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Gman's Adventures with Bella Blue

5208 Views 39 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  speednjay
Decided to make a thread just for sharing travel and adventure photos. I've had lots of other adventures not documented here but that's okay, maybe some older stuff will find it's way in here too.

Bella's a 2002 WJ Laredo with NV242HD (Selec-Trac), 4.7L V8, 545RFE transmission, 3.73:1 gears, factory Up-Country suspension, class IV tow package, leather seats and custom sound. Bought her brand new in July 2002 at Countywide Chrysler Jeep in Garden Grove, California. She had the good fortune of claiming the fabled Detroit, Michigan factory as her birthplace. She has been fortunate enough to live most of her life in Southern and Central California which is quite good for the undercarriage.

Edit: She has OME HD springs and Bilstein 5100 shocks now.


  1. Pismo Beach Jeep Fest 2019
  2. Big Sur Weekend 2019
  3. Hi Mountain Road 2020
  4. Lake Nacimiento 2020
  5. Sierra Madre Ridge 2020
  6. West Camino Cielo 2020
  7. Lost Coast 2004
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Pismo Beach Jeep Fest 2019

2019 was the sixth annual PBJ Fest and the first time I attended. Held at the Oceano Dunes OHV recreational park just south of Pismo Beach, California, this event was started by a small group of friends and has grown in size and/or stature every year since. The last I heard, there were 360+ registered attendees in 2019 and who knows how many freestyle drop-ins. This year was the first time they had a primary event sponsor, Rugged Ridge. There were also half a dozen other sponsors like Synergy Manufacturing, Atturo Tires, etc.

I hauled the trailer out to the beach Friday morning. Briefly spoke to a fellow jeeper who suggested we camp next to him, right next to the main event, so that's what we did. Turns out he was one of the event founders, so that was fortunate. Never boondocked on the beach before so wasn't quite sure what to expect. The wind started blowing Friday afternoon and started digging the sand out from under the trailer so I took a trip to Lowe's and picked up $15 worth of OSB in 2'x4' sheets to put a stop to that.

Friday evening on the beach.

On Saturday, the organizers offered to take people out on guided Noobie Runs of the dunes that make up ~1500 acreas of available OHV recreation area in the park. I counted 44 jeeps in our group, only one WJ and one XJ. This was only my second time out on the dunes with Bella, so it was nice to play follow-the-leader with somebody more experienced; in this case, our leader was only 16 years old and did a fine job leading us around. Went to the top of what looked to me like a really steep hill, one I never would have attempted on my own, but we descended without incident once I got brave enough to go down. I did not attempt a hill climb though, maybe next time.

Saturday evening they had burgers and hot dogs and prize raffles. I won a soft shackle made by Monster Hooks, they say it will withstand a 23,000+ pound load! A nice piece of recovery equipment for the tool box.

Sunday morning capped the event with a Jeep parade ... I don't think all attendees participated, but we had a bunch for sure. I walked up and down the entire row and yeah, only one WJ in the bunch.

So glad I did this event. After the Noobie Run, I went back out and explored the dunes again in the afternoon on my own and gained a whole new level of appreciation for what Bella can actually do in low-traction situations. I was never concerned for a moment that we might get stuck. We even got the better of an old Chevy on the Sand Drags. Seriously, I cannot adequately express how much this experience opened my eyes to the badassery this vehicle is capable of. My wife even grudgingly admitted that she had fun, mostly at the Sand Drags! In fact, she even said it would be a good idea to buy a new set of wheels and tires so I could have one set for use on the sand and one set for the highway. WITNESSED! Any wheel recommendations?

More info about the PBJ fest can be found here:

Keep on Jeepin' everyone.
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Big Sur California 2019

California State Park: Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground
Campsite #99, Weyland Camp
For me the main draw to Big Sur is the redwood trees. Big Sur contains the southern-most remains of coastal redwood forest in North America.

Okay this wasn't a grand adventure, but this was my first towing experience since putting in the OME springs and other lift components, and the Falken Wildpeaks. Got to say it wasn't a particularly pleasant ride ... One of the components I installed was an IRO 1-inch sway bar spacer that is intended to keep the Addco sway bar from banging on the differential cover, and it did do that. Unfortunately, as soon as I dropped the trailer weight on the hitch, the springs compressed and reduced the clearance between the sway bar and the gas tank skid plate so that it made contact on every big bump, and there were a ton of those on CA Highway 1. Somebody else here in Jeep Forum said they had this problem as well, I'm going to look for that post ...

