All posts by Last Great Road Trip (LGRT)

I H8 To Air Up – How To Build An Automatic Tire Inflator

We love the soft, rock gripping ride you get when you air down big E rated, 10 ply off-road tires.  Hate is not too strong a word when we have to inflate the tires back up. We often argue about who’s turn it is to sit next to a tire while our little compressor pumps its brains out to re-inflate the rubber up to highway pressure.

An air tank will make quick work of re-inflating tires but it doesn’t really work for trips like our Baja overland adventure where we were constantly adjusting our tires’ PSI up and down as we moved between asphalt, desert sand, boulder filled dry riverbeds, muddy swamps and beaches.

We knew there had to be answer… it just took eight years of scouring the Internet and talking to other overlander travelers to figure it out!

We decided to build our own automatic tire infator using an adjustable in-line air regulator??!!  What is this tire inflator voodoo witchcraft you ask? Add a common air tool inline regulator that lets you set the desired PSI to a tire inflator, hook it up your air compressor and walk away.  The regulator will stop the air flow automatically when the tire’s PSI reaches the preset level.

This project took some experimenting before finding what worked best for us.  The key is to start by selecting your regulator, then build your parts list off of the port sizes available on your regulator.

NPT references the national pipe thread taper (aka  American standard pipe), refers to the size of a connector and the size of the thread on any connector.  The thread size is especially important, because non-standard fittings may not provide a full seal, and will allow air to escape from your hose lines and connectors.

A note on hoses before we get started. The hoses with built-in chucks that we tried seemed to come with flimsy chucks that we managed to break in the field, which is why the recommendation below is to purchase a separate hose and separate locking brass chuck.

What you need (or at lease what worked for us):

To start, attach the brass male quick release plug to the input (or intake) side of the regulator.

To the output side (which is all other ports) of the regulator attach your hose. Attach your brass lock-on air chuck to the end of your whip hose.

Note: to prevent air leaks at the joints, you want to use a little Teflon tape or Permatex 59235 Pst Pipe Sealant on the threads prior to connecting everything.

If you plan to use a gauge, attach it now to an open port on your regulator.

Now following the regulator’s direction, set your regulator to the desired PSI.  Depending on the regulator this may take a little trial and error.

With everything assembled, connect your automatic tire inflator to your compressor and test it out on your spare tire to make sure it is stopping at the desired PSI.

That is it!!

Instead of sitting next to each tire for up to 10 minutes, we can now attach our auto-fill tire inflator to our pump, connect the locking chuck to the valve stem, start the compressor and move on to other important things, like checking for trail damage, repacking our recovery kit, changing out of our trail boots, posting a picture to Instagram or just grabbing a soda and sitting in the shade. Gone are the days of sitting next to a tire, up to our ankles in mud while the rain pours down, holding a tire inflator and watching the tire gauge.

An additional benefit of this regulated automatic tire inflator is that all four tires are at the exact same PSI when it stops.  No more back and forth to reset pressure all around.

Will this little device change our life…  probably not… but it will free up time to get repacked and ensure we are ready to go when our last tire is aired back up.

If you don’t want to DIY it…  how about the Longacre 50581 Auto-Fill Tire Inflator / Deflator.  Longacre Racing does offer an automatic tire inflator… But there is one down side.  We found the chuck that attaches to the tire’s valve stem leaves a lot to be desired.   The word “cheap crap” comes to mind.  Rather than return the inflator (it had been 6 months and a few uses) we went on to Amazon where we picked up a high quality hose for the 1/8″ port they used (Interstate Pneumatics TW100 12 Inch Gray Hose Whip for Inflator) and tire chuck (Coilhose Pneumatics CH15A Open Lock-On Chuck, 1/4-Inch FPT).  Easy swap and together they make this a good tire accessory.  But it added $18 (+ shipping and taxes) to the overall cost.

What is “Last Great Road Trip”

Whenever someone sees the truck, I enviably get the question “What is Last Great Road Trip”.  And that is tougher than I thought.

