Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Bridge Between Detroit and Us

“I’m just as upset as you are, believe me. Davenport! Get Mr. Griswald’s car back and bring it back here! Now I can get you the wagon, there’s not problem there. The problem is that it might take six weeks. Now, I owe it to myself to tell you that if you’re taking the whole tribe cross-country, the Wagon Queen Family Truckster… You think you hate it now, wait ’til you drive it.” – from Vacation

I’m trying to work through this one. There seems to be a social gap and a marketing gap between the geeks with CAD in Detroit and those of us who love adventure. I few days ago I was reading an outstanding article from Expo and since, been combing some of the older automobile adds. Toyota, Land Rover, and Jeep at one time were focused on getting you to the last frontier in their vehicle.

jeep ad 1When recently searching for our new expo rig, I was more often than not at the lack of gusto most rigs had. Even our new Wrangler has its own share of plastic and lack of ability to add commo and nav gear inside the cab. Land Rover looks more like Grocery Rover, and though I like Nissan and Toyota’s XTerra and Tundra, all seem to be more fit for urban adventures than multiple weeks in the back country.

My YJ is fairly easy to repair in the back country even with several points hard to reach- and it is far more difficult than older FJs to do field repairs.

With outdoor recreation on the rise, owners willing to spend on after market upgrades, and the term “expo” becoming more mainstream, one would hope the geeks with the slide rules would give us something that we can easily upgrade and take into the back country.

Touring the Owyhee Back Country Byway


Rock’n the red JK on this one. Answered lots of questions about the winch and other gear.


Be mindful of private property. Most land owners are friendly, but remember, this is home- and for most for over a hundred years. Be polite and ask for access.


Great photo ops out here


Stone cattle chute- only one I have ever seen made from stone


Post Office in (defunt) Fairly Lawn, Idah


a real “two-holer”


Post cards- most from the 1930-1950 in the outhouse




You are going to get your off-pavement fix with this trip

This last weekend I was able to finally get Melissa and her camera gear out to the Owyhee Uplands Back Country Byway. Abby and I hit this road last year on the Idaho Overland trip with Beau Johnston from Living Overland. On that trip I saw a million photo opportunities so I knew I had to get her back out there.


Taking a lunch break with the group and listening to the history of the Owyhees from people who have seen it in some cases more than 50 years.

Locally known as Mud Flat Road for its impassibility when rain and snow make the terrain an absolute mess, is the primary
access to central Owyhee County. An area rich in history has something for every overlander wanting a day or two of exploration. Off the byway, there are multiple trails to explore, and though most people do it in a few hours, we prefer either an all day trip with lots of stops or a multi-day trip to fully absorb all there is in the area.

There is really only a small window of travel. As mentioned earlier, rain makes the road slick and due to the terrian, it takes several weeks to dry out. In the summer, the heat can become unbearable for many. When Abby and I passed that area last July the temps in the shade were at 108.

We started our trip in Jordan Valley, Oregon which is about an 90 minutes from our base camp in the Boise area. Another route is from Hwy 78 near Grand View, Idaho. If you love off-pavement travel like we do, you will get mostly gravel and dirt road. You will also get the thrill of crossing back and forth over state lines a few times. There is about 90 miles in Idaho and 15 miles within Oregon.


You are alone for the next 120 miles- be sure you go with the right gear. We help back country travelers get ready for trips just like this


Carry a spare tire, fuel, jack, and other roadside repair equipment with you. Also, a Trasharoo helps with picking up trash along the way from the other morons.

As we say in all of our workshops and seminars, prepare for adverse situations. You are alone out here. There are no services, cell phones are out of range, and even our testing with the 2m HAM set up proved that we were alone. This makes a great case for carrying a SPOT GPS unit with you. Top off your rig with fuel in Grandview or Jordan Valley, carry 3-5 gallons of water, your survival kit, and if possible and extra gallon of two of fuel. We also carried a full tool kit along with extra hoses and belts.

IMG_0380We were incredibly fortunate to have “Frankie” along on our trip. Third generation rancher in the area, at 95 years-old has more life in her than most people. Through her we were entertained and educated about some of the small historic details including a trip to the school house in Cliffs, the old post office in Fairy Lawn (both now defunct towns) stories of moonshiners, wagon train contracts, the people she knew in the area, and even games played as children.
Please be aware that there are many parcels of private land along the Byway. Please respect private property by having the right maps and equipment to avoid trespassing.IMG_0366

This is a great trip and recommend it for all regional overlanders. Make sure you checkout our facebook page to see when we are going to be out there again or exploring other regional areas as part of Project ROVE. And as a small reminder, remember, we do workshops and seminars to prepare you for safe back country travel.

