Colorado Expedition: All Part of the Adventure

Day 3 we woke up to a clear beautiful morning. The Rooftest with couple blankets kept Nadine and I warm. Lambo didn’t mind the blanket, but then I woke up with Lambo by our feet.

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Breakfast consisted of Branden’s aeropress coffee, and hotpot leftovers. By 8am it was feeling the warm sun rays, which meant it was time to pack up. Till, the GX battery died.

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Mike left his refrigerator on overnight, and drained the battery. Thankfully my rig had the recovery gear and tool box. We used my jumper cables, and jumped the GX with my other friends Tacoma, who’s name is also Mike haha.

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After 5mins charging, the GX cranked, but wasn’t starting. We didn’t hear the fuel pump priming. Mike with the GX apologized to the whole group but it was fine. We all had car troubles in the past and know what its like to be in that situation. We are just glad that the GX broke down with everybody here has the tools and knowledge to work on cars.

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The campsite was roughly 40miles away from Durango, CO. Lucky, camp was higher in the mountains, and had reception. Just one bar and thats better then nothing. The ladies helped out by calling various auto part stores in Durango. The guys proceeded to work on the fuel pump. To removed the fuel pump, you have access it though the back seat and disconnect the connections. Then you have drop the fuel tank to removed the pump. Mike with the GX wasn’t going to drop the fuel tank. Instead he used my wire cutters and made a big enough hole to access the fuel pump the from the top. What a G, and I think all of us would have done the same given the situation.

With the fuel pump out, we want to make sure 100% it was the pump and not the wiring. Branden all brought his tool box which had spare wires. We wired up the fuel pump to Mike, with the Tacoma’s, battery. Sure enough, the pump did turn on and fuel wasn’t spraying. Thankfully around that time, the ladies was able to get a fuel pump. The thing was it wont be available till tomorrow morning.

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With that news, we decided to stay anther night at camp. It was 11am, and we want to make the most of the day. We couldn’t get the GX running till tomorrow. Mike’s with the GX decided to replace his brake pads since it was on the low side. Cathy found a dirt road named Lime Creek Road (another famous road name in Austin,Tx) that lead to a hiking trailhead.

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Mike’s family stayed behind while the rest went back on the road to do some off-roading and hiking. The route took us though Durango, CO and was nice small modern town. Ryan and his parents decided to stay in Durango and explore the city. The rest us continued to drive though the Million Dollar Highway and lead us to Lime Creek Road. The sign says 4×4 high clearance recommend. Whenever you see that, they mean it. The road started off easy, but the higher we climb, the more rough and rocky it got.

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We drove about 1hr into the trail till we arrived at the trailhead. Then Mike, crawling slow, told us he didn’t have brakes. Sure enough, we noticed the driver front rim was wet and brake fluid spewing from the line. This just happened right when we arrived at the trailhead. I’m guessing a rock damaged the line.

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One of the scariest feeling is stepping on the brakes the vehicle doesn’t stop. I didn’t have my tools because I left it camp for other Mike to use. Luckily Branden brought his. Mike and Adelyn couldn’t do the trailhead hike with the brake issue. It was about 2pm, and we still had time to hike. Mike and Adelyn decided it would be best to drive back down in to the Lime Creek entrance and park there. At least Mike can call around and find the brake line for the Tacoma while we hiked.

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You might be asking how can you go down a hill with no brakes. I’ve been in a situation where I lost brakes and couldn’t stop. There is a way, and I’ve used this method too. You put your rig in 4 low and stay in 1st gear. This changes the gear ratio to a crawling speed, 5mph and below. You can only do this if you have 4 wheel drive with low range.

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With Mike and Adelyn heading back to the entrance, the rest of us went to hike 3 miles into this beautiful lake. I was worried Lambo might struggle. Surprisingly Lambo loved it, and mountain lake at the end of the trail. I later found out it was Potato Lake Trail.

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The scenery was soo nice, and you notice the temperature drop by the lake. This was melted snow water from the winter months. Lambo went for a quick dip in the cold water. He loved being up in the mountains. We took a little snack break and then headed back to the trailhead.

