Alpine Loop – 6.21.14

June 29th, 2014 No comments

Last weekend my family got the chance to run the famous Alpine Loop with the Creeper Jeepers Gang.    We all had a great time seeing the beauty of the alpine tundra and enjoyed the company and hospitality of the Creepers.



Headed out of Silverton, CO up to Animas Forks, driving beside the beautiful Animas River.


Beautiful mountains await!


Exploring the Animas Forks mining relics.


Our own personal tour guide.


Ethan and Addie exploring the ghost town…


Inside the Walsh House. Home of Evelyn Walsh McLean, daughter of Tom Walsh who discovered the famous Campbird Mine and once owned the Hope Diamond.


Choose a path… can’t go wrong.


Amazing views everywhere you look.


Always enjoy spotting marmots out on the trail.


At the top of Cinnamon Pass.


Some of Creeper Jeepers Gang rigs.


A few more of Creeper Jeepers Gang rigs.


Addie Kate adding some sweetness to the Cinnamon.


Snowbank on the way down from Cinnamon.


Descending the switchbacks near American Basin.


The snowmelt was flowing.


Not quite wildflower time yet.


Creepers Jeepers Gang rigs.


Not-so-bighorn sheep.


I missed the official Alpine Loop sign headed out of Silverton, so we caught it when leaving Lake City on Engineer Pass.


Amazing views along Engineer Pass.


Whitmore Falls.


Creeper Jeepers Gang lined up at Whitmore Falls.


Approaching the top of Engineer Pass.


Snow getting deeper.


We couldn’t believe the amount of snow at the top of Engineer.


The official line up at Oh Point.


Frank Taylor’s CJ….one of my favorites.


The Rubicon posing in good company.


Moab, UT Trip Report

March 10th, 2014 1 comment

In January, our family moved to Durango, CO so that I could start a new job.   Living in the Four Corners area has some nice advantages, like the fact that Moab, UT is now only 3 hours away.    This past weekend, one of my Jeeping dreams came true as we got to make our first trip out to Jeep Mecca.    We only had time to scratch the surface of what Moab has to offer and I’m sure this will just be the first of many trips to come.   

Moab is truly a beautiful and unique place and is hard to describe with words.   Pictures don’t do it justice either….but regardless, here’s our photo trip report.

(click pictures to enlarge)


Saturday we meet up with a group of Jeepers from the Colorado Trail Runs 4WD Club to run the Top Of The World trail.


Climbing the trail, the vegetation and trail conditions reminded me of wheeling in TX.  Lots of small bumps/rocks made for a rough ride.

Flexing the Anti-Rock.


The trail had a few fun and challenging ledges to climb, but unfortunately I only got a picture of this small one.

The view at the top was worth the bumpy ride.

The view at the top was worth the bumpy ride.

The La Sal mountains.

The La Sal mountains.

The family enjoys the view.

Enjoying the view.

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Happy to reach the top.

The wind made a few of us chilled as we ate our sack lunch.

The wind made a few of us chilled as we ate our sack lunch.


Jeeping is better with my best friend.


The only way to make the view more beautiful was to get my bride in the picture.


The reward of the ride.


It was Summer’s idea to sit on the 1,300 foot ledge.


The obligatory Jeep on the ledge shot.


Needless to say….Ethan was excited.


7,065 feet in elevation.


Addie fell asleep on the rough ride down.


Beautiful sunset on the ride back into Moab.

Ready for dinner at the Moab Diner.

Ready for dinner at the Moab Diner.

Sunday morning started out with exploring Arches National Park.  We bypassed the main park entrance and entered via Willow Springs trail so we could search for the fossilized dinosaur footprints.


Theropod footprints.


Arches offers amazing views all around.

Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock was simply unbelievable.


Breathtaking scenery everywhere you look.


Exploring the arches in the Windows section.


Turret Arch

Ethan wouldn’t leave this spot until we shot his picture.

After a fantastic lunch at Milt’s Stop N’ Eat (Moab’s oldest restaurant), we headed to the Sand Flats Recreation Area to play on the world famous slickrock.    We didn’t have a lot of time left, but we made the most of what we had.


First things first, we got to play on Baby Lion’s Back.

Going up.

Going up….

Riding the fin.

Riding the fin.



Anyone for a swim?


Going down is just as fun as going up.


This felt like driving off a really steep boat ramp.  The water came up to the step tube on the rocker guards.



Fins N' Things

After the warm up, we headed to Fins N’ Things.


Driving on the fins is an absolute blast.   The traction is amazing and the steep climbs and descents are a hoot.


