Tuesday , 16 September 2014
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2001 Calmini Customer Appreciation Run

2001 Calmini Customer Appreciation Run

On The Trail With Calmini

Story and Pictures: Ted Holman

LAKE TAHOE, CA. -I just had time to unload my grocery getter off the trailer after the 1200 mile round trip to Bakersfield and Calmini when it was time to put it back on for the trip to South Shore Tahoe, California, our starting point for the 2001 Calmini Customer Appreciation Run. This was the first time I had been able to drive the rig around town a bit. I locked up the hubs, drove it around the dirt landing next to the house and figured nothing had fallen off, I was ready for the Rubicon!

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What surprised me was how little the street performance and ride had changed. It was still a great daily driver. One last item was filling the new bumper cavity.  There was a sale on 8000# Warn Winches going on, so I ignored Steve’s recommendation for the 5000#, smaller unit because they were another $200.00. Size does matter, so do dollars.

Looking for a co-pilot for the trip was tough. Having to spend five days in a car with me limited the number of coherent people on my short list, but I got lucky when I asked long time friend Charlie Morrison to join me. At 81, he had never heard of the Rubicon but assured me that hitch-hiking cross-country four times in the last ten years, hiking in the Himalayas, and crashing his plane in Mexicali was preparation for anything I could drag him on. What a surprise I had in store for him.

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We met at Loon Lake with thirteen other rigs including a JEEP. The weather was outstanding and we quickly started towards Spider Lake. The trail was more torn up then I recalled from last year, but once again I made a huge leap in equipment performance with my new rig. The 98 Suzuki Sidekick 4 Door with Automatic, Power Steering, Air Conditioning, 6 Disc CD player and fully equipped by Calmini, plus sporting their new Low Range T-Case Gear set was unstoppable.  It would barely turn a tire! There were minor ground clearance problems, but picking good lines and being expertly spotted by Tom and John cured most of those. Other then Mikie not have the guts to a locking hub (someone needed parts years ago), the Jeep holing it’s transmission and a misassembled front locker in another Samurai, the trip to Spider Lake was uneventful. There were other mechanical issues by the end of the day and sadly, four rigs limped back to Loon Lake, ending their first Rubicon adventure early.

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That night I collected on a long standing bet with Eric Bewley. Don’t you love some people being predictable?  The unending flow or Bloody Marries that evening created more stars then I have seen in decades. Well, since this was Charlie’s first night camping in about twenty years, I made the most of the moment by threatening to pull the plug on his sleeping pad. He lost a couple winks of sleeping thinking about it and then about twenty minutes trying to find the filler neck in the foam mattress.

Next morning we headed out towards Old Sluice.I was on a newly acquired CB, telling everyone what a killer rig I had built.   JR made a crack about tangling the mike cord around my neck and that I should finally take Old Sluice which I had avoided all these years. The gauntlet was down. Right here, let, me say that I am a moron, have the wisdom of moss and foresight of a plank of wood.

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But those boys stood in awe while I sat in terror as the Four Door crept through that boulder-strewn crack in the earth. It was unbelievable. This car did not belong here. Charlie got real quiet and I got real noisy, mostly swearing at Steve and JR about letting me talk myself into doing this. Everyone else was getting through fine, I was the only one who had a severe lack of confidence in my ability not to turn the car into a wad of tin. What I had not taken in consideration was the Rock Sliders John at Calmini had fabricated for me the week before. What amazing devices. I will never build a car again without them. Not only did they protect the rocker panels, they allowed me to pivot on car-sized boulders, allowing amazing turns even in these narrow trails. I popped out at the bottom with one very minor scratch and a lot of deep breathing. I was “Wheeling”! 

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The rest of the ride into Rubicon Springs was quick and uneventful. Steve and Randy brought 40#’s of Smoked Tri-tip and gallons of John’s homemade Chili and we settled into washing up in the Rubicon, cracking a couple of beers and chowing down all that food. It was funny watching people suddenly stand up at the fire pit that evening and head for their tents without so much as a good bye. I love a good party.

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Next morning was Cadillac Hill. My newfound confidence was reinforced when all of us breezed through “V Rock”, normally a forty-five minute group experience. I had turned to Charlie to say, “Shucks, aren’t you nervous?” His answer “Why no, I don’t get scared” which caused me to answer, “Well, I think I brought the wrong guy!” caused him quite a chuckle. We stopped for our final group photo near the end of the trail. It had been a great run, no major breakdowns, no accidents, just great wheeling with good friends. I had discovered the hidden potential in a rig I would have never thought twice about and it in return had given me the best ride over this trail to date. I hate to say this, but I am thinking of selling it and starting something new. If anyone out there has a reasonable suggestion for the next rig, get back to me. Oh, and the X90? David my son just put it on the rack. He is not going to be staying home next year, that’s just fact.

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