LAKE TAHOE, CA. -I
just had time to unload my grocery getter off the trailer after the 1200 mile round trip
to Bakersfield and Calmini when it was time to put it back on for the trip to South Shore
Tahoe, California, our starting point for the 2001 Calmini Customer Appreciation Run. This
was the first time I had been able to drive the rig around town a bit. I locked up the
hubs, drove it around the dirt landing next to the house and figured nothing had fallen
off, I was ready for the Rubicon!
What surprised me was how little the
street performance and ride had changed. It was still a great daily driver. One last item
was filling the new bumper cavity. There was
a sale on 8000# Warn Winches going on, so I ignored Steves recommendation for the
5000#, smaller unit because they were another $200.00. Size does matter, so do dollars.
|Looking for a co-pilot for the trip
was tough. Having to spend five days in a car with me limited the number of coherent
people on my short list, but I got lucky when I asked long time friend Charlie Morrison to
join me. At 81, he had never heard of the Rubicon but assured me that hitch-hiking
cross-country four times in the last ten years, hiking in the Himalayas, and crashing his
plane in Mexicali was preparation for anything I could drag him on. What a surprise I had
in store for him.
|We met at Loon Lake with thirteen
other rigs including a JEEP. The weather was outstanding and we quickly started towards
Spider Lake. The trail was more torn up then I recalled from last year, but once again I
made a huge leap in equipment performance with my new rig. The 98 Suzuki Sidekick 4 Door
with Automatic, Power Steering, Air Conditioning, 6 Disc CD player and fully equipped by
Calmini, plus sporting their new Low Range T-Case Gear set was unstoppable. It would
barely turn a tire! There were minor ground clearance problems, but picking good lines and
being expertly spotted by Tom and John cured most of those. Other then Mikie not have the
guts to a locking hub (someone needed parts years ago), the Jeep holing its
transmission and a misassembled front locker in another Samurai, the trip to Spider Lake
was uneventful. There were other mechanical issues by the end of the day and sadly, four
rigs limped back to Loon Lake, ending their first Rubicon adventure early.
That night I collected on a long
standing bet with Eric Bewley. Dont you love some people being predictable? The unending flow or Bloody Marries that evening
created more stars then I have seen in decades. Well, since this was Charlies first
night camping in about twenty years, I made the most of the moment by threatening to pull
the plug on his sleeping pad. He lost a couple winks of sleeping thinking about it and
then about twenty minutes trying to find the filler neck in the foam mattress.
|Next morning we headed out towards Old
Sluice.I was on a newly acquired CB, telling everyone what a killer rig I had built.
JR made a crack about tangling the mike cord around my neck and that I should
finally take Old Sluice which I had avoided all these years. The gauntlet was down. Right
here, let, me say that I am a moron, have the wisdom of moss and foresight of a plank of
But those boys stood in awe while I
sat in terror as the Four Door crept through that boulder-strewn crack in the earth. It
was unbelievable. This car did not belong here. Charlie got real quiet and I got real
noisy, mostly swearing at Steve and JR about letting me talk myself into doing this.
Everyone else was getting through fine, I was the only one who had a severe lack of
confidence in my ability not to turn the car into a wad of tin. What I had not taken in
consideration was the Rock Sliders John at Calmini had fabricated for me the week before.
What amazing devices. I will never build a car again without them. Not only did they
protect the rocker panels, they allowed me to pivot on car-sized boulders, allowing
amazing turns even in these narrow trails. I popped out at the bottom with one very minor
scratch and a lot of deep breathing. I was Wheeling!
The rest of the ride into Rubicon
Springs was quick and uneventful. Steve and Randy brought 40#s of Smoked Tri-tip and
gallons of Johns homemade Chili and we settled into washing up in the Rubicon,
cracking a couple of beers and chowing down all that food. It was funny watching people
suddenly stand up at the fire pit that evening and head for their tents without so much as
a good bye. I love a good party.
||Next morning was Cadillac Hill. My
newfound confidence was reinforced when all of us breezed through V Rock,
normally a forty-five minute group experience. I had turned to Charlie to say,
Shucks, arent you nervous? His answer Why no, I dont get
scared which caused me to answer, Well, I think I brought the wrong guy!
caused him quite a chuckle.
|We stopped for our final group photo
near the end of the trail. It had been a great run, no major breakdowns, no accidents,
just great wheeling with good friends. I had discovered the hidden potential in a rig I
would have never thought twice about and it in return had given me the best ride over this
trail to date. I hate to say this, but I am thinking of selling it and starting something
new. If anyone out there has a reasonable suggestion for the next rig, get back to me. Oh,
and the X90? David my son just put it on the rack. He is not going to be staying home next
year, thats just fact.