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Month: August 2017

KL Cherokee Lift – A Second Look

KL Cherokee Lift – A Second Look

It’s hard to believe it’s been just over a year and nearly 17k miles since we installed the first lift on Klondike.

If you remember that install write-up (See it again HERE), you will recall that we decided to order and try a Hazard Sky AD2 lift. Upon receipt of this initial lift, we were slightly disappointed with a few things and offered some criticism. It seems the owner of Hazard Sky caught wind of these criticisms and, rather than getting upset, he simply (and quietly) improved the offering.

Today, there are several options when ordering a KL Cherokee lift or leveling kit from Hazard Sky. Whether you have a Trailhawk or any other type of KL Cherokee, there is a lift option available. Beyond the original UHMW (that is now water-jet cut), you can also select aluminum as a spacer material.

While everything has worked rather well for us with our original lift, we haven’t been completely suspension issue free either. The lift itself has been great! It’s keeping a decent alignment that has been an issue and, honestly, this has nothing to do with the lift. While dealing with the alignment issues and when we knew we were in need of another alignment anyway (again not related to the lift), we decided to take another look at the latest Hazard Sky AD2+ lift and give it a review, achieving just a bit more lift in the process.

Initial impressions of the new lift were good. The packaging is more than adequate for the contents and it’s hard to imagine shipping damage rendering it beyond use.

 

Upon opening the packaging I was relieved to see a very nice set of instructions right at the top. While we don’t really need them, we did give them a thorough read and review and feel they are very clear and detailed. It’s nice to see the extra cost put into color pictures. We know this isn’t cheap, but small black-and-white pictures that are all too common on manufacturer instructions are largely useless and leave the installer running to the internet with cruddy hands for clarity.

There really isn’t much to this lift. 4 spacers for the rear, a couple bolts for the front, a temporary jig for the front, and that’s it. Also in the box is a nice little sticker!

 

For the install, we began with the front. As with the initial install, the toughest part is opening/relocating the hole in the strut for the bolt that clamps the knuckle in place. I have seen where many are opting to simply remove this tab altogether rather than deal with opening up this hole. While we can see this as an easier approach, we personally like it there to ensure the toe stays in the ballpark. Below, you can see the material that needed to be removed. Because it was splitting the hole we knew drilling wouldn’t go well. So, this time we used a carbide deburr and a pneumatic die grinder to whittle away the material for bolt clearance.

 

The little jig that Hazard Sky provides really does make setting the front height pretty easy. One thing we’ve noticed is that the radius of the jig doesn’t perfectly match the strut, but it still works just fine. The deburr made pretty quick work of opening the hole and before long the bolts were in, torqued and front was done.

Moving to the rear:

Our original lift that we purchased from Hazard Sky was for an AD2. However, we ended up making our own spacer for the upper spring perch for a few reasons. The spacer we made caused the rear lift to be more like an AD1. Here is a picture of the old spacers (left) alongside the new ones (right).

 

The rear actually went a little easier than the last time we did this. I think this was likely due to some softening of the arm bushings. We also have some new spring compressors that work a little better than our old set. The bottom-line is, about 30 minutes after we began, both the front and rear were done and we were ready to set Klondike back down on the ground.

We worked really hard to get the before and after picture seen below. You can’t see any of it in the picture, but we taped and marked the floor for both the Jeep and camera to do our best to get everything back in exactly the same spot and from the same perspective. Still, the front isn’t represented as well in the after picture as in reality. Keep in mind, this isn’t a before and after from no lift to a lift, this is from an early version of the HS lift to the current AD2+ lift.

 

Now, a little more on the alignment issue. You may remember that we were actually out of spec a little bit after our initial lift install. To compound this, we had trouble holding a decent alignment. While we are still troubleshooting this a bit… We took our Jeep to the dealer for an alignment. What I am sure of is that our previous alignments were not done to current specs and the bolts were not torqued correctly. The bottom line is that we now have not only a totally in spec alignment, but its all darn near nominal. 😛

In summary:

We were pretty happy with our original Hazard Sky lift. While we did have some constructive remarks on it, it is priced very fairly when compared to other lifts on the market for the KL Cherokees. Hazard Sky has improved their products over the last year and they are still VERY well priced. What’s not to like?

For more information on Hazard Sky, please visit their website HERE.

For more information on our initial install write-up you can see it HERE.

Topless for Tatas 9

Topless for Tatas 9

Topless for TATAs is a non-profit 501(c)3 that raises awareness and funds for breast cancer research. While active throughout the year at various events and venues, TFT hosts an annual offroading event at Rausch Creek Off-Road Park in Pennsylvania. The first event was in 2009 with 65 participating Jeeps but it has rapidly grown from there and now sells out to over 500 jeeps in just weeks. In 2015, TFT boosted attendance to mark the 7th anniversary of the event and raised nearly $38k in doing so. This money was donated directly to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF).

