After way too much 70s musi, a lot of rust grinding, and some enjoyment… I’ve sold The Dawg.  The bitter sweet photo above is before-finished-sold … There were a few things that I haven’t mentioned that are worth mentioning for those that might think about doing a restoration.  Take a read before you get into it.  Maybe you’ll learn something and get it right.

The Gas Tank

When it was off and sitting for months I should have spent a day filling it with water and seeing if it leaked.  The tank had 2 weep holes in it.  They weren’t very big and didn’t drip… they were just enough to empty a few gallons over 3-4 days into the air… which was annoying and made the garage smell like gas.  Gas vapor isn’t dangerous is it?  I used a tank liner and it appeared to have fixed any issues.  It was annoying and delayed getting to drive it on a regular basis by about a month by the time I got back to it and dealt with it.


Get a single-owner-signed and valid title or knock $1,000 off what you would pay otherwise.  An untitled vehicle is more of a pain than it’s worth.  It is worth noting that this is different state-to-state.  When I moved to CA from out of state they don’t have a “bonded title” status so the DMV gave me a clean title.  *shrug* I knew it was clean anyway.

The Exhaust:

I was less pleased with my exhaust guys. It’s growing on me because it does sound meaty on that small block Ford.

Sourcing parts:

Some of the simplest parts are the hardest to source.  Take these:

A simple little nylon loop to hold wiring in a nylon sling and the pointy bit flares the petals after they are inserted in a hold that hold it up.  Simple enough.  They were a pain in the rear to source.  You would think a basic wiring holding clip needing a 1/4″ hole and able to deal with 1/8″ thick mounting surface would be easy to find… HA!  When you get them it’ll be in a lot of “50” when you need 10.  Suck it up puffball and get 50 of them.  Better yet, contact me and I’ll sell you 10 for the price of 50 and charge you shipping.

I found mine here.

Media Blasting: (not the interwebinator kind… I mean sand, soda, walnut shells…)

I was not impressed with the guy that did my soda/sand blasting.  I specifically mentioned using less sand and more soda.  Maybe he was smarter than me by using more sand than soda but I’m not entirely sure.  Soda won’t get all the caked on rust off.  I get that.  I also get that sand is cheaper.  I would have appreciated a call that said, “Did you want to come take a look before I spend all this soda or did you want to trust me that sand is going to be more heavily needed?”  It would have been 20 mins of driving and I might have just said “go ahead.”  As it was, I didn’t get the question, so didn’t get the choice.  I also found a few spots where the primer wasn’t fully covering.  If he didn’t have enough primer he should have told me…instead I got some etching primer in a rattle can and just did that.  My body guy was happy with the end result so it doesn’t really matter.  It was just one more annoyance.  On the upside they didn’t overhead the metal and warp it any more than it was already.  That can be the case with a newb at the wheel.

I don’t think my media blasting guy was stunningly better or worse than anyone else out there.  It’s a tough world and he worked at a reasonable price.  Just make sure you fully understand what you’re getting.


Less is better.  Patching is more work than you might think.  Bondo will not fix your problems.  At best it will fill very (micrometer) shallow low spots to get the finish super-smooth.

Don’t expect rust free, but if the rust is causing some sort of sagging then it’s not a keeper… it will be expensive to get things to line up.

IMO, here are some no-goes:

  • Door pillars: If the rust goes up to a hinge forget it.  Your doors will never line up.
  • Engine Bay, if the top of the inner fender well is not continuous all the way from front to the dash then the front may sag.  If so it will take a ton of luck to get it straight enough and matching on both sides.
  • Cut or uncut is up to you on the rear fender wells.  If doing a restoration uncut is preferred and is worth a premium.

Hard Tops:

Good hard tops for broncos are hard to find.  They are all rusted somewhere.  There are replacement top panels (pans?) for them, but I can’t imagine how tough it is to cut the rusted tops out and replace them and get it all straight.  The sides would be bendy and wobbly and really tough to get back together.  It’s possible you could do that while it’s mounted on the bronco(?)… that’s about the only way it might work.


