Category Archives: Overlanding

Day Two…. Clearwater National Forest to Glacier National Park

Day two of our trip and things are going well. Ok… I got a little cranky…Ok…really cranky. I find if I have too much windshield time I am done for the day once we hit a camp site. My inner introvert comes out and I need to recharge by myself. I wasn’t getting it. I was feeling like a hired guide at one point and leading a team of rookies in the outdoors. Of course this wasn’t the case and after everyone was off and in slumber-land, I had some time to journal, read, and get a few hours of undisturbed sleep….like three of them.

The morning started off really well. After navigating our way back on to the main road (HWY 12) we made a few stops to reconnect. The first was breakfast at a quiet overlook on the Lochsa River. The second was in a prepared, yet reclusive park-and-walk area, the Bernard Devoto scenic walk. Here we found an area passed up by many, and for us, it was a peaceful place we could laugh and joke as a family.

We hit rain about an hour before Lolo, so we delayed pulling off the top until the sun came out. We also dodge a few Deer on the pass, and almost had one for a hood ornament. We missed her by only a foot or two. Any delay and our trip would have had another kind of excitement.

A few hours after crossing into Montana, we made our way up towards Kalispell along HWY 93. We went on the east side of a huge lake I don’t recall the name of at the moment, and too tired to walk back to the Jeep to look at the map. There was steady traffic along the lake road, but to my surprise, no one tail-gated or became aggravated with the driver in front. Pretty different as you make your way from Boise to Hailey on HWY 20. People seem to live a bit easier here.

We made a lunch stop along the border of a Bison Range and a bird refuge. Montana has done an awesome job of keeping rest stops and picnic areas attractive and well kept. Melissa made a few bagel sandwiches, I fell asleep with mine on the cool picnic bench.

We have been a bit wishy-washy on visiting Glacier National Park. I didn’t want to have to push hard for anything on this trip. We rolled into the park around four, made camp, and Melissa started dinner. We could probably do an entire blog on just the meals she has created for this trip.

We were probably over-thinking the Glacier part of the trip. Abby is on crutches so she is pretty limited to what she can do on this trip. She is my hard-core hiker so for her to be sequestered to a chair is difficult for here. We are all glad we made the trip in…it is a nice break from the road.

Watching what we leave out tonight. We are in bear country and there have been bears in the campsites this week. It is illegal to shoot one, however- I will go to jail if need be to protect my family if one comes in and is being a pain.

In the morning we’ll do a quick tour of the park, then head for Bonner’s Ferry. I am dropping the girls off at a hotel and heading for Canada. Tonight, we are all sitting by the fire and working on journals. Probably should’t bring out the bongos and djembe….too many close neighbors….

Side note…I have a ton more pictures to post once I hit the hotel in Bonner’s Ferry that are on my ipod—-it doesn’t have a 3G connection….heck I am happy/sad there is a 3G here in Glacier….kind of takes away from the “disconnection” of life….

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NW Expedition- Blue Road Fetish

First day of our NW Expedition. Sitting in our camp site on FS Road 107, right off Hwy 12. We took off at 6 am from Boise. Rig has run great pulling our Expedition Box we built last year with Greg. We opted to travel I 95 up to Grangeville.

This one is about folly. Following the small two lane roads as well as dirt to see towns that just might be on a map.

In Grangeville we hooked up with Ft Dix and Camp Bullis buddy Brent Conrad. Brent now work as the IT guru for the Forest Service and is based on one of the best assignments. Since they have a team of FS Smoke Jumpers, and Brent knows I have jumped out of a few planes, he hooked us up with one of the rookie jumpers to give us a tour.

Don’t let “rookie” fool you. Before getting a shot at become one of the elite of the Forest Service, all jumpers have to put in their time as Wild Land Fire Fighters. I not only enjoyed the info we learned, but the demeanor of our guide was awesome. I’ve only met one other smoke jumper and the ego was pretty huge. Everyone I met at the station in Grangeville was pretty humble.