Sure I could say “oh it’s a website about overland travel and off road adventures” but usually I smile and fumble around an answer like “Just a website”,  because it’s embarrassing and that doesn’t really cover it.  Be sides there is our YouTube channel and all the social media I try to keep up with as well as meeting people who have touched my life.

So for 2018 I sat down and tried to figure out what is Last Great Road Trip.  What do you think?

Last Great Road Trip is about overland travel, performing your own routine maintenance and truck modifications.

We produce write-ups and videos that show you how to perform many of the basic maintenance activities on your FJ Cruiser and GX470 (we’ve been keeping her a secret). We also put together content to help you repair your Toyota truck when things break or you want to modify your truck and take it to the next level.

Overlanding is about remote destinations, unique experiences, self-reliance and the journey.  Our goal to encourage you to create your own adventure and I invite you to come along on our journey and share the experience.  

Too much market spam….  What do YOU think we are about?  How would you answer the question? As I look to 2018 and plan our next overland adventure I want to know.  Seriously…  Let me know!

If you hang on YouTube this is what you get:

Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas In Under 90 Seconds

Every once in awhile we go back through the video footage we’ve captured over the years… and there is a truck load (pun intended).

Our Baja Mexico overland adventure was one of our most difficult and rewarding trips we ever took on. Watching the footage I wanted to put something together that would give everyone a quick glimpse into that overland adventure and encourage others to get out of their comfort zone. The Baja California Peninsula is one of the last truly unspoiled places left on earth.

This little trailer video gives you a quick idea of what we saw as we traveled from Tijuana Mexico to Cabo San Lucas following the Baja 1000 race course gps tracks.  If you enjoy the trailer check out the full Baja Mexico overland story.

Steens Overland Adventure – The Desert Floor

Oh my hell the Steens mountain was hard, but it feels so good to have done it!  The desert is the easy part of the adventure…  or so I thought.

Coming off the mountain is a pleasure. Sunshine, blue sky, the day is beautiful.  It’s taken a bit more fuel on the mountain than expected so a stop at Frenchglen to top off the tank is in order.  The trails go everywhere, and I’m just going to explore.

The trails don’t have markers, I’m all turned around.  I know I saw that clump of trees before.  This is okay right…  it’s why they call it exploring?  Motoring slowly down this two track looks promising. No markers, not on the map but it is going the direction that the wild mustangs are reported to hang out.

Dammit. The two track comes to an abrupt stop in the middle of no where at a fence line.  The sign is marked research area.  hummm

Climbing on top of the FJ Cruiser to get a better vantage, I see what looks like horses. They’re in the distance hills but the hike might be good for me. Hopping the barbed wire fence with the camera, tripod and an desire to get up close and personal with the wild horse I start hiking.   A mile later and I’m getting close enough that the mustangs are paying attention to me.  Time to channel my inner horse whisper.  Slowly walk 30 feet, stop, look away from the herd, stand still until they decide I’m not a concern and then move forward another 30 feet.  It’s taken me an hour to go a another quarter mile and now I find myself surrounded by wild mustangs peacefully grazing.

It is an amazing feeling being this close one of the most iconic symbols of the wild west. A little excitement, a little tranquility and a whole lot of these are 1,000 pound wild animals that could take me out at anytime if they decide. Sitting quietly I’m taking in the mountains, the mustangs and the complete wildness of the area.  The horses move about, occasionally looking my way but mostly paying attention to the other horses wondering all about.  It is a privilege to be a part of this scene.

The sun is staring to drop low and I am heading back to the truck trying to decide what’s next.  On the map there is a sort-of-marked 4×4 trail that looks like it heads in the direction I want to go so why not.

Driving trails in the dark is one of my favorite things.  The night is quiet.  Rabbits dart out, crossing my lit path and then disappear on the other side into the darkness.  Coyote howls are carried on the breeze and every once in a while I think I see something big in the shadows.  It is eerie and calming all at the same time. There is no reference to where I am.  The satellite puts me in a big gray space with no roads and there hasn’t been cell service for hours, but I’m still making slow steady progress over the 4×4 trail.  And based on the map…  I should pop out on a road soon(ish).

