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Desert Trip 2020- San Raphael Swell Utah

Blazer FWC Phoenix off-road

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#11 Zoomad

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Posted 11 July 2020 - 10:43 PM

 The views were majestic.  At one point I commented over the radio it looked like we were wheeling in the bottom of the Grand Canyon and climbing out.  Each turn of the trail brought a new vista that was better than the last. 

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That’s the Dirty Devil River we just crossed down there.

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You can’t help to feel really small even in our large trucks in a setting like this.  It was jaw dropping.

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The radios were pretty silent as we were all taking in the surroundings.  Photo ops were everywhere for sure. 

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It was somewhere along this part of the trail that we discovered it was Ty’s Birthday.  This trail was an excellent way to celebrate his birthday for sure. 

 

Along the way we actually passed another Jeep coming the other direction. This was only 3rd vehicle we passed off road all week. The trail follows along the butte to our left and it starts climbing again. 

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We crawl up to the stop of sunset pass and check it out as a possible campsite.  Great spot but too windy. 

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Time to press on.

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A little while later I see another possible campsite that looked like it hit all the boxes, mostly flat, calm and great views in any direction. 

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Ian had got his setup dialed in.  No sleeping on the ground.  Quick setup and takedown.  His own treehouse on wheels.

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#12 Zoomad

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Posted 11 July 2020 - 10:46 PM

Our view looking east:

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We set up camp and each take a shower to clean the trail dust off and snack on munchies.  Dinner tonight would be Ian’s ribeye steaks on the skottle and Larry chopped up potatoes, onions and green chilies for me to fry up in my big skillet.  Unfortunately the wind picked up and had us hiding behind Ty’s Dodge to eat and avoid the extra dirt spices for flavor in our food. 

 

The sun sank below the horizon in the west and we were treated with another great sunset. 

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With the sun down and the breeze still blowing we fired up the campfire in a can as the air had a slight chill to it.  We celebrated Ty’s birthday in the light of the campfire in the can.  It’s nights like this that are every bit as fun and memory-worthy as the wheeling and the sights we’ve seen.  We love our trucks and exploring with them, but it’s the people you go with that makes the time special.  It’s why we all love the trip and can’t wait for the next one.  Sappy feelings aside, going to bed that night was pretty easy. 

 

The next day would prove to test our strength for sure.  (cue the ominous foreshadowing music)


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#13 Casa Escarlata Robles Too

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Posted 11 July 2020 - 11:30 PM

What a fantastic trip Zoomad.

Thanks for all the pictures.

So much scenery in every direction.

Great seeing this part of the country.

Frank


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#14 LuckyDan

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Posted 12 July 2020 - 12:10 AM

Fantastic indeed! Thanks for sharing thus far.
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#15 Elken

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Posted 12 July 2020 - 04:17 AM

Wow, nice trip report, pictures and scenery!


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#16 Zoomad

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Posted 12 July 2020 - 04:54 AM

The next morning we would be heading deep into Canyonlands and while we were close to the trail that leads into the Dollhouse part of the Maze district it would require us to get to the ranger station and check in for camping. 

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 Instead we decide to check out the Maze overlook trail. 

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Shorter and easier, we could go down and back and go camp in another area.  Partway down the overlook trail I could see a Jeep coming at us so I radioed to the group we had one coming and find a wide spot to park in.  Not seeing the Jeep come up I went ahead and went down.  The jeep was off to the side and it was pretty obvious it was a Park Ranger.  I pull up to talk to her and she was pretty helpful and provided some insight on the area.  Mainly, the fact we had 4 trucks together was a no-go as group size is limited to 3 vehicles in a group so one would have to hang back 1.5 miles.  We told her of our plans and she reminded us the Ranger station closes at 4:30 in the afternoon.  At this point it was 12:00 and she said the trail would take another hour and a half down to the overlook and a similar amount back up with another half hour to the Ranger station from the trail intersection.  Plans reset, we would camp in the BLM land outside of the park to avoid any static for the size of the group.   Pressing on, we follow the trail in a general easterly direction climbing down into a wash and then out again. 