After we toured and caught up with Brent, we headed towards Missoula with the idea to find camping along the way.

So after jocking the trailer down a really remote path (backwards) we settled on a tight little spot to camp. There is bear in the area as well as wolves. Abby will camp with both dogs in her tent to help alert if there is any danger tonight. We are trying to bear proof everything including trying to stay scent free.

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Road Trip to Nuts

Screen shot of the website for the museum in Bastogne

Screen shot of the website for the museum in Bastogne

One of the most memorable road trips was 1990. I was stationed in Germany in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The cold war was in flux, we still had Soviet tanks ready to rush the Fulda Gap, Checkpoint Charlie was the gate from the Island of Freedom known as West Berlin, and Aircraft stood on alert ready to respond to what was sure to be the end of mankind as we know it.
There were still numerous living vets from WWII who would talk about the war, mostly the moments outside of combat. Didn’t matter if it was an American, German, patriotic citizen of Luxembourg, or friendly Belgian, I could even get arrogant French vets to open up a bit. My interest had grown about the history of the war and since I had a grandfather who had fought and was wounded at the Battle of the Bulge, I really wanted to see the battle grounds in Luxembourg and Belgium.
I headed out early on a rare day off with a buddy Kent Wilkinson. Kent was a Senior NCO and I had just made NCO status. The respect was there. I have always had the ability to keep professional relationships and private life separate. He was a great leader who would later make Chief. The road trip would be the last time I would see him for several years. I did serve under his brother on a QRT (quick reaction team) in Desert Storm, but I would run into Kent many years later when I was playing drums for Narrow Road.
We cleaned off chow at the mess hall early and headed towards Luxembourg in my Suzuki Samurai. Our first stop was in the tiny museum dedicated to General George S. Patton. It was honestly one of the best collections of WWII history I have ever seen. Both Kent and I took our time and quietly walked through the museum, stopping every few moments to discuss the displays.
Out of know where in accented, but very good English a man approached us as were looking over a set of German machine guns, “You want to see the weapons?”
Not sure of his intent I politely answered back, “Yes we see them”.
“No, no, no…you want to see them? I’ll take you to see them”
Kent and I both went on alert. Both of us were having flashbacks to all those Armed Forces Network commercials about terrorism and the movies we were forced to watch in the base theater every year emphasizing the danger of militant extremist kidnapping us and then leaving us for dead in some barn in the middle of the Eifel Mountains.
“Sure” I responded, probably surprising Kent. I was in the middle of a horrible divorce and really didn’t have anything to lose. Kent was single, so he had a whole life ahead of him. I figured that balanced us out.
Over the next few hours we were given the “behind-the-scenes” tour of the whole museum. It turned out the man taking us around was the owner and curator of the museum. He knew every weapon, canteen, vehicle, etc of the place. Most of it he had collected on his own. When he found out my grandfather was a t Bastogne, the day got even better.
We spent the rest of the day going to small unknown battle fields, visiting with locals, and checking out farms that had old tanks he was still trying to buy from farmers (many had been transformed into farm equipment.)
We eventually made it to the “Nuts” Museum, where we received first class treatment and had a guided tour. The Bastogne War Museum covers the Second World War, from the fall of 1944, and then focuses on the Battle of the Bulge.I found it interesting that not only key events of the battle were covered, but also the day in the life of the men who endured the harsh conditions with death constantly knocking on the door. In addition, the museum also provides a forgotten element, how the civilians lived during the German occupation, then the battle itself, and post hostilities.
After the tour we then left to see a few more battlefields and then treated to a feast in a local gaust haus/ tavern/ pub. On tap was a local wine from the monastery and on the table was horse. Yes, horse and being the polite guest I consumed. Not sure what the big deal is about eating horse meat, it was pretty good.
Having a local guide that isn’t going to kill you, traveling with someone who has an equal level of interest in learning, and having the desire to see new things is the perfect ingredient for day trips like this. I wish I had pictures from the journey, but they have been lost or destroyed (the ex) along the way, but I still have my memories and experience of the adventure. I haven’t spoken to Kent in years, but think of this trip often.
Please check out the website for the Museum in Bastogne http://www.bastognewarmuseum.be/page,Bastogne-War-Museum-General-introduction,94.html

