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The 64th Annual Jeepers Jamboree was a blast! With it’s miles of awesome trail riding, epic scenery punctuated by moments of hard core rock crawling through challenging obstacles, the Rubicon Trail is a place that every off roader should experience, and the Jeepers Jamboree events are a great way to do it!
The 5 Freeway
Our 2016 Rubicon adventure began early Tuesday morning. We wanted to be past the Grapevine on the 5 Freeway, north of Los Angeles before the temperatures skyrocketed. Pete brought along his long time friend, Jay Hickman as co pilot and camera man for the trip, as we are stretched pretty thin between Jeepers Jamboree and All 4 Fun in Colorado. The Central Valley is usually a hot and bland drive in a Jeep, but this year’s record breaking heat wave made it an even hotter, and somehow even more boring drive. Thanks to good time management, we had time to have a lunch break and let the gears temper. The JKS 2 Door had another fresh set of gears, after having to drop in a new year end last minute after discovering a bent rear housing interfering with the function of the factory Rubicon locker. We got through Sacramento before the worst of rush hour, and we landed at the River Rock Inn in Georgetown around 6pm, giving us ample time to grab a bite and the newly remodeled Georgetown Hotel Restaurant for food and refreshments before an early bed.
Jeepers Jamboree Outdoor Expo
Wednesday we were up bright and early to setup the booth for the Jeepers Jamboree Outdoor Expo. This year’s scorching temperatures of 100+ degrees didn’t stop the band from playing. People from the entire region visit the show to see the latest and greatest from Jeepers Jamboree sponsors, although this year it was busy early, it cleared out during the hottest parts of the days with attendees making the best of the swamp coolers and air conditioners in the local restaurants. At the end of the day we packed up and prepared the vehicle for the Rubicon Trail! Our friends at Nitro Gear and Axle were nice enough the let us leave our product from the vendor show and the windows from our Bestop Trektop Pro in their trailer. Before turning in for the night we stopped in at Blacksheep Offroad in downtown Georgetown for a gear oil change and a quick once over.
The Drive In
We met up with Jeremy in the diesel powered Nitro Gear and Axle WK and Brad driving his Nitro Gear JK at 6 am on Thursday and headed for the trail head. We took our time, aired down and grabbed our lunches at Loon Lake and were on the Trail by 8 am. With a record number of participants this year, we noticed a lot of Jeepers that were new to the Rubicon trail, leading to long lines at many of the tougher obstacles. That being said, no better place to look out the window than the Rubicon Trail, so we had no complaints.
Halfway between the trailhead and Buck Island Lake, Jeremy from Nitro broke the u bolts on the front pinion Yoke of the WK, destroying the u joint. Pete just so happened to have the 1310 replacement u joint handy and ready to go, but not the bolts. Luckily a Jeepers Jamboree trail mechanic wasn’t far behind us and had the u joints we needed. Ten minutes later Jeremy had his WK back on the trail and we carried on.
We reached Buck Island Lake midday and decided to go for a swim while we waited for the traffic to pass. The final third of the trip down to Rubicon Springs is the Big Sluice, we wanted to have smooth sailing down to the springs. When leaving Buck Island there is an optional rock face and you can blast up. Pete zipped up it on his second try. Jeremy wasn’t so lucky. Taking the same line as Pete, Jeremy lined up and hit the throttle, and after a couple of second shattered the entire yoke of the front driveshaft, this time at the transfer case. Bummer. Pete winched Jeremy out of the rut he had created now that the WK only had two wheel drive.
Lucky for Jeremy, another vendor that Nitro had bailed out at King of the Hammers this year just so happened to have an aftermarket JK front driveshaft ready to go, and offered it to Jeremy as they drove by. It required upgrading to 1350 U Joints and some modifications, but looked doable. We limped the WK back to the trail mechanic station at Buck Island lake and spend the better part of two hours, but we finally managed to graft the JK driveshaft onto the front of the WK and were on our way.
The Big Sluice varies in difficulty from moderately challenging to very difficult, but we had no issues going down. We arrived in Rubicon Springs at around 7 and made camp by the River.
A Day Off
One of the awesome things about this event is downtime in Rubicon Springs. With breakfast, lunch and dinner being served by Jeepers Jamboree, you only have to worry about what you’re going to do with your day. Whether your idea of a good time is floating in the mountain springs, hiking, fishing or just kicking back and enjoying a beverage (or seven) with your friends against one of the most beautiful backdrops you could possibly imagine, you’re sure to get time to recharge the batteries.
