|UTVs Tackle the Rubicon TrailJuly 2007
The Rubicon Trail located in Northern California is world famous among 4×4 fans. The trail was established in the late 1800’s as a stage coach route between Georgetown and Lake Tahoe mainly to serve two resort hotels at Wentworth Springs and Rubicon Springs. After the hotels went out of business and the road deteriorated it was picked as home for the firstJeepers Jamboree in 1953. Since then it has gained international recognition and is considered the “Granddaddy” of all four-wheel trails – a 10 on most scales. The Rubicon Trail is actually an unmaintained county right of way – the Rubicon/McKinney Road.
We gathered 14 UTVs and headed down the trail from the Lake Tahoe side to see if they were worthy enough to survive the trip. 8 Yamaha Rhinos, 1 Arctic Cat Prowler, 4 Polaris Rangers and 1 Polaris Ranger RZR made the trip. Our destination for camp was Rubicon Springs, the site of a late 19th Century mineral springs and hotel. To get there, we passed several lakes and then descended Cadillac Hill.
On any extreme trail like the Rubicon, you have got to be prepared for different types of breakdowns. Unfortunately for Aaron Wedeking from PRP Seats, the Rubicon threw him a few curve balls. The good news is Aaron was prepared and had the skills to fix the breakdowns that could have left us in a very tough spot.
Aarons first mishap came on the way down Cadillac Hill before we made it to camp. In a tough spot, he had forced the wheel to the side and ended up breaking the aftermarket steering wheel adapter. Since we were about ½ mile from camp, we decided the best thing to do was to get him to camp, then work on a fix. To do that, a few of us ran ahead and took a steering wheel and adapter off another Rhino, then ran it back up the trail. We bolted it on and got down to camp without a hitch. Now what were we going to do?
Well Aaron was prepared for just this type of scenario. With two other rigs, he combined three batteries with jumper cables and used a welding stick to weld the adapter back in place. See the Trail Welding 101 article in this issue to see exactly how this works. All I can say is that I was completely impressed. The welding sounded good, looked OK and got him back to the trailer on Sunday. And that is what a trail fix is all about.
Aarons second mishap came on the way up Cadillac Hill on Sunday morning. The Arctic Cat Prowler that his Dad and brother were in broke a rear CV, and then another. With the stress of trying to make it out with less traction, and a few more cowboy type maneuvers, a tie rod broke. With only two wheel drive and no ability to steer, the Prowler wasnt going anywhere.
With no other options, Aaron broke out the welder and went to work on the tie rod. There is no way a tie rod welded together at the break would hold, so a splint was fashioned to give the tie rod some strength. Aaron welded on a bolt and a screwdriver, and they were back in business.
Still a few miles from the trailhead, they werent home free. Front wheel drive might get you out if you are on a logging road, but there were still plenty of boulders on this part of the trail that a UTV with two wheel drive just cant climb. With a tow strap hooked from their Rhino to the Prowler, they were able to bang and bounce their way back to the trailer.
One thing Aarons dad Bruce learned on the trip is too much air pressure in your tires may save you from blowing a bead, but the added stress of less traction will take its toll on other parts of the vehicle.