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-   -   Utah Rovers 2013 (http://www.expeditionexchange.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1447)

chris snell May 21st, 2013 09:42 AM

Utah Rovers 2013
The Utah Rovers BBS crew just finished the annual trip to Southern Utah. We covered over 1,000 miles together, most of them offroad.

The trip really started for me four weeks ago when I picked my new truck up at the port in Houston, TX.

I bought this truck from a government liquidator in the UK and imported it myself. Given all of the import-related drama that's been going down in the forums lately, I was taking a risk but my research paid off nicely. I got lucky and scored a great Ex-MOD 110.

Several days after retrieving the truck from the port, I drove it up to Colorado via the backroads. I would only have a couple of weeks to get the truck sorted for Utah and this was my shakedown run. In the end, I only had to fix a leaky clutch MC, a sticky transmission brake linkage, and add a little oil to the motor.

Once home in Colorado, I got busy with a few convenience and reliability modifications. First, I removed a lot of the MOD-specific equipment from the truck, including the FFR battery box, the 24V alternator, and the intercom boxes. I rebuilt the battery box with a JSQ-style setup, just like I had in my old D90. While I had the wiring out, I ran new Ancor leads to the starter and frame ground and a new 4 AWG lead between the alternator and starter.

I added a nice little 12V outlet box behind the passenger seat to power my phone charger and handheld radio, and another in the rear tub to run the Engel. I also added a simple cargo floor with tie-downs and another smaller one for the Engel slide-lock that tied in with the Tithonus tub strengthening trusses.

Though I had already driven my truck 1,200 cross-country miles, I was still not confident with the 2.5 NA motor when I set out for Utah. I decided to leave at night in order to cross Monarch Pass when there was little vehicle traffic. My fears of 2.5 failure were unwarranted and the little motor huffed and puffed its way up to 11,300'. At this altitude, the motor can only produce about 40 HP and I could only manage about 6-8mph on the steepest, highest sections. It took me a full hour to go up and over the Continental Divide, significantly slower than the riders on the Colorado Pro Cycling Challenge. I passed the time by doing power/weight ratio calculations in my head to compare a pro cyclist with a fully-laden Ex-MOD 110. I think the cyclist beats the 110.

Safely over Monarch, I stopped in Gunnison for the night. The next morning, I headed out for Utah. I made it to La Sal, where I met up with Ben and Jason who drove in from Salt Lake.

The three of us headed off to Cedar Mesa bound for one of our favorite little campsites, hidden deep within a canyon. I didn't take any photos of the drive in that night but it was challenging, especially in an unlocked long truck with no power steering. I was learning to wheel the 110 on the fly. We were exhausted from the long day and stayed up only long enough to get a campfire going.

We headed back out of the canyon the next day. As we were leaving, a massive thunderstorm passed over the upper reaches of the canyon behind us. We were driving very quickly in order to make it out before any flash flooding. This canyon is a bad place to be during heavy rain.

The afternoon was quite warm so we decided to head up into the Abajos for one of our favorite little spots.

I call this the Golf Green camp because it's completely flat and covered with a carpet of short, green grass that's perfect for walking around barefoot.

We unloaded our gear and Ben prepared filet for dinner.

Jason broke out the whiskey after dinner and we built a huge fire and drank into the night.

I slept better than I'd ever slept on a camping trip. With the Pelicans cleared out, I unrolled a Thermarest on top of the cargo floor of the 110 and shut the door. The fiberglass top keeps out the rain and it's really quiet and cozy inside.

The next morning, we awoke and discovered that a visitor had snuck into our camp during the night.

This girl was wearing three radio/GPS collars and a standard leather collar. She looked like one of those Burmese women with the stretched necks. She was very friendly but looked skinny and a little lost. Her tags showed her as belonging to a man in Blanding. We were headed in the opposite direction and weren't entirely sure that she was actually lost so we left her with some water, a bowl of oatmeal and a leftover filet.

We had to be in Boulder the following day so we loaded up and headed west for the Waterpocket Fold. The original plan was to take the ferry across Lake Powell but the ferry was closed supposedly because they were waiting for a part that would allow them to operate in the low water conditions. When we got to Hite, we saw how bad the situation really was. Up here, the lake was empty. The Colorado flowed through a channel in the center but the rest of the lake was a massive, hot dust bowl. After fueling up, we pressed on over the Henry Mountains and camped for the night.

chris snell May 21st, 2013 10:08 AM

The next day, we made our rendezvous with the rest of the group at Hell's Backbone Grill. I had the Jenchilada and ordered an extra tortilla this time. I love these tortillas.

From Boulder, we headed south for a campsite above the Escalante River.

I'm always surprised by what I see out on Utah trails. I've seen a Toyota Camry in Lockhart Basin and, of course, the guy in Moab who wheels in a Chevrolet Caprice. This, however, was the most surprising. A Honda CRX, way the hell out here. We talked to the owner and it turns out that he's taken his car all over the Southwest and also down through Central America. We followed him for a bit and he's a very good driver. He takes conservative lines and slowly picks his way through the hard stuff. We felt very over-equipped in our trucks.

