Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Wickenburg Descent

At the end of the roll down the hill, the tires had to be aired back up in order to press on to Chino Valley.

At the end of the roll down the hill, the tires had to be aired back up in order to press on to Chino Valley. That’s a tire gauge on top of the rear tire, for a final check, since the dial gauge on my pump reads 4 pounds high.

The quarter-mile trip down Mt. Niitaka needs considerably more care than the climb, because the trail up continues back down in a sort of extended loop, with its own set of challenges. Mind you, I watched an old Jeep Cherokee cruise by camp, having had no difficulties, and once or twice a day, an open Jeep Wrangler went past with a few tourists, its driver stopping now and then to tell his stories. A nice, narrow 4WD vehicle with high ground clearance is all that’s needed, and I’m sure even a 2WD vehicle with a limited-slip rear axle could make it up the trail I came down on.

2WD without a limited-slip diff, which I affectionately call “one-wheel drive”, well, good luck and make sure your spare tire is usable – should your vehicle prove unsuited and you insist on proceeding up anyway, you may slice or otherwise overtax a drive tire. Forget trailers of any type unless they are small, lightweight, and off-road specific – or you don’t mind dragging your converted cargo trailer over deeply embedded rock projections. It’s your money. The cell signal in this area is generally very good, by the way.

The trail as shown in the video below looks flat and featureless, but keep in mind that I’m picking the smoothest path down it. It’s practically a cruise in a small-enough vehicle, but get wider and longer, and you can start grounding things out. At a couple of points, it’s a choice of evils and there is no “best” path. Classic utility or sport utility vehicles will find it fun and very easy. Bigger, lower vehicles with overhang and more cargo capacity, not so much.

I decided to take the advice I’d received and lower the Ford’s tire pressures in an attempt to soften the jarring violence of 70 PSI when going over rocks. I’d noticed on a walk-through that some of the embedded rocks along this trail rose to a sharp point or to a decently sharp blade, but not having to worry about tire slippage eliminated that concern. This was about trying to slow the rocking of the camper, so I put on the Coyote tire deflators, and they took pressures down to 25 PSI in a couple-three minutes. I much appreciate how they snap shut once the exact final pressure is reached, instead of continuing to bleed slowly until they’re  manually removed. Good equipment lends confidence and removes itself as a potential source of mishap, which, in many places out here, can mean much more than inconvenience.

Okay, in his hands it's more of a potential source of mishap than a provider of confidence.

Okay, in his hands, some good equipment can be more of a potential source of mishap than a provider of confidence…which is why he was allowed just one.

Once the cameras were reversed in position from the previous test – DV videocam on the tripod and Pentax DSLR on the vehicle mount, I took off. Slowly. I was surprised just how much the now-soft tires cushioned the impacts, though I also went even slower than the first descent I made weeks before, in order to slow up the rock & roll too. Still, the difference was obvious. If you’re willing to air back up at the end – which takes about 35 minutes with my pump – it makes intensely rocky trails much more tolerable. Much. Off-roaders air down to gain traction, decrease tire hazard damage, and improve flotation. Since I won’t be attempting to push the Super Duty’s performance envelope, I’ll be airing down to save myself and the camper unnecessary punishment and get some emergency flotation – if that’s possible at a loading of over 2,600 pounds per tire.

What’s apparent in the video footage is the rocking of the cargo box hitch, or more accurately, the Curt dual hitch adapter going into the truck’s receiver. The Curt adapter is short and fat, and will not accept many kinds of anti-wobble devices that stop the loose play in hitches. Only the RM-061 Roadmaster Quiet Hitch for 2″ trailer hitches from eTrailer looked like it might have a chance. As it turned out, it does fit, though the threaded portions are not as long as I’d like. Here’s a photo of it:

On this Curt adapter, the StowAway hitch tightener is above on the right, while the Quiet Hitch tightener is below left.

On this Curt adapter, the StowAway hitch tightener is above on the right, while the Quiet Hitch tightener is below left.

At first blush, this Quiet Hitch works well. Whether it will need periodic retightening remains to be seen. What’s not apparent in the video is that although the camper/bed assembly still rocks – probably aggravated by all the rooftop solar panels and other high equipment – the camper mounts are holding tight to date. That’s good.

So here’s the video, chopped down to 14 minutes and nearly 300MB of file. This time, it wobbles back and forth between the tripod-mounted camera and then the onboard footage of that same section. It’s about 13 minutes too long, frankly. In the relatively simple task of hacking 1-1/2 hours of video to 14 minutes, the good news is that it drove home to me that this subject, the nature of the vehicle and trails, the shooting limitations, the cellular data uploading issues, the large amount of storage memory taken and the time involved are simply not worth even getting to the rough cut stage. Certain events are worth it and are inherently more interesting, but this isn’t one of them. I’ve already moved on to Chino Valley and its pleasant vistas, and I’m cutting my losses on trail videos in order to be able to stay reasonably up to date on this blog – and enjoy my time. Without videos of this level, I think you’ll enjoy your time more, too.

