This past September, Joey and Jordyn Pitts of Pitts-Stop Adventures decided to set off on a road trip to the Rocky Mountains and surrounding areas. They started their 21 day trip in Paradise, Texas and traveled with their two dogs through 8 states in their 2014 Toyota Trail Edition 4Runner. While on their journey, they primarily chose to camp and live out of their Little Guy, Boss Edition teardrop camper. This is the first of a 2-part series.
Rear links/control arms are commonly upgraded or simply replaced on vehicles, as it is a crucial component of the suspension system. Link replacement is beneficial for those who may want a smoother ride and a stronger suspension, or those of us who have damaged our link systems. Link damage may become apparent from an accident, trail damage, worn out bushings or ball joints, improper use or stress from other synchronized parts in disrepair. This can be a pricey repair, upgrade or both, so it is important to research the quality of different parts and brand while also ensuring the modification is done right the first time. Alternatively, if you do not plan to upgrade your suspension system, the rear links/control arms should not be overlooked when maintaining and improving your vehicle. It is important to pay attention to irregular sounds and feels, and look over your vehicle and undercarriage for signs of damaged parts during regular maintenance.
ts 4:00 am the day before Christmas Eve. This might sound early, but for a snow plow driver it's more like sleeping in for 3 hours. As I quickly donned some snow boots and coat to head out into the cold, I could tell my wife was more bummed than usual about the alarm clock having gone off because this time she actually had to get up. Two months of planning had led up to this moment, and it was time to book our adventure on the White Rim Road.
With a long successful history in the mud-terrain tire market, Cooper has finally found an adequate replacement for their renowned Discoverer STT. After years of R&D, Cooper released their newest mud-terrain option, the Discoverer STT Pro. Cooper takes great pride in the STT Pro and they have every right to.
I've loved the 4x4 and off-road industry for as long as I can remember. After running this magazine for almost 10 years though, I've realized something. With little exceptions, none of us gets to explore as often as we'd like.
The desire to get on dirt, explore new places, and find adventure around every corner is not something that's easy to quench. Luckily, I've finally found an outlet that allows me to play...with a toy...and quench that thirst, for just a little while.
Overlanding through Utah’s backcountry should be on everyone’s bucket list. Utah’s overlanding routes enable the traveler to experience the land like no other. Not only does “ eye candy”—spires, towers, canyons, mesas, etc.—surround the traveler; but the many dirt roads lead to some of the best adventures in North America. One can canyoneer down a slot, mountain bike an epic singletrack, or hike in a desert oasis stream. It’s all available...in Utah. My friends, Dave, Barb, and Sam, joined me on this 12-day overland adventure into the wilds of southern Utah.
Lets face it, if you live in the northern regions of the United States, winters can seemingly go on forever. Snow tends to accumulate even before it is officially winter. By the time February rolls around you are suffering from the age-old Cabin-Fever and need to get out of the house. Luckily with snow comes the opportunity for great snowshoeing. Over the last few years Krista and I have jumped headlong into this Nordic sport and it has changed the way we view winter - It affords us the opportunity to explore a world transformed by snow.
While attending SEMA 2015, I stumbled across the Wavian booth and was immediately captivated by this product. I’ve heard the stories of people discovering rust inside their fuel can, or dust finding a way into the fuel. With a can cut open, the Wavian representative explained how the inside lining with fuel resistant Rezol enamel not only prevents rust, but if the can gets dented, the internal lining doesn’t crack.
This project requires cutting and welding of the frame. This project should only be tackled by someone with previous welding experience. Those tackling this project should wear proper personal protective equipment to help prevent injury. Do not attempt this project without a helper, or two, to prevent straining one’s back by trying to hold a bumper in place while bolting it up.
Step 1: Factory Bumper Removal
Locate and unplug the wiring harnesses from the turn signals.
Locate and unbolt the two Fender Apron Braces, there is one brace on each side. A single nut is used to connect the brace to the side mounting bracket.