Rust is the killer of doing this on a budget.  Every panel you have to touch is going to cost.  I don’t see how someone can make money on a project like this.  If you want to break even, make sure all parts are original.  Scratch it down to paint color to make sure all body panels are original.  Also, now that I’m smarter by making the mistakes, I know to make sure the motor is original.

Finally on the money thing: all the little bits will cost you.  The more that are in good shape when you get it the better off you are.  I still had all the knobs and levers and buttons and stuff.  I kept them, buffed them and they cleaned up nicely.  All that hardware would eat your lunch if you had to re-buy them all.

Can you go the distance?

There are a lot of not-finished projects out there.  Either the money was too much or the time was too much or both.  Just do it or sell it.  Someone else out there would love to finish it up.  If you don’t finish it be prepared to take a bath on it.  Unfinished projects aren’t worth the parts value.  Most finished projects aren’t worth the parts value.  I bought this one unfinished and disassembled.  Together it would have fetched more.  That helped my budget.  In the end I’m down about $1k not counting any of my time.

Selling your project:

Don’t rush selling your project.  Do your homework.  I did try a few channels to sell the Bronco.  First, I put a high price on it and listed it on Craigslist.  I got some folks calling who were interested, but didn’t bite.  After that, I tried the Bring-a-Trailer Auction.  I put the lowest price a little under what I was comfortable with as the reserve.  The auction came to $1,500 under my reserve.  I did not pull the reserve off.  2 weeks later I sold it on  Craigslist for about $1,500 more than my reserve in the auction.  It cost me $250 to do so.  Had it been on the auction at a different moment maybe that would have worked… I also think that 4x4s don’t do as well as exotics on that particular site (which I think is super-cool and I go there to drool from time to time)…  If I was selling an Astin-Martin maybe that would have gone better.  In the end it worked out.  My best advice: Shoot straight about what you have (and don’t have)… then it will sell itself.

Was it worth it?  

Absolutely.  Will I do it again?  That’s harder to decide.  I’m not sure who gave the advice, but I recall someone talking about restoring loved cars versus exotics.  The gist of it was that paint and finish is about 1/2 the cost of a restoration.  The paint and finish cost is about the same regardless of what the car is worth…$10k – $20k. If original husks are about the same price, <~$5k, and at the end of the build a domestic may fetch $20-30k for common cars where exotics / super-cars might bring in $50k – $100k+.  It makes more financial sense to do exotics.  You’ll spend more in time and parts on an exotic and therefore take on more risk.  The expectations are higher for the end product as well.

At the moment I have plenty of ponies in the stable… but one of my daughters is about to retire her Jeep TJ… hmmmm…

Go out and get your tires on some dirt!



Yup, it’s time to interrupt some great fun to do some wrenching.

Any offroader who has been wheeling for more than 6 months will tell you that it isn’t the last moment before you broke that really causes the break.  It’s usually all the things you did leading to that point.

So… keeping that in mind, I’ve had the Blue Pig out a few times…

Oceano Dunes, CA


BLM land in NV


Byrds (in Arkansas)



Fordyce Trail in CA


Hollister Hills, CA


Rush springs Ranch, MO


Hollister Hills, CA




Moab, UT


So yeah… it was time for something else to give.

We headed up to Niagara Rim, CA for a weekend of wheeling.  About 90% through the trail a buddy noticed something dripping from the back…derp!

Yeah, it was less fun for a little bit.  I can hear almost all the teenagers and slightly-older-than-teen folks going “I know, right?!”

Fuel cell leak on aisle 5!  Fortunately it wasn’t a gusher, more of a drippy bit.

I’ve made several trips this year with 1 more to go.  Pismo/Oceano dunes is coming up soon!

Rewinding to the build blog… here  describes how I mounted the fuel cell.

Here is a shot before it had all the body on, paint, etc.


It’s held by 2 straps.  They are wider than the “kit” that is sold with most tanks, so I figured that was good.  The bolts by the tank nearest the bottom of the picture and on the straps cinch the tank up tight to the angle iron frame around it at the top.

