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.
On the Utah trip (as well as Anza-Borrego), I'd noticed that my new front suspension from ADS didn't seem quite right. When I'd go over the back side of a bump and the wheel had to travel down to meet the lower ground, I was frequently getting a "clunk" sound that I'd previously not heard (with the Toytec BOSS setup). On talking to Monte (who got the same setup a few months after I did), he mentioned that he too heard the clunk now sometimes - but not nearly as much as I was hearing it.
The only difference as far as I could tell was that he'd removed some pre-load from his springs.
Keen to stop the bump and get a bit smoother ride, I took the opportunity to use the Branick spring compressor to remove approximately one-third of the pre-load from my coilovers (about ¾" of front lift). Needless to say it was satisfying to be able to turn the collar on the shock body without any punch or pry bar, all of the spring tension held in check by the compressor.
And, removing that tension seems to have fixed most of the clunking I was hearing. Where previously I got on the order of 10-15 clunks/day even when I was being careful, on this trip I was less careful and still got no more than 1 clunk each day.
Re-booted CV Axles with OEM Boots (new)
The CVs performed flawlessly on this trip - something I was a little concerned abouts given my surprise when rebooting the passenger side. The boots - as expected from an OEM kit (04438-04021) - are holding up well, and the Moog Universal CV boot clamps that I got for the inner joint are holding just fine. I expect these boots to last for many years, especially since I've taken some of the pre-load out of the ADS coilovers.
Miscellaneous Great Stuff
I think I often overlook the little stuff that I take on trips that just does it's 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:
- Full-Size Shovel - I think most folks recommend taking a shovel, but often it's of the folding variety, or a short shovel to save on space. The full-size shovel this time really saved our bacon when we got stuck in the mud, and that's the third time it's gotten us out of a "sticky" situation - it also happened on the OBDR and in Montana last year. Digging with a full-size shovel is so much more efficient, and you have so much more leverage, it really reinforces for me the value of this simple tool.
- Muck Boots - I've only had my Arctic Sport Muck Boots for a few trips now, but the peace of mind they allow when you're in a muddy, snowy, or wet situation is totally worth their reasonably-expensive price tag. In the past, I'd be hesitant to get out and walk a water crossing because it would mean getting my shoes wet or going barefoot (which means cold, drying off, and risky footing). Same for muddy situations - I wouldn't want to get my one pair of shoes all nasty just to scout a short length of trail. Muck boots change all that and they allowed me to spend half an hour digging out the truck in over a foot of mud without giving it a second thought. Big thumbs-up from me.
- Differential Lockers - This may seem strange, but I feel like lockers are something that people just don't like to talk about or acknowledge. Those that don't have them boast about how great they are because they don't need them; those that do have them hesitate to use them (or admit they used them) even though we all paid a pretty penny to get them. On this trip, my ability to lock both the front and rear axles is a big part of what allowed me to get the truck unstuck from the mud. Nearly all the traction was on the passenger side, and without lockers I would have simply dug myself further and further into the mud. I may not use them often, but like the Muck boots and shovel, even at several hundred bucks, the lockers paid for themselves (or paid for my mistake) by avoiding an expensive tow truck.
Recovery Tracks - Something to Consider in the Future (?)
I've avoiding getting any type of recovery traction device - like MaxTrax or TRED PRO - because they're super expensive and because I feel like any time I'd use them, they'd be so disgustingly dirty that I wouldn't know what to do with them.
Both of those things would have been true on this trip as well - using a traction board may have even resulted in the board being buried and unrecoverable due to mud suction - but I think they may have gone a long way to helping me get out of the situation I was in, more easily.
So then, the question becomes - 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.
- The Swing-Out Table - as expected, it was unusable on this trip.
- The Electrical System - continues to have the limitations of a single battery system.
- The Ham Radio Antenna - continues to have the shortcoming mentioned.
- The Bed is Cracking - the crack isn't worsening (that I can tell) but still needs to be addressed.
- Front ADS Reservoirs Too Close to Tires - I've still got rubbing in sharp turns each direction.
- 4Runner Wheels - still silver, which doesn't look as good as the Bronze SCS Stealth6s.
Always love reading your adventures, any plans on making some videos of some of your adventures on YouTube?
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.
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!
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!
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!
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! ?