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At the first main spot with the overlook into the Maze we stopped for a photo op and to have lunch. 

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Yep, that’s a big hole down there..

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After eating lunch and looking at the time we decide as a group to start heading back to the Ranger station. 

 

We creep along heading west again retracing our steps out.  Nothing out of the ordinary going on other than normal radio chatter when Larry calls that he thought there was a problem with his frame.  Knowing that truck and the fact that it is a squarebody I thought he was talking about the frame around the steering box as they are well known for failing here.  But I know he’s already fixed the frame at the steering box with the weld on braces and the bolt on Brace from ORD so I’m confused when he said it was the frame. 

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We all hop out to find Larry checking under the truck but coming up empty handed.  

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He said it felt like the rear tires were flat as it inch wormed ahead when he let off the clutch.  He had us watch from the side while he gently let out the clutch and started applying power.  That’s when we see it. The cab of the truck and the pickup box/camper had the normal gap increase to almost 6 inches at the top.  We all kind of freaked out yelling at him to stop it and when he did it came crashing down driving the air pressure gauge mounted to the camper right into the back of the cab.  You could have picked my jaw up off the trail I was so shocked. 

 

It was pretty obvious there was a problem and the group shift gears into trail repair mode.  Tools are out from each of the trucks. 

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Larry and Ian are under the K10 on the hunt for the problem.  Not too much later Larry confirms he found the problem.  The frame is cracked right between the bolt holes for the rear side saddle tank bracket.  Ian confirmed the other side is cracked the exact same way in the same spot.  The crack originates from the top of the c-channel right across the bolt hole for the front bed mount bolt.  It turns the corner onto the vertical section and goes about ¾ of the way down the frame.  After staring at the problem we started looking at all the trucks for something we could cut a couple of chunks of metal that we could use to bolt to the frame and hold it together.  I had a smaller chunk of iron in the bottom of one of my tool bags, but it wouldn’t reach between the bolts for the tank mount bracket. We start eyeballing the plates on the rod on Larry’s fuel tank bracket, but we will need to cut the plates off.  Just as we were getting ready to cut with a mini hacksaw Ty came from the back of his truck with a perfect 18” section of ¼” by 1 ½” flat stock.  We had Larry’s mini hacksaw and Ian started the futile attempt at cutting metal with too little teeth per inch for metalwork. 

 

Ian’s wife Jody had the brilliant idea to take the drill I brought and put a series of holes across the metal and then we could clamp it to something and snap it off. 

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#17 Zoomad

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Posted 12 July 2020 - 04:55 AM

The next morning we would be heading deep into Canyonlands and while we were close to the trail that leads into the Dollhouse part of the Maze district it would require us to get to the ranger station and check in for camping. 

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 Instead we decide to check out the Maze overlook trail. 

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Shorter and easier, we could go down and back and go camp in another area.  Partway down the overlook trail I could see a Jeep coming at us so I radioed to the group we had one coming and find a wide spot to park in.  Not seeing the Jeep come up I went ahead and went down.  The jeep was off to the side and it was pretty obvious it was a Park Ranger.  I pull up to talk to her and she was pretty helpful and provided some insight on the area.  Mainly, the fact we had 4 trucks together was a no-go as group size is limited to 3 vehicles in a group so one would have to hang back 1.5 miles.  We told her of our plans and she reminded us the Ranger station closes at 4:30 in the afternoon.  At this point it was 12:00 and she said the trail would take another hour and a half down to the overlook and a similar amount back up with another half hour to the Ranger station from the trail intersection.  Plans reset, we would camp in the BLM land outside of the park to avoid any static for the size of the group.   Pressing on, we follow the trail in a general easterly direction climbing down into a wash and then out again. 

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At the first main spot with the overlook into the Maze we stopped for a photo op and to have lunch. 

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Yep, that’s a big hole down there..

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After eating lunch and looking at the time we decide as a group to start heading back to the Ranger station. 

