Category Archives: everything else

If it doesn’t belong anywhere else than let’s dump it here and hope for the best. But don’t let that convince you it isn’t worth reading… this holds some of our best stuff.

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.

Bamboo vs. Steel

It’s said a “bad day fishing is still better than a good day of work”.  These days I seem to spend a lot more time in the office than out on the river, but it does make those trips that much more special.

I grew up chasing steelhead across Oregon with Kevin, one of my best friends from college.  We where never all that successful but it didn’t seem to matter; we were skipping class, out on the water and enjoying each others company.  Roll the calendar forward…  a lot, and nothing much has changed.

We still don’t have a lot of success but we do drive better trucks that get us to more secluded fishing spots.  Fiberglass poles have been replace by hand made bamboo spay rods that Kevin builds in his shop from canes he brought over from china.  And we still enjoy each others company on a river casting a fly.

A bad fishing, is only bad if you can’t remember why you go out on the water in the first place.  And for me…  it not about the fish!

To Live And Die In Sema

Automotive nirvana by day, debauchery and broken dreams by night.  This is SEMA.

By all accounts SEMA is the premier automotive specialty products trade event, period.  It draws the industry’s brightest minds and hottest products to one place, the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The SEMA Show attracts more than 100,000 industry leaders from more than 100 countries covering the automotive, truck, SUV, powersports, and RV markets.  Adding to its mystic, SEMA is not open to the public.  Like a chichi Boho model gliding past the velvet rope of New York’s Up&Down club, at SEMA you have to be an insider to gain access.

The Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC, apparently everything is Vegas simply goes by its initials now) has some 3,000,000 square feet of exhibition space and SEMA seemed to fill it all.  The show even managed to spill into most of the parking lots, muscle cars burning rubber around a makeshift track, Baja trophy trucks fresh from their Nevada desert runs are poised in the loft ready for the upcoming Baja 1000 and tons of exotic builds filling every open space on the asphalt.

While outside SEMA is smoking hot fun, inside is all business.  Manufactures and distributors do whatever they can to attract dealers and buyers to their booth where they can show off new product lines, discuss their M.A.P. policies and tout seductive quantity discounts.

And in order to draw the tens of thousands of SEMA buyers into the booth:

  • chichi models strutting around in stripper heels
  • outrageously over-built and flamboyantly wrapped cars, trucks, 4x4s and SUVs
  • TV celebs, racers and motor sport legends signing posters
  • flashing lights, mega booths and lots of highly polished bling
  • tons of swag
  • and anything else that will entice a buyer to stop in their tracks

We spent four days wondering through SEMA and still didn’t manage to see everything.  We didn’t have time for booths showing off their tire balancing lead weights and lug nut wrenches.  Spent most of our 4 days checking out the off-road manufacturers hall.

Jeep is he market leader when it comes to shear numbers so manufactures heavily target the brand.  With Toyota calling it quits on the FJ Cruiser and no real successor named yet, the 2014 SEMA show was dominated by Jeeps and full size pickups on display.  There was the occasional Land Rover, 4Runner, Tacoma and one or two FJ Cruisers.

Redline Land Cruiser’s new FJ-UTE was the only completely new to the market 4×4 on display.  Their production run will only be in the dozens or so each year and they have deposits covering builds for the next 18 months. Justin Robbins the designer and builder behind the FJ-UTE shared with us his favorite thing about their new truck.  Turns out he geek-ed out when it came to the CAD created CNC replica nobs.  No one had ever done it before and he knew it would be one of those things that no one notices but adds big to the overall FJ heritage experience.

Our big scores at SEMA this year…  How about a chance to chat with Jessi Combs, the fastest woman on four wheels.  We discussed how to encourage more young women to become involved in off-road and the business side of motor sports.  Ben from COMEUP winch gave us a glimpse of their new Gen2 product line coming out soon.  Over at BesTop we were impressed with their RoughRider spare tire organizer solution which is great for keeping recovery gear handy.

