Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Badlands National Park (South Dakota)

I'll typically take any chance possible to visit a new national park, and this most recent work trip to Watertown, South Dakota was no different.

I was visiting Worthington Industries in Watertown to test their operator cabs on two of the Morooka machines we produce. For each test, the "crush frame" and cab must be rigged, then cooled to -20 degrees Celsius. This process takes just over a day to complete, which gave me a decent amount of downtime to explore.

Although Watertown is roughly 250 miles from the Badlands, I jumped at the opportunity, driving the 5 hours as soon as I'd completed a conference call with Morooka on the morning of one of the "setup/teardown" days.

It was well worth the effort! I was blown away by the colors within the park, even on a dreary, overcast day.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Freeman Park (Carolina Beach, NC)

I'm beginning to think that the Crosstrek might not be perfectly suited for SOME types of off-roading. With no ability to enter 4LO and a manual transmission instead of an automatic, it certainly doesn't like to putt along at a slow pace.

This characteristic isn't much of an issue when I'm able to drive 10mph or greater, but when stuck behind other vehicles (e.g. Trucks in 4LO), the Crosstrek bogs down and is forced to slide the clutch, which will eventually result in a completely burnt clutch, leaving us stranded.

When we approached the entrance to the park, there was a long line of trucks waiting for their turn to drive on the beach. There were several park officials there, collecting entrance fees and lending advice to those unfamiliar with driving in the sand. One of the officials gave a doubtful glance at the Crosstrek and asked "is it four-wheel-drive, or all-wheel-drive?" To that, I answered simply that it had been on the beach before (even if not THIS beach). Past her, we were met with the final official - a local police officer directing the extraction of several vehicles that had been buried axle-deep in the soft sand. He too had to give the Crosstrek a second look, but kept his comments to himself and agreed with me when I told him I'd just have to "give her hell!"

I let the vehicle ahead of us get a healthy head-start, then I pounded the gas pedal and took off in first gear. Surprisingly, the Crosstrek plowed through the deep ruts [with no low-hanging center differential]. As we quickly caught up to the crowd of trucks ahead. I tried my best to get around some of them, but eventually we were forced to slow, bogging down in the deep sand and coming to an eventual stop.

I was nervous that we'd be stuck there for the remainder, but decided to air down a touch further and try my best to give it the old "back-and-forth" - and it worked! The main issue came every time I had to slow for another truck. In order to mitigate the slow speed, our poor clutch had to allow some slippage, emitting the foul smell of a burning clutch. I tried my best to keep this to a minimum, but just had to let it eat itself alive from time to time.

With that said, we were still able to make our way down Freeman Park in the midst of a sea of stuck trucks - all the while confident that we were the ONLY car out in the sand that day!

Our luck was far better that one fellow wheeler whose Ford Ranger caught fire and practically burnt to the ground.

Rebecca and I felt terribly sorry for the guy, hoping that he at least had comprehensive insurance coverage to help lessen the agony of this terrible mishap.

On our way out, I again tried to baby the clutch as best as possible. Luckily, the engine can operate at a relatively low rpm (somewhere around 1200 or above), but all the while I just wished I could skate around the slow trucks causing the Crosstrek to wallow in misery.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Whetstone Ridge (Vesuvius, VA)

Rebecca and I have become relatively experienced AirBnb users over the years, staying everywhere from Zion National Park, to Puerto Rico, to Nicaragua. When we decided to choose an AirBnb for our 1yr wedding anniversary, I opened up the search filters and began picking anywhere that looked interesting and allowed dogs. The result was fantastic - an Airstream trailer nestled just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway!

We were greeted by a heartwarming card and two mini-bottles of champagne to celebrate our anniversary when we arrived on Friday night. As we settled in, we kept discovering tiny compartments and neat design aspects of the 1971 Airstream - it was truly one of the most cozy stays we've had through AirBnb.

On Saturday, we percolated coffee & prepared a light breakfast, before touring the property with one of the hosts in his Kubota. The land was impressive and Joe clearly took pride in it.

After getting the lay of the land, we set our sights toward a mountain bike ride at Whetstone Ridge. For this outing, I dropped off Rebecca and the dogs along the Blue Ridge Parkway, then drove the car to the endpoint of the ride before pedaling back to them where we'd enter the woods. Although the elevation profile made it seem like the majority of the climbing would be suffered during my ride back to them, we soon discovered that there were several short, but impressively steep climbs awaiting us & the dogs once in the woods.

Although grueling, the ride was enjoyable. Eventually, though, the dogs' paws began to wear out, so we did our best to control the pace in order to minimize their pain. As usual, I put Ruprecht on my back and pedaled him for a bit to give his paws a rest. Eventually, we reached the car and were able to dunk the dogs in a nearby creek to allow them to recover.

The next day we packed up the car once again to head home. The dogs were so worn out from the previous day that we hardly noticed they were in the back - not a peep from them the whole way home.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Cape Lookout (North Carolina)

Heading to the Outer Banks is a summer tradition for nearly every family in Virginia & North Carolina. For years I've been going to Nags Head, Corolla, or Frisco. Once or twice I've been to Ocracoke. Never before, though, have I tried staying at Cape Lookout instead - that will change forever after this trip to the National Seashore!

Finding a remote stretch of beach to enjoy by oneself is always the challenge, but at Cape Lookout that scene is abundant! With miles of beach to drive on and only a handful of visitors, finding your own piece of paradise is a breeze ;-)

For this trip, Rebecca and I invited another couple, Lindsay and Chris, to join us. We each drove separately, then consolidated gear into the Crosstrek before taking a ferry to the island.

