Safety Clinic

Trip Report May 13, 14 and 15, 2010 (Safety Clinic and camping with the group) After work on Friday May 13, I traveled to the Area 5 campground in Hollister with my Jeep Liberty. I was all excited and ready for a fun day of being in the countryside, but when I got there, I noticed my left rear tire was lower pressure than it was when I left. It was actually 10 PSI down per the inside tire pressure display!

Upon inspection, I found a nail, cleverly enjoying it's stay in the sidewall of my tire. Since this did not bode well for a 4 wheel drive trip with the tires aired down, it was time to yank out the High Lift jack and jack up the Jeep to change the tire. I chose to first setup my tent and my rollup table.

That first night was fairly quiet and somewhat warm. I got up at 7:00 AM excited and ready to go but it seemed like nearly everyone else was still asleep. The mist/fog in the air was actually quite pretty and made for a nice relaxing morning. After an exciting breakfast of pop tarts, I drove down to register and be inspected. Cj was our trail lead.

After an exciting morning reinforcing most of my previous back country, experience behaviors and strategys in the class room, we returned back to the area 5 ready to move out. We had lunch and then air'd down. It was funny listening to everybody discussing the best way to air down. Seems like there are many different ways and likewise many different opinions and tools. Then we moved out, not to an exciting and challenging obstacle. No we moved around near my tent where "rocks" and very flat "trees" were setup. The purpose was to learn positioning of the Jeep wheels on top of rocks. Apparently the other intent was to MISS the tree but pull up near it. To my surprise I did manage to do that. In some ways I felt sorry for those that didn't do this first but on the other hand it was kind of a let down. The importance of knowing where your bumpers are and where your tires go when turning is of utmost importance but it isn't exactly the most fun!

Next we did the hill climb, which is driving up a hill and apparently changing our mind in mid climb. The result is you stop on the hill, sometimes you turn off the engine. With an automatic, this playing around on the hill was cake. It will be exciting, challenging when I have my other Jeep running with its manual transmission.

There were really 2 highlights of the day. I am not sure exactly which one was my favorite. There were different levels of difficulty in each obstacle. One was the ravine or trench that required you to carefully drive through it, paying very close attention to your guides. What FUN! They were pulling some vehicles out early, if you were not sure that you would make it. Since I was arrogant and I was having way too much fun, i chose to drive the whole way. It ended way too quickly and suddenly I was through. I really wanted to do it again but I couldn't. (Heavy sigh) The secret here is an even consistent foot and a driver that is paying careful attention to only one guide.

The other fun one was the stairstep. It is a good obstacle and a real challenge but here you needed more throttle but you still wanted to be consistent. It seemed so natural to back off the throttle when you were on a step and preparing for the next step. Hearing the tires squeal when you are in a big 4 wheel drive is amusing, if nothing else, since it is not exactly a race car. When I first looked at the height and the number of steps, I was thinking, "Nope. Not going to make this! This darn Jeep Liberty is way too big and heavy, not to mention under-powered with only a 6 cylinder gas engine." But being arrogant and since I was having way too much fun, I tried it anyway. I followed the guide, trying not to run him over too much. Oddly enough before I knew it I was on the top but then I was faced with the real challenge - making that sharp right turn to go back down.

Since I used to always go alone, as we were just wondering around the trails, I realized that one advantage that I always had was not having to wait for others at intersections when the group gets separated. Apparently you can teach this old dog new tricks because I got reasonably good at this after a while.

As I returned back to camp I realized something was wrong with the Liberty. When I put it back into 2 wheel drive, the part time 4 wheel drive light was still on. I had CJ watch me as I accelerated hard to see if 4 wheel drive was really on or just a sensor not right. Not in 4 wheel drive, so safe to drive home. I aired my tires back up at the ranger station. I did not know about checking out. Oops!

Then we had a great barbecue and a lot of good conversation. Later in the evening some of us wandered back and forth between 2 different fires in our camp area. We listened to some music, chatted, enjoyed some adult beverages and relaxed. Perfect end of the perfect day in the countryside.

Sunday morning rolled around and I had to go back to the real world to do some household chores that I had put off. So, I broke up my camp and away I went!

Thanks for a great weekend and a fantastic Saftey Clinic! Michael Sickels