G’day to all you Four Wheeler readers. Get ready for the Overland trek of the year. Read the press release below and stay tuned to Four Wheeler Blogs over the next month for a play-by-play of the ultimate Jeep trek. Because this is an all-dirt trek, we’ll only have Internet every few days. But don’t worry, we’ll be checking in with short clips of the adventure, images, and what’s coming next.
June 2009, the American West
Nowhere has the quest for adventure been more clearly defined than in the American West. From the early days of Lewis and Clark, the Wild West has captured the minds and imaginations of everyone from early French trappers and the 49'ers, to the likes of two guys named Smith & Wesson.
This summer, June 2009, Chris Collard, internationally published photojournalist and owner of Adventure Architects, will be carrying on the American spirit of exploration. Driving a prototype Jeep Overland Wrangler, he and Blue Ribbon Ambassador Del Albright will embark from on an epic Border-to-Border all-dirt trek. From the steel bars of the international US/Mexico border fence near the Algodones Sand Dunes, they'll head north until they run into the single-strand barbed wire demarcation of Canada.
The expedition will pass through five states and a dozen National Forests enroute to Canada. When the dust settles, the team will have crossed Death Valley, Panamint Range, Owens Valley (where we’ll be doing a clean up project), the Wild West town of Bodie, the expanses of ghost-town peppered Nevada, followed the tracks of the Applegate Lassen Immigrant Trial and the Oregon Backcountry Trail, and covered approximately 2000 miles.
Look for a full report in upcoming issues of Four Wheeler Magazine. Border-to-Border is in part sponsored by: Jeep, Mopar, American Expedition Vehicles, ARB, Warn Industries, BFGoodrich, EQUIPT Expedition Outfitters, Expedition One, SPOT Global Tracking, JEEPCAMPING.COM, Viking Off Road and 4x4 Wire. For additional information or to become a sponsor, contact Chris Collard (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Del Albright (email@example.com)
Border To Border – Day Two Of Life On The Road – 186 Miles
June 10, 2009: Blog location, the cool folks at the Holiday in Express in 29 Palms.
We aired down the tires along the big steel fence on the Mexican border yesterday morning. We were alone for all of ten minuets before being joined by no less than six border patrol rigs… Apparently it is illegal to be within 100 feet of the fence! And, they didn’t like the fact that I’d been leaving bare footprints along the fence, as they “footprints send us into the desert searching for illegals.”
Del Albright and I were working on about ten hours sleep over the last three days. The weather was just awesome and we headed north along the Algodones Dunes and into the Imperial Valley with Jimmy Buffet blasting on the Jeep’s radio. Planning this trek has been fun. With all the technology available: maps, Garmin GPS, Map Source, and Google Earth, one might think we would know exactly where we are going, right? No... we got chased out of a bombing range east of the Salt-n-Sea by a military kinda’ looking guy in an unmarked pickup. We thought he was full-of-it until a couple fighter jets did a low pass on our location. We accepted an alternate route.
Of the 186 miles covered, all were dirt with the exception of a seven-mile stretch into Joshua Tree National Park. If you don’t know Del, fellow journalist and Blue Ribbon Coalition Ambassador, he is one of the funniest traveling buddies you can find. Camped north of Joshua Tree in the Old Del mining district and were swarmed by, no kidding, several thousand bees. They came in for anything moist. Radar’s water bowl, (the wonder dog), food, the coffee pot, our eyes. And I thought that my earlier run-in with a big rattler was fun…
We parted with the bees and the snake, no harm no foul, and borrowed a Wi-Fi connection from the Andy at the Holiday Inn, in 29-Palms. Head up to Johnson Valley this afternoon, then the Mojave and up to Death Valley. Only another 1500 or so miles to Canada. I’ll be posting when we can, so stay tuned to FourWheeler.com and follow the all-dirt Border to Border.