The truth about SEMA, or any other trade show, is that for everyone working the floor, covering the event or maintaining the facilities…   it is a lot of hard work!  By Friday even the chichi models were a little less bouncy and a lot less excited about those platform heels.  I’ve worked all side of these types of events.  I love them and I always end up working my ass off.  I’m not complaining.  It’s SEMA. It’s Vegas. It’s automotive nirvana and I’ve already booked my ticket for SEMA2015!

Surviving A Roadside Emergency

Back in the 80’s Brad and I took a road trip to Yellowstone National Park.  Miles from anywhere our car’s fuel pump gave out.  We were stuck on a dirt road that maybe saw another car once every day or so.  Fast forward to today and I can add a couple of dead batteries, several flat tires, black ice spin out, two snow closed passes and a blown engine to the list of things that have left me stranded on the side of the road in less than ideal conditions.

Changing a tire on a warm afternoon on a quiet level country road is no big deal.  Changing a tire in the dark on the  side of the highway when it’s 40 degrees and raining, lacks entertainment value. Over the years I have managed to put together an emergency roadside kit that takes the sting out being stuck on road and makes most bad situations bearable.  These days I always have a emergency roadside kit in the trunk of all my vehicles even if I’m just going to the grocery store.

Our roadside emergency kit is easy to build up and is filled with items you probably have lying around the house.

Start with an old gym bag or duffel. Even your daughter’s pink “My Favorite Pony” school backpack will do.   You just need something to keep all your supplies together.  Once you have your recycled book bag in hand, gather up the following items and stuff them in.

  1. Jumper cables – I’m surprised at how many people with a dead battery who have asked me for a jump, follow it by “Do you have jumper cables?”.
  2. Wool blanket – Coming home from eastern Washington, WADOT closed the pass for avalanche control and I spent four hours waiting for the all clear under a warm blanket while the snow continued to fall.  Wool retains it’s ability to keep you warm even when wet and is one of the most important items in the kit.
  3. Household cleaning gloves – I’ve reached into mucky wheel wells to work snow chains around a tire and pulled crow parts from the grill.  Waring long, heavy duty, rubber household cleaning gloves made it much less traumatic.
  4. Personal first aid kit – No one enjoys driving with a throbbing headache or having you’re allergies kick into high gear as you drive by miles of hay fields.  A simple first aid kit will let you take care of yourself (or one of the kids) and get you back on the road before it becomes a serious problem.
  5. Duct tape – You can fix anything with duct tape.
  6. Pocket knife / Leatherman tool – I’ve pulled out a pocket knife for just about everything including cutting duct tape in order to splint my finger after slamming it in door.
  7. Bottles of water – You can go for weeks without food, but you will quickly start to dehydrate in dry conditions and can die within a few days without water.  I’ve also grabbed a water bottle to wash dirt out a friend’s eye when the wind kicked up, swirling dust everywhere.
  8. Road flares – Ever change a tire on the side of the road…  in the dark?  I have.  It’s important to let on-coming traffic know you’re there.  We like flare over reflectors since a flare can be used to start a signal fire in the wettest conditions if things really go south.
  9. Safety vest – It’s not much of a fashion statement but the more visible you are the better.  On the side of the road or from a rescue helicopter you want to be seen.
  10. Whistle – Yelling for help will only be heard so far and eventually your voice will tire, but a whistle can be blown forever and is a universal call for attention.
  11. Compass – Ff you do have to leave your vehicle and hike out, you want to know where you’re going.  A compass will let you get your bearings and trek a straight line.
  12. Plastic shower curtain liner – $7.00 at any Walmart and you instantly have an emergency shelter, ground tarp, rain poncho, oil catch, knelling mat for changing a tire in the mud, …  There are no limits to what you can do with a plastic shower curtain liner, and it comes folded up in a neat little package that will take very little space.
  13. Flashlight / headlamp (and batteries) – Be sides helping you look into the dark corners of your vehicle to find a fuse you dropped, a light waving by your side as you walk down the highway to a gas station will make you visible to traffic so you don’t become a roadside memorial.
  14. Yard sized trash bag –  From rain coat to dirty close bag to dead body disposal,  the usage opportunities for a large trash bag rival that of duct tape.
  15. Parachute cord – This is another one of those endless use items.  Lashing down a loose tarp  or turning that shower curtain liner into a shelter, in an emergency the uses are only limited by your imagination.
  16. Toilet paper – If you’ve ever used leaves than you don’t need to ask why.
  17. Lighters/matches/magnesium fire stick – You’ll need something to lite a fire if you are really in a bad situation and need a fire.