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It started to rain on the hike back momentarily, and sun poked though. By the time we got to the trailhead it was 5pm. We drove back down, and Branden had enough cell reception to receive a call from Mike. He was able to buy a brake line, but the issue was by the time was arrive at the trail entrance the dealership would be closed.

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Sometimes things happen for a reason. Right after that call, Branden saw on the group chat Ryan was still in Durango, CO and was going to head back to base camp. Branden called Ryan, and was able to pick up the brake line with some other supplies. This saved us couple hours. Ryan was a lifesaver.

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We arrived at the trail entrance and waited for Ryan. We got to work by prepping up the Tacoma for the brake line change. I conveniently brought my cooler and had some cold brews while waiting. Shortly after, Ryan came and we where able to get the Tacoma brakes working in no time.

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By the time this was all done it was 7:30pm and sun was starting to set. Mike with the GX radioed to us he was making some noodle stir fry and will be ready when we get back.

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When arrived at the trail it was already dark. Night trail runs are fun and completely different experience. Ryan’s yelled LED fog light pierced though the dusty road.

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We arrived back at camp with food all ready. I quickly set up our Roofnest tent which was getting easier to set up. I could probably do it in less then 5mins now. We had dinner and talked about our adventure in the campfire till we had no more firewood.

Today was an adventure and this is also why we planed the trip loosely. Because sometimes things doesn’t go according to plan. You adjust to the situation. We missed out on another camping site, but just to have good friends around, even when problems arise is something I’ll always be thankful for. Stay tuned for day 4.

NOLA Gridlife 2020

With my 86 running good for almost one year, Im really happy the way the car turned out. It was rough 1.5yrs build it, but at least all the major issues are fixed, and minor ones are easy fixes that didn’t hinder my seat time.

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In one of the group chats I was in, one the guys was selling their NOLA Gridlife driver ticket. Since it was discounted, I said “fuck it” and bought the driver ticket. I guess I have to track prep the 86. The last event was about 3 weeks ago at the Knuckle Up drift event.

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The car ran great, no issues. I just had to flush my brakes and change the oil. Turns out when I was about to flush my brake fluid, I noticed the rear caliper seal was starting to leak.

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Typical me, I didn’t inspect the the car till a week before the Gridlife NOLA. That life, sometimes stuff happens unexpectedly, this probably explains why my brakes felt spongy at Knuckle Up. Unfortunately, the Toyota dealerships didn’t have a seal kit in stock and was a 3 week delivery time. Luckly Rockauto had the aftermarket brands in stock, but I paid extra for 2 day shipping.

Then about 2hrs after buying from Rockauto, Danh messaged me he had an OEM one in stock. Thankfully he was willing to sell it to me, and I was able to replace the old seals in the rear caliper. This video helped me out:

The processes wasnt too hard and took me about 3hrs to do the replace both seals. You do need a special service tool to replace a O ring, but I skipped that step becuase on the 4age forums, people said its hard to put back in without the SST. Unfortunately, the SST is not made anymore and kinda expensive if you do find it. Not really with it for a tool I might use once. Thankfully no leaks.

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With new rear brake seals, the front passenger had brake pad issues. It wore unevenly, I think it was from the leaking seal, and sticking caliper pin. Always grease the pins. Thankfully Harris was able to overnight me Hawk HP pads and Battle Garage was able to 2 day ship Porterfield RS-4 pads. I ended up using the Hawk HP because it more track oriented.

So with the 86 all ready, I was able to make it to Gridlife by Friday night. I paid for the 2 day event, and planned to camp, at the track, till Monday morning.

This was my first time attending Gridlife, but with the covid pandemic happening, the music festival was gone. From what I was told, the prior Gridlife events felt like Forza Horizon. Car and music festival all in one. A more lively atmosphere then just a track day.

Regardless, I still had fun and met old and new friends. The cars out at Gridlife was top notch, show car worthy. I like it when cars that look clean are actually driven for the intended purpose and not hard parked. I like the car shows, but it just cooler when they get driven. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to attend more Gridlife events.

Colorado Expedition: Into the Mountains

Day 2 was another longish drive, about 8 hrs to camp. I was looking forward to cooler weather. We all were looking forward to Colorado. Branden and Cathy made the group breakfast before heading out.