Locate and unbolt the two Front Bumper Arms from the frame. There is one bumper arm on each rail. Note: Do not discard the hex-head cap screws as they will be used to install the new bumper.
With the bumper removed, locate and unbolt the two Fender Apron Braces from the inner fenders.
Step 2: Modifying the Frame
Before the new CBI Front Hybrid Bumper can be installed the frames of 1996 through 1998 4Runners need to be modified. These years of 4Runners had a different plate on the front of each frame rail than the 1999 through 2002 models. *If you are reading this installation and own 99 through 2002 4Runner you can skip this and jump Step 3. The frame end plates need to be replaced with the new plates supplied by CBI. This is done by grinding off the welds securing the factory end plates to the frame.
Now, with the factory plates removed, temporarily bolt the new mounting plates to the CBI Hybrid Bumper. With the help of a friend, lift the bumper into place and use the Front Bumper Arm bolts to temporarily secure it in place. The new mounting plates need to be flush with the frame rails and tacked into place.
Note: My 4Runner was in an accident prior to us purchasing it. This resulted in the passenger-side frame rail needing to be trimmed an extra 1/4 inch to get everything to line up properly.
With the new mounting plates tacked into place, the bumper can be unbolted and removed. The new mounting plates can now be welded into place. Once complete, the frame and mounting plates should be painted with a liberal coat of paint to prevent rust from developing.
Step 3: Bolting Everything Up
The new Hybrid Bumper can be bolted up once the paint has dried. Now is a great time to install a winch, if you are choosing to install one. CBI recommends that you torque the six main mounting bolts to 70 ft-lbf to ensure a solid connection to the vehicle.
With the bumper mounted, the new turn signals can be installed and wired up. The factory plugs will need to be cut off of the wiring harness and soldered to the new light pigtails. Be sure to cover the wires with heat-shrink tubing to prevent corrosion.
Even with the extra bit of cutting and fitting required by my 4Runner’s bent frame the installation went very quickly. I had the help of two friends during the project. One helped me lift the bumper into place as the second bolted everything up. This worked out rather well as the bumper needed to come on and off a few times to get the fitment just right. In all I am very impressed with the bumper’s construction and I cannot wait to hit the trails to test its durability!
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Act I: Las Vegas!
I had to get from Denver to Las Vegas to catch my ride to Ensenada. I found a $19.00 fare. Actually, the fare was $0.85 and the rest was taxes. I'm sure the government will do a better job with my money then I would.
Next I had to find a place to stay overnight in Vegas. So now I have a confession, I'd never stayed in Las Vegas. I made it all these years only driving through twice never really stopping. After one night in Las Vegas I now understand. Las Vegas is like nothing else.
I put word on the social network “looking for a place in Las Vegas” and fellow adventure Brian Dorr not only was able to secure lodging that wasn't in the back of his truck (although if you've ever seen the back of his truck it's a sweet set up), but he did a bit of off-road driving and had me running over cobblestones to jump into the almost still moving truck at the airport. Smoothest pick up ever. And we were off.
I'll leave the night in Las Vegas that up to your imagination because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. I can assure you it was less exciting than what you might imagine.
Now why did I fly to Vegas to go to Baja? That leaves about 1000 miles to go.
Act II: Road Trip
No one has turned social media into a more effective tool for Toyota 4x4 goodness then Brian "Woody" Swearington. Since you drive a Toyota you know www.IH8MUD.com and your family has IH8MUD to thank for hundreds of hours you lost to that blue screen making you happy, answering questions, and starting “how should I modify my truck” threads. When I heard that I had the chance to spend a day in the truck with Woody, Heather, and Otis, I jumped at it. There is no better way to travel to the Baja 1000 then in the well-built IH8MUD 80 series freshly equipped with Autocraft progressive coils with Autocraft-spec Icon reservoir shocks and Autocraft rear seat bar. More about those later.
The drive from Vegas to Ensenada was a breeze interrupted only by delicious Mexican food off a random exit in California. We rolled down the coast into Ensenada and celebrated Otis' first international adventure.
Act III: Contingency
The Baja 1000 is every bit as exciting in person as you might imagine. Unquestionably the Canguro Racing team is the finest group to travel with. The puzzled looks on the faces of all of the Mexicans trying to understand why a race team is named after a kangaroo makes it worthwhile. But before that we went out for a big steak dinner followed up by the ever reliable Thrifty ice cream.
Baja experiences are everywhere and going to the race is much more then the amazing race trucks. It would be easy to spend hours poring over any one race vehicle and learning about all the amazing components modifications and experiences of that vehicle and the team. Now imagine surrounded by hundreds of these vehicles, thousands of these people, and cramming it all into 24 to 36 hours of dusty racing over 800 miles and it is simply in all respects absolutely overwhelming to the senses.
Contingency morning dawns crisp and clear and by sunup dozens of rigs were lined up. Contingency is a holiday in Ensenada and everybody was out to see the trucks, motorcycles, quads, and side-by-side and the teams. <<Jeff
Canguro racing was already hard at work with last-minute vehicle prep and getting drivers registered.
Act IV: Tacos
The tacos in Baja are so good that they deserve their own act. Mmmmm. I stay away from the brown water guacamole served out of old 5 gallon hydraulic oil buckets, but some say that's just a personal preference.
Final Act: The Baja Mil - The Race
Race day dawned and good time destiny determined again that I pile in with Woody, Heather, and Otis. We headed off to "observe and monitor communications". Adrenalin must have been pumping as Woody went to pass a semi on an outside curve overlooking a bluff, which would have been fine for Mexico driving but for the tightening turn. So now I know that a fully loaded expedition setup 80 Series Land Cruiser can smoothly power slide on BFG AT KO2’s. All part of the adventure.
For our next difficult task it was essential that we stop for more tacos and then drive directly to a beach, park atop of 12 foot bluff and carefully watch four hours of racing waiting to catch a glimpse of Monica pass in the dark. We were treated to campfire where one complete example of a native plant provided for an entire fuel.
The best views of the Toyota Mexico trophy truck came as she flew through this section. The flapping caution tape on the front bumper must've been picked up from taking a corner a little too tight somewhere. Somewhere along the course she broke a frame and a shock piston as thick as your wrist.
While we waited the sunset over the pacific and we caught a glimpse of dolphins offshore.
We cheered in the dark as Monica blew past and then piled in to meet at the next pit stop. On the way we were treated to an encounter with race legend Rod Hall. Although he proved to best to our finish this year, there's no denying with his skill and experience he earned every bit of it.
I'd like to say that NASCAR would be proud of our pit stops. My job was to check tire pressure. Three were good and one was a 10 PSI high and the whole team was waiting on that one tire when it was time to leave the pit. In other words, the entire pit lasted long enough for one guy to check four tires and let 10 pounds of air out. You do the math.
However, that must've been just enough time for Baja 1000 gremlins to jump in the truck, because after this they started to work their troublesome magic.
Somewhere around race mile 420, one of the most remote sections of the entire course, she ran out of gas. It took nearly 4 hours for the chase truck just to get in with additional fuel. However even after that the truck kept losing power and needing a restart.
Well behind and almost 8 hours later Monica rolled in to Coco's corner. I could think of a lot of worse places to hang out with some good friends for eight hours but the whole time we were thinking about the race track and wishing there was something we could do.
The road in and out of Coco’s was also the race course and Woody, himself a bit of a Baja racer, put the new Autocraft suspension to task soaking up the bumps, drifting through corners and hammering down the straightaways. This road won't be the same next time as we passed countless actions under construction. The highway won't go straight to Coco's but it will never be the Remote traveler rest stop like it's been.
Monica handled the next stretch of highway like a champ but trouble started as soon as she was back onto the dirt. The constant stopping to reset the throttle body was causing major delays. As a team regrouped at mile marker 660 there were constant efforts to stay in touch with the race car and come up with a solution. Our Chase vehicle went ahead to Checkpoint 6 to find out its status and how much time we had to reach it.
