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Spring Creek Run - Fathers' Day 2002
It was my first-ever real 4-wheeling trip, so arrived at the McDonalds at the El Rancho exit early. I sat in my car with my cheap CB radio on, eating a PowerBar for breakfast and waiting for someone to show up. I noticed a camouflaged Toyota truck with very interesting custom doors parked behind me, but I had never seen the driver and passenger, so I had no clue whether they were "with us" or not. Turns out that it was David Bell and his SO, driving his '81 mini-truck.
The first call on the CB came right around 9 AM from Bruce "Brutzer" Minney in his blue '66 FJ40. "I'm in the white Subaru right in front of you," I said, and the gathering had begun. Some others were gassing up, and still others were straggling in to grab breakfast, look at each other's rigs, recall past trips, and talk about the day ahead.
Since my red '78 FJ40 in its stock condition (with upside-down bezel and aftermarket chrome wheels) wouldn't make the trip - let a lone my '98 Outback - I started looking for a shotgun seat to ride in. Little did I know that Matt Farr had offered a seat in his green '81 FJ40. But I didn't know, and he was at the trailhead anyway, so begging I went.
Dave Brown (Red Fox) figured that his wife would look better sitting in his '74 FJ40, so I ended riding with Kim Brown in her black '76 FJ40. Scott Yoder had family in his '00 green 4Runner (Jade Runner), Mike Brown did too, in his '01 desert dune 4Runner. (What would you expect on a Fathers' Day run but fathers?) New Rising Sun member, Perry Loughridge was there, too in his white-fendered gray '87 4Runner. Clay Mills also had a 4Runner, this one was a green '94.
The mini-truck was represented by David Bell the early-bird, Brian Sandoval in his gray '86 Xtra cab, Nik Inay in his gray '86 Xtra cab (did these guys plan to have the same truck?) We had one blue '96 Taco driven by Josh Herring. Of course, there was Jeff Zepp with son and son's SO in Jeff's green '71 FJ40 (can't wait to see the other one on the trail!) Tagging along was Dave Bayer in his blue '98 TJ and another driver with a black Isuzu Amigo, whose name we didn't get.
16 rigs in all made for a fun, but at times slow, day.
We got on the road at about 9:30 and arrived at the trailhead shortly thereafter to air down. One item that goes on my birthday list is a set of auto-air-down nipples. It seems that everyone had these!
The drive was uneventful for the first part with everyone settling in and chatting lightly on the radio. The first obstacle came at a hard right turn where the road climbs a hill. Several folks took the bypass and met us at the top, but most attacked the hill climb with a couple of rock slabs in the middle. Everyone took the far driver's right line. Some had lockers and walked right up. Kim's lockers came disengaged in the middle, but she didn't have any problem. Chris used the ample clearance of his SO and a V8 tied to an automatic transmission to power right up. Momentum carried others over without breakage, and I began to be amazed at what 4Runners can do. Dave Bell showed that careful driving can make up for lockers.
Then we climbed up the mountain on shelf roads through the forest, sometimes with views back toward I-70. Kim complained about her lack of turning radius (is that fixed yet?) and also showed why she really wanted power steering when she took a call from a friend on her cell phone. Had the call come in the Rock Garden, she might have answered "I'm kind of busy right now…"
At another obstacle, some took the bypass to avoid the loose, whoop-dee-doo filled climb, but most just drove straight up showing off articulation.
The hard left corner below the Rock Garden provided a lot of education on how to drive. Jeff Zepp showed how to pick the best line for least amount of bouncing, Josh showed that even if you have to pull the Taco up a 2 foot rock, if you just give it gas and bounce the truck it will go over. The Amigo driver was glad to have rock sliders because every line he chose seemed to have rocks wanting to jump up and take out pieces of his undercarriage. Mike made slow steady work of the corner with his traction control. Chris again just pushed on the pedal and used his ample articulation to make it look trivial. Dave Bell used the tree to keep from sliding back. In all, everyone made it fine with no damage. (Except maybe for the Amigo's pride.)
The Rock Garden came next and proved to be the most challenging part of the run. Some drivers tested the hard route and fell back to the safer bypass (which wasn't easy!) while others, after trying to listen to spotters for the best line and failing, decided that horsepower was the answer. Dave Brown led Kim on a challenging line and she got high centered and winched herself out. Dave Bayer in his TJ took the far left line and showed off the articulation of his rig as he made slow steady progress through the garden.
Chris Healy came last with excellent spotting from his companion. No words like right or left (whose right? Mine? Yours?) just hand signals to go that way or this way or a little more or STOP! He had so little trouble before that I left before he made it through. Which, it turns out, he didn't. An aggressive line, a big engine, and an automatic transmission combined to snap his third member. So Chris was towed out the way he came in. (Got that fixed yet, Chris?)
The ride down was peaceful, and I listened to CDs with Matt Farr, since he was headed back to El Rancho rather than BeauJo's for pizza. After a little confusion about the correct route, Perry jumped in and led us out. We all shared air at the bottom where we met the Mt. Evans road.
Great run, great weather, one broken pinion, and lots of fun. Thanks!
Perry Loughridge pilots his 4Runner up the first steep hill
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