In the pic below, right at the tip of my index finger (on the right) is pointing at a little bur on the edge of the tank.  That would be where the leak came from.  Being cheap and on the trail, I tried to patch it with “gum”.  That’s the old wives tale… gum is supposed to get rock hard when in contact with gas.  As you can see by the smudge above my finger, it didn’t work so well.  Apparently Trident is NOT the right variety.  An internet search tells me hubba bubba or bazooka would work… who knew?!  Consider it purchased and in my pack for the next trip.


My middle finger (on the left) is pointing to where the strap was.  The straps were tight… if you look very close you can see that there was a little friction wear that the strap caused.  It didn’t wander over and cause the leak… which means generally the welds are likely weakening.  Ugh.

I have a few options:

  • Fix this tank
  • Get another like it (and get a sump welded in)
  • Do something different

Fixing this tank… yeah… Aluminum has a few bad properties once it starts cracking.  Unlike steel it likes to crack rather than bend.  Shock loads are particularly bad.  MAYBE I created a few shock loads… ha!

Once the exposed metal is in the weather for a while (mine for 3 years) the aluminum also surface oxydizes.  It doesn’t degrade like steel because it kind of makes a skin of oxydized aluminum and doesn’t continue deeper … but it does mean you have to grind under it for welding… all of that just weakens the tank generally.

I also noticed this…which looks like witness marks to a weeping leak.  *sigh*  Regardless of what I use for a replacement this one has to come out.


Disassembly!  Get out the ziplocks and use them…


A little siphon action to empty the tank …


Below you can see that:

1- I had some pretty good plastic spacers that have a nub on the back that fit into holes in the strap to space the tank bottom off of the straps…

2- At the bottom corners I had some rubber slipped over the strap to also help with abraision.


Well, it worked for 3 years of wheeling!

After removing the tank, I gave it a look-see to see if there were other non-obvious issues.  It turns out that it had worn a bit where it contacted the steel at the top:


I think we go with one of the replace options:

  • Replace with same same
  • Replace with different

So… replacement…I started shopping.  Same-same would cost $210 + welding cost for Aluminum (I ain’t got the gear to smooge Aluminum).

I had a few different ideas and hit a fellow engineer and we started thinking about economical options.

Of course, being engineers, our attention naturally turned to beer related things.

It turns out I can buy a 15.5 gal beer keg (new!) for about 1/2 the cost of an aluminum fuel cell.  Further, they are made to take some pretty high abuse. They come with two handy mounting surfaces (a.k.a. top and bottom rings) to bolt to.  It’s made from 304 Stainless… food grade!  I think we’re going to get the buggy tanked!

The infinite interwebs tells me you can also run into cracks in the welds with stainless… but at least I’ll have a cheaper replacement next time… ha!

There is plenty of unused space in the trunk for fitment:


So that’s the plan.

Time to order some parts and get a brown santa visit or 5!

Details of the tankage:

  • In-tank fuel pump
  • 2 wires have to get some current in and ground out
  • 2 hoses (one in, one out) for circulation of fuel to the fun-power generator
  • One hose from the pump to port to get out
  • One vent tube with a roll-over valve

I can reuse my filler cap if I can get it to mate nicely with the top of the keg.

I will likely have to lengthen the legs on the tripod that holds the fuel pump.

After a short delay, parts arrive… and I get to work.


Here is the new tank and old tank …$132 delivered to my front doorstep by brown santa.  I had to pull the hard fuel lines.  New tank = new bends = new hard lines.


It felt like sacrilege, but I did it anyway… I used a hole saw to cut the hole in the top so that I could get other tools in there close to get it cut near the final shape.


After some clever use of the press to get the fill cap into a roughly conical shape (highly paid professional hiding back by the press… he’s a little camera shy and kind of like waldo, but now he’ll be famous)…let’s just say his name rhymes with Bob…


Here is the tank after further grinding, coping, drilling, …rinse repeat


Yes, that’s a ton of grinding dust down in the bottom.  I did find that stainless is pretty hard. The drill bits noticed.  The grinding wheel didn’t really notice.  Cutoff wheels definitely noticed.


Now time to prep the cap for the extra roles.  I got some weld-in bungs for in/out ports for fuel and one for a vent with rollover valve.


Also, I needed to remove the structure from the old tank mounts…


First mock in:


After trying about 5 different ways…. we decided that angled back by the rear tubes looked best and might behave best.  Here you can see the basic setup.


