Some times you go a bridge too far. You bite off more than you can chew and end up over committed. Sometimes you need outside influence to get home. This is not one of those times.
For this trip I’m riding along with my friend Harry Wagner and we meet up with Amber Turner at Mt. Rose summit, replace an upper radiator hose clamp on the 22 R E Turbo of his 1987 Toyota named Junior Mint, before heading on to the Rubicon Trail.
If you want to know more about this truck, and why the bed looks, not quite right, Richard from Desk to Glory did a full walk around with it last spring. You can check that out on his YouTube channel. In this video you’ll just get to see it in action.
While I’m no stranger to airing up after dark, here we are airing DOWN after dark. And we’re committing to the Rubicon Trail now. Running it backwards from Tahoe to Loon Lake. Though tonight our destination is Rubicon Springs at the bottom of Cadillac Hill.
Amber had an electrical issue on the way down Cadillac Hill that caused her engine to keep shutting off. But she was able repair it with a little electrical connector kit that Harry had in his tool box.
We soon made it all the way down Cadillac Hill to Rubicon Springs. From there where we had to ford the beaver pond to access our camp for the night. If you’ve only done the Rubicon in summer, it may shock you that we ended up with the whole place to ourselves.
The morning brought more mechanicals. Amber’s clutch pedal linkage broke, and we stop to try to fix it. Amber came prepared with a lot of spare parts and tools. Harry had a lot more tools as well. I was initially concerned about the situation, but Amber can handle the repairs and Harry, an Eagle Scout, seemed fully prepared to rebuild everything, so that was reassuring. Amber tried a number of tools and tricks to try to get it working, but in the end had to push on with no clutch at all.
Harry has painted his truck a replica of forest service green, then patterned his logo on the emblem of the USDI Forest Service, a federal agency charged with maintaining public lands for the benefit of recreational and resource viability for all Americans. For some reason, the hard core 4 wheelers get a deer-in-the-headlights look when the truck rolls up and grit back invective behind line-tight lips. With a couple hundred million people to think about, a simple truck can’t please everyone. After all, it’s not a cupcake.
There are many sections and obstacles on the Rubicon Trail with names like Cadillac Hill, The Soup Bowl, Big Sluice, or little sluice that are notoriously challenging for even advanced rigs like these. But if, like me, you thought that the transit between these challenges was going to be a cake walk, you couldn’t be more wrong. The unnamed obstacles on The Rubicon Trail are just as challenging as the named.
In the video you can see and example of the control of having double low range gearing that Harry talks about as he creeps slowly up another unnamed obstacle that takes a couple tries to get through. A lot of what makes popular YouTube videos is when trucks are bouncing and revving and lifting wheels and generally being dramatic. Harry doesn’t drive like that. And the double low gearing is what makes that possible.
We stopped to repair a broken leaf spring on the Samurai. After a long summer of wheeling, the metal was done. Fortunately Amber brought along a spare leaf spring. While she was working on that we noticed. few bolts were missing from the driver side front hub. Fortunately she had some spare bolts for that. Un fortunately, the bolts were not missing, they were shorn clean off. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a bolt extractor. Harry and I took over the leaf spring swap while Amber worked on the hub. In the end nothing could be done, so she proceeded on with no clutch and no front drive.
I want to make sure I give Amber due credit in this video. She’s a terrific driver and did an amazing job getting that little Samauri down the trail with no clutch. Her mechanicals can be chalked up to a hard summer of wheeling and competing in it and she is fully prepared and capable of fixing all her own gear. This kind of thing happens. To all of us eventually. Even the Jr. Mint’s number came up the next time Harry took it out.
Crossing the Rubicon is an act of commitment. When you start down that road it’s do or die, more or less, and you commit to getting yourself and your companions out, one way or another. Sometimes that’s more dramatic than others, but it’s always an adventure and I was stoked to get the chance to tag along.