Handy tip when wanting to camp in this area: A far easier and less mechanically stressful approach to my campsite at GPS 34.052321, -112.751775 is to take “Scenic Loop Road” east from the highway, AZ-93, instead of Rincon Road further south. I noticed an inordinate amount of pickups with stock or horse trailers on it, and looked it up in Google Maps. A little washboard here and there is as challenging as it gets. Using it makes it possible to cut right once past the intersection of Rincon, and go right up the trail shown in the video above. The campsite is at the top.

It can get windy up here, so use a multiplier of at least two for any weather predictions.

It can get windy up here, so use a multiplier of at least two for any weather predictions.

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20 thoughts on “Wickenburg Descent

  1. Oh my! Talk about the tail wagging the dog. That box really does the himmy shimmy doesn’t it. It looks like the Grandby is fairly solid with the way the truck was bouncing around, but I bet you were feeling that box shake the truck around. It looks like raising the box did make it easier on some of those dips, but oh my, the shake!

    • Nope, I had no clue that the cargo box was shifting, apart from knowing it was by being able to rock it manually when parked. I guess in the great scheme of things, the weight and motion are comparatively minor. I’ve since gotten rid of the play in the hitch receiver, but it’s more on principle than on some negative effect I can point to. Nothing in there is sensitive to being shaken.

      • Glad to hear you don’t keep anything delicate, like soda pop, back there. That whole shaken, not stirred thing, could become important! Lol.

        All kidding aside, The Mighty Furd can really handle some interesting climbs! Definitely impressive how you’ve got your rig set up!

        It is so great that you can see, and stay, in areas that were off limits, by a long way, in the Defiant. 🙂 I am looking forward to more stories of your escapades in the Mighty Intrepid!

        • Thanks, Rachel. It is quite a sensation to now sit behind the wheel, spy an interesting trail, and be able to see what it’s about. As with where I am now, to be able to decide “Oh, I think I’ll camp right there” is a new experience.

  2. Cardwell Smith on said:

    Long or not, I enjoyed the video Doug! I may have missed it on previous posts, but which air pump are you using? Also, can’t remember, do you have air bags on the truck?

    • I chose the Viair 450P-Auto. The whole deflate/inflate thing is covered in this post from February. Apart from how deeply the tire valve is inserted into the locking air chuck, it is showing no temperamental nature at all. There are more powerful versions, but I shied away from their amp draw and knew my airing down/up would be an infrequent thing compared to a off-road weekender.

      The Mighty Furd has no suspension aids of any type. It doesn’t feel overloaded in any way, in town or in the nasties. Fords sit level when empty, so I thought I’d give it a year wearing the FWC and attachments to see whether I wanted and was willing to pay $400 to get the inch of lost rear height back with air bags. I’d also priced a rear anti-sway bar, since although they compromise articulation, my front bar and springs are completely dominating roll or tilt on trails. Retrofitting an OEM rear bar is not possible, according to Ford Parts. The only option appears to be a Hellwig bar, at $400+ installed. Just letting it all soak…

  3. Bob G on said:

    That cargo box is just an accident waiting to happen. Before you scrape it off in the middle of nowhere, I suggest you reassess your real need for anything you carry in there. I thought a bit about alternatives, such as hanging storage outside the side rails, but that would probably make your rig illegally wide. Or maybe not.

    Perhaps you could take out the back seat and put in shelving to make that area into a real floor to ceiling storage space. It’s not like you can really see out the rear window any more.

    • Good suggestions, Bob. The cab’s back seat area is now effectively floor to ceiling storage, half of the upper section taken up by hanging clothes bags and half by rigid hanging boxes. A stepladder spans the back, resting on the folded seat edge. A few inches below begins wall-to-wall tanks, boxes and equipment. The folding seat bottoms, 4-5″ thick, are up flat against the seat back and so don’t take all that much space. Since I’m not willing to pay for permanently storing anything or disposing of core items like rear seats, removal does not appeal to me. Open shelving would give me the willies in the event of a driving incident, but I assume that you have something in mind more like really deep side access shelves.

      I’m not as pessimistic on the cargo box as you seem to be. I see its service life as now being more dependent on the fatigue strength of its formed steel tube hitch stalk. I’m no longer as concerned about grounding it out since the recent lift. Given the front e-bike carrier, running boards installed along a 156″ wheelbase, stock height vehicle with no protective skid plates, as well as my cautious nature adventure-wise and financial, the StowAway’s stalk may eventually fatigue and snap off, but I doubt I’ll do any more than tweak it once or twice from contact over its service life. I lack the weekend four-wheeling hobby vehicle mentality and am not at all adverse to turning back. Perhaps by the time I’ve over-abused the StowAway, I’ll have saved up for the proper Aluminess system I preferred but could not possibly afford, or eliminated the need by selling off the offending items.