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On the road with Mike’s GX failing fuel pump going out, he called part shops along the way to find a fuel pump. Surprisingly no one had one in stock including the dealers. Some part stores could get it next day, but we couldn’t wait another day.

We took the risk and just hope it wont go out again for the trip. Worst case is just leave the GX at a repair shop, then Mike and his family could tag along in a 4×4 rental while in Colorado. We have 9 days planned, and that is enough time to have the GX fixed. If it ever came to that.

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For lunch, we had leftovers from breakfast and just ate while driving. We wanted to make to camp before it got dark. We had multiple fuel stops thanks to my Land Cruiser averaging 12-10mpg.

The drive had a change of scenery the higher we climbed. Then descent back into valley, and repeat. I had to pop my ears a few times. Lambo didn’t mind the ride, mostly slept the whole time.

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We cross through New Mexico and into Colorado. The sign we arrived at was a small sign. We all pulled over to take a picture. All for the experience and memories.

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We arrived at San Juan National Forest on a Thursday. I didn’t expected our area to be packed, but it was! The marked sites I pinned were all taken. But the trail continued for miles and that meant we have a chance of finding a site.

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With 5 rigs deep, it was hard find a space that could fit everyone, and the deeper we got into the trail the tougher it was. But nothing the Toyotas couldn’t handle. I found a site that was perfect for us. Branden went to scout around for maybe a better site, but we all decided this spot was the best one.

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The planned campsite is 6000ft elevation, but the one we found was 9000ft elevation. I figured 6000ft would be a nice introduction to the thin mountain air, but given the situation we felt the altitude change. Thankfully no one got altitude sickness on our first day camping in the mountains.

That day was my birthday and what a better way to enjoy it with some your friends. We did hot pot, because noodles is must for any birthday and hot broth is perfect for the cold nights.

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Stay tuned for Day 3.

Colorado Expedition: Overnight in Texas

Day one was the longer drives getting to Colorado, about 10 hours on the road. Living in Texas, driving out of the State takes a day if you want to drive comfortably.

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You straight shot to Colorado but it would be 18hrs. My Land Cruiser MPG isn’t the best. The 18hr drive would turn into 20hrs with gas stops and restroom breaks. Not worth it. We decided to spend day 1 in Texas and camp near the New Mexico border.

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We were 5 rigs deep on this trip and felt like I was those Australians on YouTube with the overlanding channel. The homies from Austin met up with us in Fort Worth and had quick lunch at Chick Fil A. Forth Worth is north of Houston, but felt hotter, a lot hotter.

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After the lunch break it was time to continue north west to McDowell campground. That was about 4hr drive from Forth Worth. On google maps I saw some dispersed camping in the area and pin those locations.

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Then about 6 miles out before reaching the campsite, my friend Mike with GX, had mechanical issue. The car puffed black smoke from the exhaust, lost power, and died. Thankfully we are car guys. and with everybody bouncing ideas off one another, we found out the fuel pump was starting to go out.

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We reset the ECU and thankfully it started right up. By the time we got to the campsite, it was sunset. Setting up the Roofnest tent was a breeze, and took about 5 mins. Day 1 was my day to cook dinner. I had some homemade fajita marinate soaking in pork belly since we left Houston in the morning.

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I started up the grill on my Snowpeak, and my wife did the food prep. Everyone brought food and pretty sure we wont go starving for the trip.

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I was worried about the summer night heat, but since we are near the water, the heat wasn’t too bad. We didn’t have to deal with bugs because of the Thermacell. It created a nice barrier to the pest.

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Later at night, it did get very windy. I could hear the other tents flap around. Our Roofnest tent kept us safe. The tent felt stable, and didn’t feel like the it was going to collapse. 

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The next morning it was time head to Colorado. Stay tuned.

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Colorado Expedition

August was my birthday month and I wanted to celebrate it, but with COVID pandemic happening, I’m limited to what can do. House party was out of the question, bars are currently closed, and restaurants are limited capacity. Arcades might be too packed, and track days are expensive. Flying is cheap, currently, but Europe and Asia shut their borders to USA.

