Whats the first rule of trail team? Any guy/gal who watched a particular movie in the last decade will immediately follow that question with the response: “Dont talk about Trail Team?”. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, “Talk about Trail Team… A lot” is rule number two!
Rule number one: Your factory stock Toyota Truck is a capable 4×4 right off the showroom floor. You do not have to load it up with performance parts to enjoy your Toyota off-road”.
That may seem to contradict what the aftermarket industry is pushing. There are an endless suppliers lined up to make your truck more “capable”. This may also seem contradictory to the Fort’s parts department, as they offer some great accessory brands. But this is the fact: Your stock truck is ready for anything right out of the box.
Your factory Trail Edition and 4×4 vehicles come with world class mechanical parts. Axles, suspension components, metal skid plates and the technology to back it all up.
Now… You are probably saying, “You guys have extra stuff on your trail trucks” and you are right. We did try for a few years to run completely stock trucks when going to Badlands Offroad Park in Attica, Indiana and FJ Summit 8.
Since that time we have found that leading folks on the trails also requires the ability to assist in the case of a recovery. It becomes a balancing act of adding features that are a complete necessity while not intimidating our “Daily Driver” customers from running the trails with us.
The 2010 4Runner that we affectionately call “Treehugger” (Long story, ask sometime) had some absolutely necessary items installed this past year. A winch for recovery and a CB Radio. Those two items can save a lot of headaches when out on the trails.
Again, with the balancing act… We dont want those bits and pieces added to the truck to scare you away from seeing what your Toyota truck can do. These additional items are there to assist when needed!
When we do accessories on our trucks… We stick with tried and true brands. Our guys back in parts carry Pro Comp, ARB, ICON, OME and TRD equipment that will let your truck grow as much as YOU want to. Cody, Nate and Mason have been helping equip Toyota owners in the Greater Peoria area for years… All the while keeping on top of the newest gear. (The temptation is amazing!) Our Toyota techs; Dustin, Drew and James have been installing everything in our Toyota shop.
If you want to build up your truck… We can help. If you want to leave it “stock”… You will never get an argument from us!
All we ask is that you give us a shout if you want to hit the trails!
See Matt or Eric in service for more details on the Trail Team Excursions.
We were happy to get back to camp after the “trail repair” on Rose Garden Hill. It had been a long hot day and we were looking forward to grabbing showers before hitting the campground. The word “campground” would paint a mental picture of campers, tents, and facilities for dining and showering. Our campground was not so luxurious… It was a few gravel slots backed up the Colorado river, about 5 miles out of Moab. This camping is super cheap (5 bucks a day), but it’s also super thin on amenities. Bathrooms (Fancy holes in the ground) are included… Showers are not a feature that come with this price.
Our original plan was to stop at the KOA and pay five bucks for a shower. But they closed before we got back to town. Showers were out.
We got back to our sparse campsite. I washed off as much bearing grease as I could from my 5 gallon portable water tank… Took a camp shower from there (Don’t know what a camp shower is? Just ask sometime, I’d rather not describe it here).
Jake and I talked it over a very refreshing and cold beer. Obviously, we were not going to be doing any more wheeling the next day with his FJ in its current state. Our priority as a vacation was to get Jake’s truck up and repaired so we could finish out the trip.
The nearest Toyota Dealer from Moab is Western Slope Toyota in Grand Junction. Now, you might be saying “Why go to a Toyota Dealer?”. First off… I’m partial to my profession. I trust our techs more than anyone on a newer FJ like this. Secondly, Jake’s FJ is a 2014 with roughly 25,000 miles. Our first hope was that this upper ball joint failure would be warrantable. In order to make this a clean process… Going to the dealer first was our best bet. Was this warrantable? In my opinion… Yes. We were off road… No question. Were we baja blasting and damaging the truck by being reckless? No. When the ball joint came loose… We were crawling and and creeping up the hill and that joint should not have popped out.
The drive from Moab to Grand Junction is about 120 miles. I can tell you with complete certainty that it feels 5 times that long when you are watching the road for bumps and stopping to adjust ratchet straps. The straps did loosen over the drive. Those extra straps and frequent stops were completely necessary!