Like last year, our first night out as a group was magical. The light was warm and it was perfect for group meal. After catching hell for making quinoa last year, Kevin redeemed himself by preparing some excellent carne asada.

Peter poured out the traditional baby cups of The Glenlivet.

We packed up the next morning and began a long drive to a secret stash campsite that I had scouted out.

Getting closer...

We're here.

Time to fire up the grills. It's lamb night.

Peter's lamb chops are another tradition for this group.

Peter's driveshaft was making some noise so after dinner, he pulled it off to repair a failed U-joint.

Needle bearing powder:

Good as new.

johnlee May 21st, 2013 10:15 AM


Moody May 21st, 2013 10:24 AM

Choice. Some of my favorite areas here in UT. I was down there off of Comb Wash in February and a guy was looking for that dog. I can't imagine how he ended up near the Bears Ears (its a decent haul), as he lost the dog in Arch Canyon.

chris snell May 21st, 2013 10:27 AM

The next day, we headed up onto the Aquarius Plateau to explore.

For those that haven't been there, the Plateau is one of the more strange topographical features in Utah. Gently sloping, most of the terrain sits at over 10,000'. It was quite cold up here and snow occasionally fell upon us. There were a maze of roads to explore.

Lunch was Kiolbassa sausage cooked in beer with those kick-ass King's Hawaiian rectangular hotdog buns.

After lunch, we headed back down to the desert once more.

After fighting fierce winds in Cathedral Valley, we decided to head up into the Fish Lake Mountains and find a sheltered spot with plentiful flat camping. We found this great high campsite with a view out over Capitol Reef and Robbers' Roost beyond.

The next morning, Jason discovered that he had set his tent up right next to a bear den:

Fortunately, the bear was out of hibernation and the only sign of him was some recent claw marks on the trees.

By Sunday morning, I was tired and dirty from seven days of camping.

Peter was having trouble with his PS pump and we were spent. We decided to make a break for Salt Lake and bid our goodbyes just south of I-70.

We had almost made it to Ben's house when his driveshaft started making noise. He quickly pulled it and found a failing centering ball. These DC shafts never fail when you're driving around town. It's always when you're out on a trip.

We made it safely home. It was an incredible trip with very little pavement and lots of great wheeling.

For me, the adventure continues next month...

JSQ May 21st, 2013 11:12 AM

That's awesome.

It brings back a lot of memories of both the old group trips and driving the 110 with the 2.5 NA and no p/s.
The fourwheeling is tricky but fun. It's going up a long steep highway at night that's completely exhausting. Woof.

benlittle May 21st, 2013 11:48 AM

Chris, it's really tough to capture the moments on a trip like this and you totally hit it. Excellent write-up.

I was thoroughly impressed with everyone's enthusiasm to drive and explore, even when it meant getting to a nice camp spot late in the night (or early in the morning). Everyone's contributions to meals and drink were awesome too.

I'm really excited for next year and the different location possibilities.

Mike_Rupp May 21st, 2013 03:05 PM

Nice write up. Looks like a great trip.

Matt Kendrick May 21st, 2013 03:39 PM

Great pics. Would love to make it out that way.

greghirst May 21st, 2013 08:03 PM

Enjoyed the pics-makes me want to get back to Utah to do some offroading.

traveltoad May 21st, 2013 08:19 PM


01001010 May 21st, 2013 08:57 PM

Sincerely, Thank You for sharing.

alexcivick May 21st, 2013 09:34 PM

Wow. Great trip you guys.

chris snell May 21st, 2013 09:56 PM


Originally Posted by JSQ
That's awesome.

It brings back a lot of memories of both the old group trips and driving the 110 with the 2.5 NA and no p/s.
The fourwheeling is tricky but fun. It's going up a long steep highway at night that's completely exhausting. Woof.

I fell in love with the 2.5 NA on this trip. While slow, it was rock-solid and never gave me a bit of trouble. It averaged 22 mpg and climbed several dozen high passes over the course of the week. The lack of PS is a bummer but I got used to it; it was only a problem in during some of the more rocky wheeling. I quickly learned that hitting a rock with a wheel will spin the wheel hard and fast enough to hurt your wrist if you were foolish enough to have it between the spokes. This enforced proper steering wheel posture and I now maintain this--something that I never did with the NAS wheel in my old D90.

The 2.5's milage and the NATO can lockers made a huge difference in quality of life for me. I no longer had to move cans to get to my storage and I quit worrying about fuel consumption entirely. Unlike the last trip where I was bumming gasoline off of the group after 200 miles, my fuel gauge never dropped below 1/2. This is a little embarrassing to admit but I have no idea how many gallons my tank holds. I've never had to let it run empty.