The park has cabins for rent at a very reasonable rate and there are (2) ferry services available to transport a vehicle, along with several other ferries offering passenger transport. We used the Davis Shore Ferry Service and were extremely pleased with their friendly attitude along with the ability to order firewood, water, or ice to be delivered with one of the scheduled ferry stops. The best part of the ferry ride was watching the captain dock on the Cape Lookout side. His control of the large boat was amazing as he pivoted it around a set of pylons and gently spun the vessel 180 degrees into port.

When we first arrived, we met the volunteer, Doug. He was as amiable host, willing to give us the lowdown on the beach, cabins, and even working with us to upgrade from one cabin to another when we discovered that we'd accidentally reserved what was regarded as "the dumpiest" cabin (#21). Once we'd settled into our new digs (cabin #24), Doug came by to see how we were doing. We joked with him for a bit about how that decision may have saved the weekend, to which he agreed, adding "no one has a good time in 21."

Once settled, we loaded up the Crosstrek for a drive down the beach. The car did rather well, although its power is a bit lacking. Keeping momentum in second gear was a bit difficult, so eventually I decided to lower the speed and simply cruise in first gear instead. Traction, however, was no issue at all. Eventually I aired UP the tires to provide less rolling resistance which helped with the engine's lack of torque. All in all, though, I'm still confident that the Crosstrek will be a fine offroad vehicle, especially now that it's fitted with knobbier tires and the 2" lift.

On Saturday morning I headed to catch the 8am ferry to the mainland, then borrowed our friend's car to drive to Morehead City where I'd reserved a kiteboarding lesson with Blown Kiteboarding. Around 10am I'd arrived and we set off to a sandbar in the Bogue Sound. My instructor, Ayub, was easy to follow and learn from. He went over the dynamics of the wind, controlling the kite, and combining it all to propel oneself out of the water. It was nice having the wakeboarding experience under my belt, which allowed me to focus entirely upon finessing the kite control. At one point I was heading towards the sandbar without much clue how I'd stop. The only "panic" move was to release the handle, so I did. At that point, though, I had too much momentum, so I instinctively pumped the board and ollied over the sandbar. Ayub's panic quickly turned to relief when he saw me clear the obstacle. Later he shared stories of other first-timers digging into the sand and catapulting face-first into the ground.

After the lesson I returned to Davis Shore and boarded the ferry for Cape Lookout. When I returned, I found Rebecca, Lindsay & Chris at our cabin, about to return to the beach after a short break. We hung out by the water for a few hours, returning to prepare dinner. Later that night we returned to the beach for a fire while we watched the moon rise before us.

On our final day, we cleared/cleaned the cabin before setting out for another drive on the beach. I'd speculated on the possibility of driving to the lighthouse at the southernmost tip of the island then taking a ferry from there, but found that the only ferries at that point are passenger crafts. With that said, we had a couple hours to spare before we were scheduled to meet the Davis Shore Ferry, which we used to relax by the surf.

Leaving was not easy, but we'll certainly be returning in summers to come.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Friday, July 6, 2018

Canaan Valley (West Virginia)

With the 4th of July holiday falling on a Wednesday, Rebecca and I decided to take Thursday and Friday off from work in order to gain an extended weekend. For this outing, we chose to explore Canaan Valley, finding a relatively inexpensive [pet-friendly] condo to rent through AirBnB.

We arrived on Thursday night after a leisurely drive along route 33. We were pleasantly surprised to find the condo equipped with a large whirlpool and decided to unwind with a soak in the tub before driving into Davis, WV for dinner at Sirianni's Cafe.

The next morning we set our sights on the Hellbender Cirque. We rode a slighly modified version, opting to begin at the Canaan Valley Institute.

The main attraction was the Moon HooDoo Rocks section. It's a challenging and unique section of rock which resembles what you'd expect to see from the lava flow of a volcanic eruption.

Once we were back within spitting distance of the Canaan Valley Institute, Rebecca took the dogs back to the car while I continued along the route. I completed the last few miles which contained the largest ascent and descent - well worth the effort - and eventually made my way into Davis where I rendezvoused with them.

That night we dined at Muttley's, followed by a bit of ice cream across the street.

The next morning we packed up and headed to Blackwater Falls State Park before continuing home to Richmond.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

4th of July Float (James River, VA)

Without the confidence that the Fiesta could support it, our canoe has been relegated to the backyard for the past two and a half years. Only three days after purchasing the Crosstrek, I was thrilled to dust off the Discovery to go for a float once again!

We joined a group of seven at Pony Pasture for a short float down the James River to the Reedy Creek takeout. At roughly three hours total, the float was a simple way to celebrate the 4th in the sun!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Crosstrek Plans

Now that I've got the Crosstrek, I think I'll leave it stock - sha, right!

In the mail is a 2" lift from Anderson Design & Fabrication and an EcoHitch by Torklift.

I'm planning on powdercoating a set of used WRX 16" wheels gold, and trying my hand at Plasti-Dipping the car's trim and emblems to match. I'll try to document the process in order to share its results - good or bad.

The tires have arrived already - a set of 215/70-R16 Cooper Discoverer A/T3 All Terrain's. Their first official test will be the sand of Cape Lookout in late July.


I've installed the 2" lift, plasti-dipped the rear emblems (with plans on covering all chrome accents eventually), and had the wheels powdercoated. All in all, I'm delighted with the appearance!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin