Olympic Mountains camping and Seattle overlook, June 2015

Poetry Overland:

PNW fun:

Originally posted on PNW Overland:

This past weekend I went camping over west from Quilcene, WA along with Steven and Phun. Decided to go to the same location as a previous post. This time, this familiar forest road had a surprise or two for me: a few washouts. Officially, the road was closed 1.8 miles in from highway 101 but having the road washed away on the side of a mountain isn’t really much of an obstacle. With a competent ground guide one could traverse the washouts, which I required going up the mountain as I couldn’t see how close my right wheels were to the edge. Coming back down was far easier.

Turns out I had plenty of room with about 8 inches to spare.

 I found this camp a year or so ago by pouring over google earth maps; find a interesting looking place and simply go there. This particular camp has a good…

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CVT Mt. Bailey Tent: a review

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My wife doesn’t snuggle at night. She doesn’t want me to sleep close to her; and if I do, she wakes me up to get me to move over. If we didn’t live in a small apartment, we’d have a king mattress. And so, with that in mind, you’d think we would’ve opted for a larger roof top tent (RTT) rather than the smallest of Cascadia Vehicle Tents’ models.

I’d like to say I did it on purpose: small tent means she has to sleep close to me! But, it was all about footprint. On our 100 Series, we run an African Outback full-length roof rack which has plenty of room, but after dragging the spare tire across some obstacles on an off road run, I moved it to the rack. This made weight and footprint two of the most important factors when buying a RTT.

At 48″W x 48″L x 11″ Ht when closed and weighing only 96lbs, the Mt. Bailey was a perfect fit. We drove to Bend, OR to pick one up at CVT. They installed it and I was happy that my measurements were right. The clearance between the tire and the tent is close but it works.

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We’ve now used it a few times and in different conditions.

First off, it is tight. The length is good (I think most tents are the same open length: the open dimensions are 48″W x 96″L x 45″Ht); we can sleep comfortably with our bags at the bottom of the mattress. But the width… it doesn’t leave a lot of room for two people if one or both aren’t close sleepers. Although, we did put a flannel sheet on it, a queen size duvet, and two pillows and that has helped a bunch. It is far more comfortable with real bedding and it means I can sleep on the edge comfortably. If you do sleep close together, I don’t think it’s too small; for a single person, it would be quite spacious.The height is great. I can sit up in it comfortably (I’m 6ft); changing clothes while in it is easy. In the future, when I find a solution to the spare tire mount, we’d love to upgrade to a wider tent.

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Weather performance is solid. Our first trip with it was to Deception Pass. It rained. And rained. Rained some more. It was definitely fall camping in the PNW. The tent preformed great. We had the side windows and rainfly closed, and the front and back rainfly up. It didn’t leak, get condensation, or give me any reason to worry. It was a good first trip to test the tent.

In the spring we did a run up Colockum Pass Road. It was slightly windy and cold-below freezing cold. It did stand up well slight winds we had, but I also has parked us behind a knoll giving us a nice windbreak. There are a few places where air can come into the tent on the bottom, and we could feel it. This type of RTT is not a four season tent by any means. When setting up and taking down, the tent material didn’t get stiff or feel brittle at those low temps; the zippers, flaps, and even the tent cover were perfectly fine and it went up and down with ease.

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Our last trip out was really warm. and we finally got to open all the windows. In the heat of the afternoon the tent had enough airflow to be comfortable enough for Natasha to sleep in. You can see in the photo above, we can only open half the rainfly on the side with the spare tire.

Is a RTT easy to use? Yes. Set up is the easiest: unzip the tent cover, pull it off, pull the ladder out and get it to lock, pull the tent open, and your done. It’s just a few minutes and it’s ready use, even your bedding (because it’s best to leave it in). The poles for the rainfly can be a bit fiddly, but their easy enough. We have take down to about 10minutes: put your pillows next to the seam so they’ll be squished down by the clamshell, close the rainfly, doors, windows, push the tent closed, recover and zip up. Natasha does stand on the driver’s door sill and pushes the tent material in; I then climb up on the rack and tuck the other side; this makes getting the cover on easy. Also, during both opening and closing, I’ve found it easier and faster if I don’t get off the rack. I actually lie across the top of the tent as I unzip/zip. CVT has a few videos of set up here that will make visualizing our process easier.