Before my truck had left England, I had already bought a crate three hundy and air-freighted it here:

I also bought a freshly rebuilt R380 and LT230 from Rob Dassler. I bought these things because I wanted to get them while imports were still possible. I'm still going to install the new stuff but I'm having major doubts about ditching the 2.5 NA and existing driveline. I trust this motor and I'd love to hang onto it and put it into an 88 for my son someday. I think that the 2.5 NA in a Series is the perfect setup for a 16 year old. Bulletproof and not fast enough to get into serious trouble. He's only 11 months old, though, and I'm not sure how I would preserve it for 15 years.

A few other thoughts...

Sleeping in the 110 was amazing. The Tithonus roof and door button up very tightly. When you shut the door, it's like a good hotel room: the sound is almost entirely gone. I'm a light sleeper and all of the little critter noises that wake me up at night are never heard. I don't even hear the rain, unless it's coming down hard. The only real problem with my current setup is the Pelican cases. To sleep in the tub, I have to pull them out every night. This gets tiring and it tracks in a lot of mud and rocks over the course of a week. I don't care how ExPo it is, I'm going to build a sleeping platform. I want to keep the cases underneath and have a full-width platform above them. The convenience of having a nice surface to hold my Thermarest is too good to pass up. No more moving cases and no tent setup.

Ham radio was a huge help this year. From here on out, nobody comes on this trip unless they have a ticket. Unlike last year where we were dealing with crappy FRS as a lowest common denominator, everybody used 2-meter this time. We were doing a lot of exploring and with six trucks and good comms, we could send each truck out individually to scout routes. Over time, we got very good at this. I would pass a side track and call it out; the next truck to pass would take the turn and explore while reporting back. We covered a lot of ground and found some really nice spots. I'm going to mount my Icom in the Tuffy box as soon as I can. I think I will continue to use the FFR antenna mounts. They are grounded with straps to the frame and I get around 1.1 SWR across the 2-meter band.

Tires. XZLs are fucking amazing, period. So much quieter on the road than my KM2s (or my old KMs) and the traction in the dirt and rocks was incredible. As I was picking my way up the canyon at 2AM, I was thinking about this moronic post on DiscoWeb and laughed. On a side note, I really hope Jason posts the picture of that pissed-off bull snake striking my tire.

Besides the motor swap, I'm also having serious reservations about lifting this truck. This truck has incredible suspension. The ride is much softer than my D90 with it's OME springs and LTRs, yet I can load six very heavy Pelicans and a full Engel in the tub without any sag. This never happened in the D90. It was always dragging ass when loaded. After Ben's debacle with the dual cardan DS, I hope that I can leave the stock DSes in place. I don't want to have to deal with a centering ball and I believe that they are unreliable unless regularly maintained (which is a pain in the ass).

nosivad_bor May 22nd, 2013 05:32 AM


Originally Posted by chris snell
Peter's driveshaft was making some noise so after dinner, he pulled it off to repair a failed U-joint.

Needle bearing powder:

Good as new.

Looks like a classic trip Chris, It brings back memories of meeting the Plateau Posse.

stu454 May 22nd, 2013 05:51 PM

Thanks for having me out. It was a hell of a trip.

01001010 May 23rd, 2013 01:02 PM

I thought I saw a familiar face in there.

stu454 May 24th, 2013 10:25 AM


Originally Posted by 01001010
I thought I saw a familiar face in there.

Funny; for some reason I had never equated 'Juan Carlos' with 'JC'.

Shoot me an email if you'd like to catch up.

blue May 24th, 2013 12:42 PM

Damn, wish I could have made it.

jrose609 May 28th, 2013 05:00 AM


Originally Posted by chris snell

Tires. XZLs are fucking amazing, period. So much quieter on the road than my KM2s (or my old KMs) and the traction in the dirt and rocks was incredible. As I was picking my way up the canyon at 2AM, I was thinking about this moronic post on DiscoWeb and laughed. On a side note, I really hope Jason posts the picture of that pissed-off bull snake striking my tire.


Chris was leading the pack with me and then the rest behind him. He drove over a slight rise in the road and yelled over the radio that he thought he had just hit a rattler. We went to investigate, and it turned out to be a very lucky yet very pissed-off bull snake. After a few close-ups (via zoom lens) the snake decided to start striking at anything within striking distance. We decided to leave and head back to another campsite a few miles back. As Chris drove by, the bull snake let the Ex-Mod know he was not afraid of it and struck at the XZL.

We later drove by again and found some toothless mouthbreathers driving Polaris side-by-side ATV's. They had stopped and killed the snake with rocks.

johnlee May 30th, 2013 05:10 PM

I just published Chris' pics:


If you other guys have pics that you would like published, I'd love to have them.

stu454 June 7th, 2013 10:47 AM

Here are my phone pics.

benlittle June 17th, 2013 12:11 PM

Peter's friend was such a good guy.

chris snell June 20th, 2013 09:20 PM

jrose609 June 21st, 2013 01:24 AM

Oh shit

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