Uwharrie...In The Rain
To address the two previous comments: yes, the trip went very
well, and yes, that would be the swaybar link...or, rather, what's left of it. Despite the fact that the weather seemed determined to put a damper on things, we had a good afternoon running around some pleasantly-deserted trails and partaking of Outpost Taters. Truth be told, I really
just wanted to go down to Uwharrie to get the taters, because they're just that f****** good; even Judgmental Chicken thinks so, and he normally hates
Pictured: Ironically, however, he loves a two-piece meal.
Food procured, I waited for Jankoid to show up...and that was the only time I waited on him to do anything
that afternoon; if you're going wheeling with him, then YOU ARE GOING WHEELING and it's not a question of whether you want to do the easy stuff or the hard stuff, it's which of those you want to do first
. This is what makes him a great person to be on the trails with; he knows what he's doing and he will - as predicted - push you to take on terrain that he
knows your rig can handle, even if you
don't entirely agree with his assessment at the time. Here's how most of those discussions progressed:
Jankoid: "This one can be fun in the rain, but the rest of the time it's really not that bad."
Me: "Not that bad? This is supposed to be a hard trail."
Jankoid: "Nah...it's not that bad."
Me: "Okay...am I going to break anything."
Jankoid: "Not unless you do something stupid."
Sound advice, there...and of course, on the first trail of the day - which, incidentally, also happened to be the easiest trail of the day - we go over this little section of rocks...
Pictured: I wasn't kidding, there...it was a little section of rocks.
...and I manage to rip apart the ball joint in the passenger side of the front swaybar because somebody
- and I'm blaming Judgmental Chicken, here - forgot to disconnect said swaybar. I'd gone over this stretch before with no problems at all, but when I hit it the far side of the rocky patch I was surprised by a rather loud, cracking report from Greta's nether regions. At first I thought I racked the transfer case skid against a rock, but an intermittent and troublesome repetition of the noise told me that something in the suspension was gone. From inside, it sounded like the problem was in the rear, but once we got underneath the rig and looked around we quickly determined that it was, as we've seen, the front swaybar. Here's the picture of the ball joint's remnants, again, just because we all like it when 1) things get broken, and 2) I look like an idiot.
Pictured: This is why JC no longer gets to be my copilot.
To be perfectly honest, I really didn't mind the link committing (assisted) suicide; it was an object lesson in 1) remembering to go over EVERYTHING before you hit the trail, and 2) how limiting the stock control arms really are; they were limiting the suspension travel so much that they helped the swaybar links survive when I crossed this section last year. Now that I have the ridiculously non-restricting JKS arms in place, there was no significant resistance to the axle's downward movement...and when the axle wanted to go to ground the weakest link that was restraining it broke in spectacularly quick fashion. In addition to being a good lesson, the disconnected swaybar helped me a lot when it we got to the rocky sections on following trails; Greta felt a bit unpredictable, but she was manageable and handled the rougher stuff with a lot more ease than I would have anticipated.
Incidentally, I'm going to go ahead and state that I don't have a ton of pictures of any portion of Greta other than her hood; Jankoid was in the lead and since he drives really f****** fast it can be an effort just to keep up, much less to take pictures at the same time. I pretty much had to wait until he had to use his brakes for something and then quickly grab the cell phone to snap a picture...and he rarely
uses his brakes.
Pictured: And by rarely I mean "just this once."
After we ran through a couple of trails we stopped for a quick break and I managed to get a decent shot of both rigs on a beautiful rainy afternoon. Note the 8" rear stretch on his TJ; most
helpful when going uphill, and a very cleanly-done modification at that.
Pictured: Also, a shock outboard and unintentional ratchet-strap color-matching.
Speaking of going uphill, we decided to go have a crack at Daniel. I hadn't taken on this trail before because I really didn't think I had the clearance to do it, but since we'd cleared the rocky stretches on Dickie Bell without even slowing down overmuch, I thought "What the hell?" and decided to see what it looked like. When you first approach Daniel, it really doesn't look like that much of a trail...
Pictured: Internal Monologue: "People break stuff on this?"
...and then you get here
, and realize that the first ledge is a bit
more of a ledge than it seems from a distance and that the approach is a mixture of rocks and loose dirt that approximate the consistency of a dry soup mix and offer only slightly
Pictured: "Ah...I get it now."
Now, compared to the stuff they have out west in Johnson Valley this isn't much to speak of...but when there's been just enough rain to wet the soup mix and turn it into a tread-gumming paste, this little hill becomes quite a challenge for even the best-built rigs. Long wheelbases and sticky tires mean basically nothing when there's no traction to be had; all you get is wheel-spin...but wheel-spin, however, looks f****** AWESOME when it happens.
Pictured: Oh HELL yeah.
That line was slick as all get-out, so he moved over and thought about it from another direction.