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. All the way there and back. The tires don't rub, so that's good, but the banging has to stop.

There are three developed campsite groups here: 1) South Camp (sites 1-78); 2) Weyland Camp (sites 79-130); Main Camp (sites 131-188). My campsite was in Weyland which is very nice and mainly populated with oak, sycamore, maple, and alder trees, but there are a couple redwoods here and there. That's what is shown in the pic above. Since redwoods are the main attraction here, I would recommend Main Camp which is almost all redwood trees.

This was just a weekend trip, stayed there a couple nights, did a little hiking, nice little get away. Weather was perfect.

Started the Jeep to leave, a small cloud of blue smoke shot out of the tail pipe and hung around glaring at me. Pretty good evidence that the valves need work, I would think. Ugh.
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Brings back great old memories when my wife and I were tent camping at Big Sur! Long trek from Ohio but we've gone back there a couple times since our kids now live in San Diego. Thanks Gman!
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Hi Mountain Road - Sunday Drive

Have not had any Jeep adventures for a long time. Finally got an opportunity to explore a back road in the area: Hi Mountain Road between Lopez Lake and the town of Pozo in California, USA. Thought I would share it with the forum so you might see what the area has to offer.

Never been on this road before, was not sure what I would find. Turns out it was a pretty well maintained. Narrow at times but not very technical. Took a side trek up Hi Mountain Lookout Road and some of that got a bit more rough in places.

So here we go, there was a sign right before this that recommended high clearance vehicles ... turns out that was probably overstating it a little.

Just to give you an idea, this is about as technical as it got. There were some small ruts on Lookout Road that needed a little maneuvering, but this is pretty much it.

Some of the scenery along the way

A short drive up Lookout Road brings you to the campground. Not bad really. We might go back for an overnighter.

Stopped at the Lookout on the peak for lunch. Sandwiches, sparkling water, Oreos. Weather was great, right around 80°F. Lots of little annoying flies. View to the West, you can see the marine layer covering the ocean in the distance.

View to the East overlooking the Los Padres National Forest

More scenery

Oh yeah, there was a water crossing! Lol

The road from the campground into Pozo was not very difficult at all about 3.5 miles. Having never been in Pozo before, we opted to stop at the saloon for a refreshment.

They had a live band playing. Despite the postings about masks and keeping your distance from each other, most of the patrons seemed to think they were above such restrictions and were starting to crowd us so we abandoned our little table in short order, did not even wait for our chips and salsa to arrive.
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Looks sweet. I’d be down to tag along on a camping trip if you wanted an extra Jeep around. I’m in Bakersfield
Looks sweet. I'd be down to tag along on a camping trip if you wanted an extra Jeep around. I'm in Bakersfield
There are some campgrounds closer toward you that I want to explore, and an OHV area. Somewhere around the Carrizo plain, if I recall correctly. More like desert camping I would guess, the weather is still a little on the hot side for me right now. Really looking for somewhere to take my trailer ... Everywhere is closed because of the virus.

It would be cool to pull a couple Jeeps together for a weekend. I fully expect the Pismo event to be cancelled this year. Had a beach campsite reservation for next month but the state shut that down ...
If your talking about around the 166 and soda lake area the best time would be in spring for the super bloom or during the rainy season. Otherwise it’s just dust out there.
Lake Nacimiento

Destination: Lake Nacimiento Resort, 15 miles West of Paso Robles, California, USA. Oak Knoll campground, site #719.

Had several camping reservations canceled on me due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this last weekend I actually got to take Bella on another road trip with the camp trailer. I have been itching to get away and do some exploring. This was my first trip to Nacimiento, so no idea what it was like.

Pandemic restrictions have, uh, "limited" the number of reservations available, and they say all visitors must have self-contained RVs, I suppose to officially limit the spread in public restrooms. This does not make much sense in practice because most of the sites are packed closely together and the restrooms were still open for public use sooooo ... and, people were definitely camping in tents in other campgrounds, so these restrictions do not seem to be strictly enforced.

The Oak Knoll campground has full RV hookups for all sites (electricity, water, waste). The campground public restroom was right on the other side of the road from #719 (which isn't the best place to be) but our site had no neighbors outside the front door which is a HUGE HUGE plus.

