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A Day At The Dunes

Contributed By: Rory Davis

Last weekend I spent two days in the Pismo Dunes in Pismo Beach Ca. I had never driven in serious sand before so this was all a new experience. I was out with a bunch a friends and the 3 other trucks there were all Toyotas. There was a new 4 runner (4" or 5" lift, 35" x 12" diggers, K&N, Rancho, the works!), an '89 pick-up and a new Tacoma. So we decided it was time to go out. I took my tires (Norsman Radial A/T's, 31" x 10.5") down to 15 psi, switched into 4wd and took off. I didn't know quite what to expect and I was setting my sights low since my '77 Chief has seen many better days and is almost all stock. As I followed my crazy friends, I began to warm up and have total confidence in my Jeep. I found that I could go wherever they went with almost no problems. Straight down dunes (great clearance in front!), along the sides, and straight up. The only thing that I had a problem with was this huge hill that was at a 60 degree angle and about 70 yards long. I kept getting stuck 3 feet from the top. >:- / Other than that it was awesome and I am sure that an engine overhaul, a lift, and bigger tires would make me unstoppable! But then Murphy struck. As we were going about 30mph on a flat straight away, I hit some big ruts that were hidden from view and I had a bucking bronco on my hands. Literally felt like I was on a seesaw! I finally got control and everything seemed to be fine. So I continued to drive until we got to a place to stop and take some pictures. So I shut off the engine and got out. Now here is the bad part. I got back in, put the key in and all I heard was the solenoid pop, then nothing. Again, the same thing. No good. I knew my battery was fine, and I knew the solenoid was good so the only thing it could have been was the starter or the wiring. Now my Jeep has terrible wiring, so this was not out of the question. So I checked the wires and put a jumper cable straight from my battery to the starter. Turned the key, nothing. So here I was, stuck 2 miles deep into the dunes and my engine was fine, I just couldn't start it! Now my friends have a great idea (basically the only idea) that they would pull me out. But remember, these are the dunes, there is no "flat" road to pull me out, it is all steep hills of sand. Luckily we have two tow ropes and two of the trucks hook up in series, then to me. I was truly amazed when they began to pull me out, as you know my Jeep probably weighs a good ton more than a Toyota pick-up. It was work for me to steer and brake w/o power, but I managed and we only had one mishap. As the first truck made it over this really steep hill, we began to lose speed, as the second truck made it to the top we were going pretty slow. But when I got to the top, I lost all momentum as the other two sped down the other side. And I am sure that you can guess by now that slack formed in the rope (not a strap) and it snapped at the hitch of the truck in front of me and whipped back and put a dent in my grill and radiator. We finally got back to the beach and I got towed home. Yesterday I went and got a new starter and it took about 30 minutes to swap them out. Now it starts like a pro! Does anyone have a grill they want to get rid of? How much? :)

(Rory Davis)

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