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DTOR - Dirty Turtle Off Road - a newbie wheeling....

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  • DTOR - Dirty Turtle Off Road - a newbie wheeling....

    I don't post here often. I mainly lurk, read, get entertained, and learn (some).

    The Chronicle of James part III - tale of an off-roading newbie.

    DTOR is on facebook and at

    The only previous wheeling experience is from our front yard (5 acres) and out on farms. I drag race and autocross, but this is a completely different animal. Observing others and reading seemed to help. I went slow, used brakes, and no more throttle than it needed. We had virtually no tire slip all day.

    James, our 2000 GMC Jimmy, came to live with us this past Spring as replacement for our 1999 Blazer that met its demise in an accident on a snow-covered road.

    We have been working on many things on this truck since with the ultimate goal being some trail rides. The time came and though no one could be found to come along, we set out to ride the Dirty Turle on Sept 4, 2010.

    The day got off to a slow start. Everything wasn't 100%, but I felt confident the boys (4yr and 10yr-olds) would enjoy and we'd do okay. The trip wasn't long (around 90 minutes from the house). We got there around 1030hrs and after signing in and paying our fee ($15 driver and $5 yearly sticker. The boys were free) we headed to the first camping area to prep the truck.

    Truck prep consisted of disconnecting the front sway bar (I made quick connects), moving the spare to the roof, and airing the 31x10.50 Firestone ATs down to around 25psi. I knew they would drop more because they were still hot from the highway.

    With the 2wd light glowing, the oldest son up front and the youngest in back (all belted) we moved onto the first trail to the left which runs along the property line. Dirt quickly turned to small, loose rock. The weather was an absolutely perfect 65deg, high pressure, and nearly cloudless. The trail was mostly dry since we haven't had much rain for the last month or so. We rolled up to a hill that I decided would require 4wd so the button was pushed and we moved upward with no drama thanks to the recently-installed rear locker.

    We approached the creek bed area near 'the Falls' with the money hill #21 being just around the corner. We cruised up the RH trail line through the creek bed until we decided to try a route on the right just past #13. This seemed to be the first real test and there was some mud, but by hugging the banks I managed to avoid any deep slippery stuff. We got way up the trail only to find a felled tree obstacle that I know my 1.5" lift and smaller-than-most tires aren't going to let us cross. One of three mildly-tense episodes through the day when we had to back out of there. A little tense.

    No - we didn't do this thing....

    We went back up the creek bed to the trail just past #12 which leads up to the area near #7. This line had us on rock then dirt with a trench and a dry bog at the top you can drive around. There are many mini-bogs on the trails with drive arounds. Since it was so dry most were rock-hard, but the trail bosses filled some up using a duece-and-a-half tanker. We didn't try any because we didn't encounter any when we traveled with others. Being alone and getting the ATs loaded up with goo isn't my idea of a fun time. About half-way up this trail I got tired of 4-HI, stopped, shifted to neutral and marched forward with renewed confidence in 4-LO. At the top the kids changed places so my 4-yr-old could ride shotgun and see better.

    Our voyage continued around the perimeter road we'd taken first leading us to the falls when we met up with a group of 5 Jeeps and a quad. A couple of them were covered in mud having encountered a large hole a bit earlier. We asked if we could tag along on their path continuing around the perimeter past the creek bed. I was pleased we kept up with the nearly stock Rubis and an early wrangler. We knew there was no chance we'd go where the lifted CJ could go. There were a couple nice downhills and obstacles before we turned right off the perimter road and stopped near #23 (Orange Crusher) so some could get a taste of a more extreme trail. First up was a blue Rubi that powered up with some wheelspin, but there as never any doubt it was a done deal.
    Next up was the leaf-sprung wrangler running some slightly-larger tires. He went right up, but encountered a tree somewhere near the top. Front bumper 0. Tree = 1. Still, he did it in fine fashion and the other two Rubis declined ascent. The Renegade driver and passenger strapped in and headed up... Just past the stump the left rear tire seemed to take a weird bounce and over it went. The recovery took a bit more than an hour and involved two winches, several straps, and blocks. The CJ was set up then slowly lowered to the bottom. The damage seemed limited to the RF fender, windshield frame, and a bikini top strap broke. It cranked right up and after smoking a little continued wheeling along.

    Videos I took and posted

    Renegade going over on Orange Crusher.

    Part of the recovery of said Renegade.

    We stayed with this group back down to the creek bed when it was decided I'd better feed the kids or risk mutiny. We parked across from a berm within sight of trail #16 and chowed down on chicken nuggets, peanut butter & marshmellow cream sandwiches, and chips. A group of RWD rail buggies had gathered nearby and one charged up the trail with what sounded like some turbo boost assisting. Exciting stuff. This group soon moved on and we took notice of one buggy with a man standing on the outer tube and hanging on the roll cage to keep the RF off the ground as the buggy had become a trike with the wheel and spindle being broken off.
    After lunch the boys again swapped seats and we continued along and climbed up the side of the turtle shell and spoke to the driver of the only other S-series we spotted that day. It was a White 96+ 4dr Blazer with what looked like a 2" BL and tbar crank/shackle lift. He'd been pleased the the performance of his rig so far.

    The place was VERY dusty up on top. The inside of the truck was covered as were we. There were still a lot of trails to discover and the kids weren't done, though we all wish we could have continued on with a group rather than alone. Next we headed up the trail running through the campground we'd used for prepping the truck. We had no idea what we were in store for. There were some bogs, but we managed to slip around them all. The trail started to descend and based on the trail map we were heading towards the perimeter line again. What we didn't know was the last 50ft got really steep and the last 20 had a seriously steep drop. 4lo, 1st gear, lots of brake.