Rampage Rear Sport Rack

Ouch! We were told a 5-day chest or ARB fridge would fit...not so

Ouch! We were told a 5-day chest or ARB fridge would fit…not so

DISCLAIMER: One of the things we pride ourselves on is HONEST feedback. It is purely based on our experience alone. I’ve lost sponsors and partnerships through honesty. My position is to give our audience what we feel are fair evaluations of gear we test. If it’s on my rig- I HIGHLY recommend it for yours.

 

We don’t usually dislike a product so quickly on this level. We are careful to select products from several weeks if not months of research. We make it a habit to talk to other users, check out the blogs, and even speak to sales or customer service reps about the product before we pull the trigger and throw it on the rig, put it in a pack, or try it on the trail.

 

With that said, we were finding little about the Rampage Products Rear Interior Sport Rack. We were looking for a way to better organize our gear in the back cargo area of our 2013 JK. The plan was to keep our 5-day ice chest under the rack along with other bulky items such as tool kit, chuck box, and Scepter 5-gallon water jug. We looked for details and dimensions from sellers, distributors and even the manufacturer. When we inquired a rep about it and relayed our expectations the response was, “Shouldn’t be a problem.”

Even one of my smaller chest would not fit. I don't know of any Jeeprs that don't throw some kind of cooler in the back for suds and grub...

Even one of my smaller chest would not fit. I don’t know of any Jeepers that don’t throw some kind of cooler in the back for suds and grub…

It was a problem. I have four ice chests and not a single one could go under the rack. Even when we put the rack into the upright position, then the ice chest could not fit in length-wise. Space wasted…
For someone who isn’t toting an ice chest and simply need a better way to organize sports gear, groceries, etc it’s a good concept. The storage rack features a fairly sturdy steel tray that mounts in the rear cargo area. Putting it together wasn’t that difficult and I did it in about an hour with no drilling required. One of the things that made it slightly difficult with my soft-top and impossible on a hard top is the tubular brackets that go on the roll bar.The Allen bolts faced outward and I had to remove the rear window on each side to get to the bolts.

The concept is awesome and installation was super easy...just a little more thought around design and beefing up some of the movanle parts and this rack would be on the top of our "buy-it" list

The concept is awesome and installation was super easy…just a little more thought around design and beefing up some of the movable parts and this rack would be on the top of our “buy-it” list

The concept of moving the tray out-of-the-way when not in use is unique in this model. On the bottom of the tray are two spring clips and a single gas strut allowing the rack to tilt forward providing easy access to gear located underneath. One problem though is the hooks don’t fully engage and a simple run around the block after installation and several attempts to adjust proved to be a waste of time. The thin bar at the bottom would create an annoying rattling on dirt roads.
I had even thought about the possibility of placing the ice chest on top of the rack and quickly dismissed the idea when I realized I would have five days of food and drinks rocketing towards all passengers in the case of an abrupt stop. The only bolt-down points are on the roll bars and it does not tie into the body or the frame at any other point.
If this was for a grocery-getter or soccer mom Jeep I wouldn’t hesitate to put it in. It does help to organize suburban adventures on Saturday morning and payday grocery runs. It does provide a bit of security and for photographers wanting to store gear out of sight it could be a benefit.
We paid $240 for our set up and thankfully the company we ordered from is going to allow us to send it back based upon the product not meeting the expectations we outlined.

