There are times in my life, when if I knew how hard something was going to be beforehand, I probably wouldn't have tried it in the first place. Caution would rule and I would be content reading about other, more capable or better equipped, people grinding it out. It is almost always good that I don't know in advance about the degree of difficulty, challenge or stress involved in the endeavor, since life is much duller lived within my comfort zone. For me, attempting the Rubicon Trail in a relatively stock FJ Cruiser with my brother, who has never spent much time off-road, was one of those times.
I'll admit it, I'm an Overlander. I love the idea of the adventure; getting out there and seeing what few people do. Driving trail, seeing dinosaur tracks, petroglyphs and the history of a place before making camp near a beautiful vista with a cold beer and some great food followed by a marvelous sunset. Having a nice warm shower, sleeping in a roof-top tent and waking up to a cup of Peet's espresso before the next day's stage just adds to the attraction. The Rubicon belonged to a bucket list from a much earlier time.
When my younger brother, Erik, purchased an older Jeep JK a few years ago, the rubicon was squarely in his sights as he began to complete his list of modifications. At family gatherings I always said “sure I'll do the Rubicon with you, no problem” figuring that, if it ever came to pass, my overlanding experience would pull me through. After all, hadn't they just taken the teeth out of the Rubicon so that they could drive a stock vehicle through it? I would be fine.
Our history with the Rubicon had begun many years ago. We rode it on mountain bikes back in the '80's and had viewed its challenges. The Gatekeeper, Granite Bowl, the Sluice Boxes Big and Small, Rubicon Springs and Cadillac Hill. It was amazing to us that a vehicle could negotiate that incredible procession of obstacles. We saw broken down vehicles, people in a panic for their survival, weeping over the ruin of their vehicle and their lost hope of success. We always said we'd give it a try.
But that was the Rubicon of old; now I imagined it as a veritable dirt highway, all we had to do was to make sure that we had enough beer for the trip. After all, I had 285's and a 2” lift with full skids and some nice sliders...
More of this story to follow