Back To Our Road Tripping Roots

One of my fondest memories growing up was a road trip where Dad piled the family in the station wagon, you know the one, with fake wood on side and drove the long way from Oklahoma to Saskatchewan, Canada.  By long way I mean we saw Disney Land,  Wall Drugs, San Francisco, and  Glacier National Park along the way as we zigged and zagged our way north.

I remember driving late into the night, sitting up front with Dad while Mom, Bother and Sister were sacked out in the back.  That was back in the day when you could fold the seats flat, through pillows and blankets down and sleep without worry of seat belts getting in the way as you drove 80 down the highway.

We drove through death valley in the middle of a summer heatwave with the windows down.  Not because we didn’t have air conditioning but because Brother would complain about a headache if the air conditioner was on.  At some point we found ourselves in the middle of a cow pasture with bulls looking longingly at our sexy green station wagon.  There was driving through chicago where Mom was convinced we would be car jack and some little country town where camped over night in the city’s park.  The switchback roads took us over the continental divide with Mom screaming each time the wagon got near the guardrail and she could see down the cliff edge.

We saw Four Corners, Carlsbad Caverns, the petrified forest, Mount Rushmore, the redwood forest and countless little caves (Dad was really into caves that trip).  I learned to fly fish in Yellow Stone.  We wandered through curio shops each time Dad stopped to get gas, spent hours playing road trip bingo and bedded down in KOA camps most nights.  Sister celebrated a birthday on the road with one little candle in a store bought cupcake.  Bother and I fought in the back, Sister cried and Mom yelled while Dad just kept driving.  This was a family road trip that only the Griswold’s could appreciate.  Yet it remains on of my best childhood memories…

I recently drove over the Cascade Mountains to the little town of Quincy.  I’ve made the trip a couple of times before but this time I was in no hurry.
Having left at O’dark thirty I was well ahead of schedule as I reached the mountain pass and decided to take a detour and see how the sled dog trails were holding up after the recent weeks of snow.

The lot where the guys with snow machines hang out was empty covered in a several inches of snow and ice.  Motoring around through the lot and around the corner to the sled dog lot, I found a lone trailer with a picket line of dogs resting in the morning’s light.  Striking up a conversation with their owner, as he stepped out of the trail, he was eager to tell me about each and everyone of the dogs like a father bragging about his son’s law school graduation.  He explained where he had picked up each dog, it’s personality and where it fit on the gang line.

We exchanged ideas on dog trailers and shared the reasons why we loved the solitude of the trail. The conversation’s volume was soft and low, as if somehow it would be wrong to break the morning calm with our voices.  We continued our
conversation as he dressed the dogs and readied them for their first run of morning. Within seconds of the last dog hooked up he was waving good bye and dashing down the trail behind a handful of four-legged athletes.

Don Quixote of La Mancha tilted at windmills.  These days heading east toward Quincy the windmills generate power, standing out more than ever like hulking giants, towering above the land, armed for battle with their giant swords.

On the east side farmlands fill the landscape and winter fields lie waiting for spring.  Washington’s rich land sleeps through the cold winter following a cycle that has repeated itself a million times before we arrived. But it is the high-tech world that brought me to Quincy and I would now trade in my drive line for a set of hard drives.

I tell you those stories so that I can tell you this one…

Driving to the market this morning I caught myself thinking how much I love a good road trip and realized I’ve never really had a bad one.  It doesn’t seem to matter the destination.  The one thing that has been consistent is how I approach the journey…  Eager to see what is around the next corner, ready to take an unexpected turn and a heart wide open to everything that the road has to offer.

Crossing Over To The Other Side (aka Water Fording)

Check out off-road adventure photos and you’ll find 4×4 trucks splashing through the water, creating giant walls  of H2O that make you believe you are witness to the parting of the Red Sea. Yes we’re guilty of getting caught up in the moment, throwing caution to the wind and racing through a wet patch for a good photo…  We could hurt ourselves…  for your entertainment.

But experience says the best course of action is be cautious when it comes to Water crossings.

