Events/Trails Trip Report: Death Valley and a Wrecked 80...

Joined
Nov 14, 2017
Messages
23
Location
Long Beach, CA
Last week my fiancée, puppy, and I headed on our first major trip after overhauling our LC. As the title suggests, the car was totalled- here's the whole story if you're interested...


Back in September the startup I was working at went under, so I decided to use my newfound vacation time and severance check on an LC80 adventure rig for the family. We love the outdoors, but my '99 2WD Pathfinder just wasn't cutting it. A few weeks later I picked up my new daily driver, a stock 3X locked '97 40th Anniversary w/ 150k miles. Since picking it up I've baselined it and did most of the usual go-to mods (tires, suspension, bumper, rack). We haven't taken the cruiser on a big trip yet so after much planning we decided on a 5-Day adventure in Death Valley for the holidays.

Steve at RPM Garage (Monrovia, CA) burned the midnight oil to get my OME lift installed and aligned before the trip. He even opened the shop for us on Christmas Eve to pick up the truck, giving me just enough time to replace the grill and plasti dip the wheels black :)



Getting the lift installed and alignment dialed at RPM Garage.
 
Joined
Nov 14, 2017
Messages
23
Location
Long Beach, CA
Tuesday, 12/26
We get off to a late start driving out of Long Beach around 9AM. We head straight to McDonald's: a sausage egg mcmuffin and mcgriddle have become somewhat of a pre-trip ritual for us.




By 11 we reach Barstow to stop at a local Harbor Freight for some miscellaneous supplies. A quick fuel stop math reveals 13MPG with the new setup fully weighted- I'm pleasantly surprised.



We grab lunch at a quaint diner in Shoshone called Crowbar Cafe & Saloon before heading into Death Valley through the 178. My fiancée takes the wheel since we're heading through mostly paved roads.



We reach our first stop Badwater Basin, but quickly decide to move on to Devil's Golf Course after seeing the number of tourists. I'm not suprised, the weather was unusually pleasant for this time of year.




After a quick photo for the gram, we air down and switch seats before we head towards Echo Canyon Road for the Inyo Mines and our eventual camp area for the night. The terrain is pretty dull for the first few miles until you reach the canyons.



The change in terrain is quite beautiful and my fiancée even spots a herd of rams near us. Alas, we couldn't beat the dark and there was no mine in sight so we decide to setup camp and check out the mines in the morning
 
Joined
Nov 14, 2017
Messages
23
Location
Long Beach, CA
Wednesday, 12/27



We wake up early for the long day ahead of us. Funny enough, the mines were just around the corner from our site, but we were glad to have sunlight while checking it out.



As we head out of Echo Canyon we notice Needle's Eye Arch- we were completely oblivious to it in the dark the night before.



Our next stop is Beatty, NV for our final gas stop and supply run of this trip. We quickly realize that there are no grocery stores in Beatty so we end up rationing a hodge podge of food from the RV mini mart, Dollar Tree, and Arco- splendid. Not much to see so here's a doggo pic.



We reach the entrance for Titus Canyon Rd, my fiancée chooses to take the wheel- she wanted to get in on more of the non-paved action and from what we've read Titus is pretty mellow.



Cheesin at Red Pass. We reach Leadfield Ghost Town soon after- not much to see here so we carry on with our drive. I have to mention that we spotted a Hyundai sedan out there on street tires, the road isn't crazy but pretty gusto nonetheless.



It's pretty amazing how diverse Death Valley can be, one moment you're peaking in red rock covered hills then surrounded by petroglyph literred limestone the next.




More canyon photos...



We jump onto Racetrack Rd. towards Ubehebe Crater. Unfortunately it's almost daybreak and we still need to get to the Racetrack so we decide not to hike in. We make some freeze-dried orange chicken and rice as a quick lunch before hitting the road. I won't lie, even though I'm asian I loveeeee orange chicken- it's so bad it's good.



I air down again to prep for the harsh washboards that await us. I was expecting bone shaking washboards, but the ride was relatively mellow. Maybe the road was recently graded or perhaps the new 35" Toyo Open Country ATIIs and the OME lift were doing their job- "yeahhh must be the latter", I justifyingly tell myself.

We're extremely lucky that our 6 Month Old Shiloh Shepherd loves being in cars. He's a mellow puppy and slept through the whole ride.



