Opening New Roads and New Markets

Scott Brady overland journal

Anyone who considers them self an overland adventurer knows the name Scott Brady and Expeditions West. He also publishes the Overland Journal which is filled with amazing photos and stories.  Scott is one of the lucky few who has turned his passion for adventure into a business and now Forbes has recognized his efforts in a recent article “Going to Extremes”.

When we were planning our own Arctic Circle adventure it was Scott’s trip that inspired us to make a last minute 1,000 mile detour to Inuvik.

I was luck enough to spend time with Scott  at a recent media event where I had a change to get to know him over dinner, drinks and out on the track.  In short he lives up to the legend of overland explorer and entrepreneur.  Congratulations Scott and safe travels on your next off-road adventure.

2 Pauls, 2 FJs and 1 Great Day

The great thing about the Internet is that no matter how obscure your obsession, there is someone else out there like you looking to get together and have some fun.  Paul sent out a note asking if we (Hula Betty & me) would be interested in exploring the Tahuya State Forest ORV trails in a pre-run for an upcoming off-road adventure he would be leading soon.  Since Tahuya is really in our backyard, we jumped at the chance to wheel and put the new suspension through it’s paces.

The little town of Belfair is just a stones through away from the trail and the standard meetup place for groups heading out to the Tahuya Forest. Pulling into the Safeway parking lot and hopping out to grab a quick Starbucks, we could see that Paul and his dog Tucker, had grabbed an early ferry and were already there waiting for us.  A few good mornings and a short drivers meeting than off to the trail head to air down and go exploring.

The morning was amazing; clear, sunny and 27 degrees as we hit the trail following Paul, his frozen exhaust hanging in the air as we climbed the first frosty hill.  It had not rained in a number of days and the trails were that perfect combination of soft moist loose dirt and axle deep, ice covered puddles.

Paul lead us up and down the hills through the forests as we settled into driver mode.  When you take your rig off-road you accept a certain amount of risk and each scared tree we passed reminds us of the carnage that 4×4 trails can extract on anyone’s rig who is not focused on the job at hand.

Regardless of how much you read and talk about there is nothing like seat time to teach you how the rig will interact with obstacles on the trail.  We were reminded of this as we came to a tight little obstacle.  You come down a steep short hill, take a hard right hand turn and come upon a puddle where you squeeze past a stair step guarded by a tree on the passenger side while climbing up and over a large set of roots on the drivers side.  We watched as Paul walked up and over, placing his rig on the correct line.

Taking our turn, we showed all the poise and grace of a bull in a china shop and as we prepared to work through the obstacle, our rear wheels slid down the wet roots only to fill the cabin with the sound of metal and wood introducing themselves to each other.  The rig had slid into the scar covered tree standing as tall still as a marine sentential on the right side of the trail…  This is no trail for old men… and we scooted back a little, re-lined the rig, engaged the e-locker and climbed over the mass of roots that had made us its bitch only moments earlier.

Pulling off past the obstacle, it was time to look and see the price of this lesson.  Turns out our installation of custom rub rails on the metal tech sliders was a life saver.  The rails did there job perfectly and kept snarled bark and tree sap inches from the rigs exterior skin avoiding any physical damage and minimizing the emotional seizures.

Turns out Paul spent time at Bill Burke’s off-road courses and learned well the skills needed to spot us through various obstacles.  When we came to Tahuya’s rock garden Paul, Tucker not so much, helped me pick an easy line through the boulders.  Paul clearly understands how help others, less capable then himself, gain the skills and confidence needed to safely navigate trail obstacles.

There is an official Tahuya Forest Map, but the map does not show the dozens of spurs and cross trails that interconnect, putting any good corn maze to shame.  We explored the area for hours wondering down anything that looked interesting and occasionally going in circles but always coming back out onto a new and interesting trail section.

It was over lunch that I really had the opportunity to chat with Paul and share the stories that brought us to this place in each others lives.  Turns out Paul and I share numerous similarities including careers in tech, family backgrounds and a stint in the state of Michigan.  And while wheeling is always fun, it’s the chance to make new friends that is my favorite part of these outings.

After lunch we climbed back in the rigs to find mud lake.  Looking up on the dash to get the go ahead from Hula Betty, the outside air temperature now read, 29 degrees as we headed for the trails.  Despite looping back and forth through the forest, we never did quite find the lake, but enjoyed exploring spurs that brought us in and out of the sunshine and rambled over several new sections.

After a full day on the trails we made our way back to the parking lot to air back up.  With the rigs back in street shoes, we bid goodbye to the trail and each other as our two rig caravan worked its way back up the highway to our separate homes.  With any luck we’ll have several more opportunities to spend time with Paul and Tucker on the trails, down the road.

Too Much Wheel Travel, Is There Such A Thing?

As the saying goes “you can never be too thin or too rich”.  We’d add, your rig can never have too much wheel travel on an off-road adventure.  To that end we finally took the plunge and threw out the stock independent front suspension (IFS) and replaced it with Total Chaos’ 2″ long travel kit…

Now, we could go into a write up with pictures, witty descriptions and clever verbal banter that you have come to expect from us, but than you would not have incentive to read the article we shipped of to “4WD Toyota Owner”…  Hopefully this video will hold you over… if you’re really jonesing for a story you can always check the archives.

