Going to S. Dakota, Wyoming, Utah (oh yeah!) & Colorado

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markspath
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Going to S. Dakota, Wyoming, Utah (oh yeah!) & Colorado

Postby markspath » Thu Jun 19, 2008 12:46 pm

On June 26th I'll be leaving NJ and driving West in my '07 Pathfinder with two teenage kids, towing a 21-foot Hybrid camper. I will be making the following stops:

Code: Select all

30-Jun - 03-Jul   South Dakota (Badlands, Black Hills, Rushmore)
                  Staying at White River KOA, Interior SD

03-Jul            Wyoming (Cody)
                  Staying at Cody KOA, Cody WY

04-Jul - 07-Jul   Wyoming (Yellowstone, Tetons, Jackson)
                  Staying at Grand Teton RV, Moran WY

08-Jul            Utah (Salt Lake City)
                  Staying at Salt Lake City KOA, Salt Lake City, UT

09-Jul - 14-Jul   Utah (Moab)
                  Staying at Moab KOA, Moab UT

14-Jul - 17-Jul   Colorado (Rocky Mountain National Park)
                  Staying at Spruce Lake RV, Estes Park, CO
If anyone is interested in joining-up for some off-roading during any of those stops, I'd welcome the company. Note: (I am pretty-much stock in terms of off-road capability, so no tough stuff.) Please email or PM me.


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NVSteve
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Postby NVSteve » Thu Jun 19, 2008 2:44 pm

I get done with my soccer game at about 9:30pm the night you will be in SLC, otherwise I'd stop by and at least say "hi." I can't even think of where a KOA is here, although I swear I've seen one.

If you are going to do the Black Hills area, have you thought about also stopping at Devil's Tower National Monument? Pretty cool place, and I know they have a KOA right outside the park (at least they did the last time I was there). Sounds like a fun trip!

boogyman
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Postby boogyman » Fri Jun 20, 2008 6:03 am

Shouldn't you be using this for your trip. Image It seems more appropriate considering the long journey. Plus you might run into Cristy Brinkley along the way.

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markspath
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Postby markspath » Fri Jun 20, 2008 10:21 pm

Yes, that's what we've been calling it: our version of the Griswald's family vacation. Except we're not bringing grandma or the dog, so we don't have to worry about those bits.

And yes, I'm thinking about heading out to Devil's Tower one of the days we stay in the Badlands area. It depends on the rest of our activities.

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pdslug
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Postby pdslug » Wed Jun 25, 2008 8:24 am

Sounds like a fun trip. I am going to Colorado in mid-July... Ouray, Telluride, Silverton area. Will definitely be running some of those jeep trails.
have fun!

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markspath
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Postby markspath » Wed Jun 25, 2008 11:59 pm

pdslug wrote:Sounds like a fun trip. I am going to Colorado in mid-July... Ouray, Telluride, Silverton area. Will definitely be running some of those jeep trails.
Too bad I'll be too far away. It would have been good to get together.

Hope you have fun, too.

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markspath
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Postby markspath » Sat Jun 28, 2008 9:33 pm

Here I sit in Oakdale, WI, being slowly drained of all blood by a cloud of mosquitoes. So far it's been an interesting trip.

I'm getting an average of 8.5 MPG pulling this beast of a trailer. Pennsylvania was not kind to me, running in 3rd-gear at 55-60 trying to drag the camper up the mountains. I think I'm going to do an oil change at 3K miles with all this workout, but but the Pathfinder is handling it well so far.

Just after crossing into PA, as I was accelerating out of the tolls on 80, I hit a deep pothole hard. It seemed there was no immediate damage, but just before leaving PA for OH, the front-left trailer tire blew. I was 1 mile from the OH border and 1.5 miles from the next rest area, so I babied the trailer to the rest stop, slept for about 5 hours, (it was then 2AM), then changed the tire and went hunting for a replacement. Finding a replacement was very difficult, and by the time the replacement was bought and mounted, it was 3PM -- more than 1/2 the day shot.

Drove to Middlebury, IN and stopped for the night, to discover the camper's Air Conditioner wasn't working. Utah in July with no A/C would not be a good thing, particularly since one of my kids has respiratory issues. Called over a dozen RV service outfits nearby and along the route. The closest place that could help was a Camping World in Madison, WI, over 250 miles away but along my route. The service manager even volunteered to stay until 6PM (traffic around Chicago is brutal and could add hours). I traded MPG for time and, even with Chicago traffic, got there at 4PM.

