May 28, 2015

NPTC Training

I've learned something over time, if people get to know you it doesn't matter what letters you have next to your name, character/experience/respect mean everything. For everyone else, if you don't have it certified, how can they know whether your are a good source of info without a several hour story. "So, there I was, a baby in a crib."

I tend to collect a certification, only if it's required to do something. A Ham Radio License, a Drivers License, Motorcycle License etc. The more years I teach the more I realize that having some optional certifications can be important to inspire confidence in those you teach. Although most of my knowledge has been taught to me by experiences, mistakes and some fantastically intelligent people, I needed to make it more concrete.

Last weekend I got myself NPTC certified, helped my better half get certified and helped teach a new student on the topics of Offroad Driving, Winching and Vehicle Preparedness.
I have never taken or taught a class of any type without learning in the process. To do so would prove to me that I didn't have an open mind. It's impossible not to learn, even if you are the most knowledgeable person on a subject.

We started by reviewing the basics of winching. From preparing your vehicle, mounting points, gear, winch, line/rope, technique, environment and communication. There is a lot to it, but my favorite part is that everything is logical once you understand the reasons behind it.

Whatever hand signals you use, just make sure all parties understand them. We use the most internationally recognized ones for clarity, but in a pinch make something up and stick to it.

 photo DSC01257 1.jpg Women learn quickly! Much faster than us guys, in my humble opinion. Here K takes signals from the spotter, but operates the winch while left foot braking and driving while keeping tension on the line.  photo DSC01264 1.jpg Hold up!  photo DSC01263 1.jpg 20PSI on a 35" tire doesn't show a lot, but it sure makes a big difference.  photo DSC01266 1.jpg Going up. Of course it NEVER looks as steep as it really is. Points off for putting the pin handle down!  photo DSC01271.jpg Trouble!  photo DSC01277 1.jpg  photo DSC01284 1.jpg
We spent the rest of the time out on a trail I had mapped out to try and represent "most" of the obstacles and conditions you might run into on a trail. We had a nice cross axle area where lockers may be needed and good line choice was necessary. There was a water crossing that, although not critical in depth, provided a good visual for teaching. There were some good side hills as well as dips and mounds to demonstrate techniques.

Moving right along...
Brits love Tea. I consume more Tea in a day than I do all year when I'm around them. Watch out, once a Kelty Kettle get's going the heat is immense and it can boil a full load of water in under a minute.
   photo DSC01289201.jpg

 Although most of the weekend was again filled with work, I did get some good pictures of a fairly complex tire change. We used my truck to winch in, via a snatch block at the base of a very large tree anchor, to the top of a smaller tree, to a new "soft" shackle made out of dyneema rope, to a very heavy and overloaded Defender 90. Check out these old Goodyear Mud's. Foreign military spec. This set had been on this planet only slightly less time than I have. It's time to change these relics out before they blow.  photo DSC01317 1.jpg You can see the soft shackle between the two yellow rings in this pic.  photo DSC01336 1.jpg  photo DSC01341 1.jpg Then it was time for everyone favorite... respooling the line correctly. This takes a while and can be a pain to get perfect. The OCD side of me is never happy with the finished product. Haha.  photo DSC01305 1.jpg Always have a lizard on safety watch.  photo DSC01365.jpg  photo DSC01364.jpg You can learn more about the soft shackles here. They are a light weight alternative to heavy metal bow shackles. I've decided to order up a pair to see how they last. I love this truck. I'm a Toyota guy for many reasons, but you just can't deny the charm of a simple workhorse of a truck like this...  photo DSC01298.jpg  photo DSC01296 1.jpg  photo DSC01295 1.jpg  photo DSC01294 1.jpg

May 27, 2015

Overland Expo 2015

It's been a wild couple of weeks. 5 days of Overland Expo followed by a 3 day weekend of training others as well as myself.

Here we go!

The night I arrived at Mormon Lake it was "fairly" dry. The track was being worked on and added to. No one was in camp yet, other than Expo staff, but everything was looking nice. Water trucks were on hand to take care of the #1 complaint from visitors, dust.

I putted around on my dirt bike to check everything out. Some of the staff had been there for more than a week at this point setting things up. There is no setup/teardown team. The instructors of your cooking, winching, recovery etc class are the same ones who setup and take down much of the event.
After a fun evening of catching up with my "best friends for 2 weekends a year" I woke up and started working. We flagged the driving course lanes, moved a few tons of sand for my tire class, set up some rigging examples and put up countless signs to direct folks to the different areas of the event.

We needed to spread out the sand... What should we use. A rake or shovel would take all day. Let's start with our bumpers and axles.  photo IMG_20150514_091258841.jpg I never said the work was all, work. We needed something with a lower axle tube. Graham's 110 will work.  photo IMG_20150514_092728471.jpg We eventually borrowed a small loader to spread it out. We wanted to make it nice and smooth so the different types of tread, tire PSI's and vehicles could make an apples to apples comparison on the sand. About that time it started to rain. No biggie, at least that would help with the dust. Ken was dead set on raising the Camel Trophy flag so he stayed up there until it was secure.  photo IMG_20150514_100337922.jpg

