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Burning Man '05

We just completed our first trip in our ’77 Overlander and it went off without a hitch. We attended the annual Burning Man festival on the Blackrock desert. For those who don’t know about the Blackrock, it is a most inhospitable place. Nothing grows there. No water exist for miles and those who camp there better be prepared for no support from nature because not even she resides there. You are on your own. Our trip was 14 days – one that we have made many times in the past but never in such comfort.

Although many systems had been repaired or replaced (brakes, plumbing, water heater, axles) none had been tested fully prioar to leaving so we were going out to the desert in a trailer that we were completely unfamiliar with how everything would work (or not work). In the end everything worked perfectly with only one minor exception not even worth mentioning.

We were surprised how much stuff the trailer would swallow up. Costumes & clothes, food, additional water (49 gallons in 7 gallon jugs) and of course all the booze an aircraft carrier of sailors could drink packed inside with room to spare.  With new 3500 pound axles installed the trailer didn’t even sweat the load.

The journey way 137 miles from our house to “Func Schway”, our encampment at Burning Man. Because we would be traveling down a mountain road 9 miles of grade I was concerned if the brakes would hold out. While I knew that our new DEXTER brake actuator and controller worked while parked in the driveway, they performed well together without problems throughout the whole trip. Riding on freshly repacked bearings (one of them new after discovering heavy pitting on the last repack job) the rotors stayed cool as can during heavy braking. The pads were the old ones that the trailer came with because the rotors were rusty and needed to be turned. There was no time to do that so we decided to just go with what we had. There was still enough meat on them to stop the trailer and they would go a long ways to putting a little polish on the rotors for now.

There was some concern that the heavier rated axles would give the trailer a bouncier ride. We did load up with the extra water but that was not necessary it seems. The trailer rode smoothly and everything was still in place when we arrived and returned. This is surprising because parts of the road were bumpy enough to make it seem like the truck & trailer were at times airborne going down the road. Damn cattleguards!

The Hensley hitch will need a shorter tow bar. With the new axles we gained about 4 inches in trailer height and that made the hitch ride at a downward angle. Wish we would have thought about that before we ordered the hitch so that we would have gotten a more appropriately sized tow bar. The weight distrubution bars don’t seem to pick up as much weight with the hitch at an angle like that but the H2 held up fine. And despite the offset the trailer didn’t sway an inch during the trip.

Heat on the playa WAS an issue as I expected. In order to keep the dust down as much as possible we had to leave the doors closed when the wind picked up. Fortunately we were prepared and didn’t plan on spending too much time in the trailer during the day. The old fridge worked mostly well. On AC power it barely performed but on gas it kept the food cool enough. That fridge will be replaced with a modern unit soon enough.

We were surprised at the size of the water tank, which through conservation lasted throughout the event with water to spare during the 14 days we were out there. But the grey and black water tanks seemed to fill up very quickly. We had to be pumped twice during the event. Not sure of the accuracy of the tank probes but we didn’t want to take any chances. If they indicated full – that was good enough for me.

One thing that we will have to get fixed is whatever access point the mice are using to get in the trailer at our house! The first night we were out on the playa we heard them running around in the ducts and finally caught 1 in the garbage can. The little bugger jumped in after traversing the drainpipe under the sink but couldn’t get back out. He was “dispatched” quickly but his little brother was still running free. We actually trapped him behind the table, which was folded down at the time. After coaxing him into a paper bag he was also dispatched. We laid down to quiet rest. The next evening we were shocked to hear mice running around again. We made several attempts to trap or otherwise catch them but they were savvy to our methods and avoided being caught. The only thing we could do was to pull the blanket over our heads and hope that they didn’t decide to join us. The next day I had to go into town and I stopped to get some traps. When I returned I set the traps with – you guessed it, cheese – and put them on the floor. Within 2 minutes one snapped catching one more mouse and a few minutes after that the other trap went. That was that! The rest of the trip was mouse free.

After this adventure we are looking forward to going to a few rallies and wherever else our heart desires in the coming months before we winterize. Now that we have identified the items that need to be looked at we are confident that this trailer is in sound shape.

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