We will tell you, this set up allows you to dial in more lift for bigger tires or add droop for more travel.  Since we spend more time bombing down dirt roads than crawling over boulders and rock we choose to utilize all of the 11.5 inches of travel dialing in more droop to keep the rig riding fast and smooth over miles of washboards.

So how does it ride you ask… you know you were thinking that. The ride is incredible.  We had a chance to take it off road a little bit and the ride unbelievable…  and those pothole filled back roads are not match for this setup.  Even without the sway bar, the rig corners like it is on rails with very little body roll.  No it doesn’t handle like a Porsche, but you can’t take a Porsche where angle fear to tread.

Guaranteed Not To Turn Pink In The Can

Step right up, bargains galore. That’s right, you too can be the proud owner of the quality goes in before the name goes on.  We got service after the sales, in house service, drive up service! You need shirts? we got shirts, how ’bout a sticker? Something for the little lady, something for the big guy, we got it here, buy right now!

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It comes in any color as long as it’s black, one size fits all.  No muss, no fuss, no spills.  Everything must go.  Slashing prices off original retail price, skip the middle man.  Don’t settle for less, buy right now!

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How do we do it?  We’re crazy, meet my dog spot.  The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away.  Please allow 30 days for shipping and delivery.  All sales final, with coupon receive our free brochure, free brochure with very purchase.  That’s a ten dollar value.  Step right up young man, you’re next. Buy right now!

We just thought we would announce our new store with a little fan fair.  The stuff we sell changes so keep an eye out as we add more items and take old ones off.  You can also support our off road adventures by becoming a Micro Video Producer.

The road less traveled on an off-road adventure is a long one and we need the gas money.  Buy right Now!

Knuckle Buckle Buster (say that fast 3 times)

Turns out there is a weak spot in the FJ Cruiser’s front knuckles that can give out under the right circumstances.  Now those circumstances can be found on off-road adventures and include speed, suspension extension and brute force, all in the right combination…

Since we look for places that set up situations where all those circumstances come together, we thought we would see about reinforcing the knuckle spindle.  We found that Total Chaos now offers a weld on 1/8” laser cut spindle gusset intended to reinforce the spindles where they bend. These gussets can be installed with aftermarket upper control arms (UCA) but are not compatible with stock upper control arms. Just another reason for a UCA upgrade.

The gussets also dictate that you run without a sway bar.  On the road the sway bar helps eliminate body roll and keep the wheels planted on the ground at high speeds or in emergency maneuvers.  Off-road the sway bar can limit the amount of flex your rig is capable as it tries to balance out the movement.  We are running Sway-A-Way coil overs upfront and use the rig as for daily driving.  Luckily the SAWs are plenty capable of preventing body roll on their own and removing the sway bar should not impact on-road performance.  If you’re running a daily driver with other coil overs, test drive your rig without a sway bar before committing to permanent removal.

We headed down to Metal Tech, to have the guys help us out with this mod.  Mark and LT really know Toyota’s and have performed several of these mods, including one on their own shop FJ after bending a spindle during a hard day of wheeling.

The first thing the guys did was pull apart the rig, removing the sway bar, breaks, hubs, seals, lines, and sensors in order to pull off the knuckle.  Be gentle with the ABS sensor that plugs into the front of the knuckle, you don’t want to set off all the angry dash lights when you bolt it all back up.  Also before you start be sure to have new seals and hub covers on hand since they will take a beating during the disassemble process and are hardly worth spending the time needed to clean and repair.

With the knuckle off it is time to apply heat.  The TC gussets weld directly to the knuckle up the length of it to the UCA mount point.  That means there is a some prep needed to ensure you get good contact and alignment between the knuckle and gusset.  With a little grinding, LT quickly cleaned up the knuckle and than on to the welding table.  Sparks, fire, metal…  It just doesn’t get much cooler than this.  (You can see, LT left the stock UCA attached in order to hold the knuckle up off the table and make working around the corners a little easier.)

After giving the metal a chance to cool down it was time to pull out the one universal tool every wheeling back yard or pro mechanic must have.  Rattle Can paint!  You have to love that can of Rustolium sitting on the shelf that keeps little spots looking good and stays off the rust as we through the rig into all the nasty stuff that convert perfectly good steel into weak brittle bits.

With all the fab work done, it was time to button it all up and reassemble the suspension.  That means the new UCAs go into place along with bolting on the hubs and seals, tie rods, brakes, lines and of course bleeding the break lines.  The shield that holds the ABS sensor cable out of the way will take a little grinding to ensure it fits up against the knuckle and gusset.  After getting it all put back together it was a quick run to the hot rod shop down the road for an alignment and the hole thing was done in no time.  With all the experience the guys at Metal Tech have, this mod was easy.

So how was the handling on the road without a sway bar?  With Sway-A-Way coil overs, I did not notice a change in handling.  That was even after taking the twisty back roads from Newberg to Portland, the hole time testing how fast I could comfortably go into and out of the turns.