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Ken's Great Escape

Contributed By: Ken Wetherall


Left at 1100pst and had a tail wind MOST of the way down I5; I was running on the van's front tank. When I switched to the rear tank, the gauge needle dropped to below E! In a panic I switched back to the front tank, took the next off-ramp and found a Chevron.

The rear tank wouldn't take more than a gallon, so I knew that I didn't get siphoned during the night. So the switch is bad or the sender is, but if the switch is bad, I was concerned that the selector switch valving wouldn't allow me to DRAW fuel from the rear tank. I filled the front tank, put the selector to the rear tank and continued on. It proved that the selector valving was functioning properly, it was just either the wiring from the rear sender or the sender itself is at fault. to determine when to switch to the front tank, I used the 22 gal cap of the tank, and the average of 10mpg, took the current reading of the odometer and added 220mi to it as my guesstimate of when to switch to the front tank.

The grapevine, a looong climb over the Tehachipi Mountains, was no problem with the new cooling system parts I installed on Wed. My brother was not at his apt in Palmdale, so I looked up an old high school bud and crashed w/ him till midnight. I then drove to find the base camp. I found the camp, which was like part of a rodeo grounds, crawled into the back of the van, and went to sleep.


Woke up, disconnected the Super from the van, and set up camp. Other Jeepers began to stir and file into the camp. There was a pay phone nearby so I was able to contact my brother at work and arrange dinner for Friday night. I decided to see what was around Palmdale, so off in the Super I drove.

The map I had showed Air Force base number 42 in the middle of town. So I staked out the E-W runway. I got to as close as I could to the E end of the runway and saw a mil version of the 737 doing touch n go's. After he did that a few times I then saw a A10 "Warthog" do the same thing, but it did only one and then it flew off east. Nothing landed for some minutes so I sat back in the Super to browse the map. I had just put the map down to survey my view through the windshield, when the shape of a B2 bomber w/ a red/white F16 chase plane came into view. I bounded out of the Super to watch. The B2 had its gear down, its flaperons extended, and its engine nostril air intakes open, but it never got below say, 900ft. The F16 had its gear and flaps down as well. They were less than a quarter mile from me, and then they sucked up all the gear and flaps, and I watched them disappear to the E. Minutes ticked by and I got bored so I left. "Let's go see what is at the W side of the runway".

At that side was an open area where people were gathered to do what I was doing at the E end of the runway.. (yawn). On the way to the W end of the runway, I came upon the Lockheed SR71 static display and decided to become a tourist. I had never actually seen an SR71. Next to the 71 was an A12, the 71's predecessor. I tried to crash the gate at the entrance to the Lockheed plant, because just inside their gate was another 71 and an U2, but they said, sorry J-Trucks ONLY!!!! Must have been some commie

The Boeing side of this Air Force base had 2 B-1's but no way to get within two miles :( The Northrop side had nothing on display. It was around 3 so I went back to camp.

I got into camp, got my registration packet, and signed up for the trail that started at 6am, this early I believe was the most die hard, get the trail over, lets not sight see, fanatics, so that is why I signed up.

I met my brother for dinner and then invited him to come to the raffle portion of the event on sat night and the dinner too; he agreed.


The alarm clock got me up at 0530. I prepared the Super for the run and got into line. At 0630 we had a drivers' meeting and then left for the trail head soon afterward.

At the trail head I aired down to 12psi. The trail was actually the stream bed that ran at the bottom of the canyon the trail runs through! "Hmmm", I thought, "Why haven't the environmentalists closed this one down"?? (Editor's note: hope you haven't given them the idea, Ken!) We bounced along slow but sure. Some areas of the trail had bypasses and I used about half of these as I had nothing to prove. At the meeting we were told that if you take a by pass, please wait for the person that was in front of you to complete the hard section so we could all keep our places in line. At the first bypass that I took was a short 20 foot section around a curve in the stream. This bypass was also about 5 feet above the surface of the water, and here is where I waited for the Wrangler that was in front of (in front of) me.

