Day 66 – Rubicon Springs

jeepersPart of the deal of my 50th year is that I get to try new things and go to new places.  The Rubicon is part of that.  Last year we attended Jeeper’s Jamboree, a great little camping trip, they provide three meals a day, a band, a raffle, in other words, a great party.  In 2012, there were 1700 people there for an anniversary year, it had been 60 years since the first Jeeper’s trip.  We were excited to attend, I had never been on the Rubicon before, but because we were traveling from Tennessee to get there, we were late getting there.  It was Friday before we arrived, so we snuck in the back way, down Cadillac to find a camping spot right near the helipad.  It was a great trip, but we didn’t have time to run the whole Rubicon trail.  Enter 2013, we planned better and only had to come from Washington this time.  On top of that, only 600 people were there, so there was a whole lot more room.

Of course, Rich still thought we were late, we ended up delayed for a day in Redmond with some repair issues, but nothing serious.  We got parked at Donner Ski Ranch on Wednesday night, packed the XJ and on Thursday morning we headed in to Georgetown, California to pick up our wristbands.  A quick stop in Auburn for groceries and we were on our way.  The first stop after Georgetown was Uncle Tom’s.  It’s a little beer joint at the end of the road, dogs are welcome, as long as they live there, people are welcome, as long as you can behave and have $3 to pay for a beer.  We milled around for a bit, talked to the locals and then headed to Loon Lake, the start of the trail.  Four hours later we found ourselves swimming at Buck Island, an hour after that we were pulling in to the historical Rubicon Springs.  The area has been traveled for a hundred years, it has been improved, but it is not a road.  Much of the area goes through National Forest, other pieces are private property, including the Springs.  There are many parts of the trail that are named, some still open, some not.  Little Sluice, Chappie’s Rock, Gatekeeper, Ellis Creek, Walker Hill, Soup Bowl, Thousand Dollar Hill, Indian Trail, Big Sluice.  Rich pointed them out to me as we passed either through or by them.

The weekend was great, just as last year was.  Lots of fun, lots of laughter, we swam in the river daily, talked with great friends, made new ones.  A recommended trip for anyone.  The best part for me was finally being able to check off The Rubicon Trail from my life list.  This was the first time I got to go through the whole trail.  If ever you are looking for a “wheeling” trip, this is one that you should consider.  Jeeper’s Jamboree takes care of all the hard parts, as a participant, you just need to come with a capable rig, a great attitude and a little bit of party spirit to have a good time.


Day 272 – Wheelin’ California

johnson valleyJust two days ago we were north of the Phoenix area wheelin’ some virgin ground for a race course, today we spent the day in the California desert wheelin’ some space that is very well known.  Johnson Valley lies east of LA, between 29 Palms and Apple Valley, there is a nice little mountain range with a dry lake bed on it.  It is used primarily by people on motorized vehicles of some sort.  We saw everything today from motorcycles and ATV’s to 650 hp buggies out there.

We played in the sand a little bit with some guys that are testing their vehicles for the big event coming up next month.  The King of the Hammers is a race that happens every February.  It is an Ultra4 event, so we know a ton of people participating, from the promoter to some of the UTV stock guys and a lot of folks in between.  This is the race all aspire to be in.  We will be out there camped on the lake bed for a couple of weeks ourselves.  It’s a great time to spend time with friends from all over the country and to get acquainted with new ones.

Today was purely a social call, we were a little afraid of breaking the Jeep today, so we didn’t play on the rocks.  It just didn’t make sense with our next destination.  We are headed out on a Mexican Riviera cruise for the next week and didn’t want to miss the boat.  My goal is to write every day we are away, but not post until we get to port.  My Mexican Tel-Cel card will work there, and is so easy, even I can do it.  Besides, there will be too much to do to worry about posting too!  Have an awesome week everyone, bon voyage.

Day 274 – Wheelin’ Arizona

2013-01-04_10-59-49_92Sun shining, temps in the low 60’s, a dirt/rock road, it doesn’t get much better than this.  Ok, maybe a few more degrees on the thermometer, but it’s hard to beat the Northwest Arizona desert.  The rocks and boulders are huge, the Saguaro are stately, birds abound.  We spent the day doing a little off-roading and a little hiking, our goal today was to make sure we could put together a race course on some private property north of Congress, Arizona.  What we really got to do was spend time together doing what we love, being outside, adventuring.

