Landrover D90 climbing mudy hill

Black Friday Off-Road Adventure… Again

MFJ cruisers on dirt roadost people know “Black Friday” as the biggest shopping day of the year… That day after Thanksgiving, where half the population is sleeping off a tryptophan hangover and the other half is engaged in an assault on the local mall with the surgical precession of Eisenhower’s invasion of the Normandy beaches.

Holiday music, snowy decorations, half prices sales, unimaginable crowds… dogs and cats living together…  mass hysteria!  And although this could be the next big spectator sport, we prefer adventures that don’t create an occupy dressing rooms movement or watching sales clerks referee winner take all, customer cage match battles for the last 80 percent off,  flat screen in stock.

The Northwest FJ Cruiser Club (NWFJCC) holds their annual alternative to a shopping hula palooza.  Their Black Friday run, held in the Tillamook State Forest (TSF), is full of dirt, off-road adventure, good friends and fun times.stuck fj cruiser

Back in the day… not that long ago… when I started out in 4×4 adventures, I knew very little about driving off-road. But I did know that a good local club can help anyone learn how to enjoy wheeling safely, improve skills and get unstuck without loosing an appendage.

The Northwest FJ Cruiser Club is one of those organizations where all skill levels and rigs are welcome.  They have events that include trail runs, beach dunes, overnight camping and  even a starlight run or two.  And most importantly they help members improve their skills without ever making them feel bad or forcing them to try something beyond their comfort level.

dog days wheelingThe meetup was just off highway 26 and from there we all convoyed west to Brown’s Camp in the heart of Tillamook State Forest.

There is a little seldom told secret about 4wheeling… there is a lot of waiting around.    We waited at the meetup…  We waited for permit purchases at the mini-mart along the way… And at the trail head as we all air down and made last minute checks of our rigs.

Done right, this time in the waiting place is when you get a chance to meet new folks and catch up with old friends.  This is the time to see who has worked on their rig since the last event and how they’re doing in the real world.  We took advantage of this time to hand out LGRT stickers to anyone who wanted one.

Yellow fj cruiserThe turn out on this run was eight rigs and a dozen or so folks.  The count made for a good convoy size to cover lots of trails and still have time to enjoy the beautiful NW scenery and snap a photo or two along the way.

A week earlier, snow covered the hill.  Since then, rains and winds pounded the area like a cow peeing on a flat rock, knocking down trees and washing away anything not nailed down.  Today, sunshine, blue skies, 50 degree temperatures and trails that were in great shape.  Most of the trials were dry(ish) with just a few muddy spots and we even managed to find a little left over snow before the day was done.

After pulling out of the staging area we wound through the wood and up along Power Line.  Worked our way up to Hog’s Back.  Made sure to run down Hood Raiser (NWFJCC maintained trail) and drove through Ceder Tree.  The group cleared a blown down tree, got one of the rigs unstuck, fixed a flat and tested skills over a few obstacles.

Around 4:00 pm we found ourselves back at the trail head airing up for the drive home.  Everyone shared their thoughts on the run and swore to get together soon..  at least before next years run.  We said good buy to our old and new friends and caught a glimpse of a few rigs showing off their LGRT stickers as they pull away.  The sight of our stickers on a rig always brings a smile to my face.

Have you ever wondered how club trail runs come together?  Someone puts in a lot of time pre-running the trails and checking conditions.  Someone spends time watch the weather reports, working the forums and sending out invitations.  Someone puts together the list of attendants and ensures a balance across the group’s skill level.  Someone sets up the meeting place, puts together directions and maps.  Someone basically works their ass off.  And that’s before the run.yellow fj cruiser

During the run someone takes the trail boss role, deciding what trails are acceptable for the whole group, makes the call on position in the convoy and keeps everything moving along.  Someone spots folks over obstacles and keeps the group safe.  Someone works very hard to ensure everyone has fun.

FJ Cruiser under ceder treeOn this Black Friday run that someone was Paul M (aka the other Paul).  Paul is an outstanding trail boss and generally a great guy who we’ve gone out wheeling with a number of times.  We never say it enough so let me say it here… Thank You Paul!  Thank you for making this run another successful Black Friday where no sales clerks were hurt in the making of this off-road adventure.

Bonus feature: video captured of our run up Hog’s Back

mountain highway snow and ice

What Will Change 20 Years From Now

object in mirror are closer than they appearThose who follow us know that every once in awhile I can go off  on one of my self-discovery narratives contemplating life, the length scale of quantum gravity or the zen art of tire rotation.  Well I’m overdue.