We will be doing a full podcast on this trip soon.


School house at Cliffs, Idaho, a now defunt town


Do You Really Need A Winch?


IMG_0302We just picked up an awesome winch from Warn. Since that point I have been asked a multitude of questions about it- especially in our outdoor preparedness workshops. The biggest question is— “Do you really need a winch?”
Most know that we are not rock crawlers- and going down trails steeped in mud are not planned. We have also found ourselves stuck on the most basic of roads with our 2wd vehicle. So here is a basic outline of why I feel we need a winch and perhaps some guidance on making your own decision.
We do allot of solo travel, so there isn’t the advantage of someone else yanking us out, digging us out, or even pushing us out. Its usually me and the pup or the family. A few years ago we were faced with an all-night adventure when our truck broke through a thin sheet of ice and we were high-centered in a rut. Think 5500 elevation in December….now think Sunday evening with no-one else on the backroads…now think sub freezing temps during the day. A winch and a pull pal would have saved the day….and night.
Since we travel alone in many cases, we don’t have the advantage of another rig to be an anchor point either. When we do though, most rigs we travel with don’t have winches at this time. So we have to be set up for self rescue, even if there is another rig. I addition, many times we are in the desert where the largest anchor point is a sage brush. Here we have a choice of another rig or what I soon hope to add to the arsenal, a pull pal.
When we were in living in New Jersey, we got to witness what happens to a rig at high tide on the beach. We had just come off a shipwreck dive and decided to hang-out on near the jeddies and see if we could snag a few lobsters. As tide came in, we noticed a pick-up had sunk its-self in sand. Within about 20 minutes, the water was over the bed of the truck. A winch and an anchor point would have saved the truck.
The last reason is not so much getting the vehicle stuck in soil, more about having objects obstructing your path. Last spring we had some pretty wild wind storms. Some of the largest ponderosa pines on one of our favorite trails came down in several sections. Our camp site sat between multiple falls of very large pines, most you could not even get your arms around. A winch, chainsaw, and good recovery bag makes a long wait for rescue an exciting challenge.
As we were looking for a winch, we were often tempted to buy one from a discount store or even go with a light weight winch. After attending several workshops and seeing both how dangerous a small winch can be or how a discount winch can fail when you need it, we settled on a WARN Zeon. From what I have been learning in multiple workshops, the Zeon is everything we would want. Based on an aluminum block to keep it light, a 10,000 pulling capability and 100’ of Spydura synthetic rope this is a must have safety measure. An added plus, its made here in the US and not in a sweat factory in China. All wiring is inside and it has an ergonomic control switch that plugs into the winch. We felt that for the capability and reliability that price was not going to be a factor in the decision to put this on our rig.
The last thing to consider is making sure you get good training. Winches can kill and maim. Learn to use the winch and any tools that go along with it.

Re-Post: Checked Out

Reposting this as I sit here and re-evaluate “this life”…. this was from 2003-2004 under the old “Tribal Courage” blog…much still applies since we all suck and find ourselves falling back into bad habits.


To be checked out. Seems like I have been taken out of the battle more lately than I ever hoped to be. Odd thing is–its been situations that don’t normally bother me.

The past few weeks I’ve been developing new management training courses for my company. Day and night–this is all I have been focused on. All the things that seem to matter most have taken a back seat. Important things like prayer, spending time with my family, spending time with myself, calling to check on my band of brothers, oh yea– and time for God. So I carved out time for two important events today. The first was an all out mountain bike assault combined with a little “geocaching”. Geocaching–heard of it? It a new sport–very similar to an exercise we used to do in the military when GPS units became part of our map and compass training. It a sport where you use your GPS device and find hidden caches. In the caches is usually a log book and some kind of memorabilia. Today I signed my name to the log book and took a finger puppet as a prize for my effort. In return I left an old Susan B. Anthony dollar.

The second item on today’s agenda was to take my 3-year old out to play. Putt-putt was scheduled but the sign that said “year round” didn’t include Mondays and Tuesdays as part of that year. So we sacrificed and found ourselves at the playground in the nearest McDonald’s. So after 40 minutes of stairs, slides, smiles, and sticky seats we headed back to the house. She worn out from the play- me worn out from the Happy meal I picked at in addition to my “Number 1- Super-sized”.

My realization is this. We work hard- but we also have to play hard. And in the end–getting a cool toy in the bottom of a burger bag or in a sealed bucket in the middle of the woods is an extra bonus. The real prize is the time we spend with those we love.