 

We creep along heading west again retracing our steps out.  Nothing out of the ordinary going on other than normal radio chatter when Larry calls that he thought there was a problem with his frame.  Knowing that truck and the fact that it is a squarebody I thought he was talking about the frame around the steering box as they are well known for failing here.  But I know he’s already fixed the frame at the steering box with the weld on braces and the bolt on Brace from ORD so I’m confused when he said it was the frame. 

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We all hop out to find Larry checking under the truck but coming up empty handed.  

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He said it felt like the rear tires were flat as it inch wormed ahead when he let off the clutch.  He had us watch from the side while he gently let out the clutch and started applying power.  That’s when we see it. The cab of the truck and the pickup box/camper had the normal gap increase to almost 6 inches at the top.  We all kind of freaked out yelling at him to stop it and when he did it came crashing down driving the air pressure gauge mounted to the camper right into the back of the cab.  You could have picked my jaw up off the trail I was so shocked. 

 

It was pretty obvious there was a problem and the group shift gears into trail repair mode.  Tools are out from each of the trucks. 

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Larry and Ian are under the K10 on the hunt for the problem.  Not too much later Larry confirms he found the problem.  The frame is cracked right between the bolt holes for the rear side saddle tank bracket.  Ian confirmed the other side is cracked the exact same way in the same spot.  The crack originates from the top of the c-channel right across the bolt hole for the front bed mount bolt.  It turns the corner onto the vertical section and goes about ¾ of the way down the frame.  After staring at the problem we started looking at all the trucks for something we could cut a couple of chunks of metal that we could use to bolt to the frame and hold it together.  I had a smaller chunk of iron in the bottom of one of my tool bags, but it wouldn’t reach between the bolts for the tank mount bracket. We start eyeballing the plates on the rod on Larry’s fuel tank bracket, but we will need to cut the plates off.  Just as we were getting ready to cut with a mini hacksaw Ty came from the back of his truck with a perfect 18” section of ¼” by 1 ½” flat stock.  We had Larry’s mini hacksaw and Ian started the futile attempt at cutting metal with too little teeth per inch for metalwork. 

 

Ian’s wife Jody had the brilliant idea to take the drill I brought and put a series of holes across the metal and then we could clamp it to something and snap it off. 

50037650552_49bffbdd0a_h.jpg

50077380601_0045f69212_b.jpg


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#18 Zoomad

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Posted 12 July 2020 - 04:57 AM

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Totally worked.  Larry and Ian figured out the dimensions of the repair parts. We drilled the holes needed to match up the fuel tank mount bolts and then “cut” them to length.  Once we had the steel cut to fit it was a simple matter of bolting them in. 

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 Larry hopped in and moved the truck under power and we had no cab to box separation.  Problem #1 solved for the moment. 

 

Larry could still feel a little flex when the rear axle started to take on the power, so he used the twin-stick 205 and engaged the front-drive only.  This didn’t add any stress to the rear half of the truck but would mean he’d lose traction going up any climbs. 

 

Still coming out of the Overlook, Ian’s view before it got steeper.

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Which as we could see on the map the shortest way out of the area we were in was going up.

As in getting to the top of the butte in the picture here.

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A few hundred feet up in less than a mile.  Meaning switchbacks.  5 of them.  Each turn within a tenth to two-tenths of a mile from each other. 

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This was going to be our next problem.  The other way out would have us going south to Hite and that’s a rough road 30 miles further out of the way.  The group decides the best way is up.  Ty would do the pulling, I’d get ahead and block the way so nobody could come down.  Ian would bring up the rear keeping his eyes on the situation and be the extra hands to help if the need arise. 

 

Off we went in front wheel drive with Ty tugging where needed. 