Obligatory Tea Kettle Junction photo, it was nearly dark so we pressed on to Homestake Dry Camp. We found the first set of friends we were meeting up on this trip ('99 4Runner & '02 Montero).



We were also greeted by our camp neighbors Andy and Mercedes. Andy is head of digital marketing at Warn winches and Mercedes works at Nike, but they are both passionate about cars and gear. I didn't grab a photo of their sweet '89 Mitsibushi Delica, but here's one from their instagram. You can find more info on it under their handle @crankshaftculture.
 
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Joined
Nov 14, 2017
Messages
23
Location
Long Beach, CA
Thursday, 12/28



We wake up early to catch the Playa before sunrise. We were quickly advised that dogs were not allowed on the Playa, but we were able to grab a quick photo before taking the pup back to the car.



Do these photos ever get old?...



After some breakfast with the crew we decided it was time to hit the road to Lippincott



I've heard ranging reports about Lippincott's difficulty and they were all true. Most of the drive was narrow and steep, but managable in 4L. I wish I had done the 7-Pin/CDL switch mod prior to the trip as there are a number of switchbacks that stress out the drivetrain in locked mode. I had to disengage 4L a couple times because of this.




The Montero is such an underrated car, these things rule and are super capable.



There is one section of Lippincott that is particularly cambered throughout, I'm surprised our buddy's rear motorcycle hitch mount cleared most of the obstacles with little issue.



No better way to end the trail than with a pair of A-10 Warthogs performing low passes right above us.
 
Joined
Nov 14, 2017
Messages
23
Location
Long Beach, CA
The Accident

Here's where this trip report goes south- so here's a group puppy photo to lighten things up


After Lippincott my fiancée asked me if she could drive the remainder to Saline Warm Springs so she could get some wheel time before the end of the trip. We had planned to go Eureka Dunes the next day via Steele Pass and that would be too technical for her comfort zone.

A few miles down from the road we reach a crested slight left turn. My fiancée apexes a little early and the car begins to fishtail ever so lightly. She attempts to counter steer her way through the turn, but being lifted and top heavy with our spare + gear + extra fuel the weight transfer on the car is very apparent and steering input is crucial. By the second countersteer our rear tire hits the outer burm of the road and I feel the back end hop and the car starts to roll... as the car comes to a hault I try to stay calm throughout- no time to think about what-ifs or shoulda coulda's, I need to make sure my family is OK.

I find myself kissing the the roof of the car but I'm able to unbelt myself with ease. I hear a scream from my fiancée and I immediately get sick to the stomach. I've heard my fiancée scream before, sometimes because a spider gets in the room and sometimes even in jest, but this is a scream that I have not yet been acquainted with- it was blood curdling. I relunctantly look over, but miraculously she had no visual injuries and was not pinned in any way. I make sure she has no neck/back injuries before unbelting her and pulling her out of the car. Immediately we embrace but we notice that our puppy is gone.




I tell my friend who was following us to flag down some help as my fiancée and I spend the next 3-4 hours tracking paw prints throughout the desert and mountain terrain. We should have probably better evaluated ourselves, but we were running on adrenaline and needed to find our dog. The second half of our crew met up with us on their KTMs and went off road to aid the search



As I walked back to the wreck I noticed our car was flipped right side up. A man walks over and introduces himself as Luke (owner of 4X4Labs), serendipitously he was on holiday in DV as well. He mentions that while we were gone he flipped our car over with his LC100. He quickly took the helm and devised a plan on getting our car out of DV. One of the tires popped the bead so we swap out the spare and made sure we had pressure on the rest. Steering was good, driveline was straight, and brakes still worked- the truck was towable.

As the sun began to set, someone noticed a dark figure approaching the crash site- it was our dog. This was unreal, we made it out of the wreck virtually unscathed and our dog found his way back to us. We quickly packed what we could then headed to Saline Warm Springs to camp for the night.
 
Joined
Nov 14, 2017
Messages
23
Location
Long Beach, CA
Friday, 12/29



We woke up knowing that the nightmare wasn't over yet. All the dirtbikes and hot springs couldn't get our spirits up, we knew that we still had a long day ahead of us.



Once we got back to the crash site we realized how bad the accident could have been. On top of that, scavengers got away with our hi-lift and a few other personal belongings. Really? Anyway, we had another hi-lift at our disposal, Luke made good use of it to raise the roof line of the car.



