Last: The Maiden Voyage
Thanks to the Offroad mailing list I met Dale and Don early that summer. Both had been four wheeling for years and I learned a lot from them and got taken many different, more challenging places (we're going up there?). The first trip was that July down near Nachess Pass but before I headed down that way for the Trail Jamboree I had to replace my radiator. The one I had been running since I bought the jeep was the stock radiator for a 4 cylinder engine and I kept overheating when I went offroading, especially at Fall City. Don helped me put a 3 row mustang radiator in the jeep at his house up in Snohomish. Actually, his barn has become a home away from home for the jeep.
I was really looking forward to the Trail Jamboree but was a little scared about the trail descriptions. Anyway, the following is another trail report about my experiences at the Jamboree.
Well, I just got back from the best four wheeling trip I have gone on yet (well, I guess it is the first real one I have been on).
It started last Thursday when Don Graham and Dale Chaudiere met me at my house in Seattle. With Don was his wife Tina and their son Tyler (2 months). With Dale was Joy and their two kids Ashley and Aaron. We headed south towards the Jamboree site and picked up my friend Dana in Issaquah who was going to ride with me.
I had never been on one of these organized trip before and packed everything I though I would need in case of a breakdown: oil, water, gear oil, all my tools, extra bucket of misc parts, manual, hoses, funnel, etc. I guess maybe I overdid it but as you will see later it was a good thing I brought all of this. Also crammed in the back was a tent, a little bit of food (most of the food was provided and was excellent - and lots of it), beer, my doors (if you bring your top and doors it will not rain, right?), and some other stuff.
Don was driving his 92 Wrangler Sahara and towed a popup trailer and Dale was in his 67 CJ-5 towing his popup trailer. It is kind of hard to camp for a few days with kids in a small tent. I was in my 52 M38 towing nothing. Dana and I roughed it in the tent. We showed up at the Jamboree site about 40 miles west of Yakima Thursday afternoon, checked in and setup camp. The first day was uneventful except that Aaron had a little mishap. "There is something in my pants mommy."
Breakfast the next morning was at 6 and a drivers meeting started at 7. We went on the Divide trail the first day with about 12 other jeeps (and a couple of LC's). Tina and Tyler stayed behind since Tyler didn't have good control of his head yet.
"Milk Creek/Tripod Flats/Divide (Rated 4-5: not suited for full-sized vehicles) These trails combine to make a popular "family" trail, that is moderate in difficulty, but interesting."
The biggest thing I was worried about for the first part of the day was running out of gas because all the gas leaked out of my front tank somehow the night before and I only had 16 gal for the whole day (this turned out to be more than enough even with my gas hog of an engine). The trail was very tight in spots and anything larger than a LC would not have been able to get through. I will be uploading photos later of this trail.
The first little mishap of the day (aside from the trail leader getting...lost...a few times) occurred when a guys alternator froze up. He stopped with one of the trail hosts who drove him down to Ellensburg to get a new one and joined up with the group later.
Most of the day I was in 4WD low in first gear (except when we were one some logging roads). I could not use second gear much because it was popping out for some reason. Well the reason was that the snap ring in my T-90 had broken and was allowing 2nd gear and all that synchro stuff to move around. It eventually pushed up on the 3rd gear synchro enough to heat it up and crack it. Then I didn't have 3rd gear any more. This happened about 3/4 of the way into the trail. At first I though that maybe I was out of gear oil since I was leaking a little so we stopped the group while I checked but there was enough oil. So we continued on and I made it back to camp using 1st and 2nd (popping out now and then). Total trip time was about 9 hours. Weather, hot and not a cloud in the sky. Dust level, um, I had a black goatee (I am blond)
When we got back to camp we popped open the top of the trany and discovered all of the above. Options? Try and force it into 3rd and drive home using the overdrive - Couldn't do that because the synchro was expanded too much. Drop the tranny, try to look for someone with a synchro or swap 2nd and 3rd and drive home like plan A. Well an old guy who lived 10 miles down the road had some synchros and a snap ring so I was able to replace the parts and drive home normally. All these repairs were made Friday and Saturday night. Saturday we left my jeep in the middle of the field while I rode with Don and Dana road with Dale and Ashley on the Shoestring trail (rated one of the top 10 trails in the country by Off Road Magazine).
