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A first-timer’s visit to The Rubicon The first portion of this is a quick dump of the information you might need when considering a trip to the Rubicon. Keep in mind that everyone's experience is different, even on the same run.  Feel free to email me with questions or comments!

The Trail

·        Equipment

·        Other Notes

Our experience with the Rubicon, late August 2001:


I began planning for the Rubicon in December, 2000.  I had been ‘wheeling my Scrambler since I bought it very-near-stock in April 1998.  I knew that I needed more articulation, a winch and lockers to be successful on the Rubicon.  I made a prioritized list of the mods I needed to make.  Each item had a priority, category (safety, driveline protection, body protection, comfort, nice to have), cost and source.  Priority plus time to install was factored to arrive at the buildup plan.  I then figured out how much I needed to save each month to make it happen.  As with everything else, the big number eroded to a smaller number, and the bottom few items fell off the plan.  We were planning on a frame-off after the event, so body damage wasn’t much of a concern.  Axle damage would result in an upgrade, so I wasn’t too worried about that either.


  So the big items were: getting a camper and setting it up (needed water pump and had little annoyances, but saved $8,000 over a new one); K&N and bigger tires/wheels for the tow-rig; get a trailer that can withstand cross-country abuse (needed new tires and re-decking, but still saved $1500 over a new one). On the Scrambler: re-routing wires and hoses from heat and moving parts; M.O.R.E. shackle reversal and buggy spring up front, revolvers in rear to keep up; one-piece axles and locker in the rear; replace front discs and u-joints, flush brake system; winch, lights (2 front, 2 side), cb and antenna.  Working full time for a very demanding employer and going to school full time tended to frustrate the plan more than money did, believe it or not.


We left early Wednesday morning from Seattle, Washington.  I had finished a final exam 8 hours before.  It was raining (big surprise).  We had our ’99 Dodge Ram 2500 pickup with ’94 Alpenlite 10’ cabover camper.  The scrambler was on a 16’ Freeway beavertail dual axle trailer with surge brakes, new tires and drop ramps.

 It rained until we got south of Portland.  We drove to the southern edge of Oregon, then stayed at a KOA in Ashland, I think.

 The next day we left and continued down I-5 until we got to Sacramento, and headed west on US50.  All was well except for the "straight road" on the map that was a goat trail on the ground.  Smoked the Dodge’s brakes – an engine brake on the truck and remote activator on the trailer would have helped.  But then, not taking that road would have been better still!  The front rotors were blue and literally smoking. Time for a brake job anyway!

 So we got to South Lake Tahoe KOA late in the evening, no time to work on the scrambler or even pack up.  We decided to leave the truck/camper/trailer at the west end so that as we wheeled, we'd be getting closer to "home." Sounds dumb, but it was actually a pretty good plan psychologically. 

 The next morning, we packed up, headed back west up US-50 to ice-house road.  We knew we wouldn’t make the 8am group, so we figured 10am no problem.  The scrambler was really sucking up the gas, and we had forgotten ice.  We stopped and got ice and gas, at the only gas station on that stretch of road which ended up making us miss the 10am group departure by a few minutes.  When we got to ice-house road, we turned right (north) and followed it to the end (follow signs to loon lake dam).  Somebody put up a sign, which was great.


Day 1:

Once we got to the Loon Lake dam, we got out onto the first slab, locked in, aired down, and a guy gave us directions.  He said “see that red jeep? That’s where the Rubicon starts.” So that’s where we went.

 We got to the start, to discover a Scout with a broken leaf spring.  And a big ol’ rock, which caused me to wonder why I hadn’t managed to weld up some rock sliders.  I actually considered not moving on, but I’m glad I went through.  The Mrs. said “I wish I hadn’t come.”

 As we finished up with the Scout, the world-famous Jefe arrived with Matt and Justin, and declared “you can come with us, or we’ll go around you.” So we went with.  I tried every trick I knew, and that’s the only reason that the left side rocker panel was just pushed in, not ripped completely off.  Shoulda made some sliders :(

 Once we got some body damage behind us, the rest wasn’t so bad. Really.  Being a scrambler, or taildragger as it’s sometimes called, the back bumper took a shot or two.  After a while, we’d feel a bang'n’bump and call out “Bumper!” “Need a new one!”

 We met up with some more Scramblers after a while, stayed with them and helped them weld up their spun driveshaft.  Turns out that’s why jefe was in a hurry. Understandable.  So we met Mark P “radioflier” and his son Jeremy and his girlfriend.  Great folks too.  By now we were feeling better about being out in the middle of nowhere with no friends.  Now we had new ones.

 As we progressed, it got hotter (90+ and the altitude was increasing), and I started stalling out.  It acted like it was flooding, but I have that Edelbrock tweaked out – it wasn’t flooding – I just knew it.  It must be that *&$@ing ignition box.  We fought with it, smoking the starter solenoid in the process (say it with me, kids: “crank, two, three, let it be.").  Mark and Jeremy patiently assisted us giving us jump starts and arcing the solenoid with visegrips to get us going.  Then mark breaks the weld on his driveshaft, more trailfixin.