Our first time ever visiting Rausch Creek was to attend TFT5 in 2013. It was here we became hooked on both the event and park. This year we decided to get a little more involved with the event by being trail guides. As you can imagine, with so many Jeeps lots are needed. We left the level of trails we would guide up to the event organizers but lucked into running Blacks. (The park rates it’s trails by colors: Green being the easiest, followed by Blue, Black and ending at Red for the most difficult). While we have ran many of the Red trails, it was nice to take it a bit easier and back off a bit as guides.

Our group was a mix of participants and sponsors. Some of whom we knew and others began as strangers and ended as friends by the end of the first day.

Since many groups get fixated with trails that have cool names, we decided to play most of the weekend a bit differently and stick largely to the numbered black trails. The first of which was trail 5 which has a nice little drop-off obstacle almost immediately after starting it. Here is a pic of us nearing that spot.

 

Our friends Chad and Sam were behind us for most of the day. Their “2XtheCJ” has become pretty recognizable and you will likely remember seeing pictures of it if you’ve been following us for any length of time.

 

I think Jeff, who followed Chad all day, ultimately formed both a love and hate relationship with Chad’s 4BT Cummins powered rig and its exhaust…. But hey, at least he never had to worry about mosquito bites!

 

It’s tough to get pictures, spot, and work recovery gear when needed. I try my best, but sometimes action is simply missed. This was the case with our line-up as I missed a decent picture of Brian who was following Jeff. I was back on track though with Dave who tried a little bit of a different line. While he didn’t make the drop totally under his own power, this line did at least allow him to stay off the hook and he only needed a little rock to resolve the “turtling” all us with “school bus” JKUs had done previously.

 

Next up was one of the event sponsors, Jason who was representing Spiderwebshade. He opted to spot his wife on yet another line to avoid the drop altogether.

 

For the most part, avoiding the drop became the theme for all of the remaining rigs who were associated with JMG Designs, another event sponsor. Without this obstacle in play, we were rolling pretty quickly and I needed to get back in the Jeep to move on. Sadly, this meant no more pictures from here.

 

In spite of the fact that the Topless For TATAs trail is largely a blue trail, we felt it was an important one to run during the event. We simply made the most out of all the black offshoots and hills.  It was one of these small hills that Chad decided to try a rather interesting line on. Beyond the pretty spectacular flex everyone achieved, it was pretty amazing to see his 134″ wheelbase make a turn that not even the 2-doors were able to pull off without a rock or reverse.

 

After completing the TFT trail, we decided to dive into Cemetery. It was just feet into the trail where Chad’s behemoth came to an abrupt stop. Luckily, wire and parts were on hand to make a quick patch/repair and we were moving again in no time.

 

Cemetery is a fairly short trail. This said, for a long time it was our favorite. This changed a few years ago when the park had to deal with some logging that literally destroyed this area. The main portion of Cemetery used to be red with a blue trail that ran along side it and worked as a bypass. Sadly, this blue bypass was totally ruined by the logging and, shortly thereafter, the red portion was stacked out with rocks from the blue portion to the point it was derated to black. It was nice to see that some of the smaller trees have filled out and are returning some shade to this trail.

 

You may notice that our line-up has changed in the picture below. Unfortunately, Brian’s rig suffered a cracked weld or two on the front track bar bracket and a poorly functioning steering gear early on and he made the safe call to call it quits while his Jeep was still functioning well enough to get back to the lot and home.

 

Our plan was to head over to Boot Hill next but we got tied up in some traffic and, after reviewing the radar, we decided to try to beat the oncoming storm and head up to the festivities and raffle instead. This proved to be a good call as we just barely got settled prior to the rain.

The raffle was awesome (as always), but we were pretty quick to bed afterwards to rest up for the following day.

We initially thought we would have a pretty large group for day two, but at least one of the members of the JMG crew was not feeling very well and missed joining us at staging prior to our group’s release. We had hoped to rejoin them once they arrived but that never seemed to pan out. With that said, we decided to start Sunday a little deeper in the park on trail 16. This is a pretty neat trail but for some reason it doesn’t seem to get a lot of action.

 

Sorry for the redundancy with Dirty here, but with the missing JMG Jeeps we were down to just a trio and were rolling too fast through the trails for me to get many other pictures.

 

In fact, I was only able to snag one more pic of Chad and Sam as we wrapped up 16 and headed to 13.

