Saturday, September 26, 2015

Elbow Canyon 4WD Trail

East of Mesquite, NV, across the state line in Arizona, Elbow Canyon (BLM Route 1299) ascends into the Virgin Mountains.  The road meets up with BLM Route 1004 where you can take an easy way back to Mesquite by turning south on 1004 and west to Mesquite on Routes 101/242.

This is a fun 4WD trail.  It's not easy, but it's not super hard.  Just hard enough to keep your attention for a while.  The hard part is about 8 miles long.

Here's the view from the sign looking west toward Mesquite.

Four years ago I drove down the canyon.  That was a fun drive.  But I've always wanted to drive the other direction; uphill.  I prefer to drive uphill on boulder covered trails.  I'd rather crawl slowly up and over the boulders than ride my brakes and slide down them.  I just feel like I have more control going uphill.

The bottom part of the trail is easy and fun.  The terrain changes from embedded rocks to crossing almost dry creeks and then the boulders slowly start to get bigger.

I didn't complete the trail on this trip.  I had a flat tire right as the trail was becoming more difficult.  Right when it was getting fun; when I have to take more care in picking my line.  My GPS track on the map above shows where my run ended.  

The sidewall on one of my front tires had an inch-long gash in it.  I could hear the air blowing out with each revolution of the wheel.  I'm glad I had my windows open.  That gave me more warning and more options.  I was on a hill covered in small boulders and didn't want to change the tire there.  I had plenty of time to turn around (with a 6-point turn) and retreat to a flat spot in a dry creek bed 50 yards back.

After changing the tire, I had a decision to make.  I had driven about 4 miles from the sign announcing 8 miles of fun.  So I still had another 4 miles of hard trail, plus a few more miles to reach BLM 1004.  I was driving on the stock Continental tires with 7000 miles on them.  I had a second spare with me, but I decided not to gamble.  I turned back.  I'll return with a new set of better off-road tires.

I suspect that the dopey 19 inch wheels contribute to sidewall weakness when driving off road.  I can mount 18 inch wheels, but that's a can-of-worms familiar to most LR4 owners that I don't have time to explain here.  After I get the new tires (also 19s), I'll be watching the wear and sidewall damage carefully.

To drive the Elbow Canyon trail from Mesquite, head east to Scenic Blvd and drive south to Red Hawk Road.  Turn east on Red Hawk Road and it ends at the start of the trail.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

GRC: Global Rallycross

I like watching GRC (Global Rallycross).  I don't watch much TV, but I do watch GRC when it's on.  Here are some of the reasons why.

GRC is challenging for the race team.
Since the course changes for each race, they must prep the car different (but this is the same for most autosports).  The crew must often make big repairs between stages.  If a car crashes during a race, the crew will be racing to repair that immediately after the race so the car can run in the next stage.

GRC is challenging for the driver.
The race courses are very short and tight with little room for error and little time to make up for mistakes.  The dirt and gravel introduce a new challenge since traction is lost on areas where the dirt spreads out.  At Los angeles 2015 this resulted in a narrow route without dirt along one stretch where the cars had traction.  Drivers who could not fight their way into that channel ended up on the outside and had no traction, causing some of them to crash.  The race start and the first corner are crucial.  This results in a crazy fight for position immediately after the start, almost always with lots of "contact".  

It's exciting for the audience and tv viewers.
The event audience can see the entire course, not just one small section as in F1.  The course is not a simple oval.  There are left and right turns.  Although Los Angeles 2015 had only 1 right turn, resulting it extreme tire heating on the right side. That introduced a new challenge for the drivers: preserve the tires.  There are no pit stops, so you can't change tires during a race.  Some rules infractions are punished by placing the driver in the back row on the starting grid for the next stage.  Each race is short and there are no commercial interruptions in the TV coverage during races.