For mounts, we bent some tube mount points… 14 cranks on the press after touching appears to be the right angle.


We also put a strap around it for that extra huggy feeling.


The wiring went well.  I had a a few issues with the plumbing.  I had a little leak here:


I thought the leak at the fitting so I tightened it… a little too much.  Then I figured out it was UNDER the bung… so my welding missed a channel.  So.. as you see here I welded it on the top.  Then I tightened back down… it got tight, then looser…. oops.  screwed up the flare and/or fitting.


The result?  The AN 6 nut might be ok, but the sleeve is crushed inside and won’t come out.  the steel line looks like the flare was pressed out.  there was also a welding booger on the far side that didn’t see when I put it on.  sheesh… pain in the neck.  Ordered some nuts and sleeves from Speedway motors.

The other plumbing issue I ran into… I ordered the new 3/8 fuel line from Jegs. That stuff was so hard to bend I kinked it when bending it over a mandrel… sheesh!  I would understand if I was trying to hand bend it but not when doing it over a mandrel.  I ordered some similar to the previous line I’ve used to see if it works better…we’ll see if I feel motivated enough to bend another fuel line.  It’s pretty much a pain to do and there is always a chance of introducing steel flecks into the line from the flares.

Even if I have to replace the lines I can go ahead and finish out the first fitting since I know where it’s all going to fall. Time for some paint.  We’ll see if this holds up to gasoline:


A couple of days later, I get the fittings, cut/reflare, fire her up!  Blargh… my welds still leaked.  Grind off old bungs, more bungs welded on, grinding, and welding later… try #8: Worked like a charm!

(Grinding and paint makes me look like the welder I ain’t?!)

Here’s the finished product (after the Oceano dunes trip).  It turns out that the paint I used on the outside isn’t particularly safe for gasoline… but… I don’t think it’ll matter as long as it doesn’t leak!  The dribbles going away from the cap I think are due to the huge sloshing against the cap while running in the dunes.


…. and from the side…


Test drives @ Pismo Beach / Oceano Dunes!


Four days in the sand and the surf…. what a great way to end a wheeling season!

A couple of suggestions I’ll keep in mind… and probably do over time:

  • Put a beer keg tap spigot and hollow it out and use it on the end of the vent hose
  • Attach a button off a keg tap pump to the fill tube cap


Get out and get your tires dirty!  It’s almost wrenching season!

I’m trying something different for selling the Bronco.  I’m giving Bring A Trailer a chance to auction it!

Check it out on here.    Wish me luck!


I’ve spent the better part of the last year and a half moving, adjusting to a new job and finishing getting kids launched.

Somewhere in there the work on the Dawg slowed down.  Let’s be honest, it stopped.  It’s time to get back in the saddle.

Last I looked at the Dawg, it had a few details missing.  As I was moving, I had crammed every possible thing into the vehicle so I wasn’t moving uninstalled parts.

Some things that were missing:

  • Bumpers
  • Gas tank was weeping
  • Gauges busted / Voltage regulator? issues
  • Tailgate issues.

Lets do this.

The Bump — Commodores

The Jackson 5 — Blame it on the Boogie

The fix up the bumpers, it’s a phone call and install.  Growl!


For the gas tank weeping, I got the KBS kit.  As my garage was barely functioning, I don’t think I took any pictures worth mentioning… needless to say it worked… it just took a few days and a lot of care and feeding.  I poured in 1/2 gal of gas… no leaks!.

Just when I thought it was going so well…

It turns out… that if you never put more than 1/2 gallon of gas in the tank, it doesn’t leak from the fuel sending unit hole even though it isn’t fully sealed.  I found that out when I put 5 gals or so in the tank and drove to work.  Either the Dawg was scared and wet himself (unlikely) or there was a leak.


Please extinguish all smoking materials.  It’s a federal crime to alter the smoke detector in the lavatory.

Here is how I got it to drain below the sending unit hole.  I put the Dawg’s butt in the air.  Clearly the bucket caught every drop.  That’s probably condensation from the outside of the bucket right?  I mean I might get in trouble out here in Red California if some gas spilled.