$850 and a new rooftop A/C later, we're back on the road. Amazingly, we are still on-schedule, as I had budgeted extra time for the trip out.

Now that I've been driving through "flat" states and am not in any big rush, I'm driving a comfortable 60-65MPH. The cruise control is able to stay engaged without problems now (it would kick-off when set at 70MPH going uphill if my speed dropped below 62MPH). My fuel economy is starting to climb. I'm thinking about resetting the MPG, but I really wanted to get an overall trip average. I should be getting 12MPG now on the flatlands.

Oh, my low battery warning just started flashing on the laptop. Next stop is Rapid City, SD (I switched reservations to there from Interior, SD). I'll post an update in the next few days.

boogyman
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Postby boogyman » Mon Jun 30, 2008 1:26 pm

Are you sure your name isn't Clark instead of Mark? By the way your trip started out, you could be driving the family truckster. Have you seen the pretty girl winking in the Ferrari? Holiday Road should be playing in your head about now. I hope the rest of your trip is incident free and you have fun.

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markspath
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Postby markspath » Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:54 am

Here's the latest Update.

Currently, I'm in Moab. Today the temperature hit 110°F in the shade.

South Dakota was a blast. The Badlands are stunningly beautiful. We toured the area dragging the camper, and used every minute of daylight viewing scenery and hiking out at some interesting stops. I would have liked to go back for another day, but scheduling prohibited.

Rapid City was a mixed-bag. It is well located, but it's a bustling city and the campground wasn't what we prefer for camping. It was clean, but barren and without views. Fortunately, with a brand-new Air Conditioner on the camper, we were at least comfortable in the treeless location.

Of course we went to Rushmore, did a cave tour, and a few unpaved roads in Black Hills and Custer State Park, but nothing really worthy of writing about, as I couldn't find any resources for good off-road trails in the area. We then shot over to Devil's Tower on our way to Cody, Wyoming.

I decided to reset my MPG when leaving Rapid City, and change my approach to driving the mountains. Where I had been trying to maintain speed, now I drove for RPM range, keeping the RPM under 4K and just going as fast as the terrain permitted in that range. On a few occasions, this meant I was climbing mountains at 40MPH, but I had a great improvement in MPG. Where I had been getting 8.5MPG, now I'm getting an average of 12.7MPG (and the Rockies are higher than the Appalachians). My average speed has dropped from 58MPH to 48MPH, but we've also been stopping along the road a lot to sightsee and take pictures.

The drive to Cody, WY through the front-range of the Rockies was also stunning. This drive is where we encountered our third mechanical failure. During a stop to take pictures at over 8,000ft, we heard a Bang-Whoooosh like a tire just blew out. I thought we'd lost another trailer tire, but inspection of both the trailer and the Pathfinder revealed no flat tires. It turned-out one of my Air-Lift Airbags popped.

I'd pumped-up the airbags to their max 35PSI before leaving home. It was cooler and the altitude was under 800ft. I checked them once at lower altitudes but hotter weather, and they were at 39PSI. I left them at that pressure because I still wasn't happy with the rear-end sag when the trailer was hooked-up (and I even paid to have the Equalizer hitch professionally adjusted), and I figured they must be designed to handle some extra pressure caused by temperature change.

Of course, thrown in an extra 7K-ft of altitude, and this is another story. I inspected the hoses to see if maybe a hose popped-off or burst (I saved my leftover hose length), but it seems one of the bags themselves popped. In any event, I had to drive-on without them, so both bags are surely shot now. Cody was a one-night stop and we got in too late to deal with the airbags. Then at Jackson, WY, I called every auto and RV service outfit in the phone book, but nobody had a set of airbags in stock (neither AirLift nor Firestone) and couldn't get them delivered before I was scheduled to leave.

We did two days in Yellowstone National Park, and one day in Teton Village and Jackson. We drove through Teton National Park going to and from Yellowstone, and explored a few of the unpaved roads here, but again, this is a National Park so there was nothing you couldn't drive with a car. But again, the scenery is amazing. We also did quite a bit of hiking, and went on a nice horseback ride in the Teton National Park backcountry. Actually, I wasn't planning on riding myself, but they wouldn't let my two teenagers go without an adult (which is different than what they told me on the phone). At 6'1" and 300 pounds, mostly gut, I am not built for horseback riding and paid the price with a very badly pulled muscle in my lower back. I'm still suffering today.