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About a 1 mile up the trail Larry got enough cell service to send a text into our buddy, Bill, who was with us at the beginning of the trip but left for home on Tuesday.  Larry advised by text that we had a major issue and to start assembling a rescue mission and he would call back with more details as soon as we had cell service.   I got up to each turn calling out anything I noticed along the way that they should avoid or watch out for.  Ty locked the Dodge into low/low and started tugging.  Knowing I was taking 3 point turns around the corners, Ty was going to need more to get going the right way.  The issue was the blue K10 on the end of the rope.  The plan was get up to the turn, unhook the strap and let Ty navigate the corner.  Larry would get up and around the corner as well as he could in front wheel drive, Ty’s wife Jody would reattach the strap and they would slowly get to the next corner and repeat the process.  It was slow process but steady. 

Ever the shutterbug Larry still managed to get a shot of the valley we climbed out of as he got pulled.

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Since I was above them I had a chance to stop and look down on the progress.

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Zoomed in here.

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A bird’s eye view of the trail in front of Tow-Mater and wounded K10.

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 Thankfully it was late in the afternoon and anybody heading down now would be still hours away from the campgrounds at the Maze overlook or the Dollhouse so the chances of a vehicle coming are way was minimal.  It seemed like it took longer than it did.  The last climb up was the worst as the steepest section with loose uneven ground to claw your way up.  My truck was working hard at it, but I couldn’t imagine how they were doing. 

 Nearing the top on the strap.

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A short while later Larry’s phone started making noise and we had a bleep of 4G so he called back home to let Bill know what the situation was all about.  They quickly hatched a plan for Bill to run by Larry’s house and grab his Power Wagon then stop by Ian’s house to pick up the car trailer then make the 10 hour drive to met us near Hanksville.  We carried on for what felt like hours then took a quick break at the top to regroup. We got an update on Bill’s progress on his end of the rescue mission.  He was already on his way to Larry’s to pick up the Waggy and snag Ian’s trailer with the plan to leave Pueblo at 4 AM the next morning (Friday, June 19th). 

 

Our new mission was to find a spot to camp on BLM land outside of the National park to camp for the night.  We took what seemed forever to get up to the Ranger station we headed down Hans Flat road on the hunt for a spot to make camp.  It didn’t take long, I saw a truck on side road and went down it.  The road ended quickly but had a nice wide area with pretty good views in any direction. We made camp quickly and set up the shower tent as rolling around under the truck on the trail had everybody dirty. 

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Looking back east from our campsite.

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Looking southwest off of Larry’s truck.

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We snacked on chips and salsa as we unwound from the day's surprise events. 

Before dinner Larry had to go take a walk in the woods.  Ian and I had been waiting for an opportunity to get back at the original merry prankster of these trips.  Considering what had happened earlier I asked Ian if it was the right time to pull off the prank.  Ian’s response was “Hell yeah, he’d do it to us if the roles were reversed”. So we hopped into action.  By now Ty and Jody were in on what we were up to.  I ran to my truck to grab the devices and Ty and Ian stood as lookouts as I hopped into Larry’s camper.  Knowing I didn’t have much time I turned one on and threw it between his fridge and the outside wall.  I took the second one and turned it on and set it inside one of the drawers.  What did I put in there?  It was a prank noise maker that gave off a cricket chip about every 30 seconds for up to 8 hours.  As an added layer of deviousness, if he managed to find the devices and rip it open in attempt to shut it off, he’d be showered with glitter. I had tested them and they were LOUD! Muhahaha!

 

With his camper door open you could hear the cricket noises standing 10 feet away.  They were working for sure.  Larry had come back and hopped inside to make a call back home and we could hear it going off as he was on the phone.  The four of us were giggling as we sat there.

 

Larry came out of the camper and announced he had a cricket inside his camper now.  We chuckled some more and asked “really?”

 

After getting cleaned up we cooked up some burgers and hung out watching the sunset over the mountains to our west.

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The sunset was a good one too. 

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We all turned in pretty early knowing the rescue trailer would be on it’s way the next morning. 


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#19 Zoomad

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Posted 12 July 2020 - 05:20 AM

Going off of what time we thought Bill would be taking off we would have time for a lazy morning.  We get up and we cleaned out the pantry cooking breakfast for the group.  It’s around this point Larry checked on Bill’s location with his Garmin Inreach and saw he was already 50 miles East of Green River.  Since Larry was going to take the slower pace to avoid stressing the frame, he and Ty set off and Ian and I would catch up after we got packed up. 

