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We gathered at the familiar spot just off of the Table Mesa Road Exit. I pulled in shortly after Brent arrived. Up from Tucson, he was visiting his mother during the Christmas holidays and wanted to run a trail or two with us. We had met on the JU forum (www.jeepsunlimited.com) some time back and when he said he was going to be in town, we made sure to get him directions to Table Mesa Road.
Larry was present in his TJ, Dion and Paula in their YJ, YJ John in his YJ (duh), Trisha in her Sammy (woops....how did that get in there)....anyway, she rode shotgun with YJ John so let's just say she showed up at the spot in her.....ahhhhhh.......ummmmmm....vehicle, yeah, vehicle, that's it!. Brent in his well built TJ, and myself with Lady (my TJ). I had done some radio club work with my good friend Bob just a couple of days ago, and I was able to get him to ride shotgun (finally) on today's run.
I had never ran Pipeline before, let along lead it. On the way to Table Mesa, Bob and I stopped by Roger's house (another local Jeeper) and I downloaded his Garmin II+ track log into my laptop (you do carry a laptop when you go wheelin', right?). Roger had ran the trail several times before and it just so happened that he ran it Friday. He was kind enough to record a track log of the trail. Once in my laptop, I uploaded it to my Garmin III+ and we were ready to go....I had Roger's "bread crumbs" right there for me to use. What a deal!
We hopped back on the freeway and headed north to Black Canyon City. We exited the freeway and headed to the trail head to air down. Once all were ready, we headed south down the Pipeline trail, following the electronic bread crumbs on the Garmin. If all went well, we would be back at Table Mesa road in a few hours and ready to show Raw Deal to Brent.
We were about 10 minutes down the trail when YJ John called for us to hold up (he was running tail gunner). The dust shield on his bell housing (or something like that) was rubbing so he climbed under the vehicle to take a handful of bolts out and remove it. OK....back on the trail and ready to go.
About 5 minutes later, YJ John gives another call on the radio. We hold up and Dion goes back to check things out. The short version is a small bolt is needed to hold something in. Larry hits pay dirt in the bottom of his tool bag and saves the day (or at least John's). OK....back on the trail and ready to go.
We arrived at our first fun spot on the trail.....a very steep down hill with exposed bed rock. Bob (my buddy riding shotgun) dug his fingers into my roll bar padding and down we went (remember, it was his first off-road trip in a Jeep built up for this stuff). After we got to the bottom of the hill, I thanked Bob for leaving most of the padding in place.
I scrambled back up the hill to catch a couple of the guys. I managed to snap this picture of Brent as he eased himself down over the off-camber bedrock. Brent's MT/Rs held the rock pretty good and there was only a bit of tire skidding as he worked his TJ down the hill.
After all made it down, some decided it would be fun to climb the hill (naturally). The first up was YJ John. He worked his way up, keeping to the right where the rock was not quite so slick, working hard to get traction.
It was a struggle with just a bit of forward momentum being made in small steps. Just about the time we though he was going to make the top, we heard that sickening POP that any serious Jeeper has heard before....a u-joint had gone. Sure enough, a quick look under the rear end and we could see the u-joint at the pinion yoke at failed. John was going nowhere really fast!
It was decided that a repair in this spot was not possible. Although the Jeep was stable, the footing was pretty bad and it wouldn't take much to start sliding down the hill, now that 4WD was not working. John decided to use my winch to get him up over the top. I took the bypass up to the top to position my TJ while Dion got around John's YJ on the trail (don't ask me, I was over on the bypass trail getting set up).
We thought it might be easier to strap John up to the top, assuming traction could be gotten by the tow Jeep. I grabbed the yellow tow strap from under the seat (I've learned to keep it in a spot that can be quickly gotten to without needing to unpack the Jeep.) We hooked it around John's hooks and onto Dion's receiver D-ring. A couple of attempts and Dion got John up and onto more suitable ground for a u-joint swap.
John grabbed his favorite blanket and a couple of wrenches and got to work on the u-joint. Larry again was the man of the hour when he produced a suitable replacement u-joint. John had one but something was wrong with it. In the photo above, John is removing the u-bolts from the pinion yoke. The end caps had cracked and caused the failure. John is getting pretty bad axle wrap and it is putting some bad angles on this u-joint when a lot of torque is applied.
This is the spot where I get to brag about my new u-joint press. I picked one up from Harbor Freight (on sale for $29.99) after seeing one used on the Charouleau Gap trip I made during Thanksgiving week. If you ever used the tried and true method of two appropriate sized sockets, a big hammer, and a suitable rock to sit everything on while to attempt to beat the end caps out of the yoke, you will appreciate a u-joint press. It took about 30 seconds to press the blown u-joint out of the yoke and the same amount of time to put it back in. I think it is safe to say that everyone was pretty happy with the results. I know I was.
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