It was a relatively easy fix.  I pulled the sending unit, added this awesome stuff, then put it back together.


With that bug worked out…I got completely derailed by a trip to Dublin, Ireland.

And yes, it was worth it, even though I spent most of my time working.

I found time to pour the perfect Guinness!



A win if ever there was one!

I guess I still have a few vices…  (sorry, just a little moving joke there… yes… that box had vices…)


Now it’s time to figure out why the gauges aren’t working!

It’s good to have friends that know stuff.  I called a friend and offered him an exchange for checking out what’s going sideways in the wiring.  I traded steaks on the burner + some woodworking time (turning a bowl…he did a fantastic job!) for checking out the Bronco wiring.

What he found was 3 boops and a beep.


  • No power going to the voltage regulator because I connected the electric speedo gauge connector instead of the manual speedo gauge connector.  *sigh*
  • Busted voltage regulator (This was anticipated so I had already ordered one…but dropping it in didn’t seem to save the day on it’s own)
  • I missed the connection to hook up the gas tank sending unit under the dash (one snap connection and it was good to go… woot!)


  • The oil pressure gauge was busted.

It was a nice change of pace that the gauge cluster is just 4 screws and it’s off… much easier than trying to wriggle all up under the dash like a coon in a tree hole.


The clever reader will notice what I had totally forgotten.  I haven’t hooked up the voltage meter at all… derp.  I’ll fix that as part of this effort.

Now that I’m looking at the photo I realized… Oh yeah!  I totally forgot!  I put carpet in.  That really brought it together.  The kit from Wild horses fit right out of the gate.


Here is a fuzzy shot taken from my cell phone while driving (on a closed course with a professional driver… yeah… that’s it) that has all the gauges working.

ok, the gas gauge isn’t working but that’s because it’s empty.


Now to tailgate issues.  I had mounted the tire swing mount catch upside down.  Yeah, it was stupid.  Yeah, I was pretty miffed at it for a while.  It’s the only miss I really had in the build that was just plain goof-up.  So… now it’s fixed… and I also got the limit cable installed.


The latch closes and works.  check!  Like Jimmy Walker used to say… that is “Dynomite!”

While doing all this I also remembered there was a dangling cable in the engine compartment for the heater control.  That’s an easy install so I got one and hooked it up.


Next up!  Drive it!

I have 2 trails planned in the next month.  Are you getting out on the trail?  Just do it!

Deferring maintenance can only get you so far.  As I mentioned a few posts ago, it’s not really wrenching season but ran out of options.  Some maintenance had just reached the end of what I could tolerate.

When you daughter is helping you unload your rig from your trailer and steps through… something must be done!

Here is a pic of the buggy on the trailer less than a year ago… yeah, that’s a hole through the floor then…so I’ve deferred this a while.


Yup yup yup… all the boards are cracking by the end…


When I was at The Home-de-pot getting some pressure treated 2x lumber the guy asked me the perfect question… “so… what are you going to do with the lumber?”  … I told him to look down…it was a “here’s your sign” moment.


As is true with many projects, the demo is fast…


It did take a bit to get all of the rusted bolts freed up and out of the frame.  Some had sheared off at the frame.  Go figure.

Instead of trying to match up with thread on the frame, I chose to drill-through and use galvanized carriage bolts and lock nuts to hold it down.  Opinions about what to use for planks and bolts were like noses… everyone had one and all were different.  It may have been a bad decision… but yeah, that’s how I roll.  Pick a direction and go!


The only real challenge (which most folks might do a different way) was to get the last board in.

I chose to cut off the angle iron at the back of the trailer, lay them all down, then re-weld on the angle.

Here it is before I welded the back lip on…


A little welding later…


Then paint and go.

I also had a busted u-joint in “Bob”s front end.  I don’t think I can stretch that work into a whole post… so here’s what that fix looked like:


BAM… made it to Niagara Rim Trail!  Here are a few shots just to make you jealous!

Going down!


This turned out to be the Beach Boys trip.  All we needed was a Rah-Ann and we’d be:

“Bob, Bob, Bob, Bob, Bob Ra-Ann”… maybe I didn’t get the lyrics exactly right… but there were 3 Bobs and my Jeep is named “Bob”… it was a confusing trip… “hey, where did Bob go?”…


Am I too old for selfies?  We did find the Niagara Rim trail… it’s pretty well marked except for which way to leave the rock garden.