While these are the basics that should be in your emergency travel kit, there is plenty of room to personalize it with your own flare.  Consider what your family needs are and plan accordingly to include other useful items such as: baby wipes, signal mirror, towel, travel pillow, rubber boots, work gloves or a good book to kill time while you wait for the tow truck.  If you need other ideas take a look at the Red Cross’ survival kits.

Years of road trips have taught us that being prepared means being equipped with the proper supplies that you may need in the event of a road trip emergency or just a flat tire in the rain.

Lessons From The Baja

Sometimes you have to travel to the ends of the earth before you can see what is right in front of you.     Our Baja off-road adventure reinforced lessons that apply to more than just off-road adventures.

Explore More – Don’t let yourself get caught up in the ordinariness of life’s daily grind.  Make it your priority to get out, explore and have an adventure.

Push Yourself Further – It can be dangerous to venture where the map shows dragons.  But when you do, the world expands.

Live In The Moment – Whether it’s the ordinary or the extraordinary stay present with it.  Don’t hang onto it, don’t push it aside, just stay with it.

Make Strong Bonds – Let others touch your life.  Relationships are the only thing of real value we carry with us.

Celebrate Everything – Each mile of an adventure holds so much wonder and challenge, celebrate the great, near great and the difficult.  You have earned it.

Sharing The Off-Road Adventure

Every phone is a camera… every Instagram user an artist… and every adventure is an opportunity to share a unique experience with the world.

The tools available through Instagram, GIMP (our personal favorite), Photoshop and others lets anyone take their digital images and craft them into a shower of color that brings out the true magic of their off-road adventure.

Some may say that these altered images are fake. We disagree! We’re not recording history here. We’re telling stories and the images shared on this site help tell the story, conveying the emotional experience of individuals who took the pictures on their adventure.

The off-road adventures we go on, put us in places of amazing beauty. These are often locations with rugged landscapes that can be extremely difficult to reach and only a lucky few will ever see.  Our website’s goal is to share these experiences and inspire others to embark on their own adventures in hopes that they will in turn share their stories and images encouraging even more people to step out of their comfort zone.

The images here that Mike captured of the Rubicon Trail scream adventure.  Mike gives everyone a peak into the emotional experience and raw energy of the trail.  Through Mike’s images the description of calm green serenity fills the  mind.  Other times its the expansive blues that reminds us all how small we are in the universe.

Each of us will see something different in the images we view.  The feelings that an image evokes depends on our own experiences and where we are in our own journey.

For me these images speak of camaraderie and the friendships found in a shared struggle as you overcome adversity together in order to achieve a goal that alone is unattainable. On this off-road adventure that shared struggle was the Rubicon Trail.

It Takes a Garage To Make An Adventure

As you know I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve, the night before an off road adventure.  Sure there is the anticipation of the adventure and the excitement of what’s to come…  But there is always more.

Sitting outside a Starbucks (got to grab the WiFi where you can on an adventure) in the Biggest Little City in the World, I am struck by, of all things, community.  You see six years ago when we started all this we didn’t really know much about what we were getting into…  What we found were good people and a community that cares.

