Sunday, November 15, 2015

Turducken (Richmond, VA)

Last weekend we drove to Knoxville (no post, busy week) to visit friends and buy a DJI Phantom 3 quad-copter. After watching how-to videos all week long, I was chomping at the bit to take the copter out for a test drive.

As chance would have it, the annual Turducken Bike Polo Tournament was taking place in Richmond, so I was able to test out my flying skills there.

I would STRONGLY suggest any DJI pilot modify the controls in order to reverse the UP/DOWN stick. I like the feel of "pulling back" on the stick to gain elevation, and that instinctual response seemed to work well as I quickly picked up the navigation of the aircraft and had ZERO crashes on my very first attempt.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Asheville (North Carolina)

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This trip has been on the calendar for a while. Its date was set when we were invited to attend Carrie and Steve's wedding at the Black Mountain Sanctuary, but its timing could not have been more perfect. The fall colors were in full effect, my Jeep was roadworthy again, the cold was sort-of-exciting in our cozy digs - but let's face it. Asheville has been a great trip over, and over, and over, and over, ...

One of the highlights this time around was our airBnB, the eco-tiny house in Alexander, NC. It was immaculate, well designed, and fucking adorable.

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On Sunday Rebecca and I chose to tackle the Kitsuma Trail in Black Mountain, NC.

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The trail began with a series of steep climbs, punctuated with switchbacks. As compared to the climb at Sherando Lake, it was just as steep, but shorter and less technical. Surprisingly enough, the downhill was far more technical. I slammed the seat down to its minimum and tried to stay light on my pedals as I sailed from rock, to root, to rock. Rebecca followed suit and skidded her way down, above the rainbow floor of sun-burnt leaves.

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As these weekend getaways go, we'd just hit our stride when it was time to go! After the quick 10-mile ride, we packed the bikes and headed north in search of BBQ [on a Sunday afternoon]. A few hours later we were greeting the dogs and preparing for Monday morning.

Until next time...

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Mammoth Cave (Kentucky)

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When I learned that I'd be heading to Louisville, KY to attend ICUEE, I immediately checked to see its proximity to Mammoth Cave National Park. The park has been a destination I've been hoping to reach for a few years now. I was delighted to learn that it was only about an hour south of Louisville, so I decided to drive to the expo and stay in Kentucky a few days following the event.

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The expo was a fun eye opener to the wide variety of manufacturers in our industry. The Morooka machines had a good showing, despite the rainy weather during the first half of the show.

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I camped in the Hoosier National Forest two nights before Rebecca's arrival. The first spot was especially epic, as I perched my hammock above the Hemlock Cliffs.

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Rebecca was flying in to Louisville on Friday to meet me for the drive to Mammoth Cave, so I snuck in a visit to Mega Cavern in between. The bike park was pretty fun and definitely a unique experience to ride dirt jumps underground.

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The second night of camping was at the Indian-Celine Lakes Recreation Area within the Hoosier National Forest. After hiking for a few minutes, I found a dry creek bed to call home for the night.

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At last, the main attraction was upon us!

With only a couple of tours offered this late in the season, Rebecca and I signed up for the Domes & Dripstones Tour. It was a good introduction to the cave, although the entire tour only covered 0.75 mile. We decided that our next trip there would be a good opportunity to sign up for the longer, more advanced Wild Cave Tour.

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A free backcountry pass allows visitors to camp at one of several camp sites within the park. We chose the First Creek Campsite, just over a mile from the trailhead. It was late when we began the hike to our site, so the short hike was perfect.

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After a week away from home, I was excited to head east to Virginia. On our way back, we swung by the New River Gorge Bridge for a quick glance before finishing the drive.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Snowshoe (West Virginia)

During our final trip to Snowshoe for the season we discovered that the lower road gap, which had been closed for several years, had been rebuilt. After a couple of test runs to gauge approach speed, I launched myself off the lip. Definitely a nice way to cap off another fun season.

Snowshoe 2nd Road Gap from dennis throckmorton on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

False Cape State Park (Virginia Beach, VA)

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To celebrate his 30th birthday, our friend Christian organized a camping trip to False Cape State Park, just above the North Carolina border.

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There were several groups joining the trip at different times, beginning as early as Friday morning and trailing in as late as we did on Saturday afternoon.

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The ride in to our campsite was around 6 miles. It was the first time I'd carried a fully-loaded hiking backpack on my bike and my butt was feeling the extra weight on the saddle!

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The clouds were out during our stay, but it was actually kind of nice not being baked by the sun and still plenty warm to enjoy the water.

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Shenandoah Mountains (Virginia)

After the series of repairs that the Jeep required, I thought it wise to throw in the towel on our trip to Knoxville, TN for somewhere closer. Rebecca and I loaded up the jeep with bikes and the dogs and headed west on Saturday after I bent out the last of the body work and fitted the new (junkyard) bumper on the Cherokee.

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Rebecca found the Patricia Ann Byrom Forest Preserve as our first destination. The ride was only a few miles, but it was a nonstop climb to reach the halfway point. The descent, to my delight, was much more technical than the climb - even a bit more steep!

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That night we camped just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, not far from Love Gap. With its proximity to Sherando Lake, the next day's ride was just a short distance away from where we pitched camp.

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We rode a short out-and-back on Sunday. It was good we were conservative, as the dogs began to drag on our way back to the trailhead.

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We chose to camp near Crabtree Falls on Sunday night. There was plenty more dry wood at our disposal, so lighting a fire and roasting s'mores was considerably easier.

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On Monday we struck camp and headed back to Richmond. The dogs were spent and barely stirred the entire drive home, splayed out in the back of the jeep like a couple of bums.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Jeep Rehab

As readers can clearly see, the Sweet Bus is long gone. I sold it to my friends years ago, but the adventures continue.

My vehicle of choice since then has been an '02 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It's been a reliable, tough truck, but it has required quite a few repairs over the years, including:
        Cylinder Head Gasket
        Main Bearings
        Rod Bearings
        Oil Pump

My most recent barrage of repairs came after an accident. My Jeep was smashed early in the morning IN IT'S PARKING SPOT! I was so bummed to hear the crunch and look out the window to see my Jeep pushed nearly an entire car length. It crumpled the control arm mount and bent the axle, not to mention the body panels and bumper.

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I replaced/upgraded the suspension to a Rough Country Long-Arm Kit from Top Gun Customz in Tennessee. This upgrade relocated the control arm mounts, corrected some driveline angles, included quick-disconnect sway bar links, and increased my lift from 2" to 4".

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(the affected mount)

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The pile of parts replaced in the kit was quite impressive.

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I found the axle at Lacy Auto and tossed it in before our next weekend trip.

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The bumper was scavenged from a Laredo (mine's the Limited), but I actually really like the look of the textured plastic and unibody bulges.

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The final upgrade in this round of repairs will be a transfer case swap. My WJ features the Quadra-Drive 4-Wheel-Drive system. It's an AWD system that incorporates their Vari-Lok limited slip differentials front and rear. Its weak point, though, is the lack of a 2HI option for on-road driving as well as a more solidly engaged 4HI setting. In my experience, I've been forced to use the Quadra-Trac case in 4LO in order to guarantee even and constant torque to front and rear.

The solution comes in the form of the NV242HD transfer case. This case is found on the V8 Selec-Trac versions of the WJ Grand Cherokee. In order to swap in this case, I'll need to retrofit the 0.84" input shaft from an inline 6 version of the case (2.5" input shaft on the V8 version). Once that's done, it should be a plug-and-play install!

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