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Why not do a camping trip! Texas in the month of August is still too hot for Lambo to camp. Instead, lets head up into the mountains of Colorado where it’s cooler.

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I recently got my Roofnest tent. Past camping trips I used to camp inside the Land Cruiser. The set up wasn’t too bad but my wife and I wasn’t too comfortable, and packing everything in and out was a bit time consuming. We decided to upgrade our set up and glad we did. Colorado was the perfect test for it.

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The trip took 10 days total and we all camped at dispersed campsites. This means no amenities in the campsite. Just you, and what you brought. I like those sites because it’s free and the trails to get to get to them are generally more tougher to get to. Meaning, better chance of less people and more secluded views.

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Dispersed camping is only allowed in national forest or BLM (bureau of land management) areas. For trip I only paid for gas, and supply runs. I think the tent, with dispersed camping paid for itself.

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Ryan and I planned out the route and sites months ago. We used a combination of Gaia Maps and Google maps. I mainly use Google maps with satellite imaging to look for camp sites and get a general idea of the terrain.

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The planning we did was loosely planned, a rough draft, if you like to call it. We planned it that way, because anything can happen on the trails (which it did) and you want to take your time to enjoy the views. If you are on a tight schedule you can’t really enjoy your travels, because you will be rushing to get to the next destination or spot. That would feel like I’m back at work on a timed schedule.

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As long as you in the heading in the right direction, its all good. I wasn’t able to get all the places I wanted to go to, because of unforeseen things. But that’s just anther excuse to back.

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Stay tuned since this was a long and epic trip I’m going to post in parts. Thanks for reading!

Knuckle Up

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I fixed the TPS issue from COTA and was back it for some drifting with Knuckle Up. I was thinking of driving the 86 to the event since it was held locally in Houston. But the forcast of rain, made me think otherwise. My 86 has no AC or wipers, and not sure how waterproof my wiring job is. I didn’t want to take the risk and trailered the 86.

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The 86 did well drifting. The suspension settings was the same since COTA and the only difference I did was swap the rear tires to less grippy tires. I was able to get the car sideways playing with weight transfers.

Got 10 second of fame from the homie Danh. Later that day it started to rain and I called it day.

Check out Danh website blog: http://dtphan.com

AE86 the Ultimate Test

After getting the AE86 running in January, the 86 has seen 4 track events. After each event, issues have popped up. Thankfully nothing catastrophic.

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As I got more comfortable with the car, and latest oil lab report showing healthy motor. The next step was to take the AE86 to Circuit of the Americas. This was going to ultimate test if the car can hold up to the track abuse.

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First session started at 3pm, during the peak Texas summer heat. My tire psi cold was 28psi, and kinda low but I didn’t add air because I know the hot asphalt will heat up the tires quickly.

The car did great on the first session, took it easy just making sure it all stays together. The cooling stayed 83 degrees celecius, with the Texas heat, and oil pressures stayed at 70-80 psi. The first session a success, it was now time to have some fun!

The 2nd session was the fastest with 3:02 time. Slow times, people run a 2:40, but they are fast drivers with higher horsepower cars.

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My car in the long straights didnt have the power to pull but I was decent enough to hang in the corners.

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The 3rd session, the track was starting to get cooler and sun starting to set. I was kinda tired already but I didnt want to waste time or money. I went out there and tried to improve my times.

I noticed on my AiM dash that the throttle position sensor was reading 97% even though I was was 100% on the gas. It didnt really bother me, as the motor felt fine. But on the 4th session that when an issue happened.

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On the 4 session, the track looked perfect, the sun just setting in the horizon. Perfect for the dawn shots.

Then disaster stuck and happen after the video ended, since the go pro battery died. The car started to sputter and loose power. Then the throttle cable got stuck wide open.

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This happened at turn 10, just over the crest. Luckly this area has pretty of runoff and I was able to park the 86 in a safe area. I waited for a tow. I was thinking what caused this issue, since my overheating and low psi warning light didnt go off.

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Once is was towed into the pits, I found the issue. My throttle was stuck from a loose wire, and my TPS bolts backed out and came loose. Hence why my TPS was reading 0% when I pressed on the gas.

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More on that next blog…..