July 3rd, 2016

Tasker's Gap and Peters Mill, WV.

Rigs and drivers pose for a group shot at the end of the first trail. From left to right:

2004 Dodge Ram 4x4; driven by Dave (photographer) with his son riding shotgun
1989 Ford Ranger, 2 wheel drive, lifted on 31s; driven by Kat with friend Daniel riding shotgun
1994 Jeep Cherokee, 4x4, lifted on 31s; driven by Chris with friend Alyda riding shotgun
2002 Toyota 4 Runner, 4x4; driven by Dave's other son
1993 Ford Bronco, 4x4, on 15" Ram Charger rims with 33" BF Goodrich A/T KO2's; driven by Kurt with wife Michelle riding shotgun (photographer)

Early in the trail, compliments of the recent rains, there was a mud pit. Ever adventerous, Kat decided to take the 2 wheel drive Ranger in and do "rooster tails". Considering this is her first time driving off-road and the truck is only 2 wheel drive, the tow strap was prentative, just in case she got stuck.

But Pepe surprised everyone and handled the mud quite well. Kat enjoyed it so much she had to do it again.

Of course not to be outdone by his older sister, Chris had to take on the mud as well in his Cherokee. He had already been off-roading up in OH while at college, so we didn't think we would need the tow strap.

The Cherokee was just not as impressive on the rooster tails or mud slinging as Pepe. Mainly because Pepe's tires sit outside the fenders about an inch while the Cherokee's are still tucked in nicely.

We stopped for a brief rest at one of the open sections on the trail.

Kurt had no desire to get the Bronco muddy, so he skipped the mud pit. We did however lose the serpentine drive belt. A line of rubber on the edge sheared off. We were able to put the belt back on and continue the drive.

The scenary along the trail is beautiful and it's definately not a hot July day.

An impromptu group shot as the drivers discussed rig performance and where to next.

Pepe's mud badges of honor, according to Kat.

She even gunned into the mud to be sure the front of the fenders received mud as well. However, take a good look at the tire in the wheel arch and remember the spacing. More on this in a few pictures.

Pepe will definitely need a bath tomorrow.

He was even crying mud out of the new custom inset backup lights.

We kept the 2 wheel drive Ranger in the middle of the group for most of the trail.

The trail had developed some nice ruts that just added to the bumps.

Dave and Kurt look at something in the woods off the edge of the trail. Meanwhile Chris checks the Cherokee to see if he can find why it is overheating when none of the others are.

Taking still pictures was tricky on the rough trails. I do apologize for the slightly blurry photos, but the scenary is irrestible.

At one point Pepe was leading. That was not the smartest of ideas since there would not have been anyone in front to pull him out if he got stuck. Fortunately for us, Pepe handled most of the trail well. Kat did comment later that she heard a loud pop at one point on this first trail.

One of the less blurry images. We had stopped for a few seconds.

Just to make sure we captured all vehicles, Kurt had me take a picture of Dave's truck.

Chris called back on the CB that someone not in our group needed help. So the guys all stopped and trouped up to see what the problem was.

A 4 wheeler was stuck in a mud pit off the side of the road. I'm glad it wasn't our 4 wheeler.

The Cherokee was the closest one with a winch, so Chris turned around and nosed in, since his winch was mounted on the front.

They setup the winch and pulled the 4 wheeler out easily. Of course the driver was playing in the mud pit and headed right back in, so we got to pull him out again. If I can get the videos up, I'll link them here.
We stopped for lunch in a parking area and had sandwiches, chips, and fruit out of the coolers before we hit the next trail. It sprinkled a little rain on us during lunch, but no one cared. It was the first time Kat's friend Daniel had been off-roading, so everyone was swapping stories. Dave and his sons went off-roading frequently.

We were all surprised that Pepe had done so well. We were also surprised that the Bronco had not broken down again. As a preventative, Kurt had towed the Bronco down on the flatbed trailer. Our luck with off-roading to date had been 2 trails and 2 breakdowns.

Unfortunately, our luck held true and turned worse. The Cherokee was still overheating and had developed a leak in the heater core, which was under the dash. As long as the windows were down, the occupants would be fine, but it needed to be fixed.

We left Tasker's Gap and went to Peters Mill run. We drove through that second trail and then had to hit a small winding road to get back to the parking area. Kurt noticed that Pepe was "crab walking" down the road. Not good. We took it slowly and found the first spot we could to pull off into, a small ball field and park area.

Notice the spacing of the tire in the wheel arch. This is not correct. The tire is shifted backwards. The rear of the truck was literally rolling down the road at an angle.

The problem was a broken leaf spring eyelet. The leaf spring should wrap around the bolt to hold the rear of the vehicle securly in place. What you see here is the rubber bushing inside the eye, minus the lower half of the eye. With the eye broke, the leaf spring was able to shift around.

The rear end had shifted enough that the driveshaft yoke was pulled out of the transmission almost 3/4 of an inch.

The tire had rubbed the paint off the fender arch. Pepe had driven the entire second trail with the broken leaf spring. Kat thought the bumps were getting rougher as the day went on.
So that ended the fun for the day. Kurt, Dave, and his boys left in the Dodge and 4 Runner to get the flatbed trailer. Chris and Alyda left in the Cherokee to find food. Kat, Daniel, and I sat and untangled yarn for Kat's latest crochet project. It started raining for real, but fortunately Pepe had the pop-up canopy and chairs.

Then the Bronco broke down. Seems the new transmission had developed a stutter that got significantly worse. It did make it to the parking area, but that was all. One trailer and two broken vehicles, and we are ~2 hours from home.

Kurt loaded the Bronco on the trailer and took it to Dave's house. It remained there for a few weeks until we could retrieve it.

Chris and Alyda returned with food and a deck of cards. Dave took the boys home, then came back with Kurt for Pepe. Pepe rode home on the trailer.

So our record is now 3 trails and 4 broken vehicles. Aren't the numbers supposed to be the other way around?


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May 2017