B2B Update: Mile 326, from a bootlegged Wi-Fi link at the Wills Fargo Motel, Baker, CA
Sitting in the shade near the Wills Fargo Motel in the one-dog town of Baker. The sixty miles of track on the east side of Johnson Valley followed one of the race routes and was nothing but whoop-d-doos… on ten foot centers. Shiiiizzza. The long and jarring ride was rewarded as we skirted the west side of the Twentynine Palms marine base on a pool-table flat dry lake bed. Out of the heat-induced mirage on the horizon on the gleaming surface, an awning appeared and a guy sitting in a chair. Del and I glanced at each other, back at the mirage, and said “is that a guy sitting in an easy chair?” As well pulled closer, two wiry and cut young guys jumped up, turned around, and scratched their heads. In OD green T-shirts and BDU’s (military garb), they said, and I quote, “ Where did you guys come from, we haven’t seen anyone out here for two days.” These fine young Americans were dropped off and set up a post to keep civilians out of the live- round military exercises. Seeing we’d just driven through it, and had our Jeep and rears in tact, we stopped to thank them for their military service, and wished them luck with their upcoming tour in Iraq.
The wind was kicking up something fierce as the sun hit the western horizon. Del pitch a ground tent and I flipped up the roof-mounted ARB tent. The wind was brutal, but we managed to cook up some seafood alfredo (and you thought we’d be eating grubs ay?), had a cold one with our buddy Mr. Patron, and called it a night.
Crossed the Mojave today, but had to take some alt routes due to “Wilderness” areas (I’ll rant about that at some other time). Funny thing is, we did not see one of the anti-access crowd out there soaking up their hard fought Wilderness… I digress.
Heading north into Death Valley and the Panamint Range, then on to Bishop where we’ll be joining the Mammoth 4x4 Club for a trail clean-up project.
We’ll be off-line for the next three days so look for the next Border To Border all-dirt adventure on Saturday.
B2B Update: Mile 650, Baker to Bishop
We succumbed to twenty-six miles of pavement to get into Death Valley National Park. We could have taken one of the backroads… but it’s a National Park, and they were closed, right? But sacrifices must be made. We needed to be in Bishop Saturday afternoon for a Sunday clean up project with the Eastern Sierra 4x4 Club. And, to swap in a new set of Poly Performance shocks and springs. The factory Mopar units worked fine under normal loads, but we had the rig packed like the Griswolds in a National Lampoon movie (at lest 1,200lbs in gear, extra Optima battery, Ready Welder, ARB fridge, compressor and tent, HiLift jack, Del, my self, Radar the wonder dog… and the list goes on. This is the first full-blown overland trek for the Overland Wrangler, and part of the B2B gig is to provide the guys at Jeep with hands-on, real-world feedback. The new progressive coils and gas shocks did the trick, leveling out the ride height and enhancing dampening.
June 11, 2009Trip mile marker 422: Camp at Warm Springs, Death Valley.
The squatters and hippies are long gone from the verdant oasis of Warm Springs, but the year around spring still gushes crystal clear and cool water from a crack in the canyon. Mining equipment is scattered across the narrow valley and dozens of mine shafts pepper the valley. We’ve been pulling some long days on the trail and hit the sack early.
The Geologist Cabin and Charles Manson’s old haunts (Baker Ranch) in Goler wash are must-visit locals when tracking through Death or Panamint Valleys. The cabin is a semi-stocked travelers haven in Butte Valley, and Baker ranch… well… uhh, they are still finding unidentified skeletons in the vicinity. Kind of a creepy place. Unfortunately, the cabin has burn and all that remain are the stone walls.
Exiting Goler Wash, we skirted the east side of Panamint Valley, stopping in Ballarat to talked to the caretaker Rocky and an old guy, Big Hands George, who had been living in the valley since the 1940s. George shared a few yarns of yesteryear, which we could have listened for hour, but we had to hit the dusty trail. West of Panamint Springs (fuel stop) sits an anomaly of the desert, a natural spring with several dozen goldfish (maybe another mirage).
When you hit the road for a several-thousand mile trek, having the right gear is essential. Some of the stuff we are digging as far as new equipment is are a ARB 12-volt camp light, one of the new ARB fridge-freezer (the way-cool interior light and partitioned interior are nice enhancements to their original model), our rack-mounted 40-ltr water tank, and a GPS transponder tracking unit from SPOT (see the link above). With the push of a button, several people at home get an e-mail stating: “All is good,” “we have an issue but can handle it,”or “send the helicopters in.”
We had a major medley of car-karaoke on the decent into Saline Valley (The Eagles, Jimmy Buffet, Willie Nelson). Neither of us can could sing our way out of a cat box, but who cares, we hadn’t seen any other travelers since we left the Mexican border. It was way past beer-thirty by the time we found the hot springs (after a bunch of wrong turns). In fact, it was almost dark. But the drive and wait were worth it. Palm trees, green grass and three concrete-lined hot tubs… this place was paradise, and we both sorely needed a bath.