The trip there only took two hours, but all 3 of my holding tanks were nearly full which is about 90 gallons (340 L) of water and weighs about 750 pounds (340 kg ... neat, I forgot 1L of water is 1kg, metric is the best). There were a couple steep grades, and the 4.7 was struggling at times with the weight. Hit the peak of the Cuesta Ridge at ~40 mph (~65 kph). Hard miles on the old engine, for sure. But the ride was improved with the new and improved Addco swaybar, no more banging around on every bump. Still pretty unhappy with the handling characteristics though. I am going to have to start pulling things apart again and looking for failures; I do not really want to do it ...

The weather was hot, and due to the California forest fires that continue to burn unabated, the air was smoky. We looked around a little for an interesting road to explore but did not immediately find anything so we just went down to the lake for a while.

When it got too hot (peaked at 96°F=35°C on Saturday), we enjoyed the extra luxury of full electrical service and hunkered down in the camper with the air conditioner running and sipped on wine and cheese. So spoiled.

So yeah, still not a very "Jeep-y" adventure, but you cannot find one if you do not look for it!
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This is a great thread, and part of California I haven't visited yet.......this is spurring me to make a similar tread with my trips this year between different phases of lock down here in Nam.

As for the wine and cheese, a very wise decision, send me some ham please!

I wish you further pleasurable adventures and more posts.
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Nice. I had Camping reservations close to Morro bay but they were canceled the morning I was going to leave. Very hard to get reservations nowadays
Sierra Madre Road (32S13), California, USA

Trying to keep the CORVID Cabin Fever at bay, so yesterday I packed a lunch and headed into the local mountain range. This time I took a run across the Sierra Madre ridge road, another first for me. Weather was good, temperature was 50-70°F (10-20°C), great day for a drive. Total distance covered was 49.0 mi (78.9 km), took about 5 hours.

(Click for Google Map)

I first read about this road over a decade ago when I bought a little guidebook called California Coastal Byways by Tony Huegel. This book was printed 25 years ago ... and lately I have realized that I have yet to experience MANY of the trails it recommends. I have GOT to get out more.

Mr. Huegel suggested starting from the North end, where 32S13 meets CA highway 166. But especially at this time of year, I did not want to be looking southward into the sun the whole way so I headed out CA 166 to Cottonwood Canyon road and headed South, climbing up to the ridge to Sierra Madre Road. Just off highway 166 there is a cattle grate; this is where I set my odometer to 0. In the distance, you can see the ridge I was heading for.

After following the asphalt through the foothills and past a couple ranches for 4.5 mi (7.2 km), the pavement ends and the dirt begins. The mountains are getting closer. Excitement, adventure, and really wild things await!

The road was decently maintained, but the ride was a little rough. When I reached the first interesting bit of road, I stopped and aired down to 30 psi (207 kPa) to improve the ride some. Probably would have been even better to air down more, but I gave that idea a miss.

After 6.3 mil (10.1 km) I found the Bates Campground, a small site run by the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USFS). Not bad, not great, at least there are bathrooms.

The drive up Cottonwood Canyon was quite pleasant, especially with the Maple trees displaying their bright fall colors.

At 11.8 mi (19.0 km) I reached the Sierra Madre Ridge. The road to the left (southeast) leads to McPherson Peak; a sign says it's 8 miles, my odometer said 7.5 mi (12.0 km). Maybe I took a shortcut? lol no.

Some of the scenery on the way to the peak ... there were occasional wide spots where some adventurous folks had built fire rings for remote camping; I stopped and had lunch at one of these.

I took this pic because I realized that big dry stalk sticking out of that bush was a giant flower ... I think?
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After reaching the peak at 19.3 mi (31.0 km), I turned around and headed back the way I came. The remaining 29.1 mi (46.8 km) of the drive was toward the northeast, so I was not looking into the sun anymore.

More scenery:

I rounded a corner and saw an interesting hill in the distance ...

It turns out there was another USFS campground there, Miranda Pine, at the 40.3 mi (64.9 km) mark. The road up to it was pretty rough, but the campground was nice. Very small, maybe 4 camp sites, but there was a vault toilet there so that is something.

The road north of Miranda Pine was in rough shape for about 4 mi (6 km). I tried to take some video of it but the recordings were poor ... unwatchable. Maybe I need a GoPro for Christmas. One pic I snapped though, not a great shot but I promise it was a substantial obstacle ...

And here were my copilots for the trip. They did not complain much, but they were worn out at the end of the day. It was a bumpy road and not much chance for napping.