 Jefe and crew had been up for about 30 hours at this point, so they went on ahead to camp.  Don’t blame them a bit!  All was well with us, until we got to this pond and didn’t know to turn left or right.  I reconned left and Mark went right.  I was all the way on the other side when he called on the radio “I can smell their hamburgers! We’re close!”  About that time, Berzerk (a more fitting nickname there never was) gets us on the CB, we tell them that we’d spun the driveshaft again.  ‘Zerk and Rob O came out, pulled the driveshaft, went back to camp and welded it up.

 While they were gone, it got muchodarko.  Our dog Harley kept “muff-mmmmuff”-ing at something in the bushes! Scary! While we waited, we assembled our little propane stove in the dark, and only lost one bolt in the dirt!  Finally, they came back, we bolted the shaft and bolted for camp.

 We got in to the Spider Lake campground about 11pm, set up our tent and crashed out.  We were not having fun at this point. The Mrs. said “if you come next year, I’m staying home.”


Day 2: everybody else had been in camp since noon day 1, so they were ready to go, we had to rush around and stress out.  Just the same, we got packed up, got in the back of the group due to the stalling which wasn’t fixed, and moved out.  Being in a group, we stopped enough that the stalling didn’t emerge until almost to buck island.  So we weren’t in the group pictures. Sheesh.  Justin (lizzerd) gave me some boiler insulation which I wrapped around the fuel line.  By this time, I had realized (through conversations with lots of people) that my fuel was boiling off inside the fuel line.  Matt drives by and says “well, why don’t you take the hood off?”  we thought that maybe the insulation would help.  By the time we got over the dam, we decided that we would just go by ourselves, take it slow and get-there-when-we-get-there.  It was kind of relaxing, drive about ¼ mile, stall out.  Recon ahead, look at the scenery, fire it and drive some more.  For whatever reason we did this until about noon then took the hood off.  We only stalled twice after that, both due to my being in a bad position, couldn’t feather the throttle to get it moving again.  Despite being alone, we only got into two jams, one recovered using the winch and a dead tree, the other using the high-lift jack.  We made it into camp about 4 pm, not too bad.  We were feeling like we were driving well, the jeep was at least controllable, and it might actually be set up pretty well for this trail.

 We pulled into camp at the Rubicon Springs (pay $10 to the overseer at the cabin – next year I’m bringing $40 or more, it's worth it! – they don’t have to let us drive on their land, you know.) We discovered that the only spots left were next to the porta-potties.  That’s when ‘zerk (Rob M.) comes up and tells us that there’s another camp down the road about 500 yards.  He walked down the road, we followed.  I blipped the gas (just goofing like I was going to hit him) and he almost dropped his pants at us! That's the last thing you want to see after a long day's wheelin, I learned my lesson :)  we set up camp, zerk set up his shower.  Had it not been for the instant friendship of Mark, Jeremy and his girlfriend, Rob M, Judy, Mel, Terry and Rob O, The Mrs. would have said “I’m clean, but I’m not coming back next year.” Instead she said “we’re getting one of these for next year.”

 Our hamburger and hot dogs were getting warm so we cooked them all, after not eating anything the day before, it was a shock to the system and I paid for it the next day.

Day 3:

We left the camp group with Mel and Terry, Rob O, zerk and Judy.  We were going to go it alone like day 2, but these guys wouldn’t hear of it – “we stick together. Period.”  Only a couple stalls, some frustrations with a jackass dirtbiker on Cadillac Hill, and we were out! There was a fire somewhere behind us, we were glad to be out.  The folks that live in the area have done a lot of work to the roads to ensure that the environment and the off-roaders can exist together in harmony.  You hear a lot about the jerks who have no respect for the environment, but nothing about the fine folks who exhaust their bodies and their budgets making sure people like us can have a once - in - a - lifetime - Rubicon - adventure and enjoy it all.


Mel, Terry, Judy and Rob invited us to have dinner with them, so we joined them at a very nice steakhouse in S.Lk.Tahoe.  that’s a must-do!  It's kind of funny to see the Muggles flinch when you go around the corner in a V-8 jeep and the locker engages chirping the tires :0


The next day we left for home, having discovered that the trailer’s brake master cylinder is draining itself of fluid.  It seemed to work, so we kept on movin.  We lazied our way west to the coast, then wandered home. Very relaxing.  We stayed at KOAs exclusively, all were very nice, friendly, and a heckuva lot better than trying to find a hotel that takes pets.


Bottom line: it took a lot of planning before we went.  We could have done it with less.  However, having a camper and a trailer made the to-from much less grueling and the trailer would have been critical had I broken an axle or something else.


Speaking of the “something else” – the scrambler frame had rusted through on both sides at the forward rear spring hanger.  With the revolvers allowing more axle rotation, all of the twisting went into one side of the frame rail, cracking the rail almost completely in two.  I’m sure it happened at the Rubicon but I didn’t find it until a month later.  Luck plays at the Rubicon too!

 That's the chronicle of the First-timer's trip to the Rubicon. I hope this helped, entertained, or served as a warning to others! ha ha

Scramble on!

Chris "Jeephead"

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