No plan, No problem, One will present itself

Recce01

Adventurer
A few quick things about us:
Me= Scott
My Wife= Bris
We have familiarized ourselves with all things off-road over the years. If it happens in the dirt, generally speaking, we are enthusiasts. We are currently very interested in adventure. We are learning more and more every time we hit the road, last weekend we learned a lot and had a ton of fun.

Oh, and I have a long way to go to provide you guys with images like I have seen on this forum. There is some incredible photography on this site:Wow1:, I hope to do a better job in the future :)

Day 1
I am no stranger to adventure; my employment has taken me to the depths of the Baja peninsula, well into South America, and even on this little rally called the Dakar. These were all adventures out of necessity, it was my job. More importantly than that, it was always done in a large group with other people's equipment and resources. I have recently left the wild world of sleepless nights and 23 hour work days, blowing the proverbial kiss “bye bye” to motorsports. That does not mean that I won't entertain the opportunity to participate again, however I have shifted my focus to more of a family oriented lifestyle. I recently married and have started to look at things a little differently, perhaps actually growing up a little. (I will keep this forum a secret from my wife so she can't get in here and rebut my statements.) With this shift in perspective I found myself reflecting upon my past experiences, where I had been, what I had seen. Ironically, I have been all over the planet and can barely remember a damn thing. The Motorsport life does not allow for that few extra minutes of time to stop and smell the roses, enjoy that amazing view, or pull off on that turn out for the ultimate photo op. Instead I have some video floating around of me doing 45mph through the Sahara desert passed out behind the wheel of a Hummer H1. My team mates thought it was funny so they let me sleep for about 45 minutes while driving… it's not like you can hit anything, right? Well that got me thinking quite a bit. I want to get out and see the world, on my watch with my game plan. Sure, it would be awesome to hit the road on a different continent again, and see all the things I missed while on someone else's watch, but hell, there is a never ending amount of beauty right here in my Southern California backyard. Because I lived the motorsport dream, I have a ton of random skill and zero money. I managed to scrape up the resources for a vehicle to help me on my new found mission. A fairly clean 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee with a ridiculous number of miles on the odometer presented itself, and we scooped it up.



I had to rip these running boards off straight away...



I have some experience with Jeep ZJ's as I had one some 15 years ago….wait, yeah, that means I am getting old :). Oh well, back to the point. My ZJ was used for a tech article in JP Magazine back when Rick Pewe was editor.





I guess you could say we were pioneering the soccer mom rigs out on the trail. I can remember guys in their FJ40s and CJs just giving me hell when we would turn up to local events. That all came to a screeching halt when they saw my open diff rig climb stuff their locked up rigs struggled to d :). Truth be told, I wanted a Land Rover Disco, D90, or D110, but they were just too damn expensive. I settled for the ZJ because it shared the same style suspension, coils all the way around. It did the job just fine and taught me a lot. At the time I worked with Safari Gard and had to see those Rovers coming in and out of the shop all day long. I even had the pleasure of pulling one out of a ditch; made me smile. Anyways, the Jeep we recently scored seemed like it could serve the purpose and get us to where we wanted to go. I am done with the hard core crawling style and am just looking for a little adventure.
 
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Recce01

Adventurer
Day 1 continued

My wife came home the Wednesday before President’s Day weekend and said, “Let’s go out of town this weekend; let’s load the Jeep and just hit the road”. I, of course asked her where she wanted to go, and she said the ultimate words, “It doesn’t matter”. This is my favorite kind of road trip. I have come to learn that the best plan is no plan. When you don’t have a plan, one presents itself. So I decided to rummage through my archives of crap in the garage and see if I could resurrect some of my old goodies. I located my old Lowrance Eagle Accutrail GPS, my old President HR2600 converted CB Radio, and some off-road lights I came up on a few years ago. So Thursday I set out to outfit“ish” our Jeep for our little trip to who knows where? I didn’t want to mount anything too permanent as the equipment we were sporting was old and would certainly be replaced as we got more into this “overlanding” game. I whipped up a suction cup mount system for the GPS using some old back up camera parts, and fashioned a mount for the antenna and double side taped it to the roof.