We attached a tow strap to the back of Luke's car and headed out on our 55 mile journey out Death Valley. I put on a balaclava and some goggles, this was gonna be a s***ty ride.




There's something unnerving about being towed on a 15ft tow strap in a lifeless car. Keeping tension so as not to shock the line is important, but can become a challenge while traversing offroad. I just kept telling myself, "Please don't rearend the KTM".



Downhills were the worst, on top of having to manage constant tension on the tow strap my brakes began to give out 10 miles before the home stretch. The brake pedal went instantly to the floor, I high-beam/honk at Luke while pulsing the parking brake to a stop. After the brakes cooled, we took it slow and finally made it out to Big Pine. The worst was over and we could now finally grab a celebratory beer at Rossi's.

Luke offered to have the car flat bedded back to his shop in Grass Valley to help part it out. The car was a total loss for me, but a low mileage LC80 with new parts could be useful for someone else. If you're looking for anything in particular keep an eye out, let Luke know if you might need something.



I was originally hesitant on posting here on such an open forum, but it many ways it's been cathartic for me to recount everything that has happened. The cruiser is an unfortunate loss, but at the end of the day it's just a car and hopefully I'll be able to replace it someday. When I really reflect on it I realize that I'm still alive and so is my family- truly, that's as best case scenario as it gets.

Another takeaway I have is how great this community really is. I met so many people along the way while building this rig and everyone has been so unconditionally helpful. Frank (Yodateq) helped source some spare parts for my build, Dan (VCExpedition) lent a helping hand when I purchased his Con-Ferr rack, Steve Chen (Toyo Tires) for getting rubber sorted on short notice, Steve (RPM Garage) for putting all the work to get the car dialed in time, and of course Luke (4X4LABS). Oh- and if you're carrying lots of weight up top like I was, do yourself a favor and pick up a 4X4 Labs bumper to lower that COG. Keep supporting this community and it's vendors- and always count your bleessings.


Cheers,
Richie
 
Joined
Mar 25, 2013
Messages
907
Location
Santa Monica, CA
Dude. Wow. I thank you for taking the time to tell us your story - and let us know the ultimate outcome. As I’m sure you’ve seen, there’s already been much discussion about your adventure. While it’s sad to see a rig destroyed, the only thing that matters is you, your lovely fiancée and your dog alive to tell the story.

On a much more positive note, congrats on the future wedding! Don’t let this minor catastrophic barrel roll slow you down!
 
Joined
Dec 17, 2007
Messages
3,425
Location
Sydney, Australia
Glad you guys and the pooch are all OK.

Sorry to hear about the loss of your rig, looks like it was a good one.

Fantastic write up!
Sounds like you had some great people step up and help.
 
Joined
Nov 22, 2015
Messages
207
Location
Pawleys Island
Thank you for sharing your story! I just read the whole thing out loud with my girlfriend since we always share wheel time on our trips. I felt heartbroken when hearing that your dog may have passed away but thank god you guys and your pup are okay. Sucks about the 80 but at least you can always build another one. Really cool to hear how Luke helped out as well.
 
Joined
Apr 15, 2012
Messages
1,168
Location
South of Houston
Glad in the end it was only the LC that took the big hit. Family is way more critical to the long term health. Better luck in the new year for you and yours. Great pup by the way!
 
Joined
Jul 11, 2015
Messages
237
Location
Las Vegas
I am so glad your dog is ok.
I read the other thread a few days ago. Good luck on your future.
Thanks for posting this.
 
Joined
Aug 20, 2011
Messages
309
Location
Great Falls, MT
Richie,
Thank you for the write-up on Death Valley. It looks like you had an excellent trip... until the crash. Glad to here everyone is okay. So considering your experience would you buy another 80? Also if you did would you do anything different with the build?
Cheers,
Scot
 

duggy

SILVER Star
Joined
Aug 15, 2011
Messages
2,619
Location
Houston, Texas
Hey brotha, thanks for sharing your story. Sorry this happened, and we all make mistakes. Good to see that your family is ok and that you found your dog. I would have been devastated if we lost ours. Shoutout to Luke at 4x4Labs for coming through and pulling you out.

Keep your head up, and remember that thing's dont stay s***ty for long. Good luck on the job search and search on another 80.
 
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