    We did find a vid showing this trail we went DOWN.
    The descent is at around 50 sec into this video. We didn't intend to do this one - it just worked out that way.

    This was our second heart-pumping obstacle. It's all good. We had three of these downhill things that we rubbed the front slightly. Our fascia is seriously trimmed so it takes a good bit of incline to get that thing on the ground.

    We drove on around the perimeter road to the creek bed again and decided to use the LH lane. We came up on a cluster of folks who'd gathered to watch a Rockwell-axled Sami try #21. It did and fell hard. It'd been righted when we got there and looked as if it could get out on its own.
    As the crowd dispersed we got around and contiuned to the trail just before #12 that leads up to the plateau. We hadn't seen anyone run through mud all day and though we'd seen many rigs painted in brown slime this trip to the playground wouldn't feed our spectator side anything. We ambled around a bit more then thought to try seeing if anyone was on the superflex. Oh yeah...that wasn't the most wise move it sounded like at the time.
    Things look fairly tame until we see the drive-around for the super flex. This was our third 'interesting' moment of the day. It's tight and still has a big ledge that will cause us to rub in more than one place. I get it positioned as close to the far tree as I can so my angle is good to avoid the steepest of the ledge. We scaped, but no real damage was done and the three of us once again are pleasantly surprised at the James' capabilities. Once we reached the top near the end of 'Bloody Thicket' (no we didn't go up that #11 they claim is a trail) we were pretty much done.

    Up on the plateau again we decided to call it a day. We'd been out in the woods for around 7 hours and it had been a Phineas & Ferb 'best day ever' kind of day. We tooled back to the parking lot and began getting the truck ready for the trip back home. While the boys were having a snack a KOH qualifier came thundering in from the park and pulled right up on the trailer. We quickly went over to check it out and learn what they'd done. They had really come to check the park out and then give #21 a try, but everyone kept pointing them to 'Oh Sh#%' so they gave her a try. It flipped, broke an axle and bent two front links. They stated it would return and give that hill another try.

    We returned to the James and stuffed my over-preppared array of equipment and supplies into the rear. Spare was safely tucked back under the cargo area and tires filled back to normal pressure. BTW...the tires had dropped to around 20psi with the lower temps and worked good. I have no idea how the James would fare if the place was wet. I think some would be fine, but the more muddy areas might need to be avoided. These tires don't clean well when there is an abundance of goo. Perhaps later I'll snag another pair of wheels and put MTs on the rear. I won't do that on the front as I believe the IFS will object. All in all it was a GREAT day, we had an uneventful trip home, and I still haven't cleaned the rig up so I can relive the memory.

    I hope we don't have to go alone again, but I think with time we'll meet more folks and I'll actually remember some names and get some contact info. Many thanks to:
    My sons for behaving and helping make it one of the best days ever
    the folks in the group of jeeps we followed for a time. It was much fun.
    the people who run DTOR and make it a nice place to wheel.

    I do and have done a lot of motorsports stuff and we go to about a dozen or so events a year to spectate. One of the constant truths of these events is the ever-present volume of foul language - even around children. That's a bummer because both of my sons are true gearheads and it dampens things when I have to explain why we don't say those things and answer to repeated questions as to what 'xxxx' means. At DTOR I don't recall hearing any of it. I'm sure it's there and you can't help but say it when you get stuck, rolled over, or worse, but none of it reached my sons' ears and for that I'm grateful This trip really was family-friendly and I hope it stays that way. We'll be back.

    We're pleased with the performance of the James. I need to do some more trimming and pounding. I will do add-a-leaf in the rear to help with the soft rear springs. Carrying tools and such had the rear squatting which might have attributed to some of the tail drag. We want to discuss tossing the rear bumper and fabbing something else to gain a better departure angle.

    If time/funds allow this winter/next year we'll weigh a 2" BL or perhaps getting a 5 or 6" lift. IFS is staying for now. It'll keep us off the green routes. I want to add a dedicated tranny cooler and will start looking for electric fans to replace the clutch unit. We hope to wheel again within the next few weeks.

    thanks for reading if you actually made it this far..... Lets get together and make a day of it....I'm not hard to find if you search for me on facebook or boards centered around motorsports and kentucky.

  • #2
    Re: DTOR - Dirty Turtle Off Road - a newbie wheeling....

    Great photo story .... you should post more often !!!


    • #3
      Re: DTOR - Dirty Turtle Off Road - a newbie wheeling....

      A few of the guys I work with go to the Turtle. They say it's a blast.


      • #4
        Re: DTOR - Dirty Turtle Off Road - a newbie wheeling....

        fun stuff... and just like drag racing, a few mods won't hurt ;) ;D
        Doing it all wrong since 1966


        • #5
          Re: DTOR - Dirty Turtle Off Road - a newbie wheeling....

          Nice story, thanks.

          We've had a lot of fun in the past couple years 'wheeling around our stock rig ('90-something Cherokee) and know now why guys do all the wacky cutting and modifying they do. There's another Cherokee (slowly) going together with a bunch of mods careful, this stuff draws you in! :D

          Four-wheeling with the right crowd can be pretty family-friendly but there may still be a little sly fun on the side. Where we go, out in the desert, getting stuck can have serious consequences so most of the time we're with members of a group that gets together via internet postings. When everybody's there to just be cool and have a good day, hanging out with complete strangers may be as fun as with old friends.

          That guy who rolled the CJ...How'd he do that?

          I think I learned how to pick my way through rocks and stuff by growing up hiking in the mountains and fishing along creeks. In a 4x4, just put your tires where you'd have put your foot. There are good places and there are dumb places.