 

Recce01

Adventurer
I ended up breaking out the tig welder to mount the lights and burned the light bar to the unibody in effort to save time. I hate drilling holes. I figured I could cut it off as fast as I welded it on so what the hell, right?








The CB was a different story, we had no place to mount it, no antenna, no microphone and no power cord, so we threw it in and figured we could find the parts on the road.

We started out on the 15 fwy heading north from Temecula. Our first stop was at a truck stop off of the 10 fwy where there were a few CB shops. We went in and secured a power cord and a microphone. He had to wire the mic because the damn HR2600 was not your typical CB. We paid him. He didn’t have the antenna, so he sent us elsewhere to pick one up. We drove about ¼ mile away to another shop where he sold us a Wilson 5000 magnet mount antenna and matched it up to our vehicle. We were on the road again!



This about the time my wife broke out the map and got on the phone with Lowrance to see about having an email sent to us with a PDF of instructions for our GPS. I forgot how to operate the damn thing. We find out the model is so old they don’t have a manual archived for it, so we got one that was similar and started to figure it out. The only request I had for my wife was that I didn’t want to go to any tourist traps. I wanted to get out there and experience nature. She said let’s go to Death Valley then, and we were off.
 

Recce01

Adventurer
Day 1 Continued

We decided to head up HWY 395 to about Ridgecrest and head over from there. We took the Searles Station cutoff and headed up to Trona on the 178. We stopped in Trona and fueled the Jeep. While at the station, my wife (while looking at the map) mentioned a town called Darwin, and a place called Darwin Falls. She is a big fan of the fact of evolution, so this caught her eye. Later we found out this place has nothing to do with Charles Darwin, but it was still fun to speculate about. We were relating the idea that the place must be very remote, rugged and how “only the strong survive”. It made for good conversation anyways. So we blasted up the 178 until we reached Panamint Valley Road. We headed left there and took it all the way to the 190. We went left on the 190 and passed through a place called Panamint Springs where they had one gas station, we saw the $4.36 a gallon and kept on driving.



. Just out of town there was a small dirt road on the left called Old Toll Road, or the road to Darwin Falls. It was evening by now and the sun was just crashing.







We knew we had to find a camping spot before it got too late and get settled in for the night. We bumped into an older gentleman with his dog who had a 4x4 truck with a camper. He’d set up his camp on the side of the road. According to what he said, it was illegal to camp within the Death Valley park unless in a dedicated place (i.e. tourist trap). He also said according to his map he was just outside of the park and intended to stay the night. That meant that by his reasoning anything further up the road was fair game. We found a spot about a ¼ mile up the road from him where there was a wash we could drive up and be hidden from the main road.



There is nothing worse than a ranger waking you up and telling you that you need to move after settling in for the night. As insurance we found a “hiding spot” that seemed as though it would work and would be fairly safe should the rain come in as projected. I was hoping we wouldn’t have any rain and kept telling myself “It’s Death Valley, it doesn’t rain here”. Ignorance WAS bliss. We got all set up, broke out the generator, grill, and fired up some dinner. Yea, I know… generator? Well, we like to embrace technology even though we are visiting the most barren parts of earth.



