  Somewhere along the line we suggested he needed a rear facing literal tail-gunner seat situated on top of the rear facing spare tire to compensate front/rear weight distribution.  Depending on the weight of the passenger – it would keep the rear end down, and the rear facing passenger could advise Anthony during races who is sneaking up on him.  Even better – if a .50 cal gun was mounted on the back along with this person – that would REALLY serve to keep any competitors from getting too close.  But I suppose – that would be unsportsmanlike……..

We actually did pick up some trash (including inexplicably – multiple handfuls of nails) – but I must say – now that the dunes area is decreed “alcohol-free” (which it is by the local authorities a number of years ago) there is a WHOLE LOT LESS trash than there was in years when it wasn’t.  Much of the trash I picked up has obviously been there a long time – or – it was water bottles that appeared to have inadvertently dropped off the vehicles which they came out on – evidenced by the fact that the bottles still had water in them – some of them not yet even opened.

The only thing I miss about the alcohol days is having a cold one or two back at camp.   But other than that – not so much.  One year – we had a camp nearby of young drinkers – and about every 15 minute – all night long – someone had to leave camp in a VW dune buggy doing full throttle assaults of the power line area – right next to our camp.  When their camp finally went quiet at about 6 AM presumably from hangovers and inebriated saturation – we were only too glad to return the favor with a few full throttle assaults of our own around their camp when we finally started stirring.

Someone had come out with the factoid (accurate or not – but its a good sounding factoid) that 80% of the hospital admissions at the Moses Lake Hospital from accidents at the dunes were alcohol related.  I don’t know the source of that factoid – but I dare say – I generally saw a lot more crazy stuff at Moses Lake in the past than I did this weekend.

Not that you can’t do authentically totally stone sober crazy – which may be the crazier and more concerning kind.  I totally get the mindlessly stupid things people do when they say something like, “Hey – hold my beer while I tell you what incredibly stupid thing I was doing when I was holding my beer.”  But – I had the opportunity for 2 rides before I headed for home.  You see – Moosenstein (my ’72 Jeepster Commando) was feeling his oats in the dunes.  I uncharacteristically was putting my foot down to hear my AMC 304 do a little singing.  Up one dune – I was digging some sand at the top but still moving forward – and kept my foot into it – while hearing something metallic popping away in the rear.  Turned out one of my rear hubs (yes – really – a Warn rear hub still from my flat tow days) had unwound and bent – and provided me 3 wheel drive.  3WD is a non-experience at least when one of the wheels not pulling their weight is in the rear – an so – I retired Moosenstein for the day and hopped in with Evan.

He labelled me a “hi-may” (high maintenance) passenger as I lopped in my donuts, an extra jacket – and most importantly – a bag with all my diabetes stuff in it.  As a 30 year type 1 diabetic – you just kinda want to be prepared for anything so should something unforeseen arise – so your clubmates don’t have to worry about you too much.  My problem shouldn’t become your problem – so – hey – if I’m hi-may – so be it.

About then I realized I wasn’t the only one feeling his oats.  Evan was just breaking in a set of 4.88 gears in the diffs – and on his mind was more dirt trackin’ (or sand-trackin’) than off-roading.  He eschewed his 4 wheel drive for just the rear end, a lot of foot, 4.88’s and 35 inch tires.  As we did 180’s and 360’s and 270’s back and forth across the strip of white 1980’s Mt. St. Helens volcanic ash that can still be found in the dunes – we disappeared and reappeared through the ash cloud like a ghost Jeep of the finest “Flying Dutchman” tradition.

Now being reminded of my years ago multiple roll and airlift out of the woods with some significant injuries – and hearing Evan’s maniacal laughter echoing in my ears – I had to go through a little mental process to settle down and enjoy the ride.  The process – “He’s a new dad, at no time do I think he was ever suicidal, he knows his Jeep” – I tucked in to enjoy the dust and the drift car expertise he was exhibiting.  I dare say – those 4.88’s have given quite some spirit to Even’s LJ – and riding in “The Donut Shop” (new LJ name) was quite the hoot!  He got a few other folks to join in the fun (Wendy dusted down her Rubi so thoroughly you’d think it was a crime scene being processed for prints!)

