The away team had been preparing for this trip for many months. Actually, in my own case, I had been looking forward to the trip since the previous year. There were 2 years between the first two trips, so I motivated the others to do this trip the year following the 2002 trip. In anticipation of the trip, I got custom artwork done by one of my graphics person at Musicmatch, Willy Shoenenberg. Willy did an excellent job and the artwork was applied to Cabela's Serengeti Safari shirts for the team that you will see them wearing throughout the trip.
Dan had his truck transported to San Diego in his 18 wheeler and then Kai drove it to Kai's house for mechanical checkout and loading. The plan was to have Dan and Sean fly to San Diego, pick up the truck, have Mark, Mike, Mike and Allison meet us at my house and then convoy to Yuma and from there to the trail head. As always, getting a set of 10 working adults to align schedules is a challenge. That means setting a schedule and holding the dates so all could plan vacations.
In anticipation of the trip, I had bought a set of new Michelin XM-47 tires to be used in the sand. These tires are huge, but DOT rated. Sadly, they did not balance up as well as the ones that the other guys have. Mark Mitchell had the same experience. Seems that this production run was not as "good" as some of the previous ones. They were capable of running at full speed, although they were large enough to prevent the truck from getting to it's full 70 mph capability due to lack of engine horsepower and high rolling resistance. With the exception of the good performance in the sand, I like my Conti MPT-80s better. They are nearly as good on most terrain, quieter on the road and allow full speed performance and better trailering of loads.
Happily, the trip to Yuma went off without a hitch, but it was slow at 55 mph or less. Yuma is about 150 miles east of San Diego on Interstate 8. There are three 4,000 foot passes to cross to get there and a final big descent into the nearly sea-level desert at Ocotillo. These steep grades make for slow going. And plenty of places to get into trouble, but gladly, it was uneventful. We attempted to stop and a diner that Mark knew, but the place had gone out of business. Instead, we stopped at the Denny's in El Centro. Mostly sufficient food, but somewhat less than the epicurean delights that were planned for dinners on the trail. Below, the team is preparing to indulge in Denny's best (which isn't that good).
We spent the night at the Sans End RV park in Winterhaven (just west of Yuma), just like last time. This was because the park did not hassle us about funky trucks arriving late at night. When we got to Yuma, it was late -- late enough that I nearly fell asleep while driving. The late hour was particularly cruel to Dan and Sean as they were on east coast time. Once we got the Sans End, we just threw the futon pad on the ground and went to sleep. While not fancy, the concrete pad was the flattest and most dust-free thing we would see for the next 3 nights.
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