At this point the weather was still on and off. It would stop raining and get nice and blue again. This is a shot of the clunker Discovery I bought for the swamped and rollover vehicle classes next to Ken's Camel Trophy truck.  photo IMG_20150514_150425958.jpg By Thursday evening it was getting muddy, but nothing a normal 4x4 couldn't handle.  photo IMG_20150515_081450479.jpg
 I was very honored to receive this beautiful knife from the creators of OVEX for my years of service. A beautiful piece of craftsmanship.  photo IMG_20150515_095543834.jpg
 Friday brought with it... more rain... and snow. At this point most of the grounds were pretty soupy. People were walking around in rain jackets laughing and enjoying the weather. It did keep most peoples camera's, including mine, put away. Here is the hard top Defender 110. These are 1990 military 110's. Mechanical NA diesel. Slow as heck, but they are great little trucks. This ones for sale in case you're wondering.  photo IMG_20150515_120124.jpg I lucked out in that my first class was under a nice big awning at the BFG semi. It wasn't sponsored by BFG, but I happily accepted their offer to bring the class out from the weather and under their awning. I heard that some people had failed to show at the event or had left for hotels in Flagstaff already, but it was clear that anyone who made the choice to stay and go to class brought a good attitude. The rest were asking for refunds or were checking into warm hotels. Wusses. :-)
 We were shivering, but smiling while talking about tires. Once that class was over I got out and did a "little" picture taking while it was somewhat dry. A Brazilian Jeep. "Troller."  photo DSC01231.jpg They've been around.  photo DSC01233.jpg

In no way necessary or practical, but we all want it just the same. ;-)  photo DSC01234.jpg There are big differences in the offroad capabilities of each Offroad RV offered. We realized after talking with some attendees that these differences aren't readily apparent to everyone. Some of these trucks are good for a dirt road or two and others can really hit most of your favorite trails in Moab and Colorado. Those are two very different types of offroading, but I could see myself enjoying either one if I could carry some mountain bikes and a dirt bike!!  photo DSC01235.jpg  photo DSC01236.jpg Brief bits of sun with snow still on the mountains in the background.  photo DSC01238.jpg This dog was not messing around and was ready to float away, should the water level reach that point.  photo DSC01239.jpg I love the scope of trucks. Everything from new to old and from production line to one-offs.  photo DSC01240.jpg Some things, like this suspension trailer, look neat, but would be hellacious to turn around on a tight trail!  photo DSC01241.jpg Never before have vendors thought to choose their booth location based on elevation, but I think that next year people will fight over the areas that were just a couple inches higher than others. No flood.  photo DSC01242.jpg Flood  photo DSC01244.jpg  photo DSC01245.jpg It's always fun to see old race trucks. I didn't have time to check out if this one was a legit race truck or a repop. It looked way to nice for a truck that's seen any miles so at the very least it was redone. I wish they'd leave race cars as they are post race.  photo DSC01246.jpg Here is a different truck, but similar era Rod Hall Mopar.
Being someone that does a lot of different outdoor activities I always like it when there is some crossover from sports I love.  photo DSC01247.jpg The Camel Trophy area. It was a bit of a mess, but you can see the different rigging setups. In the back is a 6 to 1 pulley setup so almost anyone could life the heavy transfer case attached to it.  photo DSC01248.jpg The grand stands were a great place to kill a couple hours and watch countless close calls with the bikes falling over. All in all, everyone really held it together. It's also fun to see the pro's launch the 500lb behemoth adventure bikes a few feet off the ground.  photo DSC01250.jpg Almost time to finish the bridge. This was an attendee event meaning that anyone from day pass holders to full Overland Experience folks could come over and help.  photo DSC01249.jpg This is another class that I would HIGHLY recommend. Synthetic Winch Line splicing. It's fairly easy, but it's in no way intuitive if you've never done it. Andy, former Camel Trophy Member and current logger/military forces driving instructor, walks everyone through the process with such patience that anyone can get it done no matter your experience level. photo IMG_20150517_131858941.jpg It's "drying out", but not fast enough. Even the BFG Jeeps have stopped running to avoid chewing up the short offroad course we set up for them. It doesn't help that in the deeper dips the water is over a foot deep. (It's not the depth, but the muck that the old lake silty dirt is turning into) The Land Rover's on street tires hadn't been running since Friday. The instructors are good guys and top notch which meant they were going crazy just standing around. Especially when they knew a decent set of tires could get them running again. Time to finish up the bridge.  photo IMG_20150517_154805023.jpg We decided to make this bridge beefy so we drove a Mitsubishi Fuso over it. I took it over the bridge as well and there is something disconcerting about driving a cab over vehicle where you can look 15 feet down and see water beneath you. Creaking logs doesn't help either.  photo IMG_20150517_161011489.jpg Duncan eases the "borrowed" truck across the bridge.  photo IMG_20150517_161043589.jpg Poor cell phone photo, but you get the idea.  photo IMG_20150517_161313076.jpg All in all the weekend was too overwhelming to type out as usual. There were some people charging to tow others out, but mostly it was neighbors helping neighbors. The NAU 4x4 club came out from Flagstaff and towed out people for practice. AZ 4x4 recovery was out to help get the BFG Semi unstuck and I watched some aluminum sand mats along with some maxtrax actually work and not disintegrate under the weight of a moving semi. I got my entire truck's interior covered in mud, but there were not big issues so that's a plus. It was a blur of a week and weekend.

Then it was time to rush home on Monday, catch up on work via some LONG days, re-prep the truck and head out for some NPTC training on Friday.