5th Annual, 70-Series Meet & Greet - Trip Report By divemedic (1 Viewer)

divemedic

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The 70 Series Meet & Greet holds a specially place in my heart for many reasons. I have attended the event for three years in a row and wish to continue the annual trip but that will not be probable for next year but have marked a few goals in my calendar to be in attendance for the 7th Meet in 2021.

I started preparations three weeks prior to our departure date. My wife, Danielle, Danielle offered to take the kids to the grandparents house for two weeks to allow me time to work on the truck. This was huge to me and likely the only reason this trip was perfect for us. Between us loosing our marbles secondary to our kids loosing their marbles (ages 1 and 2 at the time) and tire failure; we have not attended a full meet.

The long list of needs and wants was daunting. It required 2AM nights/7AM mornings for most of the three weeks before the event. I started with mechanical/electrical repairs and mods I really wanted. This included brake/axel work, isolated 12v system, and drawer build. Things that didn't get done weren't important and didn't effect our time in the slightest.

We left for Windrock Park Thursday facing a 6 hour drive in a fully loaded PZJ77 towing a large gas grill.

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The only challenge was the I75 over Cumberland gap. @Kentex Rick can attest to how slow the going was. 3rd at 3000rpm at 35mph was all the 1PZ could muster.

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Otherwise the truck was fine humming along between 65 and 70 mph. For the first time we didn't roll into campmate at night which made a huge difference for us. We had enough time to unload the truck and bring the kids to a park to expend some energy prior to dinner.

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Charles (@Gun Runner 5) coordinated dinner at Outback Steak house with many new faces and many old faces. We didn't stay long as my kids were still rambunctious. I couldn't blame them, 6 hours in a 4-door tractor will have that effect.


When we arrived back at the cabin, We busted out the kids' toys and let them rampage until late at night. During this time I was able to check the truck over and pre-flight my drone and go pro. Most important, adult beverages where had and kids expelled the last of their energy around 11PM.
 
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divemedic

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Friday, represented the first day of group rides. All persons arrived in the upper parking lot at 9AM and lined up for photos and meet/catch-up with friends. This year families had a larger representation. Many people brought their spouses, children and doggos. After our keynote speaker, Rick gave his words, swag was bestowed upon the closest and furthest drives. @jmlockwood received a Doug's Tub for his PZJ77 driven all the way from Idaho. A Long Range America bush hat was given Alex ( @reundo ) to accompany his Yellow BJ70, affectionately called Short Bus.

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Sam @elkaholic provided a drive brief with rough time lines. CB and HAM channels were decided and the massive group departed. For Day 1 we had: 13, 70 variants, 3 80's, and 2 40's.

The day's drive was easy going, mostly maintained forest roads with some paved road. The end goal was The Eternal Flame for lunch.

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Keeping 18+ trucks together proved challenging. Not everyone had a radio, and we didn't pre-plan specific members to serve as communication guides. However, challenges were overcome and most everyone made it to the Eternal Flame. Unfortunately, A very large tree fell which prevented easy passage. In favor of digging a trench, @monst6 and I decided to set-up for lunch and wait for the group to return.

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Our longer lunch allowed time for our kids to eat and play in the creek. They even found "poisonous hairy caterpillar" in the creek, which they "captured but decided to let it go." The adults shared adult conversation and made plans for future trips. Josh ( @monst6 ) is a great dude with a wonderful family. We are very fortunate to have made the trip and met them.

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A good size tree fell and it appeared that smaller OHV vehicles had stacked logs to clear the tree. We opted to do some quick clearing. Please note, we are not circumventing a trail closure. Everyone in this group was briefed and mindful of leave "no trace". Everyone in the group had appropriate land-use passes. Many of us are due-paying TLCA members.

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divemedic

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Day 1 concluded with a quick meeting back in the parking lot to discuss dinner plans. I would be hosting this evenings gathering at my cabin. Weather threatened to dampen the evening. Just enough rain was released for a good photo opertunity.

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As the group piled in, the grill was lit and friendship cemented. The children bounced around between catching bugs, shooting slingshot helicopters, bubbles, and movie time.

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Photo: @Gun Runner 5

The night ended earlier and all drivers were safe to depart for dispersed lodging between cabins, campsites, and hotels.

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Thank you Mike ( @bulletsmith ) for bringing some night optics. They provided an awesome view of the Tennessee sky.
 
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divemedic

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The next morning, the groups gathered for another day of trails. Some people had departed for the weekend and new faces showed. I will update this with a photo of the morning gathering after some photos are released from sequestration. We again gathered for a drive brief. Today would be slightly more technical. Sam ( @elkaholic ) briefed; "A good driver in a Subaru could get up the trail." The trail was indeed an easy drive for any Land Cruiser, I have doubts a Subaru would be able to complete it. :D

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Communication was much smoother on this day. The CB radios weren't performing well in the area unless close line of sight was had. We decided to designate three trucks to serve as primary; front, middle, and back. Additional trucks were sprinkled in between. Convoy interval and route guidance was much more effective. We did have one break-up at a 5-way intersection requiring a switchback left-hand turn up hill. This miss was quickly resolved and attributed to dust. A spot of rain overnight would have helped after all....

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The group gathered at the ridge for lunch. Again, plenty of time for everyone to enjoy their time and a wonderful 360* view of the surrounding area.

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Additional trucks joined us as planned, and the group split into two. 1 group would proceed on the Windrock trails for a bit more technical driving. The other would proceed to the Nemo area to check out a historical train tunnel.

