Stepping outside our comfort zone is something that most people will avoid doing unless absolutely necessary. There are those lucky few who seem to thrive by living life on the edge, but for most of us, there’s something truly unnerving about moving into unexplored territory. I guess I’d place myself somewhere in between. I like to push my limits because I feel it improves me as a person and allows me to grow and learn from the experience. But I’m also cautious when I take these steps and prefer to feel my way around before jumping in head first. This is true for many aspects of my life and off-roading is no exception. Every time I push my limits as a driver or the physical limitations of the FJ, I get nervous, but over the years I have discovered a few tips and tricks that help to reduce the stress. Continue Reading →
I’m currently working on another update to the electrical system and hope to have the article up soon. In the mean time, I thought you all might enjoy a few videos from various excursions over the last few years. These are not professionally shot by any means, but a few friends were kind enough to hang back and take some shots while we played, so I’m more than happy with the results. Over the last couple of years, I’ve discovered that one of the biggest challenges to writing articles is capturing events as they transpire. Whether the format is audio, video or still photograph, and extra pair of hands is usually required to ensure the time line of events is properly tracked.
In the case of installation, it becomes rather a nuisance to have to stop at every step in order to detail progress after the fact. So much of the time, my photographs only tell part of the story. When I have the privilege of participating in off-road events, event capturing will oftentimes translate to standing in the bushes, hanging from tree limbs, or sinking knee-deep in the mud if necessary, in order to do the shots justice. It also means hanging back from the group while everyone else gets to play. For those of you who are willing to go this extra mile, I extend my whole-hearted thanks. Without folks like you, I’d be left with only memories of events past. Continue Reading →
The 11th Annual Coal Mine Cruiser Classic (CMCC) run was another great event with more than 80 registered vehicles and close to twice as many participants. The weather this year was a bit less cooperative on the first day of the three-day event, but after a good solid rain Thursday night, the temps and humidity levels evened out a bit. Like the previous year’s Coal Mine run, event participants were a bit more leisurely in their pace. So after registering, inspections and general trail preparations, I decided to roam around and meet some of the early arrivals. Having attended quite a few sponsored events, I recognized many of the faces, however I’m a bit ashamed to say that names almost always escape me. There were also quite a few new faces among the gathering crowd. I introduced myself to members both old and new and we proceeded to chat about a variety of event-related topics while waiting for the late-comers to arrive.
Last year’s Coal Mine run was a bit disorganized but thankfully there were quite a few folks who stepped up to help out. Jeff and Aida, long-time Land Cruiser owners and enthusiasts, were among the group of volunteers, offering to serve as trail guides for event participants. As I roamed about Thursday morning, I was pleasantly surprised to meet up with Jeff and Aida again as they arrived and prepped their FJ-40 for the day’s activities. When I discovered they would once again be leading, I quickly jumped aboard, adding my FJ to their group. After a few last-minute vehicle checks and CB channel assignments we were heading out of the staging area towards the trails. Continue Reading →
While searching for local off-roading groups in the mid-Atlantic area, I happened across VA4x4.com, a web site that centers around off-roading events in the Virginia, Maryland and D.C. area. Unlike many other web sites which are dedicated to a single brand or model of vehicle, VA4x4 promotes the idea of “open-brand” off-roading, and with a growing member base and a wide range of vehicle types, it’s a concept that’s proven highly successful thus far. Curious to learn more, I signed up as a new member back in April (2010). It wasn’t long after I joined that I learned of a June 5th meet-n-greet at Rausch Creek Off-Road Park (RCORP). I responded excitedly, indicating that I would be in attendance as any trip to Rausch is generally a lot of fun. As it turned out, this event was no exception.
Some of the members arrived the night before and camped out in tents but since I’m a little closer than most, I decided to just drive up the same day. I arrived at the RCORP staging area around 8am where I was introduced to several members of the VA4x4 crew. There was apparently a large event for Xterras scheduled for that same day as well, so the park was busy that morning. After paying the park fees, airing down and seeing to other general trail preparations, we organized into a small group of five vehicles and headed out of the park in search of mud and rocks. Our vehicle line-up consisted of two Toyota truggies, one from an ’88 pickup and one from a former 4Runner, one well-equipped XTerra, an equally-outffitted 80-series Land Cruiser, and myself in an FJ Cruiser. Continue Reading →
Although I have a fair amount of experience driving in off-road conditions, I didn’t really get into off-roading for recreational and sporting purposes until a few years ago. Since that time I’ve come to truly enjoy my time on the trail. It’s no longer about the destination. It really is about the trip along the way. For those of us in the mid-Atlantic region, Rausch Creek Off-Road Park (RCORP) is one of the more favorable locations for off-road enthusiasts. Rausch offers nearly 3000 acres of trails ranging from light-duty fire roads and green-rated river beds, to the more hard-core, black- and red-rated rock crawling obstacles. As my number of recreational trail hours increases, so does my appreciation for the experience as a whole. Surrounded by trees, rocks, water, dirt and mud… it’s a great way to get away from the day-to-day work schedule and even better when you get to spend it with friends.
