Ring Gears and Drive Shafts

On Saturday we took another little snowbashing trip up to Seven Mile. There wasn’t much snow at the bottom, but as we climbed in elevation the amount of snow grew. When we reached the meadow there was a couple feet of wind blown crusty snow. Both Jason and I tried it in two wheel drive without any luck. Jeff’s KJ doesn’t have the best snow tires to start with, so he wasn’t doing much even in four wheel drive.

While we were at the meadow Jason noticed his front end making noise. It had been making a clicking sound on our last trip up Johnny Park road, which was only a prelude to it’s complete disintegration at Seven Mile. His front diff was shot, it sounded like the teeth on the ring gear were gone. Fortunately he had a set of chains, or so we thought.

Recently Jason had traded the 35″ Goodyear MTRs on his blazer for a set of 37″ Goodyear MTRs. It was a great deal, but now his chains were too small (actually they were 33″ chains, so may not have worked well on the 35s either). It took us a few minutes, but we with some straps and bungees we were finally able to get the Blazer all chained up. Amazingly enough the ELocker and the chains worked really well, and we were back to doing some wheeling.

We stopped for lunch, and decided that I should lead the pack since my tires were good in the snow, and I had four wheel drive. We set off up road 171 to go around the loop. Usually Jason and the Blazer leads, so breaking trail in the snow added some difficulty. The snow kept getting deeper, and the Scout being all locked up does not like to go straight down the trail. Several times I was steering completely into the skid and the truck kept moving sideways down the trail.

At one point I encountered a fairly large drift, the snow was well over my 35s. I had to make several attempts before I made it through, and during one of those attempts started noticing a pretty significant vibration in the drive train. Jason and Jeff were behind, and didn’t see my amazing blast through the drift, but I had them check on the noise. We figured it was probably a u-joint, and at that point had no choice but to press on. I didn’t have chains, so there were few other options.

We continued on, and at some point I missed the turn off for road 171 and the trail out (by this time we were all getting ready to take our broken rigs home). After another go round, which was easier since we had already made tracks, we got on the right road, but again this was new snow. The trail itself wasn’t bad, but the clearings where different trails met were really deep and hard to get through. Jason got off the trail and stuck at one point, and they had to winch him out. On top of it all, we had an all out blizzard going on.

I was starting to get nervous, both about the deep snow and about the unconventional noises coming from the front of the truck. We had a discussion, and decided to press on. I would lead, and hopefully Jason wouldn’t have too much trouble with just the chains. Fortunately that was at our last rough spot. The trail got a little better, I went a little faster and we started to make it out, until the Scout died.

Last year when we were on Moody Hill I had a wiring problem with the Scout. I was just going down the road and the wiring under the dash caught fire. The wire that burnt up supplied power to the coil, so I was able to just run a new wire from the battery to the coil and bypass the whole thing. I’m planning on rewiring the whole truck, but it hasn’t worked out yet. I had also added a toggle switch to this wire so I could conveniently start and stop the truck. The additional power wire bypassed the ignition switch.

As we were headed down the trail, my toggle switch decided to quit working and the truck quit. It took a few minutes, to determine the problem, but once we bypassed the switch we were up and going again. A few minutes later we were back to the main road, the sun was shining and everything was good in the world again.

After we stopped, we took a closer look at the Scout. It looks like my CV joint on the front driveshaft is shot. The angle on the front driveshaft is really bad, and we knew it was just a matter of time before either the CV or the u-joint blew up.

It was a good trip, but now both Jason and I have some work to do. Our annual Walden Sand Dunes trip is coming up in a couple months. I have to figure out a new plan for the driveshaft, while he has to figure out how to fix his front end so he stops having ring gear problems. Watch for more on both of these issues soon…

Walden Sand Dunes – 2008

Every Memorial Day we head to the North Sand Hills near Walden Colorado. This year was no exception.

Generally the dunes are extremely busy over Memorial day, but this year was different. With gas near $4.00/gallon and a tornado going through Windsor the week before, the sand dunes were unusually quiet.

We all spent the weeks prior to the trip trying to get everything running. Since everything was last minute, we broke a LOT of stuff. Here is a record of the Carnage:

Day 1 – Friday
When we pulled into a gas station in Ft Collins, Seth accidentally ran one of the trailers into a cement post near the gas pump.

Rob’s truck has transmission problems on the way to Laramie. He was pulling Jeff’s jeep on the trailer, so we had to re-arrange everything.

Jeff’s XJ had several problems. Missing TV cable on the transmission, front diff problems, transfer case problems etc…

The front diff in Jason’s Blazer broke after a late night foray into a snowbank. Amazing how quick you can break things with a 454.

Day 2 – Saturday
Tried to ride the buggy. It ran, so it’s not quite in the broken list, but it had serious issues. The Arctic Cat 500 2-stroke doesn’t like the sand dunes.

Jeff’s Wolverine had serious problems. Didn’t want to run right. Jeff took the carb apart, pulled the plug, checked the air filter, nothing seemed to help.

Day 3 – Sunday
Jeff’s Pickup got stuck, while pulling him out the tow hooks and bumper came off.

Rob got his truck running, took it up on the dunes, jumped it a couple times after which it promptly caught on fire.

Day 4 – Monday
Fortunately nothing broke on Monday, and we got everything hitched up an hauled home.

Another trip to the dunes in the books. Hopefully next year will be less expensive and less stuff will break.

See all the pictures in the Walden Sand Dunes 2008 photo gallery.

