Check out the newest footage added to the Videos section of the site. These latest videos were all shot during the 2011 FJ Northeasters event at Rausch Creek Off-Road Park in Pennsylvania. We spent two fun days running blue trails, many of which were overrun with water flow and mud. But despite the high water, drizzling fog, and lower-than-normal temperatures, it was still a great time with great folks. For anyone else who is interested in attending this event in the future, you can get more details at the FJ Northeasters forums. In my opinion, this is one of the best events to attend, whether you’re new to off-roading or an old-school rock crawler. Thanks again to Tony and Rich for all the video capture and a huge thanks to Pete, Jacques, Brian and all the other organizers who help put this event together every year! I hope to see many of you again soon at future Rausch Creek events!
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 →
One of the more common complaints heard in reference to driving an FJ Cruiser is the lack of visibility from within the cabin. Sadly, many test drivers move on to purchase alternate platforms because of this very issue, never getting to experience all those other features that make the FJ Cruiser great. Admittedly, the pillars in the FJ are rather sizable. But the side visibility problem is easily eliminated with two $3 convex mirrors, and rearward visibility can also be somewhat resolved by selecting Toyota’s optional backup sensors or camera package. With these solutions in place, the average daily driver and commuter should not have any problems safely navigating most paved suburban streets. Mountain trails, muddy ravines and boulder-strewn rock gardens are a separate issue, however.
When venturing off-pavement, visibility becomes a key factor in determining the path your vehicle will travel to reach its destination. Although I believe Toyota did an outstanding job designing the FJ Cruiser in general, the height of the stock doors is simply not conducive to good visibility on the trail. One option would be to remove the stock doors altogether but this option leaves the front passengers somewhat vulnerable to branches and other flying debris and is actually illegal in some states for safety reasons. So the logical solution to this problem is to replace the stock doors with an aftermarket alternative – one that improves the view from the driver’s seat but still offers some amount of safety and protection. On that note, I’d like to introduce you to Metal Tech’s tube door for the FJ Cruiser. Continue Reading →
It’s that time of year again folks! The countdown has officially begun and as of this writing, we’re less than 90 days away from one of my favorite runs of the year. The FJ Northeasters run is hosted by FJNortheasters.org and our friends at Rausch Creek Off-Road Park in Tremont, Pennsylvania. The park features miles upon miles of trails with ratings ranging from mild green to hard-core red. There something for everyone at Rausch Creek so I highly encourage anyone even remotely interested in this event to attend. This year’s (2011) run is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, the 22nd and 23rd of April. Like previous years, the FJ Northeaster is officially slated as a two day event, however, attendees are more than welcome to stick around on Sunday as well for an informal day of trails.
Currently, event organizers behind the scenes are busily working to get registration forms online, arrange for sponsors, etc. I am told they hope to have the registration web site ready in a week or two. But like most events of this size, it takes a lot of hard work and coordination to make it all come together. So please be patient and in the mean time, hit up the FJ Cruiser or FJ Northeaster forums for more details. I’ll update this post with a registration link once the forms are up and ready to go. I look forward to seeing those of you who regularly attend and hope to see a fresh batch of new faces as well. See you on the trails!
The registration form is now live and ready for sign-up! Once again, I’d like to remind everyone that even though this event is FJ-centric, registration is completely open to anyone who wants to join in the fun. There are no limits based on vehicle brand or manufacturer. If you’re looking for a great gathering of folks and enjoy wheeling, rock crawling, or off-roading in general, the FJ Northeasters run is a great event to attend.
When it comes to modifying the FJ my goal has always been to achieve increased capability without negatively impacting vehicle performance. There’s no doubt that a vehicle designed for hardcore off-roading is going to witness its share of bruises. And the greater the number of modifications, the greater the chances that the stock integrity will be affected. My FJ Cruiser began its life as a daily commuter that saw occasional off-road use. Over the last four years of ownership, the scales have definitely tipped in favor of off-roading. It’s still my daily commuter, but my upgrade priorities now lean towards off-road conditions, rather than worrying so much about what kind of mileage I can achieve. To that end, it’s time to roll back the clock once again, to retroactively discuss one of the best possible modifications available for FJ Cruiser owners.
October of 2009 was a great month for my FJ Cruiser, and probably one of the most significant in terms of upgrades. I had spent the previous month or so analyzing my FJ’s performance characteristics in great detail in an effort to determine my next upgrade path. One of the immediate drawbacks to note was performance on inclines. Although the FJ comes stock with a 2.56:1 transfer case gear ratio, the gearing even in LOW/LOW leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to steep hills. Extremely rocky terrain can also prove frustrating since drivers can find themselves in constant “brake” mode, where their foot never leaves the pedal. On flat terrain, riding the brakes can indeed be an effective method for controlling forward momentum. But on inclines where the surface is loose or slippery, hitting the brakes can lead to disastrous results. The question is, what can FJ owners do to improve this situation? 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 →
As the ratio of off-pavement to on- tips in favor of the dirt path, I’ve found myself in need of a slightly more aggressive tire. For a daily commuter and general off-road use, the Nitto Terra Grappler is a great all-around choice. I ran this tire for roughly 40k miles, wearing the tread to approximately 50 percent of its original depth. For those less familiar with Nitto’s tire line, the Terra Grappler is Nitto’s answer to the all-terrain, and a great answer at that. The Grapplers ran relatively quiet, emitting a slightly higher tone than the BFGoodrich T/A KOs they replaced. As the miles accumulated on these tires, the noise levels did increase, but not disturbingly so. The tires performed admirably through light mud and rock but in heavier conditions, especially after the tread began to wear, they exhibited a noticeable loss in traction. This became even more apparent during a recent snow storm that left us trapped in almost four feet of drift. Since performance has always been a key component in building the FJ, I decided it was time for an upgrade.
For a lot of folks, selecting the next set of tires for your vehicle is as simple as replacing the existing set with a new set of the same brand. This is one of the primary reasons why opinions on “the best tire” are so limited. It’s commonplace for consumers to stick to a single brand/model of tire for the lifetime of their vehicle – the theory being that if it works, keep using it. This is the primary reason why I ran BFGoodrich all-terrains for so many years. It was a good all-purpose tire that suited my needs very well in most scenarios. But based on price as well as the reviews provided for the Nitto Terra Grapplers, I took a chance at the time, and switched brands to try something new. And I’m glad I did. I definitely preferred the Nitto all-terrains over BFG’s offering. Not to say it was a better tire but simply that I preferred the look and performance of the Nitto design. Since all-terrains had proven repeatedly that they lacked the necessary traction to get through the tougher obstacles, I decided to try something a bit more extreme this go-around, opting for a mud-terrain tire instead. 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 →