Browsed by
Month: June 2017

HELLO Road Runner

HELLO Road Runner

For those of you that know us personally, you likely know that this has been coming for quite some time. For those that only follow the Seven Slot Syndicate blog or other social media stuff, it may come as quite a surprise that our next project vehicle is a Toyota.

There are lots of reasons for this, but the largest is the fact that it wasn’t until very recently that Jeep reintroduced a fleet vehicle package. This is why my last company car was also not a Jeep… With the 4-Runner’s high residual value (similar to the Jeep Wrangler), and Toyota having a fleet offering the decision was pretty clear. The 4-Runner suits our personal uses very well, and was the most bang for the buck.

Additionally, (this may be tough for many die-hard Jeeple to read) Jeep doesn’t really have a vehicle that is well suited for overlanding. Stay with me here; The Wrangler is great on the trail and it’s pretty easy to build it up, but it’s horribly lacking when it comes to storage and gear space. This lack of storage space hold true in about every model, with the possible exception being the Grand Cherokee. While I love the Grand Cherokee, it’s not overly supported by aftermarket and is a little too fancy for us to want to push it into the deep woods and be miles off the grid with. What Jeep desperately needs is a full framed larger capacity SUV or small truck. I know Jeep is finally working on the latter, but Toyota has had this for years and if you can put aside some Jeep arrogance they are pretty good at it.

I know for many of you I’m pushing the word count, so check out the video below which is a quick run-down of Road Runner….

 

If you are still with me and are interested in a mit more info and thoughts, I’ll break it down for you! ~ 😛

Driving & Handling

The 4-Runner’s general road manners are very similar to a stock JKU. Steering is light and very responsive. My initial thoughts on the suspension was that it was quite firm, but this seems to be settling in and softening and with ~1400 miles now on it is very nice. While some bumps and holes on the interstate are more harsh than in Klondike, washboards and gravel roads seem to be vastly smoother.

All in all, I really like how the 4-Runner drives. If I were to make any complaint in this area it would be directed at the brakes. They are certainly capable of stopping… but the pedal is VERY touchy. I am finding it very difficult to make smooth stops. An issue worsened after a drive in Dirty that really could use a bit more braking power.

The engine performance is adequate, but nothing amazing. I can see why it is recommended by many to do a gear swap when running more than a 33″ tire. In truth, I think it could use a bit more gearing stock.

Economy

So far, it’s far better than I had imagined… I’m averaging between 19.8 and 21.3 MPG with a mix of highway and city (slightly biased toward highway). On one rural road commute (60 MPH) I saw as high as 23 and change.

Given this and the fuel capacity, I am seeing real world ranges north of 400 miles. Another HUGE advantage when it comes to overlanding.

I’ll also point out that this is the first vehicle I have ever been in that it’s calculated versus my measures fuel economy actually matched! If anything, The vehicle’s average has been 0.1 MPG less. Every Jeep I have ever owned or driven lied about it’s economy, always reporting better than actual.

Interior and Storage

As I mentioned in the video and to put it simply, it’s amazing! From legroom to cargo space, it’s all plentiful.

While this may skirt more on tech… It is a total bummer that all of the rear accessory outlets are only powered while the ignition is on. When it comes to travel and overlanding, this is one that goes to Jeep. Our Wrangler came from the factory with full time powered accessory outlets, and the Cherokee only needed a fuse location swap to accommodate this. I haven’t fully investigated this, but I think I will need to run a new power source entirely for the Yota.

Seat comfort is not as good as either of our Jeeps, but it’s not bad either. I was able to make a 5 hour drive comfortably. It did take some fiddling with the seat adjustments to get here though.

Technology

Tech is where The 4-Runner is VERY lacking. It’s not that it’s bad, but it’s very outdated. I’ve had trouble getting my bluetooth to work correctly, and general phone integration (even when it is working) is nowhere near that of our Cherokee which is a year older (models released at the same time).

The Navigation seems to work well, but the screen on my phone is larger and there is almost too much information packed into the display. This causes far more “eyes off the road” time than I would like. I do really like the ability to add things like fuel stops and food to the view though. This helps be see where things are when I dive off an exit ramp for a quick stop.

 

Beyond the phone and bluetooth issues, everything else seems to work very well. Even things like the cruise control lever that seemed like a total afterthought to me at first has turned out to be the most functional and easy to use controls I have ever had on any vehicle.

 

I’m sure I’m missing some things, so please feel free to comment or send us an ask on anything. We are always completely honest about our thoughts and never sugar coat anything.