 

Recce01

Adventurer
We were greeted by headlights just as we headed to the tent for some snooze. Then we heard the noise of a front wheel drive rental car begging for traction as it was being forced to negotiate our same sand wash. The noise of the rocks pounding on the inner fender wells and grazing the body were humorous, and only upstaged by the two German tourists that were trying to avoid BS camping fees and struggling to get to their own little getaway. Their banter back and forth regarding what I imagine to be two differing opinions regarding the optimum location to stop, was really funny. We could hear the lady (Inga) yelling at the guy (Peter) to stop as he was just burying the front of this poor rental. They finally compromised and gave up, leaving us to our own little paradise a ways up the wash. We did head down and introduce ourselves for some reason, still not sure why. I imagine it is because I didn’t want to be shot by some yahoos who potentially decided to bring their 50 Cal sniper rifle to the desert and decide this was the best canyon in which to shoot :REOutShootinghunter . Either way, it worked out, and we were off to bed. Before we crashed we shot a pic of the GPS, and here are the coordinates…... N36 19.336' W117 30.575'



http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=N36+19.336'+W+117+30.575'&aq=&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=40.545434,76.552734&ie=UTF8&z=16

Obviously his calculations were slightly off...... We were in the park :smilies27

As we finally drifted off to sleep we heard small rain drops. I told my wife if it begins to rain we are packing up and sleeping in the Jeep. She convinced me everything would be ok and we tried to get some shut eye. It was a very long night to say the least. It was as if it rained all night with the wind blowing to 50 plus MPH. The strange thing was it never did both at the same time. The rain would stop, and a very loud noise would start barreling down on us, then the tent would jump up and shift as far as it could to one side then back the other way. I thought we were going to be a damn kite or have to use our air mattress as a floatation device in the case of a flash flood. I was genuinely scared out of my mind, with my wife in la-la land enjoying random dreams. I don’t know how she slept through that, but we survived. We woke up about 7:30 AM dry as a bone, with the top portion of our tent MIA. It had blown off and we didn’t even realize it.

Lessons Learned:
….. Find out if it is legal to camp, or hide damn good.
…..Don’t camp in rain….ever.
…..Do not camp in a wash, flash flood equals death. (Darwin relation earlier not so funny now.) We survived but at the expense of my sleep, scared poopless.
…..Tent stakes are a necessity even when the tent has a bunch of crap holding it down.
 
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GCRad1

Adventurer
AWESOME START!!! Subscribed! :lurk:

So Recce01, do you have some reason or fear of rain for some unknow reason?:REExeSwimmingHL:

Keep the story coming!
 

Recce01

Adventurer
AWESOME START!!! Subscribed! :lurk:

So Recce01, do you have some reason or fear of rain for some unknow reason?:REExeSwimmingHL:

Keep the story coming!
Thanks man! Yes, rain scares me. It was 1998 while camping in the Mountains above Palmdale for the "Rim of the World Rally". we were eager spectators, and I selpt in 3" of water.....never again.

Coming.......
 

Recce01

Adventurer
Day 2.....on the road again :)

Day 2


We decided to get up and make tracks. After a brief discussion we agreed that we would keep going on the same trail as it appeared to go all the way to a town called Darwin. We never did see the Darwin Falls, We didn’t even think about them again until hours later. Funny how one can easily forget the reason for going some place after arrival. It was more about the adventure and getting there than anything else. As we headed further up the trail we were greeted with some rough terrain. I think this is the first time I really thought about the tires (or lack there of) we had on the Jeep. They were “pizza cutters” as us off-road racers so affectionately refer to them. That means I need to pay attention, or get out the tools to change tires. I put the Jeep in 4-low and just crept through the rough spots. It seemed to be working fine. We had the pleasure of stopping at four or five different spots and see some very old mining equipment and mine shafts.









 

GCRad1

Adventurer
oh, forgot about that one... thought it was the WRC trip... hehehehe

Thanks man! Yes, rain scares me. It was 1998 while camping in the Mountains above Palmdale for the "Rim of the World Rally". we were eager spectators, and I selpt in 3" of water.....never again.

Coming.......
 