It’s 11:15pm. A light from a barn is coming into view.  This 4×4 trail has skirted much of a rancher’s land and is now depositing me on his door step, 20 yards from the highway.  Not exactly where I thought I was headed but it has been so much fun I didn’t care.

It’s late, my last meal was breakfast and I’m getting tired.  Looks like it will be best to head back to Page Springs for the night.  Three days I’ve ventured out…  and three nights I’ve returned to Page Springs, must be something in the water.  Tarp on the ground, stars over head, I’m asleep as soon as my head goes horizontal.

The Alvord hot springs have become a bit of a tourist attraction.  There is a caretaker, a parking lot, surplus MASH unit containers converted to cabins and a fridge with cold drinks.  $8 buys you a day in the hot springs, access out onto the playa (the dry lake bed that once extended a 100 miles) and use of a flush toilet, all of which I plan on taking advantage of.

The caretaker smiles, she gives me the run down of the area. “Drive in any direction, stay clear of the hot springs tail out, the gate closes at 10:30pm”.

The playa is dry and cracked.  It appears to go forever.   Heat rising off the playa make the hills in the distance dance.   Driving on the lake-bed is intoxicating.   I aim the FJ Cruiser north and drive, lazily serpentine loops back and forth until I reach what feels like the middle. Nothing in all directions for a couple of miles.  This is camp!

It is so quiet I can hear myself think…  that is not always a good thing.   Setting up the tarp, cooking dinner, and hanging out by the fire this is how camping alone is meant to be.

Some where in the very dark, very early morning, I wake to what Dorothy and Toto must have experienced on their ride to Oz. I had staked the tarp down but not for this.  Scrambling to find a light, the tent stakes, and hammer I get to adding guy lines and cinching the tarp down.  Each pull on the guy lines changes the harmonics from wild flaps to the taught hum of a snare drum skin. This wind storm is going to make for a long night.

Morning finds an eerie silence over the playa again.  The sun is warming on my face.  A quick inventory shows everything is still here in one piece. This may be a desert, but it is chilly.  Breakfast by the fire and a cup of camp coffee is what I need to set the world right again.

A week has gone by in a blink of an eye.  It may be time for a bath.  I’m definitely getting pretty rank. The crowds at the Alvord hot springs may not provide a mind blowing existential solo experience but soaking in the still waters is so worth every bit of that $8 price tag.  105+ degree water pulls the aches and pains out from deep in my bones. Literally four hours later I’m finally forcing myself to get out and head back to camp on the playa.

Packing up I can’t help but believe the night spent on the frozen Steens Mountain, wheeling through the night, meditating with wild horses and desert solitude have changed me a little… for the better.  Right now, right here, my soul is at rest.   I can’t wait to get back here.

Steens Overland Adventure – Stuck on the Mountain

It wasn’t supposed to be that hard! Everyone said the Steens Mountain area is beautiful in November. There just hadn’t been a November this wet in decades.  600 miles to get there and my windshield wipers do not get a break from the rain. Neither do I!

I hate camping in the rain. Everything gets wet. Packing up a wet tent (or in my case a tarp), running around in damp cloths, trying to dry out socks with the truck’s defroster…  it sucks.  Two days into this adventure and everything in the back of the truck is damp.  I it still have 150 miles to go.  When is the good part?

The appeal of the Steens Mountain area is that there is not much around it, at all.  Burns, Or. is the last real town I’ll see for the week,  next stop is at the north end of the wilderness, a little dot on the map called Frenchglen.  A historic hotel, a tiny general store and one working gas pump.  Grab a couple jugs of water, fill the truck and spare Jerry cans. It may be awhile before I see Fields, the only other spot on the map with gas and supplies down at the south end.

As I set up camp at Page Springs the sun is finally braking through the clouds and this promises to be a great trip.

The Donner und Blitzen, a beautiful little trout stream, runs right  through Page Springs campground. The fall colors are magnificent and a small herd of deer have made this campground their home.  Everything is starting to look up as I lay my head down under the tarp, shaking off the last of the dampness.

