Saturday, March 03, 2007

Trail Blazing

I have to admit I have not yet mastered the art of converging GPS waypoints and Google Earth but Chris has got this down to a science. His research led him to believe that up near Big Red on the Hatta road were some interesting points with intriguing titles such as "Big Dunes", "Encampment" and "Big Dunes2" areas. Chris has been driving around Big Red for a number of years and was fairly excited about trying some new areas so I signed up to come along. Below you can see the planned route:

It was good to be in the desert again and this time I remembered to switch of the all important Stabilsys system in the Hummer. While this a good thing to have in the wet, has the less than desirable effect of braking the car when the car slides around in the sand. With this off and the tires down to 13PSI the Hummer faired well in the "Big Dunes2" area which presented the most challenging terrain I have yet to drive over.

After about an hour or so of some fairly exhilarating driving I came down a slip face and had to make sharp left turn to avoid driving into some bushes when I heard the sound. It was a flapping rattle and the near side dipped down. I instinctively knew I had lost a tire.

I stopped quickly and found that the tire had come off the wheel. This was caused by a low tire pressure (13PSI) and turning quickly at the bottom of the dune when the tire is heavily compressed. I was initially quite shocked upon seeing it:

I have changed a few tires in my time - but never in the desert. Chris had the benefit of experience and decided that a wheel change would not be needed. All we had to do was "just inflate it and it will pop back on" - sounded simple!

First we loosened up the wheel nuts then used some sand ladders as a base for the car jack. While digging around for the jack - I discovered the Hummer comes well equipped with a hazard triangle, fire extinguisher, tool kit, first aid kit and even a space blanket (glad I didn't need to use that this time). Once the car was jacked up - we started up the engine, connected the air compressor and held the inside of the tire against the rim as it started to inflate. Below you can see Chris (in the yellow) and Javier (in Blue/White) helping out and holding the tire as Chris oversees the tire inflation:

After less than a minute - sure enough there was a resounding pop - and the tire was back on. We tightened up the nuts and set both front tires to 14 PSI. We also had a close inspection and could see no damage. We were back up and driving in about 30 minutes. Everyone pitched in to help and the teamwork of the whole thing was probably the most enjoyable aspect of the day.

After a spot of lunch we drove around "Big Dunes2" some more - however at the very highest points, the sand was way too soft for the Hummer. Here I learned to use the momentum of the car to avoid it getting stuck. We found an awesome sand bowl there required some tricky maneuvering to escape out of and I also found myself going down a couple of long slip faces which certainly got the adrenaline running. It was a really good day out and I continue to learn and improve - but still there is plenty more I need to know before I head out somewhere advanced like Liwa.

Every time I head out to Big Red where we have started a number of 4x4 trips I am always rubber-necking an unsual desert vehicle of some description. Yesterday's award goes to the ultimate BMW E30 desert vehicle:

The chap in this car gave us a friendly wave when we pulled in to get a photo. Looked like they were going to have a lot of fun. Just like our group had had.


clayfuture said...

I love the desert. I go every weekend and from the pictures, it looks like you've been to the same place I did last week! Good fun!

Aaron said...

Thanks Clayfuture. I can see now why people enjoy this past time. See you in the Dunes one day!