We rolled into Western Slope Toyota in Grand Junction about 10AM. The Service Advisors were super friendly and said that we were gonna be OK on the warranty repair and they would move it up to the front of the line. There were a couple problems with our repair though… Grand Junction Colorado gets their parts from a Toyota parts depot in Dallas Texas. It would be a few days before that Upper Control Arm (UCA) would be ready and installed. Then… Their alignment shop would need to be scheduled. Holy smokes… We were days out for a warranty repair!
There was an alternative… Order UCA’s on Amazon Prime using overnight shipping. The guys at Western Slope were open to this. This would remove Toyota from paying for a warranty repair, but we would be on the trail in another day. Western Slope said they could do the work the next afternoon, but were not sure if there was enough time to do the alignment that same day. We ordered Total Chaos UCA’s from Amazon with the expectation of having the fine guys at Western Slope do the work.
Social Media is a wonderful thing. Jake had put out a message on the FJ Summit forums on Facebook about his breakdown and wanting to know if anyone had UCA’s handy. That didn’t pan out… But we did get a message from Keith and “Keiths Garage” in Grand Junction. Keith offered to get the FJ done as soon at the UCA’s arrived and to get it to his alignment guys ASAP when he was done. Keith had a long history of working on Toyota 4×4’s in this part of Colorado and was well spoken about of by the locals. This was a no-brainer.
This night… We found a nice Best Western on the Northeast side of Grand Junction. We had one criteria… An outdoor pool. This hotel had one indoor and one outdoor. It was a perfect situation for this dusty crew!
After a dip in the pool… Everyone got cleaned up and we headed to downtown Grand Junction. If you have not been there… Its worth stopping by. Lots of cool shops and a nice brewpub kept us entertained and well fed for the night.
The next day… The UCA’s showed up at Toyota at 10AM. The guys at Western Slope Toyota were cool with our change of plans. They were completely backed up with work and they were really shoehorning us in to get the FJ fixed that quickly. It was a relief to not force our truck into their schedule. We ran to Keith’s shop where he was waiting with open arms… By 4PM the truck was aligned and back on the road. Keith and all the kind folks in Grand Junction saved the trip!
Now it was off to FJ Summit X.
After we were all in Ouray… We had dinner at Buen Tiempo. “Buen” seems to be our annual dinner stop when we are at Summit. We had our dollar bill planted on their towering two story roof (If you don’t know how they do it… Give the waiter a buck and watch). When we were heading out, we ran into Woody and Heather Swearengen. The owner of Ih8mud.com chatted with us about his imported Landcruiser. I was schooled on the different models numbers for RHD, LHD, Petrol and Diesel models. (because, someday I will have one!) Woody and his wife are great folks and I always recommend signing up for Ih8mud for Toyota 4×4 fans of any skill level.
Thursday morning we had a plan to hit the top most pass at FJ Summit. Imogene pass is a rough trail road that runs 17 miles between Ouray and Telluride. At its topmost peak, it tops out at 13,100 ft. This is not like Pikes Peak or Mt Evans… You are crossing streams, climbing steep inclines, pinstriping your truck and grinding up your off-road tires on sharp rocks.
The climb through the mountains was a striking contrast to camping in Moab just days before. The weather was slightly cool with an air of dampness. Everything was green! Even the upper elevations above the treeline the small amounts of green were a glowing vision of life versus the overwhelming brown tones of eastern Utah. When we reached the top of Imogene pass, it was crowded with Toyota trucks that were trailing with groups from FJ Summit. We waited for about 30 minutes before we could pull off this picture of our trucks at with the sign. It was cold at the top… But again… After sweating and being wrung out in Moab… It was a welcome change of season. I told everyone to suck it up. The temps back in Illinois were around 100 and these 50 degree winds would be forgotten as soon as we hit Kansas on the way home.
After hitting Telluride we had to call it over for the Stahl’s. My family had to get back to Illinois to get my daughter to camp on Saturday. Our layover in Grand Junction had cost us a day on the trails in Colorado and this was last hurrah.
Jacob and family spent another few days in the area before heading back. His exploration led him to Bangs Canyon in Grand Junction. Which, judging by the pictures and his reviews… Is a great place to run around in for a day.