      In the meantime, yup, I’m looking at what I brought along and where it goes during this first “tour season”. It’s no mystery as to why I’m over GVWR! Some of what I brought along is merely to keep it from destroying itself in Yuma’s summer heat, or because it’s maintenance gear for other equipment. By the time I return to Yuma in November, I should have a decent handle on any needed changes.

      • Bob G on said:

        Bear in mind that when you break it, there will be no way to bring that bulky thing back for repairs or disposal. You can probably stuff most of the contents inside the camper somewhere, temporarily, but the box itself will remain to puzzle future campers. Or perhaps archaeologists.

        Just thought of an appropriate bumper sticker for the back: “Drag Queen”. Err… perhaps not. :o)

        Bob, whose sense of humor is suspect.

        • Fortunately, that assembly can break back down into it’s original four pieces pretty quickly, using hand tools. And even the largest piece can get through the camper door and rest on the floor. Might even fit on top of the bike trailer in the front carrier. The problem would come from not being aware that it had been jettisoned, and me wondering at the next stop, “Hmm, seems awfully easy to get in now. Didn’t I have something back here?” while the lucky finder is wondering what the current market value of a used shoeshine kit is. The stickers, I will leave in your questionable hands!

  4. You are certainly living the life. Sounds like a great adventure.

  5. nice footage! Some of the wheel dip shots are quite dramatic. The FWC and your front rack look rock solid compared to that rear box wagging about, reminds me of a bike rack I had hanging off the 1 1/4″ hitch of my old Celica. After a couple of stops on the highway to make sure that it really was not going to fall off, I took a hacksaw to some overly long parts and added a hitch stabilizer, along with bungees from bikes to car. It helped, somewhat.

    I would probably take a hacksaw to your StowAway stalk too… would that interfere with its working and swinging away properly? I’m curious to see how long it lasts before you have to buy the Aluminess bumper.

    Onward to the next adventure!

    • The StowAway’s stalk could be shortened several inches if I also had the proper drill bit. It would continue to work and swing just fine, the problem for my installation being that the frame is now too high to act as an entry step, so one would need to be added. The current ability to enter from the passenger side directly onto the bumper step would end, so an intermediate step would be required promptly. Eventual replacement would depend on how long eventual was – I can buy 4-6 complete StowAways, shipped, for each Aluminess system that would hold the same amount.

      • whoa! well that’s a useful perspective to have, as you may only need to replace parts. There may be a StowAway at some point in my future then.

        • Yep. If one has the dough, the Aluminess system is far superior for off-roading and leaves tow points intact. But, it’s an elaborate jig-built solution that costs enough to make you wonder if you can’t horse some make-do approach into doing the job. In my case, bringing along the e-bike already compromises rough-trail ability, so hanging something out back isn’t quite the sacrifice it would be it I were running “clean” fore and aft. It’s an affordable “well, let’s see how it does” choice.

  6. First, congratulations on goal achieved. A lot of work which has paid off!

    I actually watched the entire video and not once did it challenge my 5 minute attention span. 🙂 It was interesting to see how a big rig handles such a rough road.

    A couple of questions on suspension; I’d read in another blog of a wedge of sorts that can be inserted inbetween two leaf springs to presumably, add some sag support (in the event it occurs) . Any thoughts on them?

    Additionally, I remember the use of air shocks from my younger days which could raise the rear end several inches. I also remember they tended to be a bit leaky and therefore not a long-term solution, but was wondering if something of that sort could provide a quick lift to your rear end during particularly challenging sections of road.

    Cheers

    • Thanks Jim. I think you deserve a frameable certificate of commendation for making it all the way through that video! I’m not a big fan of air shocks in general, as I once had a shock mount tear off merely from installing stout new shock absorbers. And yes, I too have been around long enough to see some of the ridiculous ways some guys used them! Unintentional humor. I tend to take Adventure Trailer’s advice about stoking suspensions for true off-road use seriously. That is: don’t concentrate stress on stressed members. I’ve seen the wedges and spacers and helper springs and air shocks online, and it is practically required to bolster the rear suspensions on the small trucks that these campers most often are installed on. Having seen the results in their shop in Prescott AZ after the fact, their advice to me was to avoid adding stress points. These options are okay for highway use, but will eventually fail in challenging conditions, which can have potentially hazardous results (in the middle of nowhere). Not what I want. The sole option they choose to offer is so-called air bags, which help without hurting. It’s too early in the game for me to make that decision, but if I decide to aid the Mighty Furd’s rear suspension, air bags will be my own choice, with separate valves at the license plate area waiting for my Viair pump. When I look at the Ford’s leaves already carrying 2,500+ pounds per wheel and then consider their considerable experience, I tend to take their advice to heart.

  7. I just had an idea for your waggly box. Just stick a lidded bucket in there filled with your dirty laundry and soapy water for your run into town. By the time you get there, it will be clean and ready for a rinse. Save time at the laundromat!

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