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Rig Review: Alvord Desert - What worked and what didn't?

April 29, 2019.

The trip to the Alvord Desert and Hart Mountain Antelope National Wildlife Refuge was one that we threw together relatively quickly and without much work on the truck after the previous trip. The only work really was maintenance - an oil change, tire rotation, and re-booting the passenger CV axle. That said, as the trip progressed, there were still several items worth noting.

ADS Coilovers - Pre-Load Removed

TL;DR - I recommend running front suspension with as little pre-load as possible. Having removed about a third of the pre-load from my ADS setup for this trip, the ride was much better and the suspension felt like it was able to work in situations where it was previously hitting full-droop.

Re-booted CV Axles with OEM Boots (new)

TL;DR - After rebooting my CV axles with Toyota OEM boot kits, I am extremely happy. I think this is absolutely the best way to go - even better than custom boots or extended boots from CVJ or doing the boot slide mod.

Miscellaneous Great Stuff

TL;DR - I think I often overlook the little stuff that I take on trips that just does its job, or that may not be used every trip, but is really handy when the time comes. A few of those things saved the day this time and I think it's worth highlighting their value.

Recovery Tracks - Something to Consider in the Future

TL;DR - The question for me when it comes to recovery tracks is, are they worth it? For me, I think the answer is still "not yet," but I'm more on the fence than I've been in the past.

Unchanged / Still an issue from previous Rig Reviews

There are some things that have been featured in Rig Reviews that are - as yet - unchanged from when I originally reviewed them. Rather than highlight those things again, I'll simply link to them here.

  1. The Swing-Out Table - as expected, it was unusable on this trip.
  2. The Electrical System - continues to have the limitations of a single battery system.
  3. The Ham Radio Antenna - continues to have the shortcoming mentioned.
  4. The Bed is Cracking - the crack isn't worsening (that I can tell) but still needs to be addressed.
  5. Front ADS Reservoirs Too Close to Tires - I've still got rubbing in sharp turns each direction.
  6. 4Runner Wheels - still silver, which doesn't look as good as the Bronze SCS Stealth6s.



Check out older Rig Reviews


  1. Tom Jones
    Tom Jones January 13, 2020

    Always love reading your adventures, any plans on making some videos of some of your adventures on YouTube?

    • turbodb
      turbodb January 13, 2020

      Thanks Tom! I've considered videos (and a drone and all that good stuff), but having made a few family videos in the past, I know how much work that is! Plus, then trips would become more about making content (setting up drone shots, re-running parts of the trail to film, etc.) than just capturing what I see through a lens.

      Written/read stories also feel to me like a bit of a "lost art," so it's fun to try and recapture some of that through my adventures.

      Still, I'm always thinking about it. I'm sure I'd get more people to watch than I do read ;). Hope you keep enjoying, and I'm happy to answer questions any time.

  2. Steve Titus
    Steve Titus August 30, 2020

    I've enjoyed your reading your posts and wished I'd found them before our recent trip (July 2020) to the Steens and Alvord Desert. We tried to find the east exit from Alvord Playa via Big Sand Gap but couldn't locate the road. We did find the exit to the east from Alvord Well #3 (▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ ) and followed it up to the Pipeline Well, Ancient Lake Well (both solar powered wells with holding ponds for the wild mustangs and others) then south to Coyote Lake. We tried to find the exit of Coyote Lake toward the northeast but were unhappy with what we found and chose the southern exit (▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ ) to Whitehorse Ranch Rd then to I-95.

    We also travel alone so I'm very cautious. We travel with a SPOT locater to "ring up" the kids if req'd. I use Topofusion to download USGS maps and a usb GPS receiver to track our progress and search for alternate routes when required. I'd love it if you would intersperse some GPS coordinates in your posts to help readers identify some of the very cool locations you visit!

    • turbodb
      turbodb August 30, 2020

      Hi Steve, glad you found the site - even if it was later than you'd hoped! We've actually done three trips to the area, not sure if you've found all three of the reports or not... if not, here's a link to all of our Alvord Desert Exploration.

      There's so much to explore around there, and the playa itself is such a special place, I'm sure we'll be back nearly every year to enjoy some time there!

      As far as GPS points go - I generally don't share those - they just make it too easy for people to find certain places. For nearly everywhere I visit, spending a bit of time with the trip report and Google Maps/Earth will allow the reader to recreate the route, and I feel like even that little bit of time keeps many of the Insta-masses away from the more special sites. I'm always more than happy to engage in conversation and give recommendations (via the Contact me form) about places, so feel free to reach out if you've tried to create a route to some place I've been and just want confirmation!

  3. Joel Shedd
    Joel Shedd March 25, 2021

    Enjoy all of your adventures. I think I have noticed in previous pictures your full sized shovel is a round nose point shovel. I have found that a full size flat square point shovel is really nice for a recovery shovel. This is especially true with snow because it can move a lot of snow and is the perfect size for shoveling a path for tires down through snow that fits a tire width. Just thought I would share something I found from experience.
    Keep up the fun travels!

    • turbodb
      turbodb March 25, 2021

      Hey Joel, glad to hear you’re enjoying the adventures, it’s always nice when folks do! You’re right that the shovel I take is a pointed tip shovel. I’ve considered taking a flat shovel as well - I use both at home, and as you mentioned the flat shovel is much better for moving material quickly. At the end of the day though, I like the utility of the pointed shovel in various terrain. Many of the places I go are rocky, or have very hard soil, and having the point at least gives me a fighting chance at getting a hole. For snow in particular however, I often find myself bringing a dedicated snow shovel, since that can move material so much more quickly! Thanks again and I hope you have a great time out on the trail as well! ?

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