Recce01

Adventurer
Day 2 continued

It was cool and creepy at the same time to dare to walk into some of these caverns, but I figured what the heck, I had a flashlight, another person, and was dying of curiosity. There was a strange aroma in one of the caves, we headed out quicker than you can imagine. We have taken tours in the past where they have shown us mine shafts, and expressed the strange smelling gasses that can actually kill you if exposed for too long. Not in the mood for Death today, so we moved on. There were a few spots where I got to see what the Jeep was capable of in stock form. It seemed to do quite well, not that I was in the position to really find the limits of its ability. Stuff like that happens 5 minutes from the house, not a day’s drive away :ylsmoke:







 

Ludedude

Adventurer
That is a very scary shaft. Do yourself a favor and don't venture into any more of those unless you really know what you're looking at.



Otherwise, great trip report so far :)
 

Recce01

Adventurer
Day 2 continued

Next we found ourselves in a precarious position. We came upon a fork in the road, a fork that was nonexistent on our 2005 California road and freeway map, LOL. We decided to flip a coin. My wife wasn't in the mood to decide, she didn't want to make the “wrong” decision, and I am getting older so I am as indecisive as all get out. “Heads right, tails left”. Tails it was and we are off to the left. This led into an awesome sand wash with a road down the middle of it. This was about 6 miles long and took us through a few different canyons with incredible evidence of erosion and different rock materials. There were also several things that caught my attention like a pipe in the ground with a lock on it and a few old mining spots with some cool underground stuff that we were scared to explore.



















 
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Recce01

Adventurer
Day 2 continued

We left the wash and headed up what seemed to be an old asphalt road. This road led over a small mountain range and into what appeared to be civilization, Darwin. Darwin was a small community of 35 people who have decided to live the simple life. Many of which are artists who spend their time making random pieces of art out of the remnants of a once thriving mining community. Our visit was short lived as we found ourselves negotiating tourists as well as the local roads. We headed out of Darwin and began looking at the map for our next destination.












My wife picked up a map back in Trona at the local service station. Of course this is one of those “come on in” type maps so I was hesitant to head to any of the spots. She had her heart set on Scotty’s Castle and the Ubehebe Crater. She is studying to be an astronomer, so we are into all things space, including space rocks that smack into earth.  We decided to jump back onto 190 and head back toward Panamint Springs and turn off onto Saline Valley Road to go into Ubehebe and Scotty’s Castle the back way. At the turn off we noticed a bunch of KTM adventure riders getting set to head out on a journey as well as a nice Toyota 4 Runner and a Mercedes SUV, both well equipped.

 

Recce01

Adventurer
Day 2 continued

We stopped to ask a few questions about the journey, and see if any of these guys had experience here. The Toyota 4 runner owner was busy airing down, and didn’t seem in the mood to answer our questions. I think he was even further put off by our inquiry when he began to look over our half *** attempt at an overland rig. He commented on the Pizza Cutters and immediately dismissed the idea of us making the same journey they were about to embark on. He seemed to warm up a bit and give us some valuable info. He said that in my Jeep’s current state it would be extremely difficult to negotiate the pass on Hunter Mountain Rd. especially due to snow after the storm we had endured last night. I am not one to turn down a challenge, but I am also not stupid. His rig was extremely well equipped, and had that weathered feel to it. He expressed that he had done the pass 4 times before and was especially nervous about this year’s attempt. He also let us know that this was a fairly big weekend for some sort of a “Hippy Camp” down in the bottom of the valley, and that perhaps we should go the long way around if we were dead set on running the dirt roads. He reiterated that we should stay on the pavement and just go the same way every other tourist goes to the castle……several times. I was willing to accept that we were under equipped to tackle Hunter Mountain Rd. but I’ll be damned if I am going to sit in line with a bunch of Hybrids on the highway. So the long way around it is. This means that we are set to go over two mountain passes and navigate over 95 miles of dirt roads before we see pavement again. 95 Miles? Yes. Did we know that at the time? No. It was about 3” on our map. We set off. Saline Valley Rd. was broken pavement at first, almost a complete road that has thousands of pot holes to avoid. Then it turns into a darker colored soil road with its fair share of teeth rattling wash board. (I hate washboard, have I mentioned that yet?)



