On the 3rd of July we headed over Monitor Pass from Tahoe to Highway 395 south towards Mammoth Mountain. After record breaking snowfall this past ski season Mammoth is still open and operating daily. With a chance to cross skiing on the 4th of July off our bucket list, we were extremely excited for the upcoming shred session.
We pulled up to one of our favorite campsites at crab cooker hot spring off of benton crossing road that night around 11:00PM. Its a free campsite on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and we have camped there multiple times before, the first time being on our first road trip across the country 2 years ago. We decided that night to get to sleep so we could get on the mountain early the next day. We got up the next morning made bacon, eggs, and coffee then donned our America flag bathing suits we’d be skiing in that day, then headed towards the mountain.
Heading to Mammoth in The Van
By the time we got to the mountain we realized that we were not the only folks that were crossing skiing on the 4th of July off of their to-do list, and we were in for a party of a day. The parking lots were full and the ticket line at Stump Alley was off the charts long. We ended up pulling the van into Lot C and threw our boots on, smeared sunscreen on our bare spots hurriedly and caught the next bus to the main lodge.
On June 30th, after a night out at the bar with my Mom, we set out on our grand adventure. The first stop was The Rubicon trail outside of Placerville to visit our friends property at Wentworth Springs for some good old fashion Independence day celebrating. The thing about the property is it is about three or four miles in on one of the gnarliest trails I’ve been on in any vehicle, let alone our 1985 van.
Getting to Wentworth Springs
Being the go-getters that we are we thought we would get the tough stuff out of the way before setting out on a 3,000 mile trip. We met my Dad and Uncle Mike at Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and went to meet up with the rest of the crew at another property called Camp Ten up the road. They were towing in an excavator to do some work on the property and had to pick it up over there.
To start, we met up with the owners of the property who are good friends of our family, we all made our way to the Rubicon via Wentworth Springs road.
The Van at the entrance to the Rubicon Trail.
The trail start with about 100 yards of water crossing; luckily the van is pretty tall and the water was not that deep.
My Uncle Mike’s Jeep mid water crossing.
When we first got to the trail we attempted to get the van in 4 wheel drive. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the hubs to lock. We decided to push on in 2 wheel and see what would happen. Seems like the best way to go, we thought. This usually goes one of two ways, it works out or it doesn’t. Fortunately, we made it 90% of the way in with no trouble. Unfortunately, The last 10% of the trail into Wentworth Springs is the hardest part; you end up running into a hill where the road is mainly made up of river rock and large boulders. Furthermore, after a large winter and plenty of water run off this part of the trail had been made even worse this season.
4 Wheeling on the Rubicon Trail
We brought up the rear of our pack and we were last one’s to attempt the hill. We had watched more experienced drivers and better built rigs struggle, so needless to say, we were slightly apprehensive. Justin drove the Van and My Dad and I hopped out and played spotter.
Justin had a hard time getting the van over the first few boulders without the front axle being locked. He made it three quarters the way up without four wheel drive. Eventually we gave up and Uncle Mike pulled out the recovery strap and pulled us up the rest of the way.
The Van and my Dad as spotter trying hard to get over some huge boulders.
Uncle Mike and the crew preparing the Recovery Strap. We got pulled to the bridge seen in this picture and drove the rest of the way in ourselves. Thanks for the help Uncle Mike!
Once we made it to the bridge, we continued on to Wentworth Springs and set up camp. Everyone went back to fill in the spot where we got stuck later in the day. We rode our bikes down there, which was also some of the roughest mountain biking I probably will ever do. We spent the rest of the afternoon fixing the road and filling holes by throwing rocks into them. My dad rolled out big boulders with the excavator. All in all, after the road work we probably could have made it up no problem in 2 wheel.
Relaxing at Wentworth Springs
We spent the rest of weekend relaxing, swimming, celebrating, and wheeling in my Uncle Mike’s jeep on the Rubicon. Unfortunately, we were having to much fun and forget to take pictures of anything else after the ride in. You’ll just have to take our word for it.
We had an awesome time at Wentworth Springs. We would definitely go back with the van (we did, read about it here) and even the jeep for some playing around. Special thanks to Nancy, Colby, Fio, Morgan, Steve, Sandy, and the rest of the gang for inviting us to come play! Come Monday morning it was time for us to make our way out to our next destination: Mammoth Mountain for 4th of July Skiing and Riding!
The van made it out pretty easy on Monday morning. We followed my dad out and said our goodbyes at the bottom of the access road. From there, we made our way to Tahoe for a quick stop and stocked up on food and also bought a bike rack for our bikes!
We stopped at Kiva beach to see the water level in Tahoe which is crazy high! The beach was almost non existent!
Kiva Beach Lake Tahoe looking FULL.
In conclusion, the first leg was challenging but a great time!
From the previous post, we had the flooring, walls, bed, and fantastic fan put into the van. A clean pallet for building our design. If I still had Bailey’s original “inside van sketch” I would certainly post a picture of it but when we were done, it came out really close to what we were shooting for. So…. after the bed was built we moved onto the countertop, cabinet, and storage area. It was perfect for the far side of the van because there are no windows on that side of the van. It made sense. Basically, we built a storage cabinet from the floor to the ceiling directly behind the drivers seat. The lower area of that cabinet would house all of the solar system items (batteries, inverter, fuse box, etc.) and the upper shelves would be mostly food storage and whatnot. Water jugs will be housed underneath the countertop area. We built the storage cabinet and the under-counter storage to fit some cool shutters that we scored from a local friend here in town. Shoutout to Mike O’Neill! They are old antique mini shutters. The shutters are perfect for the job because they hide all of our crap while also making it easily accessible. We painted them a cream white color to match the ceiling. Bailey did a stellar job at putting some fabric that we got from Jo Ann’s on the ceiling. The trick? A whole bunch of 3M 90 spray adhesive. That shit really holds stuff good! I’ve blabbed on a lot here, but we are somewhat close to being done with the build. I’m sure I have forgotten some things. There are plenty of small things still to do and I’m sure we’ll find another hundred things to do once we hit the road, but in the mean time… we are pretty proud of our progress!
First picture above is on/off switch to turn the solar panels off to stop charging the batteries when we aren’t using them. You can also see the charge controller and fuse block. A separate write-up on the solar system is coming whenever I quit being lazy. So you’re not chomping at the bit, it’s 2 – 100 watt panels on the roof running to 2 AGM sealed Vmax batteries wired in parallel for double the storage. This is plenty of power for what we will be running (LED lights, fantastic fan, charging phones, etc). The middle picture is the counter and cabinet just after we put the shutters on. You can see how great of a job we did. Hey, they hold stuff in!
This is our very first post. Maybe you can tell by the sarcastic post title and silly photo of our favorite security guard. We will write whatever cool stuff we want here so check back often to keep up with us, or don’t, the choice is yours. My principal in 5th grade always said that over the intercom in the morning after he was done with the announcements. When I said ‘we’ and ‘our’ – that is myself (Justin) and Bailey. Anyways, I’m gonna rambling. We may stay in Kirkwood a bit longer after closing to continue working on the Van and prepping for our upcoming summer 2017 road trip. It’s gonna be the maiden voyage for Ol’ Bertha! Actually we haven’t named it yet, I just kinda typed that in… hmmm… maybe it will stick? It is a big as van… Let’s try this layout and and see if I like it. Next up – a photo of the van!
PS. “The Van” is currently is the shop getting lots of tune up items done. SWEEEEEET!
Edit – I found out how to work the photo feature. This is getting fun. Oh yeah – Bailey got a badass new camera so there shouldn’t be a shortage of cool photos here.