"Shoestring Trail (Rated 9-10) - This trip offers virtually everything in driving characteristics, from rocks, mud, side hills, tightness to challenging hill climbs."
This trail was incredible and the photos I will upload will not do justice to it. Rocks, hills, ruts, roots, and the scenery/views oh my. Now I see why it is rated 9-10. No need to drive to the Rubicon for a tough, challenging trail (some old timers who had run the Rubicon said there were even other runs in the area that were harder than the Rubicon). It was dry and sunny like the previous day. If it was wet we would have had some serious problems in some sections. Total trip time about 9 hours.
Dale was having problems the previous day with gas coming out of his float overflow and flooding his engine when he went up big hills but he fixed it with a 3" piece of tube to extent the overflow and didn't have any other problems.
In the first part of the trail was a long steep hill that only had a few ruts in it. There was no problem going up it if you just kept your momentum up a bit and stayed in a low gear. Well, there just has to be someone in each group that has to show off. This one guy in a CJ-5 with big tires, and semi-truck air horn sat at the bottom and revved his engine. His 4-5 year old kid was in the back and his wife was next to him. He popped it into gear, his wife tucked her head between her legs, he honked the horn and raced up the hill. The first bump sent his front end about a foot in the air and the second about 2 feet. It looked like something out of a movie and was a very stupid (yet entertaining) thing to do. If he crashed and went tumbling down the hill it would have probably ended the day for the rest of us (but we probably would have gotten on "Rescue 911").
We ate lunch later in the day on top of the Manashstash ridge with the most incredible view ever of Mt. Rainier and the valley below.
There we no breakdowns or problems the whole day (except for a Bronco scraping trees). The best part of the whole trail came at the end when we had to go through a small mud hole. The best place to cross was right in the middle. People had been talking all day about the right side containing an old Scout it was so deep and that how just by testing your front wheels you would disappear forever. Well, I was riding with Don and we started over the middle high ground but suddenly our left wheel got stuck in a rut and pulled is over the left (which looked as bad as the right). All the lockers in the world did not save us but a little higher clearance might have. We finally ended up high centered and Dale had to yank us out. Dale then drove around us to the left, plunged into the deeper part, started to get stuck, then punched it and spun mud every where as he plowed through. Ashely loved it.
That is about it. I made it home in one piece and now have to redo the trany right and also maybe replace some rings or the short block because I was blowing a lot of blue smoke (keeps the bugs away). The jeep repairs never stop.
Later Chris Sutton
On the way home from the Jamboree I started blowing blue smoke even worse than on the trails. Something was definitely wrong. A few days after we got home I started taking things apart and before I knew it, all I had on the front of the jeep was the engine block. Al and I lifted the block off the frame and took it to a machine shop where they did a quick check on the size of the cylinders. It turned out that the #8 cylinder was bigger than the rest so oil was just spewing right past the rings, fouling the plug and leaving a big blue cloud. I also found out later that the block was cracked also. What could I do but replace the short block. How hard could it be, just redo what I did to take the sucker apart, right. Well, it took longer than I thought, about 2 weeks from the day I had it all apart to the day I fired it up again. It might have been a fun ordeal if I had a garage. Oh, how I would kill for a garage. But instead I did the whole thing outside, in the summer heat in a gravel dr
When I had the engine out I also went through the transmission and transfer case again for about the 10th time. Then, one afternoon, when I had the engine back together, I rented an engine hoist to plop the engine back in. It turned out to be a lot harder then I thought since those things don't roll to well in gravel. We ended up using Al's winch to pull the hoist around a bit, then finally just rolled the jeep forward towards the hoist to get the engine back in the right place.
The hard part was over, right? Wrong. First I had to get the thing started. That proved to be a big pain in the ass. We drained my battery real fast trying to turn over the engine because the rings were so new and tight. We finally got it to turn over with two batteries and a battery charger connected. Once we got it started, the next challenge was to get the timing set right and the valve lash adjusted correctly. After a lot of swearing, bruises and cuts we got it running smoothly.
Now it was time to put it in gear and take it for a spin. Well, not quite. I put a new clutch disk and 3 finger pressure plate in when I replaced the engine and my clutch mechanism would not pull the throw-out bearing far enough to disengage the clutch. After taking the transmission out about 5 times I finally got everything setup and working right. The whole project took much more time and money than I thought it would but I learned a lot in the process. That doesn't mean I want to do it again though.