If you're planning on visiting Yellowstone, plan at least two full days, and ideally stay in the park itself. In spite of NPS warnings, pop-up and hybrid campers can stay in the Fishing Bridge RV campsite. I stayed at Grand Teton RV Park in Moran, and it was over 30 miles from camp to the park.

I'm happy to say that the ABS works perfectly. I was heading back to camp from a Chuckwagon dinner/show in Jackson and an Elk jumped out in front of me while I was going about 70MPH. The General Grabber AT2's and the Pathfinder's ABS stopped me with 20 feet to spare. I know if I'd had the stock tires still on the truck I'd have been driving to camp with an extra passenger. I also drove all the rest of the way with all my auxiliary lights on, except when there was on-coming traffic. I figured a ticket for using off-road lights on a highway was better than being dead from hitting an elk or moose at 65-70 MPH.

I figured I'd have better luck getting the airbags replaced in Salt Lake City, but to no avail. I gave up on visiting the Great Salt Lake in favor of trying to find replacement airbags, but again, nobody had them in stock. I even called/visited three different Firestone service centers but, surprisingly, none had even heard of the product or knew how to get it. I tried calling Air-Lift directly to try and find a stocking dealer or distributor in the area, but after 30 minutes on hold they hung-up on me saying it was lunch time, please call back later.

So I got an oil change and rotated the tires (worried about premature wear due to the out-of-camber condition caused by the rear-end sagging). I also called AutoAnything.com and asked them to ship me a new Air-Lift kit overnight to my campsite in Moab. They agreed and I figured all I had to do was find someone to install. 1PM today and still no airbags. It appears that Air-Lift's computers were down yesterday and they never received the order. I'm pretty disappointed with Air-Lift. AutoAnything customer service has been working hard to get me the kit tomorrow, but even they are not getting cooperation from Air-Lift.

So, with half a day shot (again!), today I did a nearby off-road trek that wasn't in the guide books, but looked like it would be a nice, short 12-mile loop. Unfortunately, I misjudged the elevation between two segments of the trail, and was never able to link-up with the exit trail. So the 12-mile loop turned into a 20-mile back-and-forth, but it was a nice back-country drive. Because the rear of the Pathfinder is sagging under my normal off-road loadout, (tow-chains, hi-lift jack, 10 gallons extra gas, 10 gallons water, extra oil/antifreze/parts, tools, etc), I didn't want to try anything too extreme. This trail had some good inclines, some dry creek beds, slight tippy spots, and lots of small rock (nothing larger than 10", and mostly in the 5-8" range). I scraped bottom lightly on a few unavoidable/unmovable obstacles, but nothing too hard and no damage done. The Pathfinder took this all in stride in 4WD LOW, and always felt sure-footed and under control

Hopefully, the air bags will come tomorrow morning and I'll get them installed. I'll have to find a garage to do this, as I don't have the equipment to do the work myself on the road. Hopefully, we'll go rafting while the truck is being fixed.

If all works well, Saturday I'm going to lead a small group from the campsite on a 28-mile scenic trek via Sand Flats Rd, Hurrah Pass and Chicken Corners Trail. I've not decided which trails to try on Sunday. On Monday we head to Colorado (Estes Park).

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markspath
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Postby markspath » Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:58 am

Almost forgot. Uploaded photos to Google/PicasaWeb.

These are only from my Fuji S9100. Dylan and Kaleigh also have their own shots that I haven't uploaded. And nothing's been edited yet.

http://picasaweb.google.com/mark.medici ... ountryTrip

Krafty
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Postby Krafty » Sun Jul 13, 2008 11:47 am

Looks like a great trip!! The pics you have taken are absolutely stunning.
We're heading out to Summit County Colorado area in July and I hope to do a few trails as well. I'm a bit nervous about it since we'll be 700 miles from home but you've inspired me! Good luck with what's left.