Anyway – the wind had picked up – and not atypically – we were being pelted with fine grains of Moses Lake dunes “goodness.”   Moosenstein was sans  hub, now sitting on the trailer – and I had wandered over to say my goodbyes – especially big hugs to Curtis and to Anthony.  Yes – I can’t remember how many years ago it was – but the first time Anthony showed up at the dunes years ago – he was in a big yellow Hummer.   The Hummer is gone for some time now.  Of course – now he has his MASSIVELY impressive 4WD flat bed 4500 Duramax club cab Chevy tow rig – and sometimes his built childhood YJ shows up – or this time – I was quite pleased to see his KOH race rig clearing its pipes.  It is ONE IMPRESSIVE machine.  Driven by an equally impressive driver!  As I was saying my goodbyes, I said – “hope I get a ride in your rig one of these times.”  Apparently – it doesn’t take much goading to get Anthony to do a little showing off.

His simple reply, “Let’s go now.”

I’ve always said wheeling is my youth-o-meter.  As long as I can get in a rig – I’m not too old to wheel.  I certainly wasn’t going to let the complexities and gymnastics of getting my wide-ish butt into Anthony’s passenger seat stop me from having the excellent adventure of a lifetime.  I’m sure it didn’t look very graceful.  Doing a quick analysis of the footholds – I saw one bit of tube sticking out that would probably take my left foot.  And then a quick grab with both hands on the top tube – at least got me inside of the rig.  I had to reach down to grab my own right foot and guide in into the rig.  Like some old guy.  (Oh crap – I probably AM getting to be some old guy.  Body only – not mind.)  I was determined not to fall out in a big heap like a sack of potatoes (which probably would have been fitting for a day at Moses Lake – where locally they actually process a lot of Washington State’s potatoes…)  Then Curtis was good enough to started elongating the racing belts along my nether regions so I could get down and buckled in – while I crooned out an old blues ballad…….

“Don’t you touch my leg, don’t you touch my leg –
Cause if you touch my leg, then you’ll touch my thigh.
And if you touch my thigh then I’ll get high
So don’t you touch my leg…..”

Curtis said – “Holy crap Moose – I think now I WILL touch your leg!”

(He did – but only in the most appropriate manner…)

Finally – to fit into the seat, I handed the cell phone on my belt over to Curtis, the insulin pump could stay in place,  my lap and shoulder belts were secure, we didn’t think we needed the anti-dive crotch belt………ann-nn-nndd Anthony hit the starter.

What a WONDERFUL sound from the engine.  I don’t know the actual specs on the engine – I seem to recall it is a massaged (fitting being driven by a chiropractor) Corvette engine – yes?  Throatily singing away.

Okay – as Anthony put his foot into it a bit – and up the power line road we went over the whoopdies – I initially had to go through the same type of mental exercise I went through with Evan.

(Internal voice in my head – “okay.  He’s not a kid.  He’s a responsible adult.  He’s a chiropractor.  He has a practice to perform.  He knows his rig.  He doesn’t want to kill either of us – I think……..”)  And then I started to relax – and marveled at the whoopdies I can’t take at more than 15-20 MPH in Moosenstein or Mary’s TJ with a long arm suspension – Anthony is charging through at 40 to 50 MPH and accelerating.  Actually – I wasn’t concerned at all with Anthony.  I could just envision some bonehead without a flag to be over the next rise – and we’d have to do something critical to avoid them.  But – a few turns later – it became pretty apparent that – if we had to take evasive maneuvers – both Anthony and the rig were totally and incredibly capable of the task.  And hey – if something totally bad happened – what a great way this would be to go – with friends and rocketing off in a fabulous off road rig.  Having said that – it was just another excellent day at the dunes with friends in a rocket ship – and nothing untoward happened.  We got back to camp, and Curtis requested 1 more tune on the jukebox.  He asked Anthony to drop a gear and do one full throttle pass of camp so we could hear the Chirobody Diva really show off its pipes.  So – Anthony dropped a gear in the 4 speed transfer case and actually put his foot down a little harder while we made a big loopy circle around camp.  I don’t know that I have ever close up heard an engine make that kind of sound.  Hard to describe – but a loud, sweet, high pitched, adrenalin filled, other-worldly midway between a howl and a scream.  To say it was AWESOME would be nowhere near enough to honor the experience – but I am certainly glad I had it! (Thank you Anthony!)   Except for the sand in my eyes (which actually become less worse the faster we went) it was one of the best auto-body (as opposed to out-of-body) experiences I have ever had.

Managing NOT to embarrass myself (too-much) getting back out of his rig (at no time did I fall to the ground – although I did hear some comments,” Well – THAT”S an interesting approach….”)  I took (as us wheelers would say) a more difficult line getting out of the seat – but still managed to stick the landing and not hurt myself.

Thanks to all you younger bucks keeping an eye out for this old Moose – it was another wonderful time on the sand at Moses Lake.  Thanks for everyone who did manage to come out – and if you didn’t make it – we’ll see you on the trail another time.

Thanks for Readin’
And Keep On Wheelin’….