Top off a day like today with cooking for good friends in their kitchen and I am one happy camper.  Thanks to Charlene and Matt for putting us up, or is that putting up with us?  They are watching our cat, Callie, while we go off on a little sea cruise this next week.  Have you met Callie?  She is our traveling cat.  A calico that has been in the family for years, when we moved out of our home in December 2011, she moved with us.  She had picked our family out of all the neighborhood families about 8 or 9 years ago, no one really remembers, we just know she moved in on her own accord.  She’s old and pretty passive, likes to do a little exploring, but doesn’t generally wander too far from the trailer.  She goes with us everywhere, when we are going to be away from the trailer for more than a couple of days, we find someone to come visit her.  While we were in Baja, a friends’ 16 year old daughter visited her daily; when we went to Montana, she went with us – she spent most of her days on the bed in the hotel watching the Travel Channel.  During the “season” she moves from place to place with us, she loves when the drivers start coming in for the weekend, you can tell she thinks they have come to see her.

The one thing Callie doesn’t really like is other animals.  She doesn’t have front claws so she doesn’t start a fight, but she does hiss and carry on when they get too close.  Most dogs ignore her, which she likes just fine, this week she is staying with another cat.  Piston has always been an off-road cat, he came out of Oroville, California a couple of years ago as a kitten, a little bit of a tweeker, he is playful, very playful.  We were a bit nervous getting the two together, apart from the age difference, the attitude difference is huge.  Piston likes to be in your face, Callie is more indifferent.  It’s been fun watching the two interact.  Piston has been great, he just wants to play and he succeeds in sneaking up on Callie over and over again.  Callie has taken to high ground, or at least defensible space, I think she’s hoping he will get tired of her.  We’ll see how the week progresses when we pick her back up in 10 days.  In the meantime, this is what life looked like this morning for the two of them.


Day 353 – I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.

After over three years together, Rich finally took me wheeling…with me behind the wheel.  We have a 1992 XJ that is pretty well built, we picked it up last April at Easter Jeep Safari from Danny when our Grand Cherokee had had enough.  It was a necessity and a quick purchase.  We needed something that could be used as a motorized wheelbarrow and also as a grocery getter.  The XJ is perfect for that, it has a Detroit in the back and an ARB in the front, new 33” Pro Comps and some gorgeous black wheels (who knew I would ever be able to speak this language?)

The XJ

We are still packing up from the race last Saturday and had some extra time, Rich suggested a ride in the Jeep, so we could “inspect” the race course.  I’m pretty sure he and Josh managed to do that the day before, but I was game, especially when he said I could drive.  Rather than drop me off the start line, we entered at the pit road crossing and drove back to the start/finish line, around the course – all 4.89 miles of it.  As we started, Rich let me do things on my own, and then made suggestions, I corrected pretty quickly.  I’ve never really driven a four wheel drive, but I have certainly been in the car for lots of wheeling experiences.  Once he saw what I could do, he just coached me where he thought I needed it, on the climbs and the drops in particular, told me where to line up my tires, what gear I should be in.  The most important thing he told me is that I should be driving with my eyes 30 yards up the trail so I knew what was coming up.  I did all the climbs ok, went down one of the drops pretty hard and slammed the bumper, but the rest I did ok.  He’s a great coach.

Wheeling is part of our life together, just a few months after we had gotten together, Rich took me to Baja.  It was just a quick trip, we didn’t even stay for the race, just Contingency at the Baja 500.  We drove down through Tecate and headed to San Felipe for the first night.  I was introduced to the best shrimp tacos on the planet that evening at a little place called Adriana’s on the Malecon.  The next day we drove up to Mike’s Sky Ranch, it’s a bit of a gnarly trail going up, but just bumpy mostly.  We ate the traditional steak dinner with tortillas and drank the homemade tequila at the bar before retiring to our tiny room when the generator was turned off at ten.  The next morning after breakfast we headed out the back side of Mike’s towards Ensenada.  The back side is a much hairier version of the in road.  I kicked back in my seat with my foot on the dash and watched Rich drive, as I looked out over the cliff I couldn’t help thinking, “I wonder how long it takes them to find the bodies?”  But not a word did I say.  We finally were off the cliff face and down through a rock waterfall when he stopped.  He looked at me expectantly and I looked him in the eye and asked, “So, did I pass?”


“Did I pass?  I know that was a test, did I pass?”

He busted up laughing, “Yeah, you passed.”

I knew I had, I just wanted him to know I knew it was a test.  Next time we are at Mike’s I wonder if he will let me drive the cliff face, I’m betting not, he probably knows how long it takes to find the bodies.