We mention Metal Tech 4×4 often and sure they make some of the best off road products in the world but they are more than that… in the last few weeks I spent a lot of time in their shop getting the Blue Bunny ready for Rubicon.  I mentioned my concerns about not having time to really shake down our rig after all the mods (Ultimate FJ Cruiser), the 2,000 miles we’d be driving and the real possibility that we’ll break something on the trail (after all this is The Con).  Without a second thought, Mark offered us their truck and trailer to haul our baby down and back.  Mark and LT have done so much for us and their generosity seems to have no end!

The tie-rods on the early Toyota FJ Cruisers have a weak point that will give when you apply enough force from larger tires, re-gearing and granite rock.  Running down spare parts we gave Auburn Car Repair & Offroad a call.  Without thinking twice, John gave us a couple he had picked up for their race truck, offered us tips he’d learned from his FJC desert racing experience and double check a few things on the rig for us.

This type of  help goes on and on… guys like Beau Jaramillo, Kevin C… go out of their way for us.  The NWFJC, NW Overlanding Society, TLCA are filled with great folks who will help turn a wrench or offer a hand when you need it.

Six years ago we thought we were individuals going out to get away from it all.  Instead we have found a strong rich, community of people who have our back and are willing to go out of their way to help.  We may venture out by ourselves.  But we are never alone.

Don’t Be Cheap!

Friends will tell you we’re cheap…  hold onto a nickel until the buffalo squeals cheap… after all it is difficult to part with hard earned money. However that does not mean we’re not willing to pay for value and there are somethings you just can’t put a price on.

The internet is a great resource.  You can find cheap parts, how to instructions and lots of opinions on what ever widget you have to have for your rig.  You can find it all but that doesn’t mean you’ll get everything you need.

So what constitutes value?  For us it is a shop that takes the time to work with us, explain options, spend the time needed to educate us and do what it takes to make sure we can make an informed decision.  And if things don’t go as planned the shop works to make it right.   Usually these shops are run by and filled with guys (gender neutral non-specific use of the term guy) who are real wheelers and car guys.  If you listen, they will impart wisdom to you that you can’t buy.  Whether you’re headed to Rubicon, the Baja or a road trip to Key West, they want to make sure your experience behind the wheel is one you wont forget.

When you find a shop that delivers great value don’t squander the opportunity.  Develop that relationship…  and that relationship goes both ways! When you find a shop that provides personal support, impeccable service and great value for the price be loyal.  — Rant time: and by loyal we mean, don’t work a shop by asking for a lot of how to help or expert advice and then cruise the Internet for cheap parts that the shop sells.  Yes talking with customers and helping them with advice, recommendations and insights from years of experience is good for business but don’t forget it is customer service so be a good customer if you take them up on the service.

photo by bskolb

We’ve been extremely lucky…  we have found two great shops. You know that Metal Tech 4×4 are our go to guys when it comes to our rig.  Metal Tech produces and sells top quality aftermarket protection parts for your Toyota rig.  They will spend the time to make sure you get the information you need to pick the right protection and suspension components for your style of wheeling.  They will install the parts or help you understand how to install them yourself.  In fact it was Mark, one of the owners who helped us get into wheeling and has been instrumental in developing our skills…  He has probably forgotten more about wheeling Toyota’s than we’ll ever know.  A big part of us taking on Baja was based on the skills Mark and LT taught us when they let us tag along with them on the Rubicon a few years back.

More recently, we picked up a used commuter car while the Blue Bunny goes through its latest incarnation over at Metal Tech 4×4.  I can promise you, any 24 year old car needs a little love to stay in top form and our “new to us” commuter car was no exception.  Sure we enjoy working on cars, just check out or videos, but there is a lot to be said for having a shop that you trust who will take care of your car like its their own. Especially when your daily commute is 150 mile round trip every day.

