Reiter Feb 2004

Back To The Basics…..

In any repeatable endeavor involving human activity, or even more to the point, in human nature, any action tends to generate its own set of rules. As humans, right or wrong, good or bad, we tend to do the same stuff the same way all the time. Things that work out form the basic rules. Things that don’t work out are what happen when you ignore the basic rules. The Sunday club run to Reiter Trails was a good reminder of what the rules are, and what can happen when you ignore them.

Rule #1 – There really isn’t any such thing as an easy trail run.

Man – sunny, warm, bright, and the trail anticipated to be simple. As far as gender differences go, I believe the ladies outnumbered the men – both in person and in rigs, and that’s not even counting the sex change I haven’t yet had. We had two groups – one ladies and gents group of more experienced drivers with rigs in various stages of build up who wanted to go wheel some harder trails. And another group with less wheeling time under their belts, with rigs everywhere from bone stock to well on their way to big dog-dom, that Hugh and I chose to take for an afternoon classroom in wheeling. I pushed off a thought in the back of my mind that was trying to form the word “bor-ing!” using the justification that time spent in a rig beats the heck out of cutting my ever lengthening lawn – even with my new garden tractor. So – off we headed for the tree trail right out of the Reiter parking lot, then to some creek crossings, and a little jaunt up the power line. Before the afternoon was out, we’d find the eternal truth of the first rule.

Rule #2 –Fix whatever is ailing on your rig before you hit the trail.

Regardless of how much sunshine is shining on my head (or being blown up my butt) I still would prefer to start any trip with as few mechanical difficulties as possible. So, I was some amused when we had not 1 but 2 rigs with punky starting systems. Vaughn’s starter was acting in a downright anti-social manner, causing the starter to click, but not do much else, in the parking lot of the Buzz-Inn. A few backwards tugs from Moosenstein, and still nothing. Oh – yeah – turn the key and THEN compression start in reverse. What a concept! Still – this wasn’t going to be much fun on the middle of that hill climb where the engine stalls. (And Vaughn tells me – that it wasn’t…..) Also – Ilene had the right idea approaching her Ford style solenoid with an uninsulated pliers in order to jump the starter – but then still needed a little guidance as to which end of the pliers to touch where, and that she really was going to see some sparks. (I loved when she said, “This can’t be right!!” when the fireworks started.) Well – not as right as just turning the key – but we did get everyone under way.

And THEN – Brianna and her incredible disappearing top. Settle down, boys – we’re talking the hardtop on her Jeep. When she left the Buzz-Inn, I thought I’d seen the top on. Then somewhere between Monroe and Sultan, she was making some kind of noise about pulling over. And I really mean some kind of noise – because her radio wasn’t getting out, and all we heard on my CB was something about “mmnph-mmnph-hrum-flbblph- hmph-OVER NOW!!”

We thought she was complaining about the vibration from her bent front driveline. So we pulled in at the park and ride in the east end of Sultan, all saying “Didn’t you have a top on at the Buzz-Inn?” Turns out that in the wind on the highway with her driver door off, the breeze caught the top, which must have been missing a number of critical fasteners, and blew it off and over to the side of the road. Not sure where it ended up, because we never did see it again after that. Bri choose to push on – so we did.

So – three rigs ill, and we’re not even to the parking lot at the trails yet.

Rule #3 – Always go fully outfitted for wheeling.

This was more instruction than anything for the folks in the intensive learning mode with Hugh, and me as Hugh decided to take the hard line across May Creek. In almost no time at all, Hugh had managed to get himself high centered fairly far away from any mobile anchor points. I’m sure he did it purely as a teaching opportunity to display good technique in winching, using a tree strap, and which parts of your rig you DON’T want to be sitting hard on rocks when you drive across them. Anyway – we rigged up a strap on a tree, and with a few tugs (and some really ugly metal to rock noises going on) Hugh was underway again.

Rule #4 – Always have fun – whether at your own, or better yet – someone else’s expense.