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We did purchase an annex for it too. And, well…. that thing is a pain in the ass. Our first trip with it we fought and fought it. Then, when we figured it out it was like… oh, that was easy-ish. The problem is that the Mt. Bailey is small and the annex fits several tents; this means it isn’t exactly a tight fit… there is some excess material. It did work well on that rainy trip; there was three of us camping and we kept all our bags in there and used it as a changing room. But, we haven’t used it since because it’s so easy to change in the tent. It would come in handy if you were camped in one spot for more than a couple of nights, but I’m not sure if I would go that route again.

Overall, we think it’s a great tent. CVT has made sure they have a really solid product. It’s well constructed and you can tell it will last a long time. We haven’t really found any major or minor faults in its construction or design. We do love this tent.

*Disclaimer: I do not work for or with CVT, nor am I sponsored by them.

Taneum Creek, WA

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It was Natasha’s first river crossing; in fact, it was her first off road driving experience: the raging Taneum Creek. She wanted to get a shot of the Cruiser in a water crossing, but didn’t want to be the one taking the photo. That means she had to take on the water with a very brief rundown of instructions on how to handle it.

I managed to get myself on the other side and positioned myself for the shot, and with some nervousness, I watched her nose the truck right in.

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Okay, okay, it’s just a little creek with a submerged bridge that is an entrance to a campground, but still… it counts, right?

We left Seattle early in the evening on a Sunday and drove to Taneum Campground (near Thorp, WA–just east of Cle Elum) and got there  about 8:40pm; it was completely empty. With a spot where we could clearly hear the creek, we popped the roof top tent and set up. It’s a small and clean campground. The grounds are well taken care of, the cathedral toilets (drop) were actually really clean; there are also a few water spigots too. But, at $18 a night, we felt it was a bit expensive for what it offered.

Our plan was to wake up and head into the L.T. Murray Wildlife area. But, we got going a little slowly the next morning, ate a good breakfast. I’ve heard the roads in that area are rough and letting out some air in the tires is a must; I don’t have an air pump to refill (that really needs to be my next major off-road parts purchase). Between that, and wanting a lazy weekend, we decided to stay in and explore the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Forest Service road 3330 drops down a little west from the campground and provides tons of area to explore. We followed it down toward Quartz Mountain and Manastash while taking off smaller two-tracks that split off the main road. Corrugations are pretty bad on this dusty road and the truck would’ve been served well by knocking a few pounds out of the tires here as well.

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Oh, and keeping the speed down helps too! I entered one bed a little, shall we say, spirited and with the heavy TJM spring and fully inflated tires, the back end of the truck tried to skip around the front. The Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) beeped at me for a second; stupid computer, doesn’t it understand that I know what I’m doing? I felt the back end start to loosen up and had already adjusted so the VSC didn’t overly interfere.

The only hard route we took was Frost Mountain Lookout Loop. That is a steep limb with loose shale. The 100 handled it really well…actually, better than I expected. We even managed to stop for one poser shot:

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After a bit of windshield time and goofing off, we drove back up north to Taneum Junction Campground. This one is marked high usage and you can tell. On the weekends, it is pretty full of campers with dirt bikes and other ORVs, but on a Monday night it was only us and one other camp. It’s not a bad camp at all. It has only one cathedral style toilet that was clean-ish. Just don’t look into the toilet, lift the lid with your eyes closed… don’t look down!

Taneum Creek runs right next to this camp too and with it being weekday we grabbed a spot right next to it. Honestly, we spent the rest of the day just relaxing, cooking, and hanging out.