The Wrangler bounced his way through the stream, but began to get himself sideways in the stream because the slick boulders weren't giving him the grip he needed to drive through successfully. This ended up being our first breakdown and stuck Jeep. With the slipping and bouncing the Wrangler did he managed to get himself wedged between a boulder the size of an Mopar hemi, and the opposite bank of the stream. We couldn't winch him downstream, because he wouldn't slide over the boulders. The Jeep in front of him didn't have a winch either. so someone saw the Super and looked at the rock and said, "lets use the Wagoneer to pull the boulder from the Jeep." Ok I said, and out came the yank strap. One end was put around the boulder and the other I hooked to my tow chain on the LF corner. I put the Super in R, and out came the boulder. We got the Wrangler un-stuck but he driver had bent the drag link and so the Jeep was pulled of the trail to make repairs. As the trail continued this Wrangler was repaired and rejoined us on the trail.


The next bypass section I was guiding some of the Jeeps in front of me. When it came close to my turn at the hard section I jumped into the Super to line my self up. Hmmm I had left the motor running when I left, but now it was stopped and all my idiot lights were on. I went to crank it over; It would turn over but would not run. I hit the FP (fuel pump) prime switch, heard the FP run and the fuel flow. The engine then started right up, but then died after it used the fuel I just primed it with. O NO, the lines are clogged!!! :( so I got it started long enough to pull off the trail to ascertain the problem. I used the FP prime switch a couple of times to diagnose the problem. While the engine ran I felt the pump itself and found that it didn't vibrate like it should. The electrical connections were tight at the pump. I then went to the oil pump safety switch and saw that a wire had been pulled loose..phew!! :) I reconnected it and continued on. I felt this was an omen so I used the bypass for this section.

On one of the hard sections I got wedged because of the wet rocks and got assisted by the people in the Wrangler that I helped at the first bypass!! There were no spotters on this first trail so I had the opportunity to run my front diff cover into many unseen rocks. I've got some way cool dents in it now, but not enough to contact the ring gear. I also ran into a boulder on the pass side bank and pushed in the RF corner of the bumper, Good thing I've got another one! ;)


After the Wrangler got stuck, there was a famous obstacle in this trail called the V-notch. This was just a narrow piece of the stream bed that the water had eroded all the soil out of to expose the granite rock in the shape of an V with the stream running at the very bottom. There was no bypass. As I approached the V, I saw three people w/ cameras at the ready, hmmm I might be in another mag I guess, but none looked like a mag photographer. As my front tires climbed the notch, the flashes went off. I didn't know this was the famous V notch at the time so I didn't that much of the obstacle and the Super's SO front diff performed as expected.

The rest of the trail had no mishaps within my visual range and the Super and I bounced along the stream bed looking for more sunken rocks and boulders to put new scratches in. Found them both I have to say :) At the end of the trail I broke out my on-board air compressor, aired up the tires, went back to camp, did a post-trail inspection and found that the LF spring had its leaves fanned out, nothing to worry about, I just need to sledge them back into place when I get home. Aside from the scratches and the new dents, and the bumper, no mechanical damage.


We started the trail at 0630 and got back to camp at noon. For me this is fast. as most trails keep you out until 8 or 9 hours, mostly because of obstacles and break downs. I'll try the early trails in the future from now on! I then took a nap.

My brother showed up at 1730 and I took him on a tour of the camp and all the expensive Hummers, modified Jeeps, and motor homes. We had dinner at the camp, tri-tip, salad, beans, rolls, your typical camp fare. The raffle started at 1930 and I won some passes to Towne Ford Museum in Sacramento CA and a set of Superwinch hubs for the front diff!! I only bought $25 worth of tickets, and the hubs HAVE to be more than that, so I guess I came out ahead. A detroit locker and a Warn 9k winch were also raffled off, but no luck there :(

After the raffle I took my brother to the dry creek bed that was just a bit from the camp and bounced him around for 30 minutes. He liked it and we then got a calendar to mark all the other events that I will attend this year in hopes that he can attend them too.


Sunday shone nice and bright but the wind started to come up, so it was a little colder than the preceding days. I prepared the Super for travel and hooked it up to the van. Breakfast was at 0820 so I waited until after I was finished w/ the van and Super. Breakfast was just pancakes, ham, and OJ. I had bought two adult breakfasts so I ate both :). I left at 0900. The trip back was uneventful except for the constant wind that blew from E to W. This made the van want to slide around in the lane :(

When I got back to Concord I moved the Super into the back yard first, but didn't want to reconnect the rear drive shaft that I had removed in order to tow. so I locked in the front hubs and put the d20 into 4hi and tootled off into the back yard no problem, ie front wheel drive ;)

Monday, 24 Feb 1997
kenneth e. wetherall

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