There are countless ways to be knocked out of competition in the Baja 1000. Mechanical, navigational, booby traps from creative spectators, exhaustion, and failing to make checkpoints on time. We arrived at Checkpoint 6 as the crew was packing up. Ready to close. Monica was still two hours out. At least. Her race was over. We turned around back to radio range to pass the news. Then pulled off into the desert for a rest and cup of coffee. After an hour or so we headed back to Ensenada.
The next morning as most of the team headed home I stuck around for a day and went surfing. After all, it's Baja.
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East of El Paso, the Rio Grande carves a scenic path south of the Solitario Flatiron Mountains, through Santa Elena Canyon, and at the base of the Sierra Del Carmen as it turns northward. On the U.S. side of the river, the diverse geological structures spanning the Big Bend Ranch State Park (BBRSP) and Big Bend National Park (BBNP) prevent uniformity, keeping things interesting for the traveler. Across the brown river, Mexico stands tall and beautiful, providing an alluring backdrop of seemingly unobtainable mountains.
For the adventurers seeking unpaved roads and 4x4 trails, these two parks, as well as surrounding territories, do not disappoint. Nestled between the two parks, the eccentric Texan communities of Terlingua and Lajitas offer unique dining experiences and night life. As with any locale off the beaten path, never assume a constant. Yes, each town has a gas station. That does not mean fuel is always available. Bring extra fuel canisters.
One can never get enough of the Big Bend region. Rare birds, frequent coyote sightings, and colorful sunsets illuminating the mountains redefines the meaning of being one with nature. Find the right spot and camping becomes a treat as the sun goes down and the stars bring the night to life.
An annual gathering of off-roaders and rock hunters usually occurs over the Christmas and New Year’s timeframe. For the Yota crowd, the event is organized in the Texas section of FJCruiserForums.com. Camp is based in the hilly Rancho Topanga Campground west of Terlingua. In 2015, an additional gathering took place over Thanksgiving week and I jumped at the opportunity.
The day before Thanksgiving, with passports in hand, we set out to cross the border into Mexico. The village of Boquillas del Carmen sits atop a hill above the Rio Grande. For years, tourists were able to park their vehicles in BBNP and cross the river via a small ferry to enjoy a cerveza or a pure cane sugar soft drink in Mexico. After 9/11, the border closed and the small village suffered financially.
The U.S. built a border patrol station and port of entry in BBNP at the exact spot, re-opening the border in April 2013. Despite the added bureaucracy, and the passport requirement, it is still worth the effort to take the excursion and enjoy some Mexican hospitality while taking in the scenery of Boquillas Canyon. We climbed into the ferry and crossed the river. Upon arrival, we paid the famous Singing Mexican, Victor, our $5 for the ferry ride and another chunk of cash for the donkey transport up the hill. I wasn’t keen on riding a mule, so I upgraded to a horse for an additional $5.
Dining, drinks, and shopping are typically all that occurs. Our group, made up mostly of rock hunters, went the extra mile…literally. We hired a local guide to take us to the Cave of Crystals. What that meant was we climbed into his pickup truck (some of us sat in the bed) and endured a trip to the trail head via 4x4 roads in a decades-old 2WD truck. We hiked up and down the hills for almost 2 miles toward Boquillas Canyon. Although the cave is near the river, it faces south and is thus hidden from one of the popular trails on the U.S. side. This neat little cave is completely made of crystals: floor, roof, and walls. Well worth the hike.
For Thanksgiving Day, we ventured up the 4.5 mile Christmas Mountains trail. These mountains are just north of BBNP on land owned by the University of Texas. While camping is not permitted, visitors can obtain a day use permit. Our guide, David Aurzada, led us with his yellow FJ Cruiser. The rough road kept us under 5 mph on average, or maybe it was the astounding scenery that slowed us. The route winds through valleys, across the sides of mountains, at the edges of steep cliffs, and eventually terminates at a high overlook at an elevation of 5,400 ft, which is quite high for Texas. We spent nearly an hour taking in the fabulous views of the mountains below.
