The first run on the Florence Oregon Dunes early in the morning brought out the sun… or at least less clouds and no rain. After meeting up with the NWFJCC club and airing down, we headed out into the Umpqua Dune area. This area is marked by wide open sand, along with the biggest dunes of the three OHV areas.
We zigged, we zagged, we played around, going up and down the hills, stopping to watch the other rigs. Going over the sand we all learned the little tricks. For instance, staying out of the tracks and driving over the virgin sand allowed you to float and keep your speed rather than chugging in the tracks of others.
Soft sand we could drive over… how much trouble could this be. Well let me tell you. The sand looks flat. Its not! Woopty doos appear out of no where, sand that has shifted leaving a drop off where a gentle roll once was, and hills that seem to grow taller and steeper as you run up them.
It was than we heard over the CB, “We just caught air, and crashed”. As the group regathered to make sure everyone was ok, we found driver and passenger to be fine but after a two point face plant, the rig had its A/C cooler and radiator pushed back a little, with the fender now rubbing against the door.
Some real trail carnage, but no fluids leaking and everything on the rig was still working just fine… That could have been so much worse… everyone counted their blessings and we where back to wheeling.
Carnage never seems to travel alone and as we gathered up on the next hill, the group discovered Karma can be a cruel mistress. From the font of one of the rigs climbing up a small hill in soft sand came a very loud BANG.
If you ever look at an IFS and see goo leaking out of a twisted boot, you know that is not a good thing. But just how bad it was we still needed to figure out. Broken axles mean you’re in for a field repair. Like Apollo 13 engineers, everyone gathered to figure out what we had to work with?
- Spare Axel = zero, nada, none (mine won’t fit other rigs so it doesn’t count)
- Tools = Fair amount
- Hi-lift jack = several
- Healthy attitudes and a willingness to pull together and help out… everyone
Ok… We can work with this. First thing, call MARK AT METAL TECH and get his advice… Thank God for cell phones.
Step one was to get the wheel off the ground and pull (cut, hack, generally tear) the boot off to discover where the shaft was broken and determine how we could remove to two pieces. With the hi-lift, we easily got the rig up in the air. A couple of spare tires became our makeshift jack stands. In no time the wheel was off and the carnage exposed. Those with weak stomachs may not want to watch.
Surprisingly the axle was still in one piece but the inner cage of the birfeild (CV to non-Toyota guys) was in pieces, changing our axle extraction ideas. Another life line call to Mark to discuss a new plan for removing a whole axle with what was on-hand.
After pulling all the metal bits and ball bearings out of the outer CV joint we had a good view of what was still in tack and we could move the axle back and forth giving us some room to play. The field service was going to involve removing the bolts on the lower control arm that attaches it to the wheel housing so we could swing it out of the way and slide the axle, tri-ball and birfield star out, leaving the housings on both end cups still attached to the rig.
Now just to bolt everything left back into place, throw the wheel back on and jack the rig back down off the spare wheels and the rig was good to go. 2 hours (or so) start to finish and the rig was 2WD now but driving under its own power, steering and stopping just as it should. Everyone drove the 20 miles back to camp under their own power.
While no one wants to see this happen, wheeling anywhere off-road comes with risks and everyone in the group now knows the value of carrying spare parts along with the needed tools to make field repairs.
Just maybe Karma is not the bitch we thought she was.
And if all this excitement wasn’t enough… All of us, minus one rig with a missing axle, ran another section of the dunes and beach six hours later in the dark. This run let everyone show off their lights and I swear the light house guy shed a tear when we turned our roof top off road lights on. The night run also gave us the sand all to ourselves for a mostly uneventful time… Of course there was a little butt pucker moment when crossing a creek and I found out just how fast my font end can plunge three feet under water and come back up for air. Then just to rub a little salt in the wound, on that last dune out, it took me way too many times to make it up hill off the beach. If fact eventually, I had to air way down with the ocean tide lapping at the wheels in order to climb the hill and get back onto the trail.
Would we do it again… You bet… and in fact… Tomorrow we will.