Soon the washboard faded into some twisty fire roads that start winding up into the mountain. We seemed to hit some sort of threshold, and into a rocky section. This required extra care as to not puncture one of our prized pizza cutters. We then hit some mud and a few slippery climbs. After the mud came the snow, and a severe temperature drop. I think we saw 29 degrees, yes F’N cold!!! At the peak of the mountain pass (6500ish feet) it was freezing, we had the heater cranked and took very little time to stop and stretch. Upon starting the descent we only had one “pucker” spot. There was a significant amount of snow on the ground and in the shade, which means one thing… ice! The Jeep slid ever so slightly toward the roads edge then found its footing and carried on without issue. You could hear both of us take deep breaths, hold them, exhale, and then dead silence except for the sound of the engine. It is amazing how you go on an emotional rollercoaster out on the road. You never know what is going to happen, when it’s going to happen, and what the outcome will be. I just kept thinking I don’t particularly want to climb back up that spot, we will go out the other side.







 

Recce01

Adventurer
Day 2 continued

As we snaked our way down, the valley the road was fairly smooth. As we got to some of the lower elevation we found ourselves in a canyon with cows, donkeys and river crossings. Ok, make that stream crossings.  It was still very cool to cross the water a few times, max depth was about 18”. I tend to stick to one side not knowing what is in the middle of them. We again found another threshold where the rock content got greater and greater until we were driving on what seemed to be pure rocks. This is where I started to feel the effects of driving off road for long periods. I was so fixated on the road weaving in and out of what seemed to be the sharpest of rocks that my eyes started bugging out. I forgot to blink, and they became dried out to the point that a few blinks of my eyes rendered tears for much needed lubrication. I was still not in the mood to change any flat tires. Though a little blurry, we pressed on and on and on. As we entered this valley we were amazed at just how vast that 3” on our road map had become! This was the first time we realized just what kind of situation we had so eagerly elected to put ourselves in. As we took a small break we began to do inventory. A quick checklist of the resources we had on hand and our next opportunity to secure more. The outlook was less than ideal (cough cough…..way less) but we were in the mood for adventure, I guess, because we kept rolling. As we neared the bottom of the valley, the road made a slight left and started off toward the mountain range on our left. To our right was a dry lake that appeared to be salt. This road is the worst road I have ever been on, period. There were no major rocks, washes or other dangers, just the largest washboard bumps on this whole damn planet. I am talking about 8” high “school parking lot style” SHARP speed bumps one after another for 10 excruciating miles. It was bearable, barely, if you travel at a speed that won’t register on the speedo i.e. 1MPH, and we didn’t have 10 hours to do this road section, so we did the worst possible thing for the vehicle, our eyes, our teeth, and our fuel resources… we pinned it. I found it got better at 50, found 60 to be the sweet spot if there was such a thing, and 70 to be too unpredictable and a little on the dangerous side. Both my wife and I have driven rally cars, and are very familiar with driving gravel at high speeds. This other element of bumps was interesting to say the least. As we are flying along the road I am expressing to her with my actions how the steering is much different on this surface. If you see an object of interest or something you want to avoid you would have to do things way in advance. There was no direct steering; it was more like a request made to the vehicle that took forever to react. It was kind of fun to be honest. Then reality sets in. You are approx. 50 miles from the nearest pavement, have roughly 3 days supply of water are sitting on just over half a tank of gas, slow down and think about this for a minute. We finally left the “Road from Hell” and found a shortcut over to the road along the base of the mountain. It was a welcome relief from the abuse, for both the Jeep and for us. It was that awesome soft sand, in and out of small bushes type trail, but very short lived. Back on the main road we were averaging about 20MPH knocking down those miles keeping an eye out for a “Hippy Camp” as described by the 4Runner pilot.







Pretty impressive there Total Chaos, you guys are getting out!

 
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