Pictured: Note the aforementioned tread-gumming muck.
When the second choice offered nothing of significance, he came back to the first line and gave it another go from a different angle; it didn't net a success, but it did
generate some impressive tail-stand action.
Pictured: The bottom edge of the spare damn near scraped the dirt.
When this third line didn't work it became clear that there wasn't going to be any getting over the ledge; the rocks were simply too slick from the light rainfall. It also became clear that I really didn't have anything to offer; if a more experience driver in a better-equipped rig wasn't having any luck, then I wasn't going to do anything but tear up parts by throwing Greta at the ledge...which was infuriating because I really
wanted to take a stab at it; I contented myself on this particular day by doing my best "LOOK AT ME I WENT FOUR-WHEELING!!!" impression and giving Poser Rock some love while Jankoid's rig looked upon me with irritation and shame.
Pictured: "I'm not with him..."
The careful observer will note that there are two important details to consider in this image. First, Greta's suspension is actually somewhat working
; there's more drop on that front right tire than I've ever had before, and more compression on the rear than I would have expected at this kind of angle. We can thank the elimination of the front swaybar for a portion of this improvement, and we can thank the JKS control arms not only for the remainder of the improvement, but also for the elimination of the swaybar. The second important detail is tire deformation. When last I was out I think
I ran the Falkens at somewhere around 12 PSI, which I now know to have been WAY too high; yesterday I dropped the air pressure down to 8 and had a lot less slippage and a lot more comfortable ride. Overall, the traction and articulation was much improved; in fact, the improvements were significant enough to make the gulch on Dutch John a great deal simpler than when last I tried it, no matter the fact that it was nothing so much as a giant tunnel of mud that would likely necessitate a LOT of cleaning-out.
I really wanted a shot of one of us going through The Big Gulch, but it was raining so much by the time we got there that neither of us really wanted to even get out of our Jeeps; all of the haze in that previous image is rain. With the weather heading a bit south, my knee acting up - did I mention the partially-torn ACL I was driving with? - and Jankoid needing to grab some gas, we headed back to the Outpost for a rest. After he finished refueling, I got a good creeper shot of his rig.
Pictured: Check out the custom swaybar and new bumper.
I also got a shot of a nice YJ that showed up; it's driver hung out with us on the porch while the rain was pouring down. I did my best to distract him so Jankoid could steal his winch, but I failed.
Pictured: And it was a winch worth stealing, too.
After an hour or so of axle and suspension debates - and also some gawking at a trio of tragically-fanboyed JK's that showed up - it started to be clear that neither the rain nor the pain in my knee was going to relent at any point in the near future, so we called it a day and headed home. Although any
day that one gets to hit the trails is a good day, I can honestly say that I had a great time...and considering that I more easily handled a couple of trails that gave me some issues before, I'd say that it was not only a good day but a successful
one, breakage be damned. Oh, speaking of breakage, here are a couple of shots I took today in better light with more mud-spattering, respectively:
Pictured: The first concrete hint of a future AntiRock install.
Pictured: Aww...the ball joint looks so tiny and cute, out there all by itself!
There's a way to fix this, but for the effort involved there's really no point: I'd have to pull the sway bar, throw it in a vise and then take a ball joint puller to it...and then likely take a torch and a hammer to it when the puller didn't succeed. That would be a lot of effort to replace a factory swaybar, and by the time I got it all done I would likely be close to affording the AntiRock...so it seems more sensible to just keep the speed down in tight corners and wait for Muppet Labs to be capable of affording a repair that's also an improvement. Speaking of repairs that are also improvements, I also managed to tag the f****** transfer case skid on something, again - probably on Hell Hill - which does nothing but convince me that the tummy tuck needs to happen, and that right soon.
Pictured: In addition to the large fold in the front, look to the left of the bolt...
Also, there was a thin film of dried clay on...well, everything...which came from the mud-filled gulch we traversed in the late afternoon. I know I've said it before, but just to drive home the point I'm going to repeat myself: I seriously f****** HATE mud.
Pictured: I hate it like I hate a monkey.
That brings us up to Today's Jeeping
, which consisted of price-shopping a front AntiRock and giving Greta a much-needed bath.
Pictured: It took two hours to get to this point.
Not only did it take two hours with a pressure washer
to get to this point, but it took another hour later on to wash the mud out of the driveway, and it'll take another
hour or so to get the dirt and debris out of the seats and the interior...but all of that time is a small price to pay for having a good day out in the Wasteland. Oh, also, I didn't wash the tires; some battle scars should be kept.
Special thanks go to Jankoid for showing me a great time and pointing the way on some tougher lines that I would have tried, myself; hopefully we'll do it again soon and I'll have a swaybar in the front that doesn't need to disconnect itself. For everyone else out there...stay tuned; there's always more to come.