The idea was simple, if somewhat nutty. Take our ’01 Wrangler, Project Red, that hasn’t been driven for over three years, put it back on the road, drive it to, and take it over the Rubicon Trail for the 60th anniversary of Jeepers Jamboree event.
If we were responsible adults, what we would have done was chosen one of our other, closer-to-ready Jeeps, changed the oil, tossed it on a trailer behind a comfy tow rig, and cruised up there. But that’s just not how we roll. Instead we took the Jeep that needed lockers plumbed and wired, the winch installed, and the T-case linkage fixed. Then we needed to add a first-aid kit, a fire extinguisher, and a Hi-Lift Jack, per Jeepers’ regulations. Once that was done, we realized our front springs were too short for the added weight and the bigger-than-planned-for tires were eating the front fenders. And did we mention we had completely redone the entire suspension and fuel system?
But wait, there’s more. Trasborg gets in his Cherokee and takes a road trip of the West. Of course, the Cherokee pukes out a power steering pump resulting in a delay getting home to the Wrangler. So the plan became: get home late Thursday night, begin work Friday, get it all done by Monday, pack the Jeep Tuesday, pickup copilot on Wednesday, and hit the road to cover the 500 miles for the event check-in. If all went well by Thursday we’d be on the ’Con far away from computers, deadlines, and stress to enjoy a four-day Jamboree, which is kind of like summer camp for adults. That was the plan, anyway.
Thrashing Days 1 Through 4
Prior to going to the ’Con, here’s some of the stuff we had to get done. Over the course of four 100-plus-degree days we were able to get it all completed with the help from a few friends. And this is just before we leveled the Jeep out.
- Rewire ARB Air Locker control switches
- Replumb ARB air lines running from the solenoids out to the axles
- Install winch
- Fix T-case linkage because it was too short due to taller engine mounts and high-clearance belly skid
- Remount two MT/Rs that the tire shop put on backwards Add rear tow point per Jeepers’ regulations
- Replace shot stock steering linkage with Currie Currectlync stuff so we’d still have a tie rod after the ’Con
- Perform at-home alignment and center the steering wheel
- Figure out a mount to attach the Hi-Lift Jack to the front bumper
- Find a place in the already-crowded interior for first-aid kit and fire-extinguisher Dig recovery straps and D-rings out of M-715
The 60th annual Jeepers Jamboree had 520 vehicles registered. Due to the increase in participation, there were three different options you could choose from. There was a three-day trip, a four-day trip, and a five-day trip. Food and entertainment was provided from breakfast the first day on the trail to lunch on the last day as you departed. If you are interested in participating next year, there will be both three- and four-day options. The three-day will be from July 26 through July 28, 2013, and the four-day will be from July 25 through July 28, 2013.
Day 7 brought a calm time hanging out at Rubicon Springs. Well, as calm as we could get between shooting event coverage. We opted for the 4-day trip, which got us a day to wheel in, two days of unscheduled downtime, and a day to wheel out. During the downtime, you can go wheeling, participate in one of many activities, or just hang out in the water. At night there was a band and a raffle.
Day 3 and 4 Continued
We’d set the Jeep up for 33-inch-tall tires. But then we ended up with a set of 35-inch-tall Goodyear MT/R take-offs from another project and threw them on. With all the added weight to the front of the Jeep, the bigger tires ate the front fenders flares and the rear of the front fenderwell. We liked the ride of our existing TeraFlex parts, so we swapped our 3-inch springs for 4-inch springs to level the Jeep. We also went from 8-inch-travel shocks to 10-inch-travel shocks, and installed TeraFlex’s new Speed Bumps because the polyurethane bumpstops were rattling our fillings out.
Because of the added number of attendees (many with ill-prepared Jeeps), breakdowns in inaccessible areas caused lots of traffic, and even though we hit the trail at 7am, it was after 6pm by the time we made it in to camp. We are happy to say, we weren’t ill-prepared, although our ’01 Wrangler’s factory-installed power steering pump was giving us problems and the engine began taking multiple tries to start. We put it down to heat soak.Daniel Hunt of Ventura, California, had no such problems even pushing 40s with his CJ-7, its 350ci Chevy V-8, and full PSC power steering with ram-assist.
It was Day 8 for us, but for everyone else it was day 2. The vendors set up and showed their wares at the vendor show. Also, since this was the 60th year for Jeepers, there was a grassroots push to bring in 60-year-old Jeeps which meant a lot of flatfenders showed up. Flatville was setup for four hours and anyone with a flatfender was welcome to bring it, display it, and swap stories with whoever wanted to stop by.