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Of course, after surviving a crazy river crossing to start off the trip, I think we deserved some rest and relaxation…

I don’t remember…

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…exactly when I got this Hot Wheels car. Birthday? Christmas? Just picked up by my parents at KMart (when that was the biggest store in Alamosa)?

It’s been with me most of my life. I don’t remember actually playing with it though… who remembers exact scenarios played out with toy cars? It probably won a few drag races, cruised the strip, parked by a hastily put together Lego house… I remember going to one kid’s house a few blocks away; there were three of us and we’d build roads and towns in his dirt back yard: lots of “driving” the cars around, races, all while imaging what it would be like to grow up to have a Porsche 911, a hot rod, a 4×4… all in one garage.

Yup, always a gearhead.

I also had to do body work on it. It has a small plastic hood scoop that has fallen through the hole on the hood; it’s still in there. It would fall into the body of the car often and I would shake, rattle, and grab it with a pencil tip or with tweezers to get it back on to the hood. My uncle Paul would help me glue it into place… we used model glue, Super Glue, clear nail polish… anything to make it stick. And it would just fall back in.

The paint would wear off too. I don’t even remember what color it was originally. Uncle Paul would help me paint it, usually with model paint– I think a few times we used nail polish. I remember it being a deep green, candy apple red, and the last coat was copper. It was the late ’70s, early ’80s, so the colors always had a heavy metallic flake. Most of the time they wouldn’t dry properly and the coupe was always sticky. Well, until the last paint job wore off and it faded into this scoopless primer gray hot rod.

My oldest daughter is a natural gearhead too. She slept with piles of cars under her pillow and loved nothing more than playing cars. We’d get out all the cars (even the old coupe) and build a town on the living room floor… And with her, the cars had to have names, get married (a ’32 Ford coupe married to a Toyota Celica Pike’s Peak race car? What?), have kids… Yeah, playing cars with her wasn’t like playing with my friends in the dirt.

Most of my cars survived it all– even “family life” with my daughter. And the coupe managed to stay with me… to this day.

I asked Santa for a map…

… and he brought me a globe. I was quite confused at seeing that under the tree. How could Santa mess that up? He knows me, right?

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I can imagine “Santa” seeing my list and wondering why a kid would want a map. And a map of what exactly? I’m sure he thought that I didn’t know that they were globes, not maps. Funny, I wanted a map because I thought it was cool as hell when the generals in a World War II film would stretch one out on a table and contemplate troop movements and what structures to call in air strikes on. They always seemed as big as a table too and everyone crowded around them. I can imagine that I would have used my army guys to make plans to invade some small town on whatever map that Santa gave me… But not so much on a globe.

Maps are also beautiful with their greens and yellows, purples, white, solid lines, red lines, perforated lines, swirls and contours. I never did lose my love for them. As an adult I finally got to use maps for hunting. My dad and I would study areas, then scout, and compare what we saw to the maps. With overlanding taking over as my main life hobby, I get to study maps to decide where Natasha and I are going to wheel and camp. They hold even more of an attraction to me now.

And Santa isn’t confused when I ask for one now.

The Nuts and Bolts of it all…

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When installing the new (used) tow hooks, I found that the OEM bolt heads with a marking of II.

What the hell?

I didn’t know what the specs of these bolts were and I looked online to see if I could match them to a metric equivalent such as 8.8 or something… The search pulled up lots of confusion even in the Toyota about bolts and nuts with many people quoting the SAE grading system such as Grade 5 or Grade 8.

Remember: the size of the bolt isn’t the head size, but the diameter of the

Doing a quick google search I found that for a 1/2″ SAE bolt:

Grade 5= 85,000psi proof load, 92,000psi minimum yield strength, 120,000psi minimum tensile strength

Grade 8= 120,000psi proof load, 130,000psi minimum yield strength, 150,000psi minimum tensile strength

The confusion begins when you see the ratings for metric bolts and you’re used to thinking in terms of SAE. Using a 12mm bolt as an example:

Grade 8.8= 580MPa proof load,  640MPa minimum yield strength, 800MPa minimum tensile strength

Grade 10.9= 830MPa proof load, 940MPa minimum yield strength, 1040MPa minimum tensile strength

The info (and other bolt ratings) was here at Bolt Depot.