No offroading trali would be complete without a little on-trail vehicle maintenance…I think there was a leaky tire.  It happens.


There were a few sweet play areas.


Get out and get some Summer wheelin’ in!  Soon enough it’ll be wrenching season.

I’ve now experieneced Rally Venture.  This is my story.

I’ve never been into offroad racing to the degree that I wanted to do that.  I have enough competition, pressure, and therefore anxiety over my day job.  When I get into the Jeep it’s because it’s a getaway…not something where I have to log my hours, meet some arbitrary goals, and really I just want to get out of normal stresses.  I get in the Jeep to get away from that and just take life it as it comes.  I like a little challenge but I don’t want to get in a fight over points or whether some cone was hit or whether everyone is following the same rulebook.

Rally Venture was put out there as a chance to exercise your navigational skills, do some oddball challenges, and generally have a good time wheeling near Reno.  Its was that… but I think it was more.  I’m sure the founders have a more grandiose idea, but that’s what I thought it might be about.  This doesn’t require an extreme vehicle…although some pretty amazing vehicles were on the trail… (and several broke).

This is the second year of it’s running… there were 24 competing teams.  There were many sponsored teams and a few privateers (such as myself and a few other teams).  The base venue was similar to what I believe car rallys are like.  There are way points, par times (not racing times, just driving it direct), and some navigation telling you the route to take to get from point A to point B.  Rally venture had some of that.  I think it takes the rally idea to another level.

1- There was the offroading aspect to it.  It isn’t like google maps was useful at all.  Either there was no map of the trails or the places we went had no cell service.

2- There were a series of “virtual checkpoints” that had to be met by taking a pic of your rig at the checkpoint site with specific things at the target site in the background AND POSTED ON SOCIAL MEDIA.  That was a pretty interesting way to cut down on the operations personnel requirements.

3- There were a series of challenges (one might call them stupid human tricks!) including things like geocaching, scavenger hunting, video shooting, firearm shooting, etc. which required your team to be prepared for pretty much anything without really having much with you.

For those that may want to get insights into how you can get a leg up…no such luck.  I’m not a fan of giving all the surprises away.  It’s all in the experience… and that’s coming up soon.

For those interested in just getting a flavor of what kind of time was had, this could be meaningful for you.  This is especially true if you are a fairly decent wheeler and want to do something different than just trail rides.  Although the trails weren’t monstrously tough, the challenge was pretty tough due to a variety of factors I’ll talk about later.

So here’s a recap of the days of Rally Venture in WrenchingSeason style.

Since part of this competition is about social media, we set up accounts and took some preliminary shots.

Here is our Facebook page which has a lot of the pics in low res..  Team ROR!

I learned early that I was hangin’ with some characters.

The week before we went camping.. here we pre-ran the vehicle for the competition.


It’s a Nissan Xterra.  You got it.  IFS and all. WHUUUT!?  Indeed.  Since this was the second year and one of my buddy’s had run it we knew that the offroading could be handled by a mildly lifted and locked vehicle, we opted for comfort over the awesomeness offroad rigs that each of us on the team have.

I took Wednesday-Friday off work.  I’ve been building up to a seriously big project completing and it is time to blow off some steam.  It is definitely not wrenching season.  It is wheeling season.  Time to use some of that unspent energy doing some serious but fun offroading.

We also had a friendly bit of ribbing going on with another Team ROR member and Team Woodgrain.  It seems they had a video war over who Kurt’s son…MUST WATCH SHORT VIDS!

Volley #1: Woodgrain decides to lob a pine code at a Team ROR

Now it turns out that someone knows someone who knows enough to be able to get the same “expert” to weigh back in later…

Volley #2 (winner!): Team ROR! — somehow gets the same 4×4 expert to weigh in without “dad pressure”…

We also had a mascot.  Bubba.  Some of you know I’m from the Deep South and I have a little bit of rebel in me but I didn’t name Bubba.  We can thank the Northern California sun for baking someone’s brain and thinking that a Burro needs to be named “Bubba”… but that’s were we are … we’re letting Bubba prep for the coursework.  That, in fact is tulip chart.  I would make a joke about 2 lips but I’m pretty sure nobody wants to see me kiss that.