Day 5 and 6
We packed the Jeep with all of our camping gear sometime after midnight on Tuesday. Then at first light Wednesday morning, we got it re- re-aligned, picked up our co-pilot from the airport, and hit the road. The first 500 miles went fine and we got to the trailhead in time to check-in. On Day 6 (Thursday), we hit the ’Con. One of the nice things about Jeepers Jamborees is that they have all kinds of people stationed along the trail from spotters to mechanics and every once in a while something nice to look at.
It was about that time that we heard the distinctive exhaust of a stock L-head and found Rick Pewe, editor of 4-Wheel and Off-Road, putting in. Like us, he too drove his jeep, but he started with his dad’s ’43 GPW in Arizona and had just a few more problems than we did. Hopefully he got it sorted out on the ’Con, because he was heading east after this for a cross-country trip. Eh, Rick is happiest when he’s broken down on the side of the trail with a Jeep fix-it project anyway.
A wine and cheese tasting is not something we’d have thought we’d find in the middle of nowhere (or we thought we’d find ourselves at), but there it was. It was called “Diamond in the Rough” and offered about 40 different wines from many smaller, quasi-local vintners in addition to various cheeses, meats, and crackers to sample as well. We tried to blend in and devoured plenty of cheese, meat, and crackers, but after a few wine samples we had to grab a few beers to “cleanse our palate.”
We got to check-in so late we didn’t really have time to grab any swag, but we were told that stuff would be on sale during meals so we didn’t worry about it too much. Maybe it was our timing, but it wasn’t until the last dinner that we caught it open. Then once we bought stuff we had to figure out how to get it out without covering it with grease, mud, or oil. So, either pick your swag up beforehand when you check-in, or order it online and have it sent to your house and save yourself the trouble.
After it spit out the plug for the second time in only a few hundred feet, one of the other guys with a JK stepped up and loaned his spare tire. Sure, there was now a 35-inch tire where a 37 was earlier, and neither guy knew the other one that well, but that’s how the Rubicon works. Everyone pitches in to help out where they can. Surprisingly, Trasborg’s 20-year-old neglected Hi-Lift worked just fine for the swap.
We got off the trail late at night, and it wasn’t until after midnight we made it to our hotel with some new drivetrain noise coming from under the Jeep, in addition to the starting and power steering problems. We still had over 500 miles to go and our AAA doesn’t go that far. The plan was to spend half a day chasing and fixing the issues and then drive home. We over inflated the front tires which helped the power steering pump and found the driveline noise was the CV joint in the front driveshaft so we pulled it. We ran all kinds of checks for the starting issue and didn’t figure it out so we just rolled the dice and drove for home.
Just as the Spare Tire Races were set to kick off, we ended up with a flood. We are still unclear if it was a beaver dam that lost a piece or someone opened a spillway upstream. Trasborg almost lost his tent, and everything in it, but fortunately some of the people in camp carried it uphill out of harm’s way. See where the guy is standing? The tent was just below that before the flood.
For the 60th, the Jamboree crew raffled off a Jeep with the help of several sponsors. That’s right, one lucky Jeeper got a new-to-them Jeep. The sponsors that made it happen are 4 Wheel Parts, Arabia’s Overkill, Black Rock Wheels, Currie Enterprises, Eagle Radiator, GenRight Off Road, Goodyear, J&W Autowreckers, Rockhard 4x4, Roundeye.com, Smittybilt, and Ten-Factory.
While we were fighting a power steering pump that didn’t want to turn, a screaming accessory belt, and a Jeep that didn’t want to start, our trail leader poked a few holes in his tire. We are guessing he just wanted to make us feel better, and since his loaner Jeep didn’t have a spare tire, there was no choice but to try and plug the sidewall in hopes of making it off the trail before dark.
Here’s the normal night scene. Front right is the bar, back and center is the ice cream shop. Both are open all day long. To the right and just behind the ice cream shop are some awnings that provide shade for meals and in the back right corner where the smoke is, is the galley. This is Saturday night and they are grilling up steaks on huge open flame grills.
This is the main mechanic’s station just to the west of Rubicon Springs. Hopefully you aren’t forced to visit these guys, but if you are, they are Jeep nuts and gearheads and are more than capable of getting your Jeep up and running again. Even if they don’t have the part you need, between radio communications, helicopter flights, and Jeeps going in and out of camp they can often get it delivered.