The return trip was on the same trail, yet it felt completely different as the weather changed, the clouds cleared, and more mountainous scenery was revealed. Upon arrival at David’s cabin, we feasted on traditional Thanksgiving fare while discussing other trails we plan to conquer in the future.
While many people were venturing to their favorite retailers for Black Friday, we chose to hit the famed Black Gap trail in BBNP (cover photo). High clearance and 4WD is certainly a must for various sections. Tanya Cole guided us in her red FJ Cruiser on the 38-mile route. We visited the fascinating Marsical Mine remains. After we exited the unpaved roads, we drove up to the Chisos Basin where clouds greeted us as fog dancing around the peaks.
For our final day of off-roading, we first hit the Las Burras Loop 4x4 trail in BBRSP, which is only one of many 4x4 roads in this park. The tip of the loop stops near high caves.
After lunch in at the famed Lajitas Resort, we headed to the county roads north of Terlingua: a network of unpaved roads winding through medium sized canyons and smaller mountains. We did a 26-mile run that became a bit more challenging as darkness took over. As I led us back to civilization, my 7-inch Zero Dark LED lights lit up a black cat that was too big to be a house cat, but the head wasn’t quite big enough for a panther. What the heck did I see? Possibly a Jaguarundi. Google it.
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Two weeks ago, AT Overland (aka Adventure Trailers) announced their all-new Habitat tent-camper-shell for the 2nd Gen (2005-2015) 5' or 6' bed Tacoma Trucks.
SPC / Light Racing recently revealed a major upgrade to their bulletproof Upper Control Arms for Toyota Cruisers & Trucks.
There has been plenty of discussion, wonder, and speculation about Victor Sheppard's 2007 Tundra. It recently hit 1,000,000 miles on the odometer (which subsquently has stopped working). Our colleague Tim Esterdahl wrote the initial story for Truck Trend last month.
We're having a great start to 2016, and we'd like to share!
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We're a couple of years into the TRD Pro enhanced off-road performance Toyota Trucks (and SUVs), and the newest offering from our friends at corporate Toyota USA was announced today.
The 3rd Generation Tacoma will get the TRD Pro treatment for 2017, according to Toyota. This package of factory-added (and warrantied) options is still without a price, but the previous TRD Pro Package was only about $1,400 more than a similary outfitted truck, so this package should come in at a similar price point.
With every vehicle I have ever owned, there are always some things that just don't make sense. When I decided to buy a Tundra, my ﬁrst stop was the Toyota website, then the dealership to feel and touch.
Stocking Stuffers Products under $50
1.Elemental Herbs World Traveler Gift Set Pack All Good protection and healing with this perfect set of go-to products for when you’re on the go. Perfect for anyone with an active lifestyle who just needs to throw their all-natural essentials in a bag and GO, the World Traveler set contains the All Good SPF 15 Lip Balm, All Good Sunscreen Sport SPF 33, All Good Goop, the Organic Hand Sanitizer (also can be used as a breath freshener), and the unscented Sunstick SPF 30. $41.41 at www.elementalherbs.com
Long time readers of our little publication may remember the very first FJ Cruiser we included as a featured vehicle: El Diablo, January 2008 issue (http://www.tctmagazine.net/january-2008/reader-rigs-el-diablo).
For those of us that contribute to TCT Magazine and for those of you that read TCT Magazine the DzLove of Off Roadingdz is in our blood. We love to simply Dzget out theredz and get away from our busy city lives, see what few have seen, and take in a surreal sunset or sunrise... or both! The deeper we go or the higher we climb may find us wanting more from the vehicles we drive. To achieve the desired result or travel to the most remote locations requires us to modify or improve our vehicles. This same desire is shared by the family that makes up Low Range Off Road.