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of The Green Rover
New Year 2007 - 2008 trip on the Mojave Trail
Left to Right: Kelly & James Howard 1967 Land
Rover Dormobile, TeriAnn's 1960 Land Rover Dormobile,
Ian Kelly's 1962 Land Rover
A faded tradition of the mendo recc Land Rover mail list is the
annual New Year's Mojave trail trip. New Year's on the Mojave road
was a popular Mendo recc Land Rover event during the back half
of the 1990's and has slowly faded since then. The New Year
2007 - 2008 annual trip drew only members of the dormobile
list with no takers from the mendo recc list.
I have been plagued with a problem in my recent EFI conversion
that I have been unable to pin point. Just prior to the trip I
replaced the high pressure fuel pump (The one on the vehicle was
purchased used). During my drive to Needles, it became apparent
that the high pressure fuel pump was not the source of my problem. The
engine kept cutting out over the Tahachipi mountains. My plan
was to camp near the Needles highway on the Mojave trail the night
before the trip start. Just
as I was finalizing my parking spot at the head of the Mojave
trail the engine died. I quickly
noticed that the fuel pumps were not working. A bit of quick troubleshooting
told me that the low pressure fuel pump (one I purchased
new last year) had shorted taking out the fuel pump relay and
the fuse. I used my spare relay & fuse
but didn't have a spare pump (It is less than a year old right?).
So I took it out of the circuit. The low pressure pump is supposed
to suck fuel out of the tank. The high pressure pump pushes but
sucks very poorly. I gave it a try with the low pressure
pump out of the circuit.
The engine started & seemed to run OK. When Ian, James & Kelly
showed up next morning I told them I'm a pump short and asked their
permission to come along with them knowing that my Dormie may not
be trail worthy. They said OK & that someone would run for
a pump if I needed one. The engine ran the trail flawlessly, running
better than it ever has. I think I found my problem area. The computer
can not diagnose fuel flow problems.
Three Land Rover Dormobiles started the 2007 -
2008 annual New year trip
Ian standing at the back of his Dormobile
We met at the Mojave trail head at 9:30ish. There was a
little trouble finding the trail head because the Needles highway
was widened and the last road sign mentioned in the trail guide
has been removed.
we got together we talked for an hour or so catching up and such.
Left to right: TeriAnn, James Howard, Kelly Howard
Out on the trail during the first day on the Mojave trail
Not far into the trail my engine bay erupted with
clouds of steam. A quick check showed that I had forgotten
to turn the electric radiator fan on. Last year I replaced
the mechanical fan with an electrical fan off a Mercedes V8. I
have it wired with a thermostatic control and a switch by the driver
so I can turn off the fan for water crossings. The engine
was warm enough to turn the fan on when I was troubleshooting the
fuel pumps the night before. I used the manual switch to
turn off the fan so I could listen for the sound of the electric
fuel pumps. I forgot to turn that switch back on at the end
of the day and was too busy enjoying the start of the trip to check
my gauge. Not wanting to damage my engine we sat for another
hour while my engine block cooled down. Ian had spare anti
freeze so I used some plus some of my drinking water to refill
my radiator. Then we were off again, now running about 2
hours behind our original plans.
Photo by Ian Kelly. Check the rear view mirror. This is the trail
branch heading up to Fort Piute.
This section of trail has
become smoother over the years but it was still rocky enough to
cause horses problems. Visible above my Land Rover is a woman
with 2 horses. The horses were having problems with the rocks
but the woman's husband wanted to see the fort. He walked
the additional couple miles up to the fort & back leaving her there
to hold the horses. The National park people eliminated the
old parking area and created a new one farther from the fort &
creek bed. They appeared to be in the process of putting up signage
as well. We had lunch at the parking lot by the Fort.
When trail branches or cross trails are encountered the Mojave
trail is marked by either a rock pile or post on the right side
of the trail just past the junction or branch.
Photo by Ian Kelly
The Mojave trail is always good at pointing out weaknesses in
a rig. By late afternoon on the first day Ian was hearing
noises caused by the exhaust rubbing against his left rear spring
on bumps. We stopped to investigate the noise expecting a broken
tail pipe hanger. It
turns out that the the frame broke along the edge of the front
spring hanger on Ian's left rear spring. The spring hanger was
recessed up into the frame and the left rear of the vehicle was
sitting low causing the exhaust to hit the spring. After
the trip, Ian emailed to let us know the break was at a poorly
done rusty frame repair and that he was going to replace the entire
it was late in the day, and
we were right next to a decent campsite, we decided to set up camp. With
the rear of his Land Rover Dormobile sitting low Ian's fuel tank got damaged
and developed a slow leak. He decided it best not to cook in the Dormobile
that night. Rather than let him eat a cold dinner I fixed him a pasta
dish with a lobster based sauce for dinner. My drinking water pump stopped
working as I was preparing dinner. The switch on the pump went bad after almost
11 years. The motor works fine & West Marine sells replacement switches last
time I looked. Something new for my to-do list. Since Ian had decided
to limp out on the smooth cable road next morning he
left me with a 5 gallon plastic water can. Ian's fuel tank stopped
leaking before morning and he still had enough fuel left to make it home to
Camp set up for the first night on the Mojave trail. That's Kelley
& James Howard admiring the row of Land Rover Dormobiles.