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markspath
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Postby markspath » Sun Jul 13, 2008 11:10 pm

:x I am so %@%$# pissed-off at Air-Lift. They screwed-up my order a third time. This is company is so incompetent and so apathetic that they don't deserve a dime of your business. Once again, they failed to ship the Air-Lift kit -- another "computer" foul-up, they said. You'd think after two mistakes that someone would be standing in the shipping department making sure the box got on the truck -- but no... Then they promised to ship for Saturday delivery, but 30 minutes before closing they discover there's no Saturday delivery to Moab. So the Air-Lift kit will be in Moab on Monday afternoon, hours after I've left for Colorado.

AutoAnything is going to try to get a replacement order shipped to my next stop in Colorado, but I doubt that this will work-out either. If someone can PM me a vendor and part number for the Firestone Ride-Rite kit for an R51, I would be very grateful.

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markspath
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Postby markspath » Sun Jul 13, 2008 11:28 pm

Well, with spending so much time trying to get my Air-Lift airbags replaced (Air-Lift sucks!), the group off-road run idea kinda fell apart. So I did it alone.

We drove about 32 miles on paved roads up into the LaSal mountains and then turned-off on Sand Flats Rd. Sand Flats Rd was pretty tame, with a few steep parts and rocky areas, but nothing any stock 4WD and newbie couldn't handle. Hurrah Pass, for the most part, was also pretty tame, although there were larger rocks and steeper inclines to handle. My kids (they're 15/16) even took some turns driving easier parts of the trails. We also did part of Fins N Things, but when the trail started getting too steep I turned-around out of fear of rolling the truck. Later, we saw three trucks going up the other end of Fins N Things, including a Jeep that darn near rolled over when the driver lost traction half-way up (he did make it up the second try). I would have tried completing Fins N Things if I had someone experienced to guide me.

Towards the end of Hurrah Pass and the beginning of Chicken Corners things got more interesting. Narrow shelf roads with sharp switchbacks and steep inclines were common, as were some steep/tippy sand and sliprock sections. At a few points I needed Dylan to spot me because I couldn't see the trail over the hood of the Pathfinder as I crested an incline. At another couple of points I was so tipped sideways I thought I would topple over. But the Pathfinder handled it all without a problem.

We left at 10:30AM (after waiting an extra 1/2 hour to see if anyone would join-up) and it took us until 9:30PM to get back to camp. This was almost twice as long as the trail guides estimated, but I was going slow to avoid damaging the truck (and my still tender back). It was a great ride with some fun off-road sections and outstanding views. Best of all, anyone with a stock Pathfinder could do these trails (though you might not want to cram them in all on the same day).

I'll upload the photos when I get some free time.

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markspath
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Postby markspath » Sun Jul 13, 2008 11:40 pm

But it's a Dry Heat.

Today is the first day in Moab where it was under 100°F. It only got up to 99.8° today! Amazingly, unless you're out in the Sun, temps up to 95° don't really feel hot. But in the Sun, even a balmy 99° was broiling.

Today we spent the day in Arches National Park. We've done enough driving off-road through canyon territory that we decided to forgo Canyonlands National Park, and lost so much time dealing with Air-Lift that Zion was out of the question. Thank you Air-Lift for screwing-up my order 4 times and screwing-up my vacation plans.

While in Arches we did drive part of one 4WD trail, but 1/2-way through was a wash with a lot of huge rocks and no easy line to get through, and no bypass. Without a good spotter to guide me, I decided to turn-around rather than rip-up the bottom of the truck.

Still, Arches was a great drive. We did some hiking to view some of the scenery, but mostly just enjoyed the drive and the scenery from roadside stops.

Continuing with our bad luck, the brand-new air conditioning in the camper is not working right. The first two days it was fine, but yesterday it never really cooled-down the camper, and today it was barely blowing cold air. I turned it off for a couple of hours tonight, as the temps were down in the mid 80's, and now it seems to be working again. I suspect the coils are freezing due to a lack of sufficient refrigerant, which means the unit will need to be replaced again, as this is a sealed system (no way to recharge the coolant).

Fortunately, Colorado shouldn't be so hot that this will be a problem, so I will probably wait until I get back to NJ to deal with the issue.

More pix will come soon.

boogyman
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Postby boogyman » Mon Jul 14, 2008 9:40 am

Well Clark, I mean Mark, it sounds like quite an adventure you are having. The photo's are really awesome. I hope things get better in Colorado. Although it does get hot there too, but at least the weather changes at a blink of an eye, so it could cool down before you know it. I just got back from my week in surf city. The weather was great and the little guy had a blast at the beach. Good luck getting back here.


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