It didn’t take too long to catch up to Larry as the road was smooth dirt with soft sandy sections and zero washboards to allow fast moving. Ty had kept going at a higher pace to meet up with Bill at the highway.  Larry told me to move ahead and Ian stayed with him. It’s 46 miles on dirt to get back to the highway.  We got spread out enough the radios only had contact to who was closer.  I could hear Ty and not Larry and Ian.  I waited at a intersection to make sure they came the same way as a wrong turn at this point would put them on another 70 miles of dirt straight to Green River.  We didn’t need that mistake to happen. With the three of us together at the intersection we headed back off again. Radio contact with Ty came back and we could hear Bill on the radio too.  Bill had turned off the highway and was heading back to us.

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Within a span of 10 minutes the group is back together and we get the trailer off of the Waggy and onto Ty’s truck.  It’s not that the Waggy couldn’t tow the K10, but more that Ty’s was better suited for it.  Having a Cummins with an exhaust brake we knew he had the power and ability to slow down on the hills/passes that would make the margin of safety wider.  Bill brought along our buddy Andy to help pass the time on the road and help with the truck if we needed it.

 

Shortly after I pulled up, Larry and Ian rolled in.

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Trailer swapped, the loading of the K10 began.  We had a slight mishap with the winch on the trailer that rolled the cable over the sheave of the snatch block. 

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They had me back up my truck to provide the tug needed to get the K10 the rest of the way onto the trailer.  Truck on the trailer it was locked down so as to not put any more stress on the frame than needed. 

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It was already pushing 1 PM by the time we got it all cinched down. Bill and Andy were going to head straight back to Pueblo and due to the time of day that meant if we did too we’d be hitting the mountains in the dark and pulling in very late.  Larry didn’t want to push that hard so we figured we would make it to Grand Junction with the sun still up plus Ian’s CUCV M1009 didn’t have headlights.  We said our goodbyes and thanks to Bill and Andy for getting the trailer out to us and took off at a slower pace than we did on the way out.  

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Larry was riding with me since we loaded. He wanted to have me ride behind the trailer so we could keep an eye on it. I can say this, it’s been a long time since the two of us have shared so much windshield time together.  Goes back to our Workhorse days.  Just like the times past our conversation was all over the map.  We had different ideas on how to fix the truck and the future plans for mine.  I had enjoyed being solo all week, but nothing is like road tripping with an old friend. I think it helped Larry, as he was nervous around every corner and every gust of wind. 

We stopped in Green River for fuel and snacks.  Ian had noticed an issue on the trailer that he wanted to address.  He pumped the air up in the trailer tires and we went on the hunt for a grease gun to add grease to the wheel hubs. 

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With the trailer maintenance completed we hit the road for Grand Junction. 

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 Larry and Jody were on the hunt for a campground for the group on their phones as we drove.  It took longer than before at 65-70 mph but the K10 stayed planted on the trailer and as planned we rolled into the campground on the west of town with plenty of daylight left.

 

It was a nice place but the staff struggled to understand what we were camping in to the point Larry had to ask her to come outside and see for herself.  It was funny or annoying depending on who you were.  Eventually we were told Ian and I had spots 64 and 65 and Ty’s truck and the trailer got put in another row. Entry into Larry’s camper was a little higher now!

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When Ian and I turned the corner we saw one of the spaces was already occupied.  Tired and annoyed at this point we said to hell with it and parked both of our trucks in one spot and popped the lids up and headed for the showers. 

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With all of us cleaned up and feeling human again, we cooked dinner in Ian and my campsite.  We all enjoyed our last dinner together on the trip.  After a few beers we relaxed and talked into the darkness. 

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Tired and weary of a big run through the mountains, we all eventually turned in to get some rest. 