Up until recently, my trips to Rausch have been based on larger, sponsored events. These types of events are a lot of fun, with a large number of participants and even prizes and a dinner at the end. But there are some downsides to this type of arrangement. The sheer number of participants means that each group will contain an average of six to eight vehicles. Overall, this means a lot more vehicles on the trails which increases the likelihood of having to wait for one or more groups to complete a particular trail section. Because Rausch Creek is fairly large in scale, this is not typically a problem. But it does happen on occasion. A second down side to sponsored events is that they are often vehicle-specific in nature. While most of the events I’ve attended in the past are completely open to other vehicle brands, it is not well advertised and many folks are still unwilling to attend because they would feel out of place. It is for these reasons, primarily, that I decided to organize the Rudimentary Rausch Creek Invitational. Continue Reading →
As much as I’d prefer to keep this blog in sync, I also believe that certain events are worthy of mention, even though they disrupt the chronological order of the posts. It’s been almost ten months since the last Northeast Run at Rausch Creek which means only a couple more months before they do it all over again. That’s right folks, the FJ Northeasters are at it again, playing host to an event chalk-full of excitement, friends and fun! Round three of this annual FJ Cruiser event is scheduled to take place during Easter weekend, specifically the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of April, 2010.
Registration forms are not yet online but should be up shortly for anyone interested. Accommodations for the area can be scarce if you wait until the last minute so I highly suggest researching your options now. The folks at Rausch Creek have made it pretty easy by providing a nice compilation of nearby campgrounds and hotels. So don’t wait. Make those reservations now! Continue Reading →
Just to avoid any possible confusion, the following post details events that occurred during the 2nd Annual FJ Northeast Run, in April of 2009. Event details for the 3rd Annual FJ Northeast Run can be found here.
Despite my mad-dash efforts to complete all mods prior to our first trip to Rausch Creek, I was not able to complete everything I had planned. With some advanced planning, however, I did make remarkable progress towards the end goal, acquiring and installing a host of different options that would make the FJ a bit more capable and the passengers a bit safer. In preparation for a winch and other accessories, I upgraded the electrical system using the Dirty Parts Dual Battery Kit. Having the new Icon suspension now in place, meant ride quality was dramatically improved. The new Nitto Terra grapplers would not only give me additional ground clearance beyond that of the Icon lift, but better traction in the mud and rocky areas too. To increase traction further, I planned to air down the tires prior to hitting the trails. Pressure restoration would be completed with my newly installed Powertank setup. Interior cargo items were now more easily secured using the Springtail Solutions MPAC rack systems and the Gobi ladder and roof rack were also available for any additional cargo that wouldn’t easily fit into the rear of the FJ. And last, but most certainly not least, the BudBuilt skids were now affixed in rock-solid position, awaiting the inevitable clashing of rocks, stumps and whatever else happened to obstruct our path. Continue Reading →
With some of the larger upgrades out of the way, it was time to review the list of smaller items required for the upcoming trip to Rausch Creek. The following items are in no way limited to an FJ Cruiser. These are simply my recommendations for anyone who wishes to travel off-road or longer distances into remote areas.
For those of you looking to attend sponsored off-roading events, a lot of the equipment requirements will depend on who’s hosting the event. Most sanctioned off-roading events will have a list of items that must be present in or on the vehicle, prior to participation. In fact, it’s not uncommon in the larger events for your vehicle to go through a complete inspection before the event begins. Typical checklist items are usually aimed at vehicle and passenger safety and include things like working headlights, wipers, and brakes. Again, many of these requirements come down to the event type and sponsors. Continue Reading →
Given the variety of equipment available for off-road adventures, locating all the necessary parts and pieces for an expeditionary load-out can be more than a little time-consuming. There are a lot of factors to consider when selecting the perfect piece of equipment for your trip. I am by no means an expert in expeditionary trips. As a matter of fact, I have very little experience in this area. But since I am learning as I go, I wanted to avoid as many potential catastrophes as I could. So I came up with my the following list of questions based on a purely-logical, common-sense approach.
I realize that it may not be the most comprehensive list, but so far I’ve found it to be quite useful when purchasing and preparing equipment for any type of overland adventure. I know I can’t prepare for every possible event, but the more time I spend focused on the necessities, the better off I’ll be in the long run. And my plan is to continue adding to the list and tweaking questions as I gain more experience in off-roading and overland travel. Continue Reading →
I’m almost ashamed to admit that it took me well over a year of FJ ownership before I reached a stage where I was comfortable with the thought of trail damage. As a sport, rock crawling is a new thing for me. I’m used to driving off the beaten path through mud, snow, etc. But the concept of intentionally putting a brand new vehicle in harm’s way completely escaped me. I’ve always been taught to take care of the things I own in order to make them last as long as possible. So for the first year or so, I enjoyed the FJ in relatively stock form (minus a few previously mentioned upgrades). That was, at least, until a forum post caught my eye in January of 2009.
The post indicated that one of the better known FJ Cruiser organizations on the Atlantic, the FJ Northeasters, was gathering sponsors and participants for their 2nd annual run at Rausch Creek in Pennsylvania. The key difference between to this event and previous gatherings, was that this particular event focused on folks who were new to rock crawling and trail runs. This became even more obvious as they gathered confirmations for trail types, where the majority of folks who responded to the invitation were signing up for the green-rated trails. For those unfamiliar with color-based trail ratings, the green trails are generally considered the easiest to navigate and are the least likely to result in unwanted damage to your vehicle. Continue Reading →