Seeing Hugh’s rig high centered on a few rocks reminds me how much fun wheeling is – especially when you’re watching someone else do something cool that you really wouldn’t want to have to go fix on your own rig……

Rule #5 – Never go out alone.

Not that I’m an unbeliever, but I was reminded of this little maxim – oh at least 5 times during the day. We drove across the creek, through the deep puddles, up the power line through another stream, when Brianna’s rig started to pop and sputter. So we all pulled over, and Hugh did a little diagnosing. Water and ignition systems just don’t mix very well. After a little paper towel blotting in the old d-cap, we were good to go again. We were heading up to the sand pit on the power line, when we heard some guy, alone of course, in a big Ford pickup doing a radio check, and when we answered back, he was asking for help to get out of a mud hole he’d driven into. I think the “sucks to be you” response was at least in our consciousness, if not actually uttered. Also – about the same time he called, some other folks coming down the trail told us we needed to get up the trail to yank some solitary Chevy pickup that was about to roll off the road somewhere. I think we actually did say that it sucked to be him too, since we had our hands full of an incident, caused by another rule infraction, voiced next….

Rule #6 – If you don’t know and can’t see what you’re about to drive over, stop, get out, and LOOK!

As I was leading the group, I was trying to stay in the lines that weren’t too outrageous. In the past, the sand pit on the power line trail has provided some mighty fine entertainment with the way it can get washed out. This time – it was like driving up I-5, it was so civilized. So imagine my surprise when the radio crackled to life, with Hugh’s voice an octave or 2 higher than usual saying “BRI – TURN RIGHT, TURN RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!…. Bri’s on her side….” Now – I didn’t know exactly how Brianna could have accomplished this feat without a little effort – but when we got myself, Terry, and new guy Bill turned around, there was Bri’s Jeep – on its side (actually almost threatening to go totally upside down) windshield frame buckled, glass on the ground, with the drivers door tossed out, and a few other things kinda blowing around. Except for a small cut on her finger, Bri emerged unscathed, “enjoying” a whomping adrenalin rush.

I asked her what happened – and I believe her response was something like, “Well – I couldn’t see what was in front of me, so I just kept going.” Basically – Bri had taken a line that, because of the sand pit’s ever eroding nature, ended in thin air. If she’d taken it straight on – it would’ve been a very exciting, but doable nosedive. But just to drive off a 15 foot straight down drop at a slight angle – well – let’s just say – it was Bri’s day to take the advanced course in the school of hard knocks of wheeling education.

Rule#7 – Always wear a safety belt.

Well – this is such a simple rule, we shouldn’t even have to mention it. But the funny thing about common sense, is that it just isn’t common enough. Fortunately – Brianna abided by this rule and personally came out of her little tumble with nothing more than a scratched finger – and a great story to tell. A few years ago, a guy rolled his rig at Reiter and died from it, because he just apparently couldn’t get around to buckling into his 5-point harness that, upon rolling, uselessly mocked him as his life drained away.

Rule#8 – Always carry items to assist you in recovery and repair.

Hugh and I sure got to show off all the nifty toys you can use when an event of this nature occurs. So Hugh’s (1) winch got attached to his (2)strap to pull Brianna’s Jeep back on its wheels. While we held the Jeep on 2 wheels with the strap, Bri actually had the guts to get back in, start it, and drive it up to a more level area. Then, I employed my (3) highlift, jacking from the floorboards into the windshield frame to do a little straightening. That was after we decided that Ilene’s (4) hammer wasn’t going to be big enough to do the job. Wanting to make sure Bri didn’t freeze in the breeze on the way home, we took some (5, 6) rags, and wiped down the shattered windshield glass and beat up frame, so we could securely (7) duct tape the windshield back in. At this time, there was much manly muttering going on sounding like a Tool Time episode “Broken windshield – bad! Duct tape – Good! (ahr, ahr, ahr….)” The roll had knocked most of the air out of Bri’s right rear tire, so I broke out my (8) on board air to fill it back up. Missing any one of these tools would have drastically altered the successful outcome of fixing the results of this roll.