When it came to finding a repair shop for this car we called a couple, then made an appoint for them to look at the car and provide a recommendation for its care and feeding.  Sure it was their chance to checkout the car but it was also our opportunity to see what they would find (we already knew a couple things they should find), how they would present a prioritized work list and see how they keep the shop looking (especially at the end of a busy day). The shop that stood out for us was Silverdale Autoworks. They found what we expected and a little more.  They gave us estimates for the different work and ranked the work according to priority based on what we told them was important to us.  Now with some 25,000 more miles on the car and a few trips to the their shop to repair an oil leak, refresh the cooling system and change more oil than we thought one motor could hold, Silverdale Autoworks has proven their value and earned our loyalty.

Is there a moral to this story? Yes. Take the time to find a shop that will provide you with great value and reward that shop with your loyalty.  If you work with the shop, your car guy will do his best to make sure your car or rig can take you on the adventure of a life time.

Off-Road Adventure New Year’s Resolution

We at Last Great Road Trip are big fans of the New Year holiday and everything it stands for. Letting go of the past can be very therapeutic. As off-road adventure lovers, it is the hopes and dreams for the future year that excites us most. But before we completely forget about this year, I would like to reflect on the accomplishments of LGRT.

  • The Utah Backcountry Discovery Route turned out to be way more than we bargained for, almost loosing one of our team members.
  • Hula Betty started writing for the website giving it a new voice and proving I’m more than an iconic bobble doll.
  • The guys enjoyed wheeling deep into the night a couple of times including the Tillamook State Forest trails with the Northwest FJ Cruiser Club.
  • Got back to our road tripping roots with a Road Tip to Suttle Lake.
  • Turned over the Blue Bunny to the guys at Metal Tech 4×4 for a major suspension mod that still has our rig on the lift.

New Year’s Eve is a time to look back on the past, no matter how good or bad it was, and learn from it. But when the ball drops at midnight, our slates are wiped clean and we mustn’t dwell on another year gone.

One of my favorite parts of the New Year is coming up with resolutions. We have high hopes for 2013, mainly because the Mayans didn’t believe we would make it this far, so our goals reflect that invincible attitude. Here are some of LGRT’s resolutions:

  • Tell better stories. Lets face it our videos are campy… they are fun and we enjoy them but they don’t tell the epic story we’d like them too.
  • Complete the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route off-road adventure. We have two legs under our belt (one of them twice) but there are still two more to go.
  • Decide on this years big adventure.  The Blue Bunny will be more then ready soon.
  • Do something different… REALLY different… on an off-road adventure.

So here’s to another great year of adventure, diversity, understanding, and learning, and may the best of last year be the worst of next year.

You May Be Addicted

If you’re off-road more than in your own bed at home you may be an off-road adventure junky…  But if you’re still in denial about your addiction to adventure and no amount of family interventions can prevent you from purchasing one more mod for you your rig, we have a test to help you face the truth head on.

  1. Are you more comfortable boiling water from a lake to fill water bottles than using the tap?
  2. Did you fail to completely unpacked from the last off-road adventure and can be ready to go on the next one in less than ten minutes?
  3. Do you spend hours at work planning your next off-road adventure despite the fact your boss might walk by?
  4.  Can you find a fully-functioning toilet behind every tree?
  5. Without an adventure in your future do you start to get antsy and stammer about the house mumbling incoherently.?
  6. Can you sleep pretty much anywhere – on the ground, in your rig, under a bridge…
  7. Can you brew coffee in at least five different ways over a camp stove (one of which may or may not involve a sock)?
  8. Do you religiously check off-road adventure websites (hopefully ours) every morning?
  9. Do you prefer sleeping under the stars, even in the rain, rather than having a solid roof over your head?
  10. Does the majority of your paycheck goes towards funding your next off-road adventure?
  11. When you talk to your friends about your last adventure do they added it to their bucket list?

If you answered yes to any of these you have an off-road adventure addition…  and you are the luckiest guy (non-specific gender neutral use of the term) around!