It's got some Interesting driver personalities.
Ken Block:  Former shoe brand manager.  Ken is currently the top dog in GRC and he's an extremely skilled driver.  Ken's also famous for his many Gymkhana urban drifting videos on youtube.
Tanner Foust:  Top Gear USA host (yeah yeah, he has plenty of racing experience too; sorry Tanner).
Joni Wiman:  From Finland, Joni is one of the youngest racers in GRC.
Jeff Ward:  Seasoned racer (Indy cars, Lucas off-road series, and motocross), he's a racing natural and demonstrated that in the Washington DC GRC race.
Scott Speed:  Former F1 and NASCAR Sprint car racer.  He's not the most flamboyant, but he's very good.
Bucky Lasek:  Former skateboarding champion and Dirtfish alum.

They can create race courses almost anywhere.  Last year's Las Vegas race was in a casino parking lot.  It's like pop-up racing.  The next race is in Barbados on October 3.  They're often televised in the US on NBC.

Anything can happen in GRC.  The leader can crash and lose the race.  Any crash can interfere with the other drivers and change the race standings.  Crashes don't require multiple cars; there's plenty of solo car spinouts around the dirt sections where the car ends up smashing against the perimeter barrier.  Contact is allowed.  If the driver in front of you is going too slow, then you simply push them out of the way.  This is one of the few auto racing formats where the PIT maneuver seems to be allowed.

Simply put, GRC is a lot of fun to watch.  

Monday, September 14, 2015

LR4 Hood Sensor

Many visitors to this blog are here to research how to stop their alarm system from sounding randomly and reporting (erroneously) that the hood (bonnet) is open.  This is a common glitch with several Land Rover models, including LR3, LR4, Range Rover Sport, and even Range Rovers.  The culprit is a low cost micro switch that's located in the passenger-side hood latch assembly.  The switch goes bad and reports that the hood is open when it isn't.  I've posted several entries about this problem (this one has photos), and have described 2 ways of fixing it: (1) replacing the switch, and (2) shorting the circuit.

I don't know if the problem still persists or if it affects the 2015 model year.  I decided to buy a replacement sensor for my car, just so I'd be prepared.  (Plus, I like to figure out how things work.)

My previous posts were about my old 2008 LR3.  I checked my new car and discovered that the 2015 LR4 is slightly different.  Different enough that my previous instructions aren't accurate.  The 2015 model lacks the small plastic tabs to press and release the sensor/switch from the latch assembly.  The older part number (for my 2008 LR3) is LR041431 (previously LR024358).  

That part won't work on the 2015 model.  The sensor on the 2015 model is integral to the latch mechanism and doesn't separate.  It's glued into it.  The part number for the 2015 LR4 is LR054331 / LR065340.  You can see from the images below that the new model doesn't have the release tabs that I described in an old post here and is bolted onto the chassis.  Here's the new sensor:

I haven't tried installling it yet, but it looks like it will be easy.  Here's the procedure that appears to be required: 

Step 1.  Open the hood.
Step 2.  (optional)  Remove the grill for improved access.  It's super easy.  There's even illustrated instructions in the owner's manual.
Step 3.  Use a Torx T30 driver to remove the latch mechanism assembly.
Step 4.  Disconnect the electrical connector on the back side by pressing the tab on the connector.
Step 5.  Remove the hood release cable.
Step 6.  Set aside the old latch assembly and grab the new one.
Step 7.  Insert the hood release cable into the new latch.
Step 8.  Connect the electrical connector.
Step 9.  Mount the latch assembly with the same T30 bolts.
Step 10.  Reinstall the grill (if you removed it).  I have removed the grill, so here are some installation tips:
a) Line up the black plastic pins that insert into holes near the headlamps.
b) Push forward to insert the top tabs.  
c) Press to expand the top tabs to ensure that they properly fasten.  Lift each tab if needed.
d) For each of the 2 inserts at the bottom of the grill: press firmly and sharply to snap them into place.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life

This is a new book by Russ Roberts, a former economics professor at George Mason University, Stanford, and others.  He's currently a research fellow at Stanford.  I've listened to his podcast, EconTalk, for years.  In How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life, Roberts takes a fresh look at Adam Smith's second most famous work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, and maps its teachings to contemporary life.  Even if you've endured enjoyed having read Moral Sentiments, you'll find Roberts' book interesting.