With the prelims behind us … we hit the road with an IFS in tow, a mascot and some loose change.

On this trip I got a special treat.  It wasn’t my rig!  The cohort who drafted me (ok … they really just asked) is Doug.  Doug was a co-pilot last year and wriggled his way into being a pilot this year.  That meant he wanted a copilot or 2.  That didn’t stop last year’s pilot from joining with his own team!  Heck no!  Team_ROR (us!) were the underdogs.  Team “Rally Venture Ryan” were cohorts and also competitors.  Good friends who we were hoping we could beat…

Along the way Bubba had some thoughts about Reno…


Doug paid the entry fee (yup, it was steep and I didn’t really ask how much) and arranged for accommodations.  How much sweeter does it get!?  I just show up and go wheeling and pay for incidentals!  Registration is the same everywhere.  People at a table taking info and $.


Doug also asked Mark (another friend) to join as well…he was behind our clever social media presence.  I drove my Jeep up to Doug’s place and parked the Jeep and rode up with him.  On the way, we hooked up with RallyVentureRyan on the fly and met Mark at the venue in Reno, Nevada.

Welcome to Reno…


Some things to note:

  • We were the only IFS vehicle
  • We were one of 3 or 4 privateers (not substantially sponsored) teams.  Woodgrain was there with us.
  • We were one of 2 non-Jeep vehicles

We met up at the casino to check in that evening and have some dinner.  We were treated to a fantastic dinner by some of the sponsors of the event.  There were a couple a beers involved somewhere in there too.  My cohorts knew a few buddies here and there that they knew from the racing circuit.  I noticed Grampa was there (of Grampa’s Garage fame… if you know you know.)  To me that was a  pretty good sign that I was with the right group of nutjobs.

After dinner we organized the vehicle and got our gear lined up.  Our resident welder brought along a 2-battery home brew welder and plenty of scrap stock…we brought more food than anyone could have eaten, and we got plenty of water.  Radios, GPS, phones, magic carpets… whatever we thought might be helpful.

After trying to sleep, we busted out first thing in the morning, grabbed some breakfast sandwiches and got all lined up and waited.


Yup.  nutjobs.  Honestly, we were on time, on target, and ready to go.

As is normal, once we got the green flag we got off track.  It was time for the navigator to get his feet under him.  Wait… that was me.  Well, we got back on track after an extra lap around a block, then followed the tulip charts more carefully to get us to the first checkpoint.  At the first checkpoint we left pavement and got a first good photo of the Xterra doing what it does…

Photo Jul 09, 9 32 53 AM

Then we promptly killed an hour or two getting lost totally due to my inept inability to navigate… however we did see some cool terrain that none of the other competitors saw…along with a few Blacktail deer…and what we thought might be team Woodgrain on the side of the ridge…

Photo Jul 09, 10 37 31 AM

Fortunately, I finally got my navigating legs under me and I figured out what I was doing wrong.  I would expose the secrets here, but I’m hoping (and also know) that others failed worse than we did … because for the rest of the time we did very very well at navigating.

The funniest video (forget who got the most likes on FB) was ours.  Enjoy the Blair Witch hits Rally Venture entertainment from Mark… loved it…that was one small shack in the middle of the forest.

The rest of the day was a constant focus on “where’s the next turn” or “how much further”.. or “what the hell are you doing back there mark” or “squirrel!” or” holy crap everyone made that wrong turn?… or are we wrong… ”

We almost had lunch, but we ran out of time… we did get to shoot stuff, and then shoot stuff…



… and Doug found his twin.  You decide… the Zebra’s butt or the Hyena…ha!


That was pretty cool… except for the missing lunch thing at Cabelas … so we grabbed some stuff we had with us and then paddled…


But really it was mostly making correct turns on roads that looked pretty awesome…

Photo Jul 09, 5 02 51 PM

The Xterra took most of it rather well.  By the end of day 1 we may have gotten it a little muddy…


We didn’t do great on the first day.  We didn’t know it until later, but several of our points just “weren’t counted”.  That and someone was doing the math in their head rather than using @Sum() in excel.  Our education system is missing something… a key component… it’s beyond me at this time to figure out what it is.