Walking down a ledge.


The wider view of the same descent as above.


Beautiful scenery from the top of the fins.


The finest Thing I saw on the trail….


This descent doesn’t look too bad in the photo, but it sure was intimidating in person.

Lining up for the drop.

View from the bottom.


Lining up for the drop.

Nose dive.

Nose dive.


Plenty of steep descents to enjoy.


Safely off another fin.

Unfortunately after running the first shorter half of the trail, it was getting late and we needed to hit the road back to CO.   The good news is that we are now the proud owners of an annual pass to the Sand Flats Recreation Area and can pick up right were we left off on our next trip out.


Ouray, CO Trip Report

August 14th, 2013 1 comment

Last week I got to work in Montrose, CO., which is only 36 miles north of Ouray.  Working so close to the Jeep Capitol of the World, Summer and I took the opportunity to spend a long weekend in the mountains.  We enjoyed some of the local trails and soaked in the amazing scenery, while the kids enjoyed some time with their grandparents and cousins in DFW.


On Thursday, we drove from Abilene to Santa Fe, NM.  I had never been to Santa Fe before, so we explored the town a bit that evening and enjoyed a tasty dinner at Tomasitas Restaurant, which offered amazing green chile dishes.

(click pictures to enlarge)

The flat cotton fields of Lubbock, TX.  This was our view for most of the mountains in sight.

The flat cotton fields of Lubbock, TX. This was our view for most of the day…no mountains in sight.

Leaving Santa Fe, the mountains start to grow on the horizon.

Approaching Santa Fe, NM…the mountains start to grow on the horizon.


Friday morning, we left Santa Fe and headed north toward Pagosa Springs, CO.  We stopped in Pagosa Springs and ate lunch at Kip’s Grill before continuing on toward Ouray.

Sandstone mountains in NM.

Sandstone mountains in NM.

Echo Amphitheater - located in the Carson National Forest.

Echo Amphitheater – located in the Carson National Forest.

Entering the promised land.

Entering the promised land…

The Million Dollar Highway (CO HWY 550)

The Million Dollar Highway (CO HWY 550)


Rock tunnel near Ouray.

Finally in Ouray.

Finally in Ouray.

An example of the historic buildings in Ouray.   All of Main Street is registered as a National Historic District.

An example of the historic buildings in Ouray. All of Main Street is registered as a National Historic District.

Lots of cool Jeeps around town to gawk at.

Lots of cool Jeeps around town to gawk at.


Saturday was our first day to ride trails.  We ignored the old adage of saving the best for last and decided to tackle Black Bear Pass and Imogene Pass first.   Both Black Bear Pass and Imogene Pass run from Ouray to Telluride, but the last few miles of Black Bear are one way.  We took Black Bear over to Telluride, walked around town and enjoyed a good lunch at Smuggler’s Brewpub and then took Imogene back to Ouray.

Black Bear Pass Trail head.

The Black Bear Pass Trail head.

Stunning mountain views await.

Stunning mountain views abound.  We stopped about every 25 feet to take more pictures.

Two waterfalls near the tree line.

Two waterfalls as we near the tree line.


Climbing toward the summit.


On top of the Bear.

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Jeep Parking Only.


A few other Jeeps and a Ford Explorer were on the trail at the same time.  One of the Jeeps lost his 4WD right before the descent into Telluride, which is the worst part of the trail.   We stopped for a bit while he figured out what was wrong.   Once he got things working, we started down the trail again.  The group wanted me to lead the way down, which I was happy to do…until I realized that the Jeep that lost his 4WD was immediately behind me.   Not wanting to act as his emergency brake…I pulled over and let them pass.

Approaching the infamous Steps, it started to rain.

Nothing like a little rain to make The Steps interesting.


Better make a right….

First time driving through a waterfall.

First time driving through a waterfall.


Narrow shelf road.  Slow and steady….


Bridal Veil Falls in the distance.


A closer view of Bridal Veil Falls.


The trail back to Ouray.

Looking back at the switchbacks of Black Bear from Imogene.

Beautiful aspen trees all around.

Beautiful aspen trees all around.


Winding narrow shelf roads are fun.


Another cool rock tunnel.


Tomboy mine ruins.  When I hopped out to snap this picture, another Jeep with Texas plates pulled up beside me and asked where I was from.  We were both surprised to learn he was also from Abilene.


Climbing into the clouds.


The second highest vehicle mountain pass in CO.

Got mail?  Be sure to sign the guest book when you visit.

Have to sign the guest book if you visit.


Representing my local Jeep club – Cult of Jeep.


Clouds breaking up to show another amazing view.