Again, the concept is great, and other gear we have from Rampage has fared very well to excellent. The major disappointment here is based on the initial expectations not being met. Show me a Jeep guy that at some point doesn’t throw an ice chest full of grub and suds in his rig for a few days of fun on the trails.

 

Teraflex Tailgate Table

094The Teraflex Tailgate Table has been on my wish list since I saw Roger Mercier of Overland Frontier fixing breakfast at the Overland Expo using a drop table like this. This is the perfect accessory for any Jeep enthusiast needing a spot to make a quick sandwich, poor a glass of wine for your “glamping” companions, or even repair an RC car on. I used mine for a cooking surface for my two-burner stove, however I’m not sure I can recommend this due to the proximity of grease, fire, gas cans, and the rest of my rig. For everything else kitchen related, it is perfect!

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Carl using a hose clamp to prevent the bit drilling too far

029 041The install took about 45 minutes. For the most part it is simply placing the pattern on the inside of the tailgate and DETAILED drilling. On my 2013 JK I had to ensure that we didn’t hit any of the spot welds and also be conscious of the degrees of metal thickness. The right side of the tailgate has more sheet metal than the left. Also our drill spot on the lower left was half thin and half double metal. This caused the drill bit to walk a bit and tried to “egg” the hole instead of a neat circle. Fortunately I had Carl helping me and being the master of machinery he is, immediately detected the problem. He finished out the last hole using a die-grinder at low-speed.

You should also be aware that if not careful- your drill bit can punch through the inside wall and leave a dent in the exterior wall. Teraflex has a highly informative video out there demonstrating how they did the install and specifically point this out. Recommend you check out their video as well. We didn’t have a tool to prevent the bit from going through- so we used a hose clamp around the bit. Worked like a charm!

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We had to pre-crimp some of the Zert nuts to get them to grab traction on the tailgate

One issue we found on the thinner part of the tailgate wall was the Zert nuts getting enough traction to mushroom out. Zert nuts are similar to a rivet, except once installed they will accept a bolt or screw to hold an item in place. We pre-crimped the nuts so they would grab traction on the thinner part of the wall. If you do this—it is a VERY MINOR crimp. Try installing per instructions first.055

Once the nuts were in, it was just a matter of bolting the table onto the four nuts, doing some minor adjustments to the cable, and then off to make a sandwich.

Teraflex does have a cutting board available and I recommend ordering your multi-purpose table with one. I’m watching every dime right now to get ready for our Oregon/Washington/Canada trip and Washington Overland Rally trip and even though they are not expensive, I opted to not to get one and use our cutting board out of the trailer. Wishing I had bought one now and after the rally will put that on my “to-buy” list.068 072

The rack will hold a stove and as mentioned above but for me,  I’m not keen on this idea. My first real meal came Sunday afternoon in the mining country of the Boise Mountains. I was making Tri-tip burritos using my two-burner stove and cast iron. My stove is a bit odd in the way it set up with portable propane bottles, and I wasn’t comfortable with the way it sat on the rack. Not the fault of the rack, I have an odd-set up is all. Tri-tip does have a moderate level of fat on the underside. While testing I had a small grease fire and even though nothing was damaged, looking back, with fire in close proximity to my Trasharoo and Rotopax gas can, I think I will move the stove to a safer location.

096In my second testing along the Snake River on Monday, the table was perfect for dicing tomatoes and cutting lettuce for my special back-country finger sandwiches and wedge salad. It also made a great platform in the evening as I was conducting a wine tasting complete with assortments of cheese. No I have not lost the rugged edge; I was simply providing my wife and sister-in-law with a weekend of back-country luxury.

The well entertained ladies in the back country– Good lunch, warm fire, and me performing survival tricks!

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The Tailgate Table allowed me to prep all kinds of snacks and meals for these ladies in the back country…including a wine tasting! Now I just need a rack and awning for some shade!

This is a well thought-out product and a must have for any Jeeper. Contact Teraflex.com or Quadratec.com to order yours!