If you've never read Moral Sentiments, then this book would be a short primer.  Roberts asserts that Smith's message is just as relevant today as it was in the 1700s.  Roberts is kind enough to offer translations of Smith's text, written in the 1750s, to modern language.  He doesn't provide a rigorous cover-to-cover analysis or even a linear coverage, but instead focuses on key concepts, such as propriety, being loved and lovely, the third person perspective.  I like his comparison of Smith's work with modern behavioral economics.

Roberts offers a free download of the first chapter on his site.  This is a 13 page introduction to the book that offers an overview of Roberts' coverage.  

I was surprised at the apparent timelessness of Smith's observations of human behavior.  I don't know if Roberts' book can change your life, but I was pleased with his fresh perspective on this forgotten masterpiece.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Cady Mountains Wilderness

I had a nice drive in the middle of nowhere yesterday.  My plan was to recon a very remote BLM road to see how difficult it would be.  I also wanted to see if it was really there, since many maps don't show it.  This road, named BLM route 9470, is almost half way between I-15 and I-40, cutting across the middle of the Cady Mountains Wilderness area in the Mojave desert.  

I wasn't pushing myself to drive the entire road because, when I tried to follow it in Google Earth, I lost the tracks many times as it headed north down a very wide wash.  The northeastern end of the road is at Mesquite Spring.  I've been to Mesquite Spring once before, driving a 2003 Acura MDX!  I took some friends so we could visit the mysterious Mojave Megaphone.  From there, the roads are not too bad, either south past Broadwell Dry Lake to Ludlow at I-40, or north to Crucero then west to Basin Road and to I-15.  This map shows the NE end of the route (my GPS track is in red).

My drive started at the Hector Road exit of I-40 where I made my way to where the main powerline road crosses the train tracks.  I arrived just as a train approached.

I've driven that powerline road many times.  In 2010, I drove it all the way across the desert, heading northeast, past Old Dad Mountain and on to Kelbaker Road.  That was a lot of fun.  Here's my summary map of that adventure.

I was surprised at how easy the roads were after leaving the powerline road.  I didn't need 4wd, but eventually the high ground clearance helped when crossing some gullies.

There was only 1 intersection, where routes 9489 and 9470 join.  It's not a tidy site with all sorts of odd things laying about.  Here's a google map centered on that spot.

Further to the northeast, the road crosses private property.  The BLM has kindly posted signs warning drivers to stay on the trail.

One short stretch has a barbed wire fence on both sides of the road.

In the middle of Hidden Valley, I came across this old pumpjack.  It wasn't running.  I'm guessing that it once pumped water from a well.

The road climbs in elevation as it heads northeast, then here I reach the crest.  From here it crosses a short grassy area  and then begins the long slow descent down toward Mesquite Spring and Crucero Road.

The "road" is then just a gently sloping sandy wash.  Narrow at times and I couldn't avoid all the creosote.  The sand wasn't too deep at this point, but deep enough that it took a lot of attention (and steering input) to avoid the embedded rocks.  Four wheel drive was very helpful in the sandy wash.  I even decided to look at the dopey 4wd display on my LR4 (see below).  The icons for the center and rear diffs kept switching between locked and unlocked due to the all the slipping that the computer was detecting.

This would be a very fun road in a dune buggy or an Ariel Nomad.

I decided to turn around.  I'd seen enough and I knew that it was just going to get harder as I continued down the wash - especially route-finding / navigating.  I hadn't even reached the really narrow section before the wash spills out below the bajada.  You can see in the first GE image that after doubling back, I then continued west toward Daggett.

I still don't know if 9470 officially extends to Mesquite Spring.  I found a 2014 BLM map (part of their Travel Management Area series) that shows 9470 ending 5 miles beyond where I turned back (ending 6 miles south of Mesquite Spring).

I want to drive this entire route some day.  But I need to find some adventurous people to come along in other 4wd vehicles.  That way we can pull each other out of the deep sand if we get stuck.  I'd want to prepare by noting some GPS waypoints through that wide wash on the northern end to make sure I didn't miss Mesquite Spring.