A true scenic overlook.

Close to the edge.

Close to the overlook edge.

Beautiful creek crossings.

Beautiful creek crossings.


Riding the creek banks.

Suddenly the trail and the creek merge...

We rounded a corner to find the trail disappear.  A small waterfall up ahead on the left feeds right through the trail.


Sunday was our last day to ride trails, so we made the day count.  We left Ouray on Engineer Pass and went up to the summit.  After enjoying the views, we backtracked down to County Rd 2 and headed over to Animas Forks ghost town.  At Animas, we enjoyed a sack lunch from Timberline Deli.   After looking around a bit, we headed back to Ouray via California Pass, Hurricane Pass and Corkscrew Gulch.   After resting for a bit and enjoying dinner at Buen Tiempo, we finished up the evening soaking in the stunning views from Yankee Boy Basin.

Heading out on Engineer Pass.

Heading up Engineer Pass, part of the Alpine Loop.


More incredible views and shelf roads.


The only thing that could make the mountains more beautiful, my wonderful wife.


Engineer is a rocky trail.   This part was smooth as glass compared to the earlier sections.


Rock slides covering the trail.


Closing in on the summit.


The top of Engineer.


Long and winding roads.


Finally convinced Summer to drive.


Wasn’t sure if I’d ever get back behind the wheel.


Animas Forks mining ghost town.


Ruins of the Columbus Mine.


We had fun watching the yellow-bellied marmots scamper across the Alpine Tundra.


Bright blue waters of Lake Como.

Red mountains.

Jeep posed by the Red mountains.


Summit of California Pass.


Summit of Hurricane Pass.


Any vehicle coming down the trail should yield to those heading uphill.  As we were coming down Hurricane, a group of 4 side-by-side ATVs came along, so I pulled over and inched my way up on this rock to make plenty of room.  The first ATV driver pulled up next to me and said “You don’t have to show off.”   As they passed, the last ATV driver pulled out his camera and took pictures of my Jeep.   I had to hop out and see what was so exciting to them.   Needless to say, most Jeep guys wouldn’t even be slightly impressed by this small amount of suspension flex.


Everywhere you look the views are incredible.


Feeling artistic. 


The end of Corkscrew….or the beginning depending on which way you run it.  The lower portion of Corkscrew is a blast, like a roller coaster of whoop-dee-doos.


Yankee Boy bound…

Twin falls at Yankee Boy Basin.

Twin falls on Sneffels Creek at Yankee Boy Basin.


For about 30 minutes, we were the only people at the falls, so we just hung out enjoying the beauty.


The sun was setting and we watched the light dance across the mountains.   Can you spot the Jeep?

Not often you see trees growing sideways.

Not often you get to drive under a tree that is  growing sideways on a mountain.


We headed to Montrose on Monday morning so I could start working, but we enjoyed one last surprise when we arrived.  After checking in with the utility, they sent us out to see the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  The canyon was just as stunning as the San Juan Mountains.  The Gunnison River drops at an average of 95 feet per mile, compared to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon dropping about 7.5 feet per mile, so the Black Canyon is truly an unspeakably deep, imposing hole in the ground.


The camera simply cannot capture the views.


The famous painted wall.


Summer and I have been blessed to go to some amazing places over the last 13 years, but this was my absolute favorite trip.   I’m counting down the days until we can head back to the San Juans.

Water Pump

May 20th, 2013 No comments

Last week my water pump started leaking coolant through the weep hole.

After reading a bit on water pump replacement, the general consensus seemed to be that this was normal with the age of my TJ and that replacing it with a genuine MOPAR pump was best.

I called my two local dealerships to check prices on the pump.   The first dealer quoted me $186 and the second quoted me $220.   Those prices were just for the pump…

After a good laugh, I checked prices online and ordered the pump, thermostat and gaskets from for $169.      I was a bit hesitant to order from their site without any good reviews to go off of, but I figured the savings were worth a shot…..and once the parts arrived in perfect shape, I will definitely be willing to order from them again in the future.

Since I was going to have everything apart, I also picked up a new drive belt.    The radiator hoses looked good, so I left them alone.

Installation of the pump was quite a pain and I made a big mess….so no pictures or write up of the work.   Regardless, it all worked out perfect and the leak appears to be solved.

Running Zerex G-05 HOAT coolant.


Banks Torque Tube Header

September 28th, 2010 No comments

My parents came to visit for Addie Kate’s 2nd Birthday, which happened to fall on Labor Day weekend.  I took advantage of having dad in TX to install a Banks Torque Tube header on the Rubicon.