Hopefully you are excited to watch this build!

2017 Jeep Compass REVIEW (Walk Around)

2017 Jeep Compass REVIEW (Walk Around)

While I was at the dealership having some updates done on Klondike, I took a look at the new Jeep Compass. I was fairly impressed with it as a mild adventure and largely small family commuter, but it does lack some things that would keep me from tackling much more than an easy forestry road.

Interested in more? Check out this video of my walk around and thoughts.

 

All-in-all, I kinda dig it….. What do you think?

2017 Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival

2017 Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival

For the last few years Alana and I have made it out to the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival in one capacity or another. This year was no different and we were happy to rejoin the on-site trail team and assist as a trail guides with both Dirty and Klondike. While Bantam has a lot to offer any type of Jeeper or Jeeping interest, it’s the trails where we have the most fun.

While this likely doesn’t come as much of a surprise to many of you, the reasoning might… Alana and I truly love reliving those moments when new off-roaders are not sure about their Jeep’s (or even their) ability to make it over or through an obstacle. We also LOVE to meet and chat with fellow Jeepers. If you were in line when I was supposed to be doing tire and Jeep checks, this was likely evident as I tended to talk and shoot the breeze far longer than I should have given my task at hand. 😛

We tended to assist beyond our assigned volunteering hours which was fun for us but did mean less pictures than previous years. Still, we did make our way over to the vendor and show-and-shine area mid-Saturday to visit and check out the awesome Jeeps on display.

This is where I spotted a row of flat fenders, each reminiscent of their military heritage and features we still love in today’s Jeep offerings.

 

These were hardly the only Jeeps to capture our attention and hearts. There were lots of relatively forgotten models on display. Some looked like they were coaxed back to life for the event after years of rest in a barn somewhere, while others had obviously lived more pampered lives.

 

I spent quite a bit of time eyeing this old FC. There is a big part of me that would love to turn one of these into an overlanding rig but the trouble is I either find one that is in too good of shape for me to feel comfortable modifying it or one that is too far gone to serve as a decent foundation. This one has already found a loving owner that plans to resurrect it to its former glory.

 

Alana, on the other hand, is lobbying for a J-series project like this J-10. I must admit I think it would work better for lots of reasons, but they seem to be gaining popularity like the Wagoneers and are becoming increasingly difficult to find for fair prices.

 

Speaking of Waggies…. How about this old “Cherokee” trimmed one that someone seems to already be breathing an overlanding life into?  This trim is where the name “Cherokee” began and, in spite of the fact that many XJ groupies now claim it as being sacrilege on anything else, especially today’s KL based ride, it was the 1974 SJ Wagoneer that wore it first.

 

It wasn’t all fun and games in the show-and-shine lot… It seems this very nice CJ got into a street fight with a deer somewhere between the Festival and the Friday night Invasion in town. We didn’t get to talk with the owners about it, but is seems they are in decent spirits about the event and hopefully everyone is okay.

 

As I mentioned early on, most of our time was spent assisting the Rausch Creek team at the on-site trails. This is us staging Sunday morning. Note: Klondike can be camera shy at times and was hiding a bit.  😆

 

I wouldn’t spend much time behind the wheel on Sunday and put in most of my time spotting/helping by foot on the black trail. I thought this would offer an opportunity to get more pictures, but the “on-foot” part turned out to be more running from spot to spot than I was comfortable doing with the new camera around my neck so it only lasted for one group.

Here is one of Troy, another Ohioan, working over the first batch of small rocks as they entered the trail.

 

The black trail featured a series of down-hills this year and I was able to catch one of the participants as they made their way down one of the lesser grade hills. This may not seem like much when you look at a picture after the fact, but I can tell you that if feels pretty crazy when you are in the Jeep and looking over the hood at nothing!

 

Here is another participant and member of that group as they made their way toward some rock piles that were nestled in a muddy valley.

 

Speaking of rocks in that muddy valley…. even the guide needs a spot every now and then… but it’s all part of the fun right!?!? 😛

 

I know you are expecting more and, if you compare to all the pictures I took at last year’s event (which you can see HERE), it isn’t much. But, we were vendors last year and were able to sneak away for more pictures than we could this year.

I know this may be a bit of a bummer for you followers, but I must say it was a pretty fun year for us. Unfortunately, this meant little opportunity for picture taking. 🙁

 

 

 

JK/JKU Parking Brake (E-Brake) Adjustment

JK/JKU Parking Brake (E-Brake) Adjustment

If you own a JK or JKU, and especially if it happens to be a manual transmission, you know how crappy the factory parking brake is. There are a few factors to this. For one, it seems the lever and activation mechanism is prone to breaking and, even when it is working “correctly”, seems to not reset well. The other major factor is in the drum itself. While it is supposed to auto adjust (we don’t see how), we have never seen one that does so. Thus this write-up on how you can manually tweak them in and get your JK/JKU holding again.