Driving is my meditation.  Lately I’m laying down 150 miles on my daily commute which provides a truck load of time to consider my life…  or at least how I’ve rewritten the history my life.

When I look back 20 years, I see a life seemingly foreign to me now. A rock-n-roll, party your ass off, hard drinking life style.  And when I say hard drinking, I don’t mean a calendar full of red solo cup, beer binging weekenders.  I mean years of scotch all night, every night black outs with tequila and nicotine for breakfast just to put me right, life style.

Like many twenty somethings, I lived as if there were no tomorrows and I paid no attention to the past.  I had all the answers. At least the answers to all the questions I cared to ask.  Bashfulness and insecurity hidden behind outrageousness and arrogance.  To me, my life made perfect sense: lust and adventure, my liver hanging by a thread and one foot over the ledge.

I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life in two words: “It Changes!”

These days I don’t drink. Unraveling the insecurities I worked so hard to hide, has lead me to a deeper sense of understanding.  Lust has been redirected into love and an appreciation of the joy and sorrow that accompanies it.  Through the past twenty some years of travel, friendships have anchored me in the present without having to give up the stories of my past.  I no longer believe I have all the answers, because I now ask better questions.

I understand adversity. I know failure. I still stumble but it does not define me.

My sense of adventure has matured like a fine single malt (I said I don’t drink…  I didn’t say it was easy).  I retained the courage to step outside of my comfort zone to explore what is different and unknown.  I’ve been richly rewarded on these journeys.

Everyone needs to have their wild years.  We all live in change.  I am a the result of what I bring forward from my past.  It shapes how I approach the future.  I’m living in the now, recalling the past and looking to the future.

The adventures I’ve had and those in front of me continue to drive my  lust of life and a quest for answers that can never be found, only searched for.

I never could have imagined my current life and who knows what this chapter will look like in the rear view, twenty years from now.  All I know is objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.

dempster highway warning sign

Tracking Your Truck

NetTrack softwareThis off-road adventure website was started five years ago for one reason… Let my mother know dad was ok and to track where he was on our original Arctic Ocean Adventure. A lot has changed since then and our off-road adventures have taken us through some extreme conditions and to amazing locations. But one thing hasn’t changed, when we take off, mom wants to know we’re safe and where the hell we are.

Recently the guys at Track Your Truck ( asked us to give their tracking system a try.  These guys have satellite and cellular based real time GPS vehicle tracking.  Why would you need one of these?  Well how about dispatchers looking to keep their delivery trucks moving efficiently, helping lost drivers find an address and alerting customers for accurate arrival/departure time predictions.  Our personal favorite (and probably ever teenager’s father’s favorite feature) covert tracking of the car you lent to your teenager.  Or just to let those who worry about you know where you are.

We received the cellular based Coyote unit which providestrack your truck coyote AT unit

  • real-time vehicle location, speed and heading 24/7
  • 2-minute GPS tracking updates
  • Internal antennas and battery backup
  • Starter Kill—Vehicle only allowed to operate on predefined schedule
  • Accelerometer for excessive acceleration, deceleration events

The unit can be plugged into your rig’s power socket (cigarette lighter for those who remember when cars came with ashtrays) or hard wired in behind the dash.  We unpacked the unit, plugged it into the power socket and we were done.  That has to be the easiest install we’ve ever done.  We even moved it between vehicles a time or two in just seconds (I have a teenage daughter who asked to borrow one of our rigs for a weekend).

Once the unit is installed you can keep track of your fleet using Track Your Truck’s on-line software, NetTrack.  Log-in and NetTrack lets you see in real time, the locations of all your vehicles against Google Maps as well as review several spreadsheet based reports with tons of data including location points, dates, times, headings and speed.  You can also replay your vehicles’ routes using Google Maps or Google Earth.

All this functionality comes with a price.  The units start at $199 along with a monthly fee beginning at $19.99 for coverage and NetTrack access.  If you’re a fleet manager looking for an easy solution that allows you to track your vehicles and optimize their use in transit, Track Your Truck is worth a look.  The unit and software definitely performed well.

For our simpler needs, this technology is not the right match for us.  We’re not going to be taking advantage of real time traffic maps overlaid on our rigs location to optimize delivery times or looking to streamline routes across multiple vehicles.  And while the cellular based unit will cover our road trips, we’d need to bump up to the satellite coverage for off-road adventures.  And all that data in NetTrack is designed to be private so publicly publishing real time location goes against the grain.   However, speaking as a father that covert tracking and kill switch scheduling capability has some real appeal.