 

Tackling 13 was pretty smooth and brisk… Before we knew it we were headed into 20, which we had decided would wrap up our day and event. We weren’t that deep into 20 though when we came across some stopped rigs. After a quick check on them to see if we could help, opted to take 15 out while heading toward the parking lot. It looked like they were going to be a while and we didn’t feel like waiting.

The picture below is the last we would take of the event.

 

We’d like to give a shout out to all the people that work to put this event on and the sponsors. Thank you so much! Next year will be TFT10! We can’t wait to rejoin the trail guide team and be a part of it!

For more information on Topless For TATAs visit toplessfortatas.com. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram. For more information on Rausch Creek Off-Road Park visit their website HERE.

 

CRAZY COWS – Our 2017 Overland Adventure

CRAZY COWS – Our 2017 Overland Adventure

What started as us helping our son Tommy and his new wife navigate across the country to their new home in Oregon over a year ago, ultimately unfolded into what would become our own next big adventure.

The plan was pretty simple… Blast across Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and half of South Dakota before slowing our pace to explore and visit several National Parks, Monuments, and Forests. We would be visiting The Badlands National Park, Black Hills National Forest, Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, Bighorn National Forest, Shoshone National Forest, Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Yellowstone National Park, Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Custer-Gallatin National Forest, and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park…. and we tried our best to connect them with extremely remote roads and trails.

Now, if you’re more of a video person, check out the video below which is our best synopsis of this epic journey. If you’re looking for a little more detail and more pictures read on!

 

Almost from the get-go there were some “bumps in the road”. While the initial travel was going fine, it became clear that Mother Nature was planning to throw some curve balls at us, at least for the first couple of days. Nowhere was this made more clear than part way through Illinois where we found ourselves on the leading edge of a nasty storm that was trying to stir up some small twisters. Luckily, it was still pretty light out and we were able to keep moving forward. We were actually moving across the country so well, that it looked as though we might be able to make it into the Badlands National Park just after sunrise instead of late morning as planned.

Once Kegan and I settled into our uncomfortable sleeps, Jay must’ve put the hammer down a bit. He has a way of getting laser focused so this really didn’t surprise me, I could tell that he was crunching numbers and was going to make a run for sunrise as I settled in. By the time he woke me just after 3am for my turn at the wheel, a Badlands sunrise was a real possibility.

Almost like a kid on Christmas morning, Jay was excitedly back up within a couple of hours to push the final distance into the park for the sunrise!

 

The sunrise light Jay so desperately sought after only lasts minutes and, before long, we were back in Klondike and exploring the park. As with so many of the locations on this trip, words nor pictures can really do the beauty to be experienced justice.

 

By late morning, our explorations had strayed from the pavement and were on some of the area’s back-country roads and trails. It was along one of these routes that we found a pretty epic stop for our lunch. We were all alone and on top of the world!

 

It was after lunch and as we made our way toward our planned campsite that Mother Nature smacked us into reality again. It was amazing how quickly storms brew up here and, before we knew it, we were getting wet.

For much of this time, we decided to stay parked and take in a little nap to recover from the long previous night. Eventually, however, we decided we needed to finish our push to a suitable camping spot and this is where things got VERY interesting.

We’ve experienced our fair share of mud… Even clay based types which are prevalent in our southern Ohio area. This said, The Badlands’ bentonite clay and small volcanic rock deposits had a new lesson for us in what became some of the stickiest mud we have ever seen!

Soon, we were getting bogged and having trouble moving forward, or so we thought… What we thought was just normal loss of traction from mud later turned out to not be slipping at all, but rather us dragging our trailer with jammed up tires from the mud that had clogged them. It wasn’t only the trailer that this had happened to, but also the Jeep.

 

It would be after a fair amount of digging, scraping, and checking before we were rolling again. Thankfully, the weather cleared as quickly as it had turned and almost within moments there was no evidence at all the rain had even happened.

After this experience, we decided we needed to check the weather forecast. This isn’t something we wanted to relive! Unfortunately, it revealed that more storms were on their way and it was at this point we decided to ditch our super remote camp and make a run for the Sage Creek camping area where hopefully the soil was more forgiving when wet.

This was a wise choice as we barely got set up before getting hit with another storm that dwarfed the predecessor.

 

The following morning we were headed into the Black Hills and towards Mount Rushmore. It was here that all the “open range cattle” signs were first spotted and for good reason! Multiple times we had to wait/nudge cattle from a road or trail. It wasn’t just while moving. Cows were also our biggest camp nemesis throughout the trip and these interaction are what founded the name of this adventure.

 

Before long we were pulling into Mount Rushmore. While it is an amazing spot that really should be visited by everyone, we kind of enjoyed the journey there more than the destination itself. To this point, we honestly didn’t hang out there long before moving on to camp.

