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Johnson Valley - 2002 Thanksgiving Run

We finally reached the Mailbox on Sledge Hammer.  It is a big old mailbox, firmly set on a concrete embedded post.  It has a number of road signs on it depicting just how far it is to places like Moab and such.  In the mailbox was a log book that we all signed (gotta let the BLM know we are using their trails!).   We caught lunch and then made fairly short work of the remainder of the trail.  We exited at the big hill climb and then headed down off the mountain (a good place to use the cell phone, by the way) and back down to the trail that would take us across the lake bed and back to camp.

Jeff wanted to go Yucca Valley and eat at the Rib Company (wow...they have GREAT babyback ribs).  Garry and I had eaten there just the evening before but Jeff insisted on going so we joined him in the short bus and into town.  Jeff also needed to do a bit of shopping at the local WalMart and pick up gloves, hooded sweatshirt, etc.  (I had gotten one there the previous evening myself and Garry had, from what I heard, bought just about every propane cylinder on the shelf so he could satisfy the hungry appetite of his propane space heater.)

On the way out of town, we caught up with Sergey and his brother Steven at the gas station.  Sergey was just heading out to the camp site so we joined up with them and headed back (to hopefully a comfortably warm sleeping bag....it was a little cool out and the wind was still blowing some).

Garry led us to Outer Limits on Wednesday.  Sergey joined Jeff and I in the procession that Garry led across the lake bed.  We had an excellent time running up to the trail head.  Lots of open trail that Garry enjoys speeding across.  With my new Anti-Rock now installed, I set the RS-9000s on 3 and enjoyed the ride.  I found much better control over the usual  completely disconnected sway bar that I've ran off-road since getting the TJ.

I apologize for not getting very many pictures on Outer Limits.  That trail is a full step up from Sledge Hammer and I was pretty occupied with keeping myself out of trouble. 


Simply put, Outer Limits had more and bigger rocks than did Sledge Hammer.  The water falls were higher and more challenging.  Sergey took out a Ford 9" rear shaft and the Detroit locker on his TJ.  He also lost a rear corner panel to a rather large and nasty rock and broke yet another aluminum wheel.  I managed to scrape through the entire trail with just a bent license plate, a broken flare, and a dented rim (but no vibration on the freeway!)  All four flares took some scrapes as well but I managed to keep all the sheet metal in factory condition.  We used the hi-lift jack on my TJ and Sergey's (especially after he broke the rear axle).  The winch cable was brought out for Jeff on one of the water falls (the bus just wouldn't stay on the line).  Yes....Outer Limits was a notch up from Sledge.  It was just one big rock after the next, for the most part.  I think there was a 10' section of bare sand...that was it....the rest of the sand was washed in around the boulders and made from some very slippery conditions at time.  However, the MT/Rs really hooked up on the rocks when running at about 8 psi.  The sidewall abuse was amazing and after a close inspection of mine back at camp, they looked none the worse.


Jeff grabbed my camera and snapped a couple pics for me.  Pivoting around the rocks made for good use of the rocker guards. 


Garry demonstrates for us how to walk his TJ up onto a pair of rocks while keeping just enough weight on the driver's side to prevent a roll over.  This was not the only place that we were able to see Garry's precise control of his TJ.  The guy has a knack for putting his rig where most folks would never even attempt it.


Jeff pilots his rig up and over a big ol' rock.  Garry also launched himself over it (literally).  It was kind of like watching the shuttle take off, except that we didn't have an official count down!

About 3/4 of the way through the trail, Sergey broke a rear shaft while trying to climb a water fall.  Left with only 3 wheel drive, the winch and strap was put to very good use.  We were able to make the end of the trail without too much trouble.  When the bearing retainer plate started to bend, the rear tire started leaning in towards the frame.  He parked the TJ on the side of the trail and Garry and Jeff returned with Garry's tow rig to pick it up.

Later that evening, after some dinner, we managed to swap out the axle.  There was a spare Currie axle in Blaine's trailer.  Even though it was set up for Blaine's 5 on 5.5" bolt pattern, it was also drilled for a 5 on 4.5" setup.  We relocated the wheel studs, got the broken axle stub out of the tube (it had broken about 6" from the flange), and installed the new one.  Unfortunately, the Detroit had let go when the torqued up shaft unloaded.  Sergey was down for the count.  On Thursday morning, we loaded his TJ on Blaine's trailer which was being towed behind Jeff's motor home.  Sergey and Steven drove Jeff's Cherokee back. 

Robert showed up with his Suburban and trailered TJ while we were working on Sergey's axle shaft. Robert was pretty shaken up.  While driving on the freeway, a motorhome ahead of him lost a tire/wheel.  Another motorhome hit it and sent it Robert's way.  Unfortunately, Robert was not able to avoid it and ran over it.  It lodged under his trailer and he safely got off to the side of the road.  Robert believes his driveshaft got a hit (new vibrations) and when I spoke to him just yesterday, he said he also has an exhaust leak near or at his headers.  What a way to start a wheelin' trip!

Thursday morning, Jack arrived at camp and quickly got ready for the run.  Robert wanted to do Sledge Hammer and I was up for an easier day of riding shotgun in his front seat (yes, I had a pretty good dose of Outer Limits the day before and since the TJ was still in a drivable condition, I thought I would count my blessings and keep it that way for the next day's 300+ mile trip home).


So....we start on Sledge and work our way through the rocks again.  Here is Robert's TJ negotiating one of the obstacles (name to be discovered next year!).  He found that his 35" tire in a size 37" hole made for some difficult going.  But, the MT/Rs finally dug in and did what was needed to get him going again.

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