Thursday, March 3, 2011

Before you build, test... (Pinyon Canyon, Feb 2010)

Given how capable my K5 Blazer was stock, and the good things I'd heard about Toys, I figured the first thing to do was to take it out and see what it was capable of.

In addition, I'd moved to a new area and didn't know what the terrain would look like. Did I need lockers, or was it pretty straightforward?

Also, I need to consider the dirt. When I moved to Oregon, I had 32" BFG ATs on the Blazer. My first trip out, I couldn't cross the clearing since the clay was so slick and gummed up the tread. It was fun sitting there blipping the throttle and throwing mud, not going anywhere fast, but was not a good combo for many trails up there. However, I grew up in the desert of Arizona, and ATs work great there. What would I find in the SoCal area? Well, I found clay and mud. So MTs are definitely on the parts list.

Before this trip, I had 225/75R14s. No way were those going offroad very far.

While searching Craigslist, I scored some 245/75R16s (appx 31" tall) off a 2010 Toy. However they're Dunlop AT20s, so tread pattern was very street friendly. On a wet day like when we went out, that made for poor traction. The tires wouldn't be long-lived, but I did want 16" wheels.

This was my first real 4-lo wheeling experience with this truck. I was excited!

Overall, it was very educational. I got to meet some new folks (from the BeachNToys San Diego Toyota club), drive a new, exciting trail, and figure out what needed to change on my truck.

Pinyon Canyon starts right off of S2 near Highway 78, on the way to Ocotillo Wells ORV park. It is not an ORV area, and vehicles must remain on the roadways.

The first thing I found was that ground clearance was in fact decent.
The next thing I found is that having a narrow rig sure is nice. But that if your tires don't stick out a bit, you still scratch the paint.

The first real obstacle is The Squeeze. Legend has it someone has taken a fullsize Dodge through here with no body damage.

Looks good from here. Keep going! (it's raining, which makes it even more fun!)

I should have been more right (left in the pic)

Here the door lock is getting "offroad-buffed" by the rock wall.

And now the bumper is earning its keep as I drag it over some rocks. This short section here dented the bottom of the rear tube. It's a Smittybuilt rear bumper (and front) but it's not very robust.

I didn't get through unscathed, but I was far from the damage award winner on this section. Sorry, no pics of that!

The next tough section is this rock that overhangs the trail right at window-height, with the trail crossing some rocks that put your flex and lockers to work. I don't have either, so I got strapped through it. There's a lot of glass on the trail under that rock. Unfortunately, I didn't get pics, so I'll need to go back! >:)

One of the drivers went at it with too much exuberance and added to the glass on the trail, smashing out his driver's rear glass on his shell. Ouch. No pics of that either, he was having a bad day and I didn't want to add to it.

Right after that section, is this part. The 4Runner, she would go no more. At this part, I started to get a little frustrated with the 4Runner. My '88 K5 Blazer, stock, would walk have walked up this (locker in the rear, stock). The 4Runner made it to here, then lost traction to the left front and right rear. Nothing but air. With traction aiding devices, she was done.

Once again, here comes the strap. Greg was real nice about it all day, with his FJ.

As you can see from this pic, it doesn't take much to run out of flex on a stock 4runner (with newer tires!). The LF and RR are in the air or barely touching. No more forward progress...

Fortunately (really!), someone brought their rental Jeep out on the trail. Same size tire, similar street tread. And same problems in the same places!!! Trail Rated? You decide! ROTFL
The blue toy is running 35s, a Marlin doubler, etc. It didn't know it was supposed to be struggling!

After that, you go down this little hill called Heart Attack Hill. It looks far more imposing in person. Once you drive it, it's no big deal.

Don't let that fool you, one screwup and it's bad on this hill. This gal apparently broke her back during a different trip. Lots of things went wrong here. She starts down the hill around 1:15 into the video

By the way - even though you're going 5mph, wear your seatbelt.

I'd seen the video, so know which line I didn't want to take in a stock truck on slippery street tires with no flex and an automatic (hinders compression-braking down things like this, even in 4Lo).

At the same time, I'd seen the videos of people driving up this hill too (and would have likely tried in one of my last two!).

This section  is a controlled crash with limited flex and street tires. You don't get to choose exactly where to stop.

By this point, all 4 wheels are on the ground again and life is looking longer. LOL

Look at that rear wheel - suspension travel is important. Notice the passenger seat is empty? Andrew and I decided it was best if he walked. And, yes, I'm wearing my seatbelt!

Here's the group at the bottom of the hill, after no exciting moments. :)
Lunch break!

It was a beautiful day. The rain had cleared, the ground was wet, and seasonal streams were running.

After that, it's more cool road/trail, then this. Once again, a strap came to several of our rescues!
Here's the blue toy once again just cruising up things

Notice a difference the wheelbase and flex (and line!) makes? :-D

This is what I looked like (but not me). This is a RHD diesel truck. Man it's cool. No lockers, though, so he got strapped too. That's me standing in the pic.

I wasn't brave enough to try this line with the 4Runner (plus he's locked at both ends). No traction, no lockers... Strap please!

I'm standing by the rear bumper in case an extra 250# helps keep the rubber down. LOL

Quite a bit more driving and you come out to Fish Wash. Just past here, there was running water in the wash, and Wind Caves. The caves are apparently popular, lots of people drove up the wash (easy, but 4WD required in most conditions because of the sand/mud) to go there.

I need to go back and see what those are.

I shamelessly have stolen this pic from one of the other guys to represent it as my own as we didn't take any

This was a great ride and I wish we had had more time to explore more of it.

The water out there appears to be highly mineral-rich. Where I took the paint off the wheels and bumpers, the metal  started to rust a fluorescent orange within days because I was lax in washing the truck (I was just happy to have it dirty!).

My super thanks to the BeachNToys gang for putting up with our truck on there. Granted, no one thought I'd have a problem, but that's 'cause their trucks are so awesome they didn't realize a stock vehicle was a no-go.

I got to meet a great bunch and have a great time and can't wait for the next run - with a slightly more capable truck!

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