The first night on the trail was cold with strong wind gusts.
Some tents could have easily flown that night but our Dormobiles
stayed put. After breakfast Kelly, James and I said our goodbyes
to Ian. Ian had Jame's cell phone in case he needed help
on the way out. He went to the paved road slowly using a
power lime maintenance road. He arrived home OK without additional
Second day on the trail, And now we were two
During the second day the two remaining Land Rover Dormobiles drove
through a thick Joshua tree forest
On the second day, climbing a small range of hills. This section
of the road was narrow, rocky and eroded. A decade earlier
it was a two lane wide maintained grade. The National park
service seems to have stopped maintenance wherever it can along
the trail. They have removed lots of fences and cattle guards, many
of which were landmarks in the Mojave road trail guide.
Dusk saw us in the Lava flow area. James had heard
that strong winds were expected throughout the Mojave area while
we were running the trail. Not
wanting a repeat of the previous night's strong gusts we
took note of the wind direction and pushed on looking for a site
that would be protected from the prevailing wind. It was dark when
we made it to the sand dunes which provided us with as much wind
protection as we were likely to find. Of course by then the
wind died down and was no longer an issue. We set up camp and had
a companionable dinner by the camp fire. We celebrated the New
Year on Eastern Standard time with a little champagne and watching
the Quadrantid Meteor Shower.
The Second night was spent camped at the base of sand dunes just
North of the Kelso dunes. As we welcomed in the new year
we were treated to a meteor shower.
My built in propane tank ran dry so I switched to my backup tank
that travels on the roof rack
Here's a view of the second camp site that provides
a better sense of location:
It is the nature of sand dunes to move with the winds
and over the years these dunes had indeed moved. We camped at the
edge of a much different sand dune than previously. The
places where we had camped at the base of the dunes a decade earlier
were hundreds of yards away and deep within a dune. The steep
slopes we slid down in the past are now gentle mounds with the
steep slope ff to one side. The trail is the same but
it is different each year.
Third day on the trail, Soda Lake and Afton canyon
Traveling through Soda Lake approaching the rock pile around the
historical event marker
Our traditional truck pose at the rock pile. It is traditional
that each vehicle bring a rock and leave it on the pile. Apparently
since sometime in 2006 some people have started putting their
names and date on their rocks. The plaque is visible
in the middle of the pile only if you climb up to look inside.
Soda Lake and Afton canyon the Mojave trail travels along a wide dry wash which
includes lots of deep sand.
The Mojave trail finishes up with a drive along the Mojave river
through Afton canyon. This
area is in the Manix fault zone . The canyon walls
are a combination of conglomerate and alluvium show many
types of soils in several colours, including brown, blue-gray,
red, black-gray, pink and light gray.
After the canyon there is a river crossing, a BLM
camp ground and a dirt road going out to the freeway. We
stopped to talk a little at the BLM camp ground realizing that
our trip along the trail was over. We stopped again at the
edge of the freeway to say our goodbyes and head off in opposite
always feel sad at the end of a trail. Reluctant to see it
end and to say good by. This was no exception. A word
from Kelly or James and I would have been up for doing the trail
in the other direction.
After 140 miles on the Mojave trail it was time to say good by
and head for home
The Mojave trip is not hard to drive but it is hard on vehicles
and points out weaknesses and problem areas. When I got back I
found few more scrapes on my oil pan. I think that is because Mercury
metals installed the frame engine mounts lower than Timm had them.
Moving the replacement frame mounts was already on my to-do list.
James & Kelly were experiencing a thud on front downward articulation
that they think is the axle hitting the extended rubber bumpers.
I should remind them to check the prop shafts for contact scratches.
It was their first trip on parabolics.
After the trip, I learned why there were 2 pumps. Back on the
highway with the low pressure pump out of the circuit, the engine
keep cutting out on me every couple minutes most all the way home.
Bummer considering how well it performed on the trail at low RPMs.
Oh well, at least the Mojave trip exposed the problem area.
I have a generic auto parts store relay I'm using for the fuel pumps.
It is the type that caused problems when the low pressure pump shorted
at the beginning of the rip. I think I will swap in an F150 fuel
pump relay since I'm using a F150 high pressure pump. The
late 1980's F150's used 2 pumps like my system does. Hopefully that
will make the pump electrics more reliable and cure this nagging
Also a little past Bakersfield the 8 year old exhaust system developed
a very loud leak. It may be time for a new muffler or maybe just
a new exhaust pipe gasket. The Mojave trail is good at vibrating
screws. nuts and bolts off.
Something more to check over when the rain stops and the ground
drys. It looks like I'm not going anywhere until the fuel delivery
system and exhaust gets fixed. Plus I need to replace the drinking
water pump switch and I want to disassemble the propane filler
connectors & reassemble
with new sealant. Maintenance is never over in a Rover.
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