Installing the header was a frustrating job.   Pulling the factory parts off was easy enough, because there were workable shots at each one of intake/exhaust manifold bolts.   But, once we started putting the Banks header on, those same paths we had used to reach the bolts were closed off by the nice smooth flowing tubes of the header.   The engineer who designed the header for Banks was obviously way more focused on smooth flowing tubes for unrestricted flow than on allowing the installer to properly torque the bolts holding the header on.   On some of the bolts, we just had to tighten them down as best we could and didn’t even try to torque them to spec.

The project took the greater part of a day, including a lunch break and a run to town for additional tools.   But, the end result was well worth it.

The Rubicon has a noticeable extra spring in it’s step when you put your foot into it.  And the exhaust has a nice low rumble.   I actually expected the exhaust to be a bit louder, but that’s nothing a Banks muffler won’t solve….

Here’s a couple pics I snapped with my phone during installation.

Banks Header

Banks Header

Maintenance Day

August 2nd, 2010 No comments

Yesterday afternoon I got time to change the oil, clean the air filter and work on fixing the attachment points for shackles on the front bumper.   The previous owner had welded bushings into the Warn bumper tabs to accommodate pulling the TJ behind his motor home.   But in doing so, he had made the attachment point holes to small for a shackle to fit in.   I used my handy dandy Dremel tool and solved that issue by making the holes larger.


Rancho Colorado Pics

July 12th, 2010 No comments

Here’s a couple of pictures of the Jeep from our Rancho Colorado camping trip in April.



Vanco Big Brake

May 6th, 2010 No comments

A couple of weekends ago, I finally got to install the Vanco Big Brake kit upgrade on my Rubicon. I ordered this kit as soon as I bought my Jeep because the stock single piston calipers were severely underpowered and struggled to stop the 35 inch tires.

The install of the Vanco kit requires you to completely remove the front axle shafts in order to replace the stock knuckles holding the calipers in place. The Vanco kit includes an upgraded knuckle, calipers, pads and rotors for a 1998 Ford Explorer 4×4.  I was really impressed with the quality of the parts included with the Vanco kit….but not the installation instructions.

Vanco left out a few really simple details in the installation instructions. The most important missing piece of info was that the new calipers should be installed on the right and left sides when standing in front of the vehicle. I incorrectly assumed that Right and Left markings on the calipers would have been oriented from behind the wheel. So, I installed the calipers upside down on the wrong sides of the axles.

This tiny little detail kept the brakes from bleeding the air out of the system. My friend Jeff was helping me with the install and neither one of us thought to reorient the calipers. We worked for several hours trying to get the brake system to hold pressure before taking a stab at the problem by installing a new master cylinder. When the new master cylinder didn’t help, we called it a night and I turned to mrblaine on JeepForum for help. mrblaine helped Vanco design the kit originally and he immediately pointed out our issue.

The next day we flipped the calipers, bled the brakes and the Rubicon was back on the road with increased stopping power. I’m very impressed with the Vanco kit. The most notable difference over the stock brakes is the ability to modulate braking power. With the stock brakes, I would apply pressure to slow down, then try to apply more pressure to stop quicker and nothing else would happen. There wasn’t any more braking power to apply. With the Vanco kit, the braking pressure is extremely linear in that the harder I push, the faster I brake.

There was one more small problem after install in that my axles continued to leak diff fluid. This was never an issue before the install, so I decided to have Ellis Auto take a look at my axle seals. Sure enough, they were going out and needed to be replaced. Ellis fixed the seals up and now the Rubi is better than ever.



April 3rd, 2010 No comments

After some research on JeepForum, I found a solution to my speedometer and odometer being out of whack due to my larger tires and 4.88 gears. A couple of Jeep guys had installed the HealTech Electronics Speedohealer to correct their speedometers, odometers and transmission shift points. For the price, this seemed like the best solution. So, I ordered the healer on ebay and decided to give it a try.

My friend Jeff helped walk me through the install and taught me to solder in the process. I had to splice the speedohealer into the speedometer signal wire before it entered the Jeep computer and provide the healer with switched power. I ended up wiring the unit directly into the wiring harness by the computer under the hood. Install was simple and straightforward and I couldn’t have asked for a better result.

After driving a bit, I was able to dial the speedohealer in and correct my speed, odometer readout and shift points. Overall the Rubicon drives much better now that it is shifting at the appropriate times.


Warn Grill Guard

March 10th, 2010 No comments

I added the Warn Grille Guard to my front bumper set up to add a little extra protection and because I like the looks. Install was simple with only four bolts and a little loctite.