 

This next leg through the Black Hills and to our planned campsite got a little interesting. The forestry road we had selected gradually went from a wide and well-maintained gravel road to a very narrow 2-track lane, so much so that we checked the MVUM map several times as we thought we were on an ATV route. The picture below doesn’t show it well, but this clearing for a downed tree was barely wide enough to wiggle the Jeep and trailer through, especially considering the shear drop that the log is clinging to.

 

The track did eventually widen and the remaining trek to camp was largely uneventful.  The site we had scouted was pretty nice other than the cow patties that sprinkled the area. Since most of them looked to be fairly old, we went ahead and set-up.

Other than some VERY near coyotes early in the evening, sleep here was great…. right up until we woke to a rather loud Moooooo!

Yep! We were surrounded by cows… Big-ins, little-ins, and all those in between. Most were pretty responsive to the shooing Jay gave them. However, there has to be one in every crowd and this one had a heifer that was hell bent on staying. The Mexican standoff was intense for a bit, but Jay eventually won. 😛

 

Once packed, we had more backroads and beauty to enjoy as we worked over and through the Black Hills and to Devil’s Tower.


 

By lunchtime we were at the base of the tower. There really isn’t much to do here unless you are planning to hike or climb so after a quick lunch and taking in the sights, we were on the move again. We had a fair amount of ground to cover to reach our evening stop (hotel).

 

With a much needed shower and nice meal in our bellies we worked our way along Bighorn before making our way up and over. While much of this route was on pavement, it was still a wonderful drive that was full of vista views.

 

The landscape on the other side of the summit was very different from the eastern side. What was once green had turned to brown. Not only was the vegetation different, but the rock was more brown over the greys and reds we saw earlier.

 

We still had a bunch of ground to cover once over Bighorn. The goal was to get into the southeastern part of the Shoshone National Forest for camp, but when we passed through Thermopolis, WY we had to stop at what they claim to be the “World’s Largest Mineral Hot Springs”.

Trust me… the pictures are better than real life as one of the prevalent minerals is sulfur…  🙄

 

We ended up rolling into camp a bit early, and while it wasn’t the exact spot we has scouted, it turned out to be one of the best sites of the trip. The only real negative to it at all was the mosquitoes.

It was at 9634 ft! We had clear views of snow covered mountains that later we learned were nearly 40 miles away. Heck, our own site had a 20×10 pile of snow that had yet to melt.

 

 

While this was our favorite site, we didn’t sleep the best here… Neither Jay or I could turn our brains off in the quiet. We live pretty rural and thought we knew quiet, but we were wrong. We could literally hear mosquitoes bounce off the tent, in between Kegan’s snores that is…

After cooking some breakfast and packing up, we headed for Grand Teton.

At one of the first overlooks, Jay stopped to try his hand at rock stacking. The one on the left is his so I guess he is alright at it!

 

There really isn’t a lot to say about the Grand Teton area. It’s amazingly beautiful, no matter where you look you are in a post card.

 

….and of course we made a stop at Old Faithful. I mean a trip here just isn’t complete without seeing this notable geyser. This said, we almost missed it twice. Once due to the crazy traffic throughout the park and the second because we were cleaning up from dinner that we decided to make in the parking lot.

 

After driving and visiting just a bit more, we made our way to West Yellowstone (Montana) where we would make camp in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.

Beyond a solo coyote, this site was pretty tranquil and offered a nice night’s rest.

 

As nice as the Grand Teton area was to see and visit, a few things had become clear that after a quick discussion, prompted us to once again change our plans and cover most of Yellowstone in the following day.

The traffic and people were just too much for us to ever really relax enough to enjoy the area. With us always wanting to “get out of places” we were covering ground far faster than we anticipated and we just couldn’t see how to fill three more days. So, we got up early and planned to make a full day of exploring Yellowstone with an exit out the northeast corner on the Beartooth Highway (US-212).

I was happy this plan seemed to excite Kegan and he seemed much more engaged with taking pictures and being a part of the action and views.

 

As I mentioned, we decided to leave the park on the Beartooth highway (US-212). This trip offered a mountain climb to nearly 11,000 feet and had spectacular view after view along the entire route! …and where else can you have a snow-ball fight in early August? 😛

 

After another hotel stay, we decided to stop by the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This is a really nice park, but I must admit it was a little less appreciated by us having already experienced so much natural beauty over the last several days.

It did seem fitting to say farewell to the adventure here though… What began in the Badlands National Park would end in the Badlands of the park honoring the president that worked to protect so many of the areas we’d just ventured through.

 

If you’re interested in seeing more pictures that Jay and Kegan took while on this adventure, feel free to check out the Google Album HERE