Now, this write-up begins with the assumption that you are already fairly familiar with auto maintenance and are comfortable with safely jacking and lifting the Jeep, along with removing the wheels and calipers.

With the above said; this video should help you with everything else…

 

A few additional points you may want to focus on a bit more are pictured below.

The red circle depicts the actual wheel that spins like a nut to extend the screw and spread the shoes apart (this is the fixed side). The lever in the cab pulls on a cable that spreads the opposite side to engage the brake. When the fixed side is too loose there isn’t enough throw in the lever/cable to spread the moving side far enough to make the brakes grab.

The green arrow is the access port where you can adjust the parking brake without taking the drum/rotor off. Our issue with doing this is the missed opportunity to clean and inspect the area.

Here is how this inspection/adjustment port would work. Note: The spring not only holds the shoes in place and tight to the adjuster, but also works as a prevention method to keep the adjuster from free spinning.

 

I know this may have been the Cliffs notes version for many, so if there are any questions please post them as we are happy to help. 🙂

’17 Unlimited Off-Road Show and Expo in Louisville KY

’17 Unlimited Off-Road Show and Expo in Louisville KY

We try to visit the Unlimited Off-Road Expo that is held in Louisville, Kentucky every year. This said, I must admit that the 2016 Expo was so side-by-side centric that we began to wonder if our money and time was worth it. Still, we opted to give it another go and we are glad we did. This year’s expo seemed to have an opposite biasing back toward full sized rigs that suited us wonderfully!

Once you get your wristbands the show begins in a large indoor area where it’s hard not to become overwhelmed by all the vendors and rigs on display. We always try to work a pattern of all rights or all lefts to ensure everything is seen, but this year’s floor layout didn’t play well to that strategy. While we found this a tad annoying, it did force more cross traffic which I’m sure all those who pay to display there appreciate.

We can’t even begin to cover everything there is to do and see there, so instead I’ll just focus on the things that we found interesting. The first of which was these custom cut Maxxis Treps. It’s hard to imagine that the tire, as sold, wasn’t aggressive enough, but apparently the owner was looking for more 😛

 

The next thing to catch our attention was this immaculate Toyota FJ.

 

This thing was amazing everywhere you looked and, given the power plant under the hood, I bet it’s just as amazing to drive!  :mrgreen:

 

Another interesting (non-Jeep) that caught our attention was a new Chevy Colorado ZR2 that was on display.

 

I’ll admit it was interesting and it sure had pretty shocks….

 

But the biggest shock of all was the sticker price!  😯  I must admit, that with Jeep introducing the JT (Jeep/JL-Truck) soon and Toyota already having proven vehicles in this market area, I wonder who will jump into this rig and actually use it. I’m not sure GM is even planning for anyone to use it other than as a status symbol since they provided VERY little on the belly when it comes to skid plates and protection.

 

After being intrigued and then disappointed by the ZR2, we did an “about-face” and were pleasantly greeted to Hauk Designs display. I gotta’ say, their setup is pretty sweet! Whether you look at the vehicles on display, the swag, or the tow rig (that is in and of itself AMAZING), it’s all eye candy.

 

Once we finally made our way outside to work our way to the outdoor vendors, we found the usual rows of show-and-shine rigs on display. This is where we met a rather enthusiastic Wagoneer owner that made sure we not only saw her ride but outright asked for our vote. Unfortunately, we had already dropped our tickets in other boxes, but it must’ve worked out for her as she ended up winning. 🙂

 

Finally free from the show-and-shine and across the road, we noticed some rigs we knew from our friends down south! This prompted some messaging to meet up with them.

 

The outdoor area not only has additional vendors but also the course where small races and events are held throughout the event. We just missed a roll-over on our arrival, but I did grab this quick picture as they began to flop the buggy back over. (Don’t worry about the fire… they got it put out real quick and, once things were known to be safe, fired it up and it pulled itself from the course.)

 

After that excitement, there was a lull in the action so we visited the vendors. One of which was Maxxis. This tire right here is likely to be what is on Dirty in the very near future. Our MTRs have been absolutely great, but they are tired and we need some new rubber.