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divemedic

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Our family opted to go to the tunnel. The drive there was mostly country highway. As we passed through the villages, the road slowly narrowed and tightened up the turns. We gathered in a day-use area to plan the drive through the tunnel. The tunnel was narrow and had standing water; some sections where a bit off-camber adding to the claustrophobic feel.

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Thank you Chris (@c2dfj45) for a bit of history of the Nemo Tunnel. To think, I could have just driven the tracks to get home!

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After exploring the area for a bit we opted to backtrack through the tunnel. We gathered back up in a small village which happened to be having a festival. Huge thank you to Rob Smith (Odd Iron Off Road) for the sno cones. Absolutely the highlight of the afternoon, and feel my kids agree!

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divemedic

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The second group who opt'd for the more technical drive looks like they had a blast. I was able to catch up with Josh, Gary, and John about the day's activities. The trails chosen were enjoyable and appropriately challenging. Some off-camber sections but nothing a 70 with an RTT couldn't handle. All Photos below are curtesy of Josh ( @monst6 )

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Windrock park has a very good section of trails for all drivers and trucks. One reason why this gathering is very appealing.
 
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divemedic

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The evening was hosted by Rob Smith (Odd Iron Off Road). His cabin location was ideal for our group's gathering. More stories were shared, future plans made, and numbers exchanged.

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Photo credit: @Gun Runner 5

As the stars appeared and people departed for home or sleep, a few of us decided to do a quick night ride. Sam offered to guide and we all jumped into two trucks to head up the ridge to see the sky and the city lights.

Dust was still an issue, random pockets of moon dust would appear keeping the easy trail interesting. Sam spotted a huge Boar and Trey was able to communicate via HAM its location. My kids loved seeing it scamper across the trail up into the trees. Unfortunately we couldn't get to our cameras in time.

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The 70 and 80 backlit by Oliver Springs.

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Photo Credit @Tredwards

I feel everyone in attendance knows, if they ever have Cruiser issues on the road, a solid network of cruiserheads exists on the east coast. Representation from; Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Kentucky, and Ohio were in attendance to this modest gathering of friends. Thank you to everyone in attendance, and a special thank you to the organizers and guides!

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We packed up the next morning. The trip back home was uneventful again. The trusty 70 has served us well and we opted to make a stop in Cinci to pickup some victory beer at one of our favorite spots.

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divemedic

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After Action Report:

This event is phenomenal, I have been fortunate to have watched the first two years from my computer and attend the subsequent three years. Each year has been slightly different and I strongly feel the organizers have been slowly perfecting the recipe. For the past two years, I have been moderately involved with the event to the extent of promotion via social media, previous year t-shirts, and this year the grill. The all-stars of this event would have to be Charles, Sam, and Rob. Thank you all!

I will not be in attendance next year. I am however making plans to attend in 2021. This trip offered tons of experience to improve my truck and ideas for future trips with my family.

Things that failed:
1) My battery cracked which I noticed on post trip inspections. Not much I can do about that but clean up the mess to prevent rust and replace the battery.
2) Yakima Load bars may not be suited for off road. The bolts loosened with vibrations, which is to be expected. But to be honest, the feet are not large and even when installed fresh and correct on a 70-Series are susceptible to movement (think tree branch contact).
3) The turnbuckles on my drawers loosened with vibration. I'm likely going to safety wire them and wrap with tape.

Things that worked:
1) iPads for the kids. I don't normally put an iPad in their hands, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
2) Keeping the kids on a decent schedule. Be it planning travel times and lunch times, or ensuring they get activity during normal times is a huge help.
3) Other activities for the kids. This time we brought some toys for our kids and others'. Gary brought an RC car for his kiddos. These are all good ideas. Additionally, having activities they can do independently from the adults during dinner is helpful. (for example we had a TV in our cabin, some of the kids watched a movie during dinner.)
4) PRIOR MAINTENANCE on the truck. I invested a lot of time/money on mods last year. Which is fine, but I suffered a tire failure which forced an early departure. This year, aside from what was mentioned above, everything worked flawless and the trip was much better as a result.

Things I would like to see continued or areas for improvement:
1) As alluded to above, the point of my cruiser is to get my family together for adventures. We did a lot of "bear hunts" and "roller coasters" in the truck to fight boredom. That said, this year we had more families and that was awesome!
2) The impromptu night ride was cool. I would recommend making that a staple and maybe built up a bit. However, Sam cant possibly be the only one to know the trails. For my return trip for the 7th annual, I will work with Sam prior to the event so I can help be a trail guide and will plan to lead a night ride. I encourage others to do the same.
3) HAM radio is super helpful. This event is just a gathering of friends. No vehicle requirements are prescribed. but trail communication is critical to stay on time. Additionally, my wife enjoyed taking over communications the second day (largely due to my bad jokes). Highly recommend more people invest in some kind of radio.


Feel free to DM here, facebook or IG. with any questions or if you want to get involved at any level. If you have, or are looking to get into a 70-Series, I highly recommend attending this event and checkout the 70 Series North America FB Page or search: Land Cruiser 70 North America on IG.

If your interested in following more family adventures checkout my build on mud or follow me on IG @fly.dive.drive

- Nic
 
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Honger

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Great write-up. Love your attention to the aspect of having kids and still enjoying these events. It takes effort and thoughtfulness to pull it off... but they'll remember these times for the rest of their lives.

This makes me want to get up and go this weekend...
 

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