We did however, find at least one team member’s kryptonite.


We grabbed a burger which didn’t sit all that well with a teammate… you know who you are… your courtesy is immeasurable.

By the next morning we were within a couple of points of the leaders after we pointed out the scoring issues.  Woot!  Back in the hunt!  We did get behind Woodgrain for day 1.  Mostly I think that was due to my bad early navigation.  We’ll get them on day 2!

We were a little more scruffy:


… but ready to hit it…

This day we wheeled for the first half of the day hitting several different checkpoints and seeing some pretty cool mine stuff.  We dropped into Virginia City for a virtual scavenger hunt!

Mark found his twin:


I also think he learned to write at Mark Twain’s desk…it was cool to learn more about where Mark Twain spent his formative years and started writing…


Then again, there were also a few cool bars:


After getting back on the trail, careful navigation helped us to reach the petroglyphs well in the timelimit when there were several others (Woodgrain) who missed the turn.

I don’t know what this guy got into, but if this is what happens I don’t want it!


Virginia city is on my “could go back and spend some time there” list.  I don’t have a ton of places like that… but this is one of them.

However…. it wasn’t over yet!

Back to the track… we hit the trail again and this time we had to pick up some geocaches.  One was a piece of cake, and the other became easier as the day went on.  I’m skipping a ton of stops we made and pictures we took.  For those you can go see facebook or the album on Flickr.  Just know there were some pretty awesome views and some great times had.  Pun-ishment was metted out and taken.

As the last day ended… we came bumbling into the parking lot fully intact and mostly still conscious.

Woodgrain didn’t make it to the finishline the second day… but we tied them for 4th… madness.

In the end, at least for me.. it wasn’t about winning or losing.  It was about a new experience.

To the folks that put it on.. I’d suggest the timing be not quite so pressed.  We ran it sanely and were constantly an hour or two behind the “par” time.  The good thing is that going fast only helped for a few points.  We were only 3 points out of the lead… so we could have moved up if we had done more foolinsh things in terms of speed… but honestly, I had a good time and all ended on a high note.  Although I’m not into racing, this wasn’t a race.. but it was a competition…

I’ve been asked 2 times if I would do it again.  I’ve hedged on answering the question… although next year… it’s in Colorado… million dollar highway area… hmmmm….

I pretty much missed wheeling season last year.  There were a few things going on:

  • My oldest daughter was married
  • I changed jobs
  • My wife and I moved (to the new job location Goin’ back to Cali )
  • We bought a house (in really bad shape)
  • We’ve been renovating the house

However, somehow in the midst of all that I’ve managed to make some late/off season off-roading trips:

  • Pismo Beach in the Pig


  • Going to the races at Prairie city, CA for a day
  • Snow busting in the Sierras near Downieville, CA for a weekend
  • Camping and target shooting in the NV desert with the Pig to drive out to the 1,000 yd target over a weekend
  • Camping (and wheeling) near Dorrington, CA for 4 days

Upcoming plans are:

  • Rallyventure   — (update: see our team instagram pics here … I don’t know how to link instagram photos here. I’ll blog that later. )
  • I’m thinking of hitting Niagara Rim sometime this Summer
  • The Rubicon is calling

However, over the last 2 weeks I have been reminded … going on offroading trips leads to issues that require some wrenching time:

  • My trailer… yeah, the deck boards are toast.  When my daughter stepped through it (the 4th hole) I figured to call it done.
  • My Jeep … Hmmm… a front axle u-joint lost a cap and the outer stub ears are toast.
  • Somewhere in NV I did something to the front end of the Pig.  I think it may have been a long time coming but the pinion is definitely wobbly now.  Wobbly is not good for a pinion.  This pic, however, is cool (at sunrise NV desert)

Fortunately, the Niagara Rim trip is a few weeks away and I’m not taking my own rig for the Rallyventure.

Get your junk fixed.  Get back on the trail!  I will…