The Steens Mountain area is made up of 170,200 acres and was designated as a wilderness area by congress in 2000. Today’s plan, follow the mountain loop, a gravel road up to the summit, find a cozy  place up top to spend the night and enjoy an evening by the fire under the stars.

The sun is shining bright, the sky is cloudless and blue.  I’m making good time driving the gravel loop as it works it’s way up into the hills.  Continuing to gain elevation the road is showing light but increasing snow cover.  Passing Jackman park, the snow on the road is around six inches deep with no tire tracks.  I realize as I continue to drive, it is unlikely anyone will be coming along behind me if I get stuck.  I tell myself, it will be fine, just keep it slow and steady. Around Kiger Gorge lookout, the truck is starting to fishtail back and forth every once in awhile in the sloppy snow now 10-12 inches on the road.  Time to consider my options.

The easy choice, the safe choice, is to turn around and call it a day.  But I’m not known for hitting the easy button.  I weigh the risks, consider various ways I could die on the mountain and come to a decision.  Time to chain up.

Chains and mud tires were never meant to go together,  The tire lugs are making it a pain in the ass to get the chains lined up and tight.  At 9,000 ft(ish) I’m getting winded with all this work, humping chains around, setting up camera shots, shoveling snow to clear the tires…  Should have packed an oxygen bottle instead of that extra pound of bacon.  Time to get back in the driver’s seat.

The FJ Cruiser is motoring along great but the snow drifts are quickly getting deep.  The rear wheels push the truck forward but the front skid is riding up like a toboggan in the deep snow and lifting the front off the ground.  Progress is limited to push forward 10 feet until the front lifts off the ground and before the rear tires lift, back up, get a running start and push forward another 10 feet.  Rinse and repeat for the next 20 minutes and hope the truck doesn’t high-center in the snow that is now about two feet deep.

I’m walking sections of the road to see were the edge is before charging forward.  I’m shoveling areas to clear the pile of snow my front-end pushes up.  This is frustratingly slow and taking a toll on my mental state.  We’re close to the top but it is getting late.

A couple more long pushes and I’m moving free again.  This is it.  Now hike the last bit…  Cold, windy, and getting dark. So worth it!

The flat spot if found for the night has a great view but the idea of setting up the tarp with the wind hollowing is more than I can manage.  I’ve napped in the truck’s front before…  how bad could it be.

As night falls I sleep a few hours, wake up, try to find a less uncomfortable position that doesn’t require master yogi skills and sleep a little more.  It’s a rough night.

First light lets me know I’ve survived the night. Time to get off this mountain.  But first…  Breakfast!

Episode 2 – Steens Overland Adventure on to the Alvord Desert

Installing Lexus GX470 Swing-Out Bumper

So you may have noticed some Lexus GX470 discussions from us here and out in the forums…   Yes we did it, we added a Lexus GX470 to the fleet.  Just not this one.

Why you ask?  It’s built on the same J120 Toyota Prado Land Cruiser platform as our FJ Cruiser but with four doors, a bit more room, a whole lot more luxury and a V8 engine.  Our new Lexus GX470, affectionately named (by Hula Betty) Fat Girl, will be primarily used for overland adventures and as a daily driver for Hula Betty.  She wont get the massive mods we have on the Blue Bunny but she will be getting some upgrades to her suspension and armor.

While Fat Girl will remain stock for now, that doesn’t mean we haven’t started to consider options.  One option is the Metal Tech 4×4 rear swing-out bumper known as the Pegasus.  Mark over at Metal Tech 4×4 put all their Toyota Land Cruiser experience into creating this bumper.  No cutting, no welding, this swing-out bumper fits right into the design of the Lexus GX470 and allows you to carry larger spare tire, fuel cans and your Hi-Lift jack.

And when it comes to installation…  Well see for yourself.  We put together an installation video to help folks install their Metal Tech 4×4 swing-out bumper on the Lexus GX470 and give us an excuse to get an up close look at the Pegasus.

If you just want the highlights about this bumper than give this introduction video a look.  It walks you through some of the key features of this overland bumper.

What do you think?