 

 

 

Idaho Scenic Byways

DCIM100GOPROThis is the time of year to hit the scenic byways of Idaho. These are great one-day and even multi-day trips that most vehicles can handle. If you have been a steady reader of the blog or the podcast, you know we love to hit these 4-wheel adventures. Idaho has so much to offer.

When researching, make sure your first stop is to http://www.visitidaho.org/scenic-byways/ where you can order your free travel guide. While the guide lacks many of the details to plan out your trip, it does give you enough of a view to pull out the map and do some planning.

Go Prepared

While some trips don't require this much recovery gear, trips on backcountry byways requirs that you go completely preparred

While some trips don’t require this much recovery gear, trips on backcountry byways requires that you go completely prepared

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But before you head out- think of how you pack for the trip. Remember Idaho’s byways range from rural to remote. Be sure you have any emergency gear packed for the trip such as first-aid, good communications, extra water, tools, etc. Some of these byways skirt alongside backcountry areas so help will not always be a phone call away. If you have a breakdown or other emergency- you need to be prepared to stay for awhile. In my other article I briefly outline what we take on trips such as the Owyhee Backcountry Byway, one of the most remote byway trips in Idaho.

I keep a road atlas with me to do over-the-hood planning while on the road. They are great for reference along the way

Shutter Bugs

253No matter where you start out from, there are great options for awesome scenery. Be sure to pack your camera and if you are really a shutter bug, pack those once-in-a lifetime lenses you rarely pull out. This last winter I had my dad along Sawtooth, Payette River, and Western Heritage byways where he had opportunity to shoot pics of Antelope, a young brood of Sand Hill Crane, and a few other hard to get close to animals. In addition, great scenery abounds on the byways so packing a tripod and a wide angle is a must. Pack extra batteries, throw in a dust cloth for the lenses, and maybe an extra memory card. There are even opportunities for the iPod photo enthusiast so keep your car charge handy.266

Soak in the Sites

  IMG_6040 Stop off at the small museums, wineries, and state parks along the way. There are great stops along the way like Craters of the Moon National Park along the Peaks to Craters Byway or Huston Wineries along the Snake River Byway. Most have great mom and pop diners for lunch, keep cash on hand for some of the better stops. Better yet, throw in your own picnic. We usually throw in lunch for the day and stop for dinner or start off with breakfast in a non-chain dive. IMG_6043I love driving but need a break from hours of windshield time. I like to find an area where we can park and either pull out sandwiches or I can do a quick burger or two on one of our portable grills. I even throw in a few lawn chairs to relax in.

Journal It

Capture moments along the way and post in the journal

Capture moments along the way and post in the journal

DCIM100GOPROThere are 30 official byways in Idaho. I recommend creating a special journal for the adventure, and log each one with thoughts to scribe, postcards, pictures, museum tickets, etc.

 

Sometimes we will take a few days to do one or more byways- and camp along the way. This is where our home built Explorer box designed by Compact Camping Concepts is a huge benefit.

Sometimes we will take a few days to do one or more byways- and camp along the way. This is where our home-built Explorer box designed by Compact Camping Concepts is a huge benefit.

For more information checkout the article just released from Magic Valley Times-News http://magicvalley.com/lifestyles/recreation/scenic-byway-adventures-adventure-guide/article_8f53f418-d7d0-11e3-aaf4-001a4bcf887a.html

In addition, I have a few write up on my own byway tours at AdventureIQ.com including these two…

https://adventureiq.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/465/

https://adventureiq.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/touring-the-owyhee-back-country-byway/

And if you see us on the road out there-stop and say hey! We just might have a sticker or two for you!

Our Trailer Build in Pictures

Last year a buddy of mine and I built my expedition trailer. While I still need to do a full blog article, I thought I should at least share the pictures of the build…based on what I could find on my hard drive…so here you go– more details to follow.

Not in any order–random pics I found

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