Moab – March 7-9 2008 – Day 2

After a good night’s rest, we got up and headed for the trail. Last year when we were out for the Easter Jeep Safari, we scouted around and ended up at the far end of the Kane Creek Canyon trail. We decided then and there we wanted to do that trail next time we were in Moab.

Things started off great. After the first mile or so we stopped and another group on four wheelers caught up with us. We stopped and visited with them, checked our bikes and continued on.

I took the lead as I had the previous day on Top of the World, and that worked well. My machine was a little quicker than the big 4×4 machines, so I could go through the sandy sections of the trail around the creek bottom. At what I’m going to guess is about the 7 or 8 mile mark, the trail splits. The Jeep trail goes up the side of the canyon, and the ATV section drops back down along the creek.

At this point the four of us stopped for a drink and short break. There were two trucks on the Jeep trail, the second one (I think it was a pathfinder) was having difficulty with an obstacle. The geniuses had tied a tow strap to a boulder just about the trail, and were using a handyman jack as a come-along to try and winch the truck over the obstacle. Jed, Jason and I all stopped and immediately commented on the folly of their winching procedure. 5 seconds after we had that discussion, the boulder fell.

I actually purposely didn’t snap a pic as the rock fell. I really didn’t want a picture of someone dying. Fortunately, the rock hit the trail next to the truck (not on top of it) and everyone was OK. As soon as I was sure everything was all right, I did get that shot of the rock while the dust was still in the air.

We continued on down the trail which goes about another 2.5 miles. There are several obstacles which are extremely difficult. We met back up with the guys we had seen at the beginning of the trail, and it took several of us to get the bikes across some of the obstacles. Going down wasn’t bad, but we decided to turn around and head back not long after that. Heading back up the obstacles was a little more tricky and took two or three guys on each bike to get them up.

Everything had gone great up to this point, but as we headed back, disaster struck…

Jason had taken the lead, but I had grown to like leading on the way in, so decided to pass him. The trail split, part going up on the bank, and part going through the creek. I decided to take the creek to see if I could head him off at the pass. I was going rather fast, and didn’t quite see the large rock jutting out from the canyon wall. The water had gotten rather deep, and once I did see the rock I was unable to avoid it. I took the rock with the right front tire. The bike came to an immediate stop, but somehow I was able to stay on and not fall in the water. If I had fallen in the creek it would have been much worse. The temperature was only in the 50s and there would have been a real danger of hypothermia.

After the crash, I tried to ride the bike up out of the Creek, and noticed the damage. The new, heavy duty, tie rod I had just put on had broken. I didn’t have a spare with me (something that won’t happen again since I have broken a tie rod twice now).

At this point we were 9 miles in on the trail, and had no idea how we were going to get my bike out. We removed the right front wheel and tried to ride it out on three wheels, but that wasn’t an option. I couldn’t do it, and Jed, who is a better rider than I, couldn’t either.

We finally decided to make a ‘gurney’ and tow it out. With a little help from the guys in the pathfinder we were able to find a suitable tree limb, tie it to the back of Jed’s Polaris, and tie it to the bottom of the Warrior. Delbert’s machine had two seats, so I was able to ride back in comfort.

It was a long trip back, but we were able to get the Warrior back to the trailer and loaded up. We then decided to head up Hurrah Pass for the great view. It was just dusk, so we dropped the Warrior, I hopped back on with Delbert, and we were off. Delbert is a great rider, but being on the back of that rig was downright scary. He was powersliding corners, and really just riding faster than I was comfortable with. I held on and prayed a lot.

We got up on the pass, and stopped to take in the spectacular view. It was just getting dark, so we headed back down, loaded up and headed to town. With our riding (at least my riding) done for the weekend, we just grabbed some dinner and turned in.

Moab – March 7-9 2008 – Day 1

This spring, end of March, the week before the Easter Jeep Safari, Jason, Jed, Jed’s co-worker Delbert and I made a jaunt out to Moab. Fuel has been high, so Jed offered to drive his Dodge with the Cummins Diesel, and take his toy hauler. We had more machines than the toy hauler could handle, so we used Jason’s small trailer as well.

We started out Friday morning, and headed west over the mountains. It’s about a 6 hour drive from Loveland to Moab. We took the back way in from I-25, and decided to hit the Top of the World trail before we even went to the campground. We unloaded our bikes and everyone jumped on.

One thing to note about this trip, Jason was riding his Suzuki 500 4×4, Jed was riding his Polaris 600 4×4, Delbert was riding his Bombardier Outlander Max (a HUGE machine) and I was riding my 1988 Yamaha Warrior 350 2×4. Needless to say I was both underpowered, and trying to take what is mostly a sport machine over some of the roughest trails there are.

So, we started on on Top of the World, and I was struggling a little. About halfway up the trail I realized that my bike worked much better if I could keep up a consistent speed. While the 4×4 machines were able to crawl over obstacles, I had to hit the rough terrain with more velocity for everything to work well. Once I figured that out, I took the lead, and was the first one to the end of the trail. The view from the top was amazing, and while the trail doesn’t end abruptly, it can kind of sneak up on you and be a little surprising.

After achieving the summit, and enjoying the view, we turned around and headed back. It was still daylight, so we took another trail that led down by the river. We followed this for a couple miles, and finally just stopped and watched the sunset.

We got back to the truck about the time it started getting dark. Since this was March, it was still a bit cool out, but not too bad. We loaded everything up and headed in to the campground. Once we found our camp spot, we went to the Moab Diner and grabbed some dinner, came back to the campground and turned in anticipating a big day on Saturday.

Be sure to look at the photo gallery of our trip to Moab