Dan’s combined trip report and hearsay from Saturday’s April 19 Meet &Greet, and Sunday’s HHSVRA trip April 20, 2008.
All week before the April 19/20 weekend I had been putting everything back together in my ‘87 VW Syncro Vanagon (also known as a VW Type-2 T3 Syncro Transporter) to get it ready for the field. In between field runs I have a habit of rebuilding parts of the truck that were working just fine before-hand, and adding contraptions that I may actually use someday if I can just stop taking the truck apart. Actually this last month I had the electrical system torn-up with the entire fuse block out just to document some previous wiring additions that I had done last year. Also I needed to get the rock guard back under the engine as there is only 12in. of clearance down there.
Saturday morning was an eye-opener, there were a LOT of Jeeps in the 4 Wheel Parts parking lot and they all seemed to belong to the folks from my new club!! Okay, I have seen Jeeps before, usually in my rear view mirror on a trail, har har… Actually the vehicles that I see out on the trails are mostly standard non-modded CJ’s and sometimes a Dodge Colt that had been set ablaze and filled with shotgun holes. (I used to off-road in the Angeles Forest in L.A. where you never know what you will find) I spent Saturday talking with the club members and looking at their rigs. I was very impressed with the quality and shear amount of work being put into these rigs, I am a design engineer for work and hobby so it is always interesting for me to get a look at the design and workmanship of a vehicle. I spent a little time in the parking lot bolting on some beefier drive shaft guards that I had just finished welding up for my Syncro “QUADRO”.
And on to Sunday. It was a great day for a ride. I got down to the Coyote Creek at 9am and found the Jeeps, the crew, the dogs, and yes the No Parking sign. We don’t need to heed no stink’n “No Parking” sign. We hung out for a while, played with the dogs then headed out for the hills. When we got to the day-camping area next to the obstacle course we stopped to bleed-down the tires and here is my first lesson needing to be learned. The standard Syncro uses 185/80-14 tires, yes 14″ wheels, after much discussion with various Syncro groups, I had installed 15″ steel wheels with 215/75-15 BFG All Terrain T/A’s and they run great on all types of terrain, I run them nominally at 50 PSI and as I don’t do much rock crawling I do not air them down. The GVWR of the Syncro is 5,512 Lbs. The off road tire usage chart that I checked showed 15 PSI for this size tire, don’t know, I thought that would be a bit low so I went the day at 25 PSI. The ride and stability was good but I need to learn a bit more about terrain and tire pressure. For the first run of the day we rode to the top of Hector Heights, always a nice ride with lots of varying terrain. For this trip to Hollister Hills, I recorded all the runs with my GPS to save the track info to compare with satellite images on a mapping program. Until recently, none of the on-line satellite map servers had much photo resolution in the area of the HHSVRA. Now you can see most all of the trails that are open to the sky and I wanted to compare where we had been. For those interested, Hector Heights coordinates are N36 44.675 W121 25.154 and it shows up well on Google Maps. After some lunch we headed back down and stopped by the ravine and Truck Hill for some rig tests. Here is another lesson I need to learn, should I be trying to straddle that ravine? The Syncro has a wheelbase of 96″, a track of 64″, a tire diameter of 28″, and can run a lot of trails but I need a little more help in deciding if my rig is capable of that ravine. I do know that I would not try to cross the ravine like Jim did but maybe a clean run up or down would work. I was pretty impressed by Ron’s run up and down Truck Hill but I’m not going to do that. We then went over to the obstacle course for some fun. I did do the stair step three times, after each run I had to find the loose objects that went flying around my trucks cab and tie them down better. Some of the crew were trying to get me to run the mud pit. I have in the past but my excuse this time is that I had just finished adding the pretty drive shaft rock guards, and the on-board air system is down there without its guard and cover and I still needed to use it at the end of the day, so there. Looks like fun was had by all and I will be back in May for the Safety Clinic for some lessons, to discuss tactics, and get some questions answered.