Rule #9 – Always have plans B, C, D, and maybe even E in the back of your mind.

The momentum of the day had kinda been disrupted as we got Bri’s Jeep back on 4 wheels, and got her heart rate back to something in the subsonic range. Also, darkness was creeping in on us. Time to get back to the road for an uneventful trip to the parking lot. Ah – but such was not so easily to be. There were a few really good little off-camber ooties in the short distance from the sand pit to the road out. I put Moosenstein through a couple of pretty good leans that even got my attention, but just kept on the gas to get past the steep parts. Terry saw Ilene go through a little section that rated an 8.6 out of 10 on the rectal/vinyl inversion scale. That pucker up was good enough to see Mudtilda (Ilene’s Jeep) have 2 wheels off the ground. However, being the great humanitarian that she is, and not wanting to rob Brianna of the joy of the newly acquired rights to the women’s cow bell, Ilene gently set her rig back on all the wheels, and paused a bit to get her respirations back under 30 per minute.

So the plan – get back to the parking lot and air up. The reality? Bill came on the radio, saying, “Hey – Brianna’s tire is looking a little flat.”

Suspecting a bead leak, Hugh said, “Yeah – we’ll fix it in the parking lot.

A little more insistently, Bill responds, “No – you really should take a look at this. It doesn’t look right.”

Again, the response, “Really Bill, we’ll handle it down in the parking lot.” Finally, a last try from Bill. “I THINK THE TIRE IS COMING OFF THE WHEEL NOW!!!!!”

Well – THAT brought us to a quick halt. Dang – for a newbie, Bill sure could see well in the dark. While it hadn’t come off the bead, Bri’s tire was indeed flat as a tortilla. At least on the bottom side. We suspected a bead leak, but also saw a big hunk out of the sidewall. So – the plan?

(Plan A) Hey – we’ll just put on the spare. “Bri – where’s your spare?”

Brianna answered, ‘Spare???!” (Go to plan B)

Okay – we’ll let’s put on someone else’s spare. Well – after canvassing the group – none of the available spares were the right size – and being that Brianna is locked front and rear with no front hubs, having an off size tire really wasn’t much of an option. (Go to plan C)

Maybe it’ll hold enough air to get to the parking lot, and we’ll break it down there. So – I break out the compressor again, and find that Bri’s tire holds air for – oh – almost 35 seconds. Now we’re sure that she has a bad sidewall where we see something that looks like a deep gouge. (Go to plan D)

But then before getting really involved with breaking closely sized tires off CJ wheels, to fit them on her YJ wheel, Hugh decides to do one last highly technical tire test, learned in the Les Schwab Tire Research Laboratories. Using the Special Patented Investigative Technique (aka SPIT), he goobered all over the sidewall break – and found that – IT WASN’T THE SIDEWALL! YAY! It was a bad bead leak getting worse.

So (On to Plan E) we pulled off the wheel, pulled out the highlift, stuck it under the rig, put the foot on the sidewall, and jacked until the bead let go. Terry was watching the proceedings and asked Hugh, “So now what are you doing with that tire?”

Lord help me, I couldn’t resist such an instructional opportunity. “Well it’s simple Terry – right now, you’ll notice Hugh is beading off the tire…..” A few more rags, a few flashlights, some wiping and rubbing, and we got all the sand and gravel out of the bead. Back to the on-board air, and with a York and an air tank cranked up to 130 lbs – we got that bead seated just about the time it got pitch black.

Plan E did the trick.  We got the tire back in place, and headed on back to the parking lot – finally pretty much all in one piece – not too much the worse for wear.  As I said in the beginning – once you wheel long enough, you’ll come to know, that just about the moment you think you’re on an easy run, something will come up to dissuade you of the notion.  And that’s just our group’s story.  But I’ll let someone else tell you about the “advanced” run – with balky starters, cranky clutch linkages, and another tire off the bead….  It was quite the fine day for wheeling!