June 13, 2009, Mile marker 566
We couldn’t leave without a quick dip in the hot springs. But by the time we dried off, the thermometer was rising and we were sweating like dogs again. From below sea level a day ago, we summated a 7300-foot summit Steel Pass by late morning and were dodging hale before noon.
The Eastern Sierra 4x4 Club joined us for dinner and laid down some helpful suggesting for our route north from Bishop. Our new rear suspension is in, fuel and cooler are toped off: Tomorrow morning we’ll be joining them for a road clean-up project, then up to Mono Lake, Bodie and on to Reno for the Reno Rocks WEROCK event.
B2B Update: June 16th, 954 mile, Bishop to Reno
Glass Mountains, Mono Lake, Bodie, Ghost Towns, Wild Horses and Mud Holes
Where to start… Firstly, how lucky can two guys get? Wheeling every day in a fully kitted Jeep Wrangler, our only quest is to stick to the dirt track and the road less traveled.
After fitting the Jeep Overland with a set of Poly Performance 3-inch progressive rear coils and matching shocks, it drives like a dream. It rolls through the bumps, whoops and corners like a coyote after a jack rabbit.
Leaving Bishop, we joined the Eastern Sierra 4x4 Club for their Adopt-a-Highway cleanup project on Hwy 395. Del looked pretty sexy in his dayglow green safety vest, and as we walked down the highway with plastic bags and pooper scoopers, passers-by probably though we were paying our public debt. The Adopt-a-Highway program is pretty cool stuff. It only cost the club a few volunteer hours a month, the highway stays clean (amazing all the junk we picked up), and they get a big sign on the highway with their clubs name on it. After the cleanup, they wheeled with us through the Glass Mountains to just below Mono Lake.
Parting ways, we had to get on the pavement for about ten miles heading due west. We’re making every attempt to do ALL dirt, but the reality of the matter is. The Wild West is getting boxed in by private land, so-called wilderness areas, and Forest Service roads that have been decommissioned (closed or erased from the new maps). However, we are avoiding any northward progress on pavement. East/west or west/east travel to access our next dirt track (though we are keeping it to a minimum) can’t be avoided sometimes
Weather was threatening as we cut along the eastern lake slope of Mono Lake. And sure enough, it cut loose and gave us a good soaking. Pulling into the ghost town of Bodie at sunset, the hundred or so old wooden saloons, banks and miner’s cabins lit up as the sun cut through the clouds. Spectacular!!!
Camping at 7700 feet was freaking cold. I had Radar, the wonder dog, to keep me warm but Del froze his tail off. Dinner via Chef a la Chris was spaghetti with sautéed onions, fresh garlic. If Del whines about not getting fed, it's a dang lie....
Cutting west into the Pine Grove canyon from Aurora we spooked three bucks in the road. Later we had wild mustangs and coyotes crossing our track. The rain had left most of our route a bloody muddy mess, and the by the time we pulled into Virginia City, via the old Dayton toll road, we looked like we’d be sprayed with a mud gun. We made it to within seven miles of downtown Reno before getting back on the tar road.
Before heading into the vast northern Nevada desert, we’re going to check out the Reno Rocks WEROCK event, which takes place June 17-21 at Terrible’s Sands Regency in Reno (Remember Terrible’s if you are getting a room somewhere… they totally support he off-road and four wheeling world). www.renorocks4x4.com
Cool and Geeky Tech Stuff: We didn't know it but Jeep has a mobile wireless router available (actually all Mopar vehicles can get it)? Scott Brown, with Jeep Communications, sent us one of their Uconnect Web mobile units so we’ll have wireless Internet access anywhere we get a cell signal. Considering we’re heading into the remote reaches of northern Nevada and the Black Rock desert, the Uconnect Web unit will come in handy. We'l let you know how it works. We haven’t had to put our Warn winch or Viking recovery gear to work yet, or dig into our Expedition One fuel auxillary fuel cans, but our next section will put us through an endurance test in one of the most remote areas of the West. Lastly, now you can follow our progress from Mexico to Canada via our SPOT transponder and the Adventure TRAK tracking system at: http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=04qxIuznyZpJDN8KimZOZ9qJrsqP9thaP
PS: if you want to hook up with Chris or Del, you can find us on Facebook.