In the Northwest winter off-road means water and lots of it.  But you can find trails that require water fording just about anywhere depending on the time of year…  Even the deserts of Baja has its water crossings.  So how do you prepare for a swim.

A water crossing can be fatal to an engine or even worse to occupants of the vehicle if everything goes south.  Never underestimate the force of flowing water.  Water weighs in at about 62.4 pounds per cubic foot and for each foot the water flowing against a vehicle there can be 500 pounds of lateral force pushing against your rig.

Sure you can install a snorkelrelocate you differential breather and try to make your rig water proof. But in the end you cannot make an off-road adventure truck as water tight as a frogs ass. So want is a guy to do when you have to get to the other side.

The first and most important thing to do when coming up to a water crossing is to know what you’re in for.

  • How deep is the water?  Is it deeper than your air intake? How about your spark plugs or alternator?
  • Is the water just sitting there or flowing swiftly?
  • What is the bottom like?  Can you see the bottom?  Is it a mine field of boulders and tree branches?  Is it soft, sink to your axles muck?  Are their any deep holes that could swallow your rig?

If you come up to a water crossing and don’t know the answers to these questions…  Stop, get out and look.  Roll up your pants and walk through the water… grab your shovel, a wadding staff or stick, and poke at the bottom to feel what your tires will be grabbing.  Don’t be misled by what appears to be a shallow stretch of water, which is hiding a foot of deep stinky muck that will have you stuck, axle deep in a mud that refuses to release it’s grip.

Don’t forget to check out what the other side is like?  Will you have to try to drive up a steep muddy high bank or is it a soft sandy exit?  Look around for tire tracks to see if others have made it through… look for where they went in and where they came out.

While you’re scouting the water crossing, plan for any miss haps. Are there recovery points to winch off if need? If you’re traveling with other rigs are they prepared to get you unstuck in case you don’t make it?  Have a plan, just in case.

Driving through water is enough of an adrenaline rush without stomping on the skinny peddle.  By driving slow and steady your rig will create a bow wave in front of your rig, which creates and keeps a pocket of shallower water behind it where your rig is traveling.  This bow wave allows you to drive through water that might otherwise exceed your rigs crossing depth capability.  Of course if you loose that steady momentum, you loose that pocket and can quickly find your rig hydrolocked in the middle of a river.

To cross water enter at the slow steady pace you will maintain throughout the crossing.  Hold your momentum and keep your splashing to a minimum.  Avoid bouncing around or quickly changing direction which can cause you to loose your bow wave. Follow through on your exit continuing your progress until your rig is high and dry.

If your facing a particularly deep water crossing, you can increase your rig’s ability to create a bow wave by duct taping plastic or a plank of wood across the front grill.  But if you’re considering how to exceed your rig’s capabilities for water fording, you may want to starting looking for another route across.

Water crossings are part of overlanding and is often what separates an off-road adventure from a mini-van road trip.  If you know your rigs capabilities. scout the crossing and motor through cautiously you’ll be able to go further down the road less traveled on your off-road adventures.

High Tech meets Off-Road Adventure

You’ve probably seen those little black square bar code like things all over the place… on web sites, in magazines, on business cards… all over.  Turns out they are quick response codes or QR codes for those in the high tech geek circles.  These little bar codes can contain all sorts of cool information such as web site URLs, contact info, Google location coordinates or text messages.  Anyone with a smart phone and an app like NeoReader can decode all those little bits of digital info.  Think of this as the equivalent to the Little Orphan Annie  secrete spy decoder ring.

And while corporate marketing types in tall glass buildings are scheming on how to use QR codes to track your every movement through Walmart and separate you and your money, we have noticed a more intriguing  small under ground movement.  Regular folks, like you and me, have started to take ownership of these QR codes to do all sorts of stuff like making city wide scavenger hunts, create street art or push them out into the webisphere creating a new kind of message in a bottle.

We are much better at getting lost than creating great art but we did decided to give it our best shot and send out our own text message to the world.

We’re not sure exactly how we’ll be using QR codes but we plan on playing with these to see if they can provide another way for our website and Facebook friends to follow along on our next off-road adventure.  How knows maybe there is a giant QR code rig sticker in our future.