Total trip length including some for small exploration detours was 49.0 miles. Took a little more than 5 hours and used half a tank of gas. Bella ran great the whole way. The trail was a little narrow in a few places so Bella got a couple new scratches in the paint on the passenger side from the overgrowth. It's just a little new character, that's all.

Keep on Jeepin'.
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This forum always blocks the pictures for me
i want to take my pooches out for a ride, but i'm going to have to remove the back seat, and make it more dog friendly, i might get some cop type bars for the back windows, to keep them from trying to jump out.
This forum always blocks the pictures for me
That is odd, especially this time around. I usually upload to Imgur and link from there, but this time I uploaded directly to the forum and linked those. I would not expect the forum to block their own photos!
i want to take my pooches out for a ride, but i'm going to have to remove the back seat, and make it more dog friendly, i might get some cop type bars for the back windows, to keep them from trying to jump out.
I just fold down my seats and lay out a dog bed and some blankets. I roll down the windows half way and then engage the child safety switch to keep the dogs from further rolling down the windows.
West Camino Cielo Road

(Click for Google map)

Camino Cielo road runs along a mountain ridge next to the ocean in Santa Barbara county, California, USA. It is an east-west route between the Refugio Pass south of the city of Santa Ynez and the Angostura Pass north of the city of Santa Barbara. The road crosses California state highway 154 which divides the road into West Camino Cielo and East Camino Cielo.

A winter weather system passed through the area on 28 December. I took Bella across the western road the day after; I heard a rumor that the eastern road was closed due to snow. At one point I did see a small patch of unmelted snow, maybe 6 inches wide, off to the side of the road in the shadows behind a bush.

Head to Santa Ynez on CA highway 246 and find North Refugio Road. Turn south and reset the odometer to 0.0. Continue down the meandering country lane past houses and ranches until the pavement ends at 3.8 mile (6.1 km). I got there at 11:45 AM; air temperature was 50°F (10°C).

After getting my teeth rattled, I stopped and aired down to 28psi; felt pretty good after that. Refugio Road was pretty easy with only a few questionable areas. Lots of oak trees provided ambiance. Reached the Refugio Pass and the beginning of West Camino Cielo at 7.1 mi (11.4 km) at 12 o'clock high and 43°F (6°C). The road was paved on the ridge for a while.

30 minutes later I stopped at a wide spot for lunch overlooking the Santa Barbara Channel Islands.

The pavement ended at 12.5 mi (20.1 km). At one point I saw Cachuma Lake to the north. The dam is to the left. The promontory on the right is the recreation area including the campsite where I stayed.

Came around a corner and saw this stellar view: the Pacific Ocean on the right and the snow-capped peaks of the Los Padres forest on the left.

Rest break after 13.9 mi (22.4 km) at 1:50 PM overlooking the cities of Isla Vista and Goleta.

As for the road ... there were a number of interesting obstacles. Probably the most challenging road I have done yet. This was the most interesting section, and Bella descended it with ease. See attached video below at the 17:11 mark.

The most troubling obstacle was the GIANT mud puddle I found on the road. I had no idea how deep it was or what might be hiding under the surface. Fortunately some other back-road explorers happened to come by; they had already gone through it and knew that it was not a problem, so I was able to continue without incident. That particular event can be seen in the VIDEO if you are interested, at the 18:45 mark.

Pavement resumed at 23.1 mi (37.2 km), and I found highway 154 at 26 mi (42 km). Elapsed time 4:15

Yeah, I was recently given a GoPro Hero 8, so I had to take it for a test run to make sure it works. I used the time lapse function in full auto mode ... maybe not such a good idea. Or maybe it was. I shortened it up a bunch but it is still 24 minutes long. There are some exterior clips too, recorded with a Nikon Coolpix A1000. (Edit: just got my first look at this video after uploading ... it's pretty much garbage)

Keep on Jeepin'
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Man, I am loving these trails you are exploring! Just a nice ride and some great views, and still challenging enough to keep you and Bella awake. Only thing you are missing, is the occasional boulder or two to roll over like out here in Utah....But then again, most of those are covered under snow right now....(but that doesn't stop us from snow wheelin)

Keep up the updates, I always though all the dirt roads/trails were closed off or domesticated in CA. Glad to see you can still get Bella dirty over there...
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Not an adventure, but a pic I took in 2006 from a friend's front yard in Fortuna, California, USA. Was looking through some old pics and found this, thought I would share it.
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