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#20 Zoomad

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Posted 12 July 2020 - 05:23 AM

We got a early start hoping to beat the wind we got beat up in the week before between Grand Junction and Delta.  Our campground was just down the street from a truckstop on the west side of town where we stopped for some fuel and fast food breakfast.   While eating our food in the parking lot we had a CK5’er @oatsk5 see us and come stop by on his way to a wheeling run on 21 road.  We bs’d for a little while and took off in our respective directions. 

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The ride over the Rockies was done at a little slower pace than before.  We did stop at the top of Monarch Pass to give the Dodge a chance to cool down after the big climb.  The stop wasn’t long as the temps were in the low 50’s and heavy wind. 

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 The downhill run was uneventful as Ty’s exhaust brake did most of the work keeping the speed in check on the way down.  Rolling into Salida around lunchtime we decided to stop for a bite and take some time out of the trucks to stretch.  The push home was only a couple of hours and outside of a couple of hills the ride is all downhill. 

 

The group all went to Larry’s place to aid in unloading the wounded K10.  It came off the trailer under it’s own power and got parked back in the garage.  Tired and ready to be off the road, Ian and I took off for our houses. 

 

 

 

Trip Statistics: 

 

1260 miles round trip from Larry’s house, out and back. 

We gained 45,213 feet in elevation and went down 44,615 ft.

My truck used 106 gallons of fuel for an overall MPG of 12.08.

Best tank of fuel was the last one from Grand Junction to Pueblo at 15.09.

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Larry got better mileage out of the last tank in the K10 though, 410 miles using 0 gallons. He was filling the tank in the Dodge though. 

An interesting stat is the moving time/standing time.  Over the entire trip we were moving for 43 hours 50 minutes.  Standing time was 24 hours 2 minutes.  I only paused the clock when we stopped for the night after getting into a camp spot and restarted the next morning as we took off.  We were gone for 7 days total so it means we were moving in the trucks just under 2 days worth of time.  That’s a lot of windshield time for sure.

 

My final thoughts on the trip go all over the place.  It certainly was a trip to remember for so many reasons.  We had the largest amount of trucks with us starting out which was fun, but a logistical circus. I tried to strike a balance on the trail choices that maintained a certain level of challenge to the trucks and drivers, but not put us in harms way.  Add to the fact that some might want to see different things leads to some going off in other directions. That’s ok. It changed the dynamic some, but the group that remained together was open and flexible for anything. We all get along well for sure.  We’ve had minor trail breakage and problems in the past, but never anything quite like what happened to Larry’s frame.  It really shows what people are made of when hit with adversity.  There was no panic other than the initial shock we all had when we saw Larry’s truck bend like it did.  Everybody found a task to do and went about doing it.  I could tell Larry at one point was struggling finding a socket, but it was more than just finding the socket.  He was struggling processing the whole situation.  Who wouldn’t be in shock when you realized your truck has tried to rip itself in half.  I reassured him that we know what the problem is and we know how to fix it. We could not look at the “what if” scenarios, but just at the task at hand.  Solve one task and move on to the next.  Which was exactly how we went after it. Shore up the frame, get out of Canyonlands, get to the trailer and get the truck home. 

 

Looking back it could have been a hell of a lot worse.  Had Larry not had that odd feeling and kept going, it’s likely that the truck could have broken the frame completely.  Imagine the recovery needed to get two halves of a 8,500 pound truck and camper to extract a solid 50+ miles from the nearest paved road.  We got lucky.  Things lined up right.  The crack managed to be right in between the bolt holes for the fuel tank bracket. The crack itself didn’t go beyond the side of the frame. Ty had the perfect chunk of steel on his truck as a shim for the box on his swingout.  My overpacking of tools, with a cordless drill and impact saved us time in working Ty’s steel into a workable patch for the frame.  Ian was under the truck working out the details and helping put the patches in place as well as working the steel to make the patch.  Larry said it best later, of the people he knows, three of them that he would have called if something went wrong were already with him.  The fourth person was on the way with the Rescue Waggy and trailer. 

 

We learned a ton in a couple of days for sure. But we still managed to have fun in the process.  The memories of the trip will last a lifetime for sure. 


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