 

The course area is not only used for events the expo puts on but also for participants to either get a ride in a sponsor’s vehicle or test your own on the obstacles. This is always fun to watch, but if you are sensitive to dust…. You’ve been warned it can be quite bad.

 

On our way back in we spotted a vehicle that not only proved anything is possible, but also that the event truly caters to EVERY type of off-roader and rig.

 

Once back in, we made a pass by the Ford booth where we made good on a promise to let Kegan have a go in their Raptor Simulator. This was my first attempt at video on the new camera and  I accidentally cut it short when I attempted to take a snap-shot. Oops!  😳

 

This pretty much wrapped up our visit, or at least our highlights, hopefully you enjoyed this and we will see you there next year!

Horseshoe Falls at Caesar Creek State Park – Ohio

Horseshoe Falls at Caesar Creek State Park – Ohio

Not every adventure needs to be a long one that involves a lot of travel. Sometimes it’s right in your backyard….

This is certainly the case with the Horseshoe Falls at Caesar Creek State Park. We travel a fair amount and are always up for a weekend journey. Even our “local” adventures often lead us a few hours from home but sometimes time and money don’t allow for this. When we found ourselves in this very situation, yet completely unwilling to waste a nice day inside, we looked for a closer adventure. This little hike fit our requirements and needs perfectly!

 

Horseshoe Falls can be a bit tricky to find. This is largely because their location is largely known by the locals and isn’t published on any of the official hiking maps of the park. There is, however, plenty of signage once you’ve already found the right place to be. :Razz: This is because there really isn’t a trail that is dedicated for Horseshoe Falls, rather it’s access is a slight derail from the much larger Perimeter Loop Trail.

If you are looking to keep the foot mileage down, we have found it best to either park at the emergency spillway or one of the lots just north of it on Clarksville road. I have marked potential parking spots in red below along with the path we took in yellow. No matter where you start, the goal is to join and follow the Perimeter Trail along Flat Fork Creek to the falls.

 

From where we started, there are nice open views of the southernmost part of the lake. While the trail began in tree cover, we were quickly out in the open as we walked across the emergency spillway which is where the creek had flown for thousands of years prior to the dam that was built in 1970s.

 

The really cool thing about this is that this waterflow has eroded millions of years worth of soil and now there are lots of fossils exposed in the rocks.

While it is possible to remove these fossils by obtaining a permit at the visitor center, we find it best to simply record our findings with a photo so others can have fun exploring the area behind us. It’s easy to burn a bunch of time here so make sure you allow a bit extra for the mission derailment that is sure to happen.

On this visit we found what appears to be some teeth and a shell on the opposite sides of the same rock.

 

Once back on track, the trail quickly narrows into a more common hiking trail for Ohio.  Since the best waterflow is after some rain, you should plan to get into some mud as it is largely unavoidable in spots. While the trail is pretty easy, it is this mud and the soil’s slick clay base that prompts a bit of warning for those with balance issues.

 

It’s just about a 3/4 mile into the woods once off the spillway where you will catch your first views of the falls as you look down from a small cliff.

 

As you continue a little farther down the trail you will come to a suspension bridge that will grant you access to the opposite side of the falls for a much closer view.

 

As you cross this bridge, you will be greeted by the handywork of some busy rock stackers.  Given that the rocks in the area are pretty flat and easily stackable, there isn’t necessarily a lot of skill exhibited here. But I must admit the idea of wading and killing some time here in the cool water and listening to the falls in the background was pretty appealing and almost drew me in for some modifications. 🙂

 

Once across the bridge and near the end of the falls you can get a look at the bottom side of the cliff where you once stood and took those first looks at the falls. In truth, it’s not a very large or amazing cliff face, but it is certainly an odd terrain for the area that is otherwise pretty flat and boring.

 

…and as I mentioned, it is from this side of the bridge where you can get up close and personal with the water and falls.  If you’re planning on wading, I would suggest some water shoes as underwater rocks are prevalent and there is enough algae on them to make them fairly slick.

 

We killed a fair amount of time here just dinking around, but soon we decided to head back across and toward the car.

 

Our hike back was largely uneventful. We managed to walk back through the spillway without being distracted and made pretty good time. At least until Alana spotted a little snake that we stopped to watch. This little guy had a VERY red tongue in person, but the camera didn’t seem to catch it in spite of my best efforts to do so.

 

…and before we knew it we were back at the car. Our hike wrapped up at just under 2.5 miles. With plenty of opportunity to either decrease or increase this mileage, this little destination should suit a wide range of hikers and their abilities.

I hope you enjoyed this post, please share and comment if you did!