Buck Island Crawl
A fun, optional run is the Buck Island Crawl! Only open to rigs with two lockers, experienced drivers and big tires, it starts early Saturday morning at Rubicon Springs. You wheel up the Big Sluice, with is much more challenging when climbing up. This year’s Buck Island Crawl was just difficult enough to be challenging, but due to the relatively tame nature of the trail this year was a fun, drama free couple of hours back up to Buck Island, where epic tri tip sandwhiches, cooked up by the guys at the Buck Island mechanic trail mechanics. After a few hours at Buck Island, the group disbanded and headed back to Rubicon Springs, back down the Big Sluice.
The Drive Out
Having surveyed the scene, several vendors (including us) decided it would be best to drive back out the front of the trail, back up the Big Sluice, around Buck Island Lake, all the way through the trail entrance at Loon Lake Dam. While it is the long, hard way, it avoids the inevitable traffic jam that occurs every year up Cadillac Hill, the final climb out of Rubicon Springs that heads to Tahoe. This year’s was assured to be exceptionally tough with all of the new participants. It also puts us a mere our away from Georgetown, where we have our stuff stored in Nitro’s Trailer. We met up with Synergy Suspension for the drive out and headed out at 8.
The Big Sluice was much more challenging this time around, all of the traffic, the Buck Island Run and the huge number of vendors getting the bright idea of heading back up the trail took it’s toll, turning the Big Sluice a boulder strewn, cut up mess, similar to the how the Big Sluice has been in years past. A vehicle roll over held the line up for well over an hour, and slow going put us at Buck Island at Noon. We hung out with Synergy at Buck Island Lake, going for a swim and waiting for the traffic to pass once again. The drive out was long, but generally smooth sailing, giving us ample time to stop for pictures and enjoy the scenery. We reached Loon Lake around 2 o’clock. Airing up and doing a once over on the Jeep, we realized that an oil leak had developed from the oil pan. Upon closer inspection, we discovered that precision rock had managed to sneak into the little opening in our oil pan skid plate and puncture the oil pan right at the corner. While it was a slow drip, it was definitely cause for concern. We didn’t want to waste any time and high tailed it back to Georgetown.
By the time we got back to Georgetown, our drip had developed into a steady small stream of oil. We parked in the vendor parking lot next to the Nitro Trailer, the Nitro crew had gone out the Cadillac Hill side, and wouldn’t be back until the next day. After a putting a catch under the drip, Pete determined the JKS JK was losing oil at a rate of a quart an hour, and with how quickly the hole had expanded, we didn’t want to risk driving to the next town to find a parts store that was open on a Sunday. It was time to come up with a plan, and fast.
The plan was to make a patch for the oil pan using the drain plug as an anchor for the patch, sealing the hole with JB Weld High Temperature putty and applying black RTV around the patch to create a flexible barrier to keep any oil seepage from leaking. The problem was that with the local auto parts store closed, we had no access to the supplies needed to create the patch. Pete noticed that the property behind the parking lot had a large garage and a JK Unlimited hard top piled neatly under a lean-to. It turns out the owner of the property is Bob Roggy of Roggy Enterprises, an offroad shop that used to be located in neighboring Placerville. Bob was kind enough to let Pete borrow some supplies to get started. Pete described the patch he wanted to make and Bob got to work in his shop, cutting and grinding down a patch that fit neatly over the cracked hole in the oil pan. Still missing critical supplies, the best we could do was drain the oil pan in preparation for the patch in the morning. The hole had to be as clean as possible anyway, and draining overnight gave the patch the best chance of taking hold.
In the morning we got to the auto parts store at 8 am and picked up the JB weld, shop towels and cleaner we would need to complete the job. The patch was a multi step process, applying layers of JB Weld to the cracked oil pan and letting it cure before applying the patch. The patch was on the truck by noon, but still needed time to cure.
For those interested in learning how to do this type of fix, we made the effort of filming the entire process and will be putting together a video detailing the steps necessary to do it. Hopefully you are never in this situation, but even if you wheel with caution, things happen. If it does we would love to pass along to knowledge to get you out of a jam!
The Journey Home
We left Georgetown around 3 pm with an oil pan filled with oil and a tank of gas.The Journey home wasn’t much of a journey, actually. While we got stuck in horrible traffic coming out of Sacramento, it was smooth sailing the entire way back to Los Angeles. The patch didn’t leak a drop. As a matter of fact it still doesn’t leak a drop as it waits for a replacement oil pan! You never know what you’ll get with a trip to the Rubicon Trail, but whether you plan on going with an organization like Jeepers Jamboree or you buddies, get out there and have an adventure! It’s guaranteed to be a good time, and send you home with great stories and great pictures!