 

Mecca Flats and the Deschutes River

Growing up, fly fishing was my escape into the great outdoors.  In fact it was the desire to go further off the beaten path that spurred on the need for an off-road vehicle.  In those days it was an old VW Baja Bug that I built to explore the abandoned forest roads in search of a hidden creek or quiet lake.

Back then the Deschutes river, was 100 miles away, had a spot down an abandon dirt road that lead to place few people bothered to go known as Mecca Flats.  Mecca Flats was really just a dirt patch, a starting point from where I would follow a trail along the river, fishing riffles, runs and back eddies for the next five miles.  Mecca Flats was base camp for my adventure.

For all that driving and hiking I would get to wet a fly line on one of the best blue ribbon fisheries in the west.  Trout averaged 14″.  Wild salmon and steelhead runs were always strong. World famous Salmon Fly hatches and year round Caddis Fly would bring the trout to the surface almost anytime of day.

Today the drive is closer to 300 miles.  The long dirt road has been graveled, but just barely. The open dirt camping at Mecca Flats now has designated numbered camping spots with tables and fire rings.  Day fishers have their own parking area and an outhouse.  But thanks to strict regulation trout, salmon and steelhead still fill the river and there is a good chance you’ll be into one within minutes of wetting a line.

Fly fishing is still one my favorite escapes into the great outdoors.

Overland Chef… Huevos Ranchero

One of my favorite times during a overland adventure is early morning.  Sun rising over camp, quiet in the air, warm coffee and anything is possible.  And I get to cook breakfast!  I love to cook.

My all time go to favorite camp breakfast, huevos ranchero. Hearty, probably not that healthy but oh so very tasty.  Let face it, really anything with chorizo and eggs is going to come out good and can’t really be screwed up…  although there was the “chorizo surprise” debacle a few years back.

The secret to this breakfast delight is in the chorizo…  It can’t be that farmstead, grass-fed, dry-aged, loin-based, hand-rubbed, hipster chorizo.  No, this has to be the chorizo of my people, true Mexican chorizo, made from grinding up pork salivary glands, lymph nodes and fat with spices that cooks down to delicious, spicy, coagulated, crimson oily paste.

If you’re looking for an exact recipe, give Betty Crocker a call.  I roll pretty loose… This is it:

  • Get the stove going… and keep the heat on the low side as you cook down the chorizo in a heavy skillet.  Keep it moving, don’t let it burn.
  • After a few minutes, add a handful of chopped onions and continue to cook (and stir) until the onions take on a translucent state.
  • Next add a minced garlic clove, giving a few more stirs.
  • Toss in a bunch of chopped cilantro and mix it in.
  • Pull the mix to the sides of the skillet making room to cook the eggs. (fry or scramble the way you like)
  • When the eggs are ready, remove from the heat and sprinkle everything with grated cheese.  Any good Cheddar, Jack, Queso Fresco, Queso Anejo, Cotija, Oaxaca, Panela, Asadero will do. Cheese is its own food group in my mind.

Serve on a plate, wrapped in a flower tortilla, over a corn tostada shell and drizzle a little hot sauce over everything.

This is really just the base.  You can add in fried potatoes, poblano or anaheim peppers, or diced tomatoes to make the huevos rancheros your own.

 

Overland Travel Washington’s Naches Wagon Trail

We’ve gone across the Rubicon Trail in our FJ Cruiser twice without so much as a scratch… well without noticeable body damage.  But it is the relatively easy Naches wagon tail that seems to always cause us problems.  Sure we have followed the Naches wagon trail dozens of time to cross over Washington’s Cascade mountains but it’s this easy trail that has caused all of our body damage.  And this time we captured it on video!

We all have those places we cherish and this trail remains one of our favorite ways to spend a day.  You’re hard pressed to find a trail with more spectacular scenery.  There is just enough hill climbs, off camber and bumps to keep it fun along with several tight squeezes that prevent you from thinking this is walk in the woods.

Maybe it’s karma, maybe it’s just bad luck, or what ever that this wagon trail we love caused us so much pain.  Will it stop us??!! Absolutely not!   We really do love this place.