PSI, of course, stands for Pounds per Square Inch. MPa though is Mega Pascal. Pascal is used to measure pressure and tensile strengths all over the world. It’s easiest to use an online conversion calculator to get the specs. Doing so with 10.9 (the bolts for the tow hooks were 14mm and I went 10.9):

Grade 10.9= 120,381psi proof load, 136,335psi minimum yield strength, 150,839psi minimum tensile strength

As you can see, the grade 10.9 Metric rating is closer to a Grade 8 SAE bolt.

Bolt Depot has the following to define the specs:

Tensile Strength: The maximum load in tension (pulling apart) which a material can withstand before breaking or fracturing.

Yield Strength: The maximum load at which a material exhibits a specific permanent deformation

Proof Load: An axial tensile load which the product must withstand without evidence of any permanent set.

1MPa = 1N/mm2 = 145 pounds/inch2

Okay, but what about the II stamped on the OEM Toyota bolts? It appears that Toyota uses it’s own ratings and the II probably equals 11T. From looking at the torque specs, it looks like the 11T is a bit stronger than the 10.9 I replaced them with (I should’ve gone with 12.9 Metrics, but I have confidence in the 10.9s). This page is from the FSM for a 100 Series Cruiser:

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Of course, pay attention to your torque specs and use a torque wrench on fasteners. You don’t have to memorize them, just use Google and find a chart! Or, consult a FSM for them…

Finally, don’t buy cheap bolts or not buy Grade 8 or Metric 10.9 or better when you need the strength…

Hooking the 100

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All 4x4s or overland vehicles have to have recovery points front and rear. In my opinion, it’s not an option. If you’re stuck or you need to recover another vehicle, you need proper and safe points to attach a strap or winch line to. Period. I personally prefer having one on each corner too. Recovery points should be attached directly to the frame with quality hardware. Don’t skimp here, shit will fly off and kill/hurt somebody during a hard pull.

My FJ60 had the single hook on the top of the frame rail for the front, but nothing on rear. Brilliantly, the hooks had the same bolt pattern as the common 10,000lb Universal Tow Hooks that you can pick up anywhere… and, the rear of the frame had the same holes. I simply went to the local farm and ranch store to pick up a few made by Erickson Manufacturing (you can get these types of hooks from all over: Smittybuilt, Warn, etc.).

The 100 Series Land Cruiser has one front hook and one rear hook. The hooks have a factory tie down (for shipping, not recovery) under them; the opposite frame horn has just the tie down. You can see this in the photos of the rear factory set up:

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I trust the hooks, but wouldn’t the tie downs. One option to get recovery points is to buy Universal Recovery Brackets (URBs–and they’re available for 80 Series Cruisers and others) to attach shackles to. This is the sexy option. All the serious looking trucks have shackles hanging from them…

I like to eliminate as much hardware as I can and a hook is perfect for attaching the loops of a strap to. So, I found a couple of hooks for $20 on Craigslist that somebody was replacing with URBs. Twenty bucks is a lot cheaper than what URBs sell for. I would recommend posting an add on Craigslist, IH8Mud, etc. to get another pair.

It’s a simple process, remove one bolt from each hook (front and rear), measure them, buy new bolts from a local source, and bolt up. Buy strong bolts (next post will be what I found out about bolts): in a recovery, these are going to take a hell of a load.

The fronts were super straight forward (I mounted it so that the tie downs are still in their spot):

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On the rear, I ran into a snag. The factory tow hitch has gusseting that blocks the second hook from being mounted. I am reluctant to remove the hitch because it protects that ass end when I smack a rock and, every now and then, I do need to tow. As soon as I can, I will figure out what to do with the rear recover points, but the best solution may just be a receiver shackle bracket (which is good to carry because it can go from vehicle to vehicle).

Next: bolt specifications for mounting recovery points.

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