The 10th annual SIJA Jeep Jam was held at Flat Nasty Off Road this year. We really couldn’t have asked for better weather, and as always, it was an awesome day in the woods! This was the boy’s first trip down to Flat Nasty and really his first experience with playing on the rocks. Thankfully, he seemed to enjoy it quite a bit!
Since the whole family was going, I had set the Cookie Cutter TJ up so that it could be easily flat towed. While I prefer to drive to/from the trail, when you drag this much stuff along for an overnight trip with a young kid, you need a bit more room than what a TJ will offer:
After a couple of false starts with our early morning departure time, we still arrived at the park on schedule and unharmed. Flat towing the TJ worked out amazingly with this setup, I’ll put a note at the bottom of this post about my thoughts on that:
Overall the TJ did very well with its new springs and lowered ride height. The ride has smoothed out considerably (on and off road), and now that the control arms aren’t at such extreme angles, the suspension is actually flexing. I would still like to pull most if not all the body lift out of it as it still feels ‘tippy’ to me when side hilling. The thing really does need a deeper crawl ratio to play on the rocks (I miss my doubler!). But it has excellent ratios for a large chunk of the ‘general trail riding’ we have been doing lately.
We stopped when the temperatures started creeping up into the low 80’s as it seemed like the boy might be getting a bit warm. At the end of the day he was still smiling, though he crashed hard when it was time to sleep!
Time lapse of the boy:
We didn’t go through the cave as we were all pretty tired at this point and getting hungry, so we just wandered the grounds for a bit.
A very well rounded trip with fun for the whole family!
A few thoughts on Flat Towing the TJ behind the Mercury, over all, it worked extremely well on both the interstate and winding back roads (and dirt, and gravel roads too). The Mercury had more than enough power to run decent interstate speeds (see below), good enough brakes that it could stop the assembly fine, and was pretty darn stable at speed. It never got hot, or cooked the trans running 2700 rpm down the highway with the A/C cranking on a mid 80°F day. It even managed to pull down 12.5-13.5 mpg to boot!
Things could be a touch better in some departments. There isn’t quite enough power there to hold Over Drive without worrying about killing things. That meant we had a comfortable top speed of about 65 mph on the highway since that about 2,700 rpms in 3rd gear. While I could have ran it faster, I didn’t have a desire to spin a 175k mile motor any higher for extended periods of time. And honestly, the whole assembly feels more stable at speeds below 65 mph.
Speaking of stability, 98% of the time the whole thing is rock solid at any speed. I can see how one could get into trouble with a truck trying to flat tow though as I could feel the TJ trying to push the rear of the Merc around a bit. But with the weight of the Merc in the rear (not to mention all the junk in the trunk), there was never a point where it could upset it.
The 2% of the time where I wasn’t comfortable with the stability was under deceleration at highway speeds where things want to sway a bit. This can be really apparent during long down hill descents at high speed. However, there was only one place where it actually concerned me going down Antire Hill next to a semi (in its wash). The assembly tried to start swaying, but it was real easy to bring it under control and out of the wash from the semi. That was the only point in the whole trip where I was slightly uncomfortable with this setup. So we’ll be doing it again on future family trips.
Here is a link to the slideshow of all the photos from the trip: (Click me)