I've to be honest, I was not very enthusiastic when I saw the drive name "Straight Cresters" thinking it will be a slow-paced and maybe even a bit boring day. I've to admit now, I was wrong! I was told this earlier but experiencing it firsthand is different, things really start to become interesting in the 5+ category. I'm now even more curious how 10+ is going to be, time will show :)
I had a friend as a passenger this time and we arrived a few minutes before the posted meeting time. There were already quite a few cars around (as usual). By the time I deflated and got everything ready the meeting point was crawling with cars & people, a very nice crowd as usual.
For this trip we had 2 convoys, Newbies 5- and 5+. Typical briefing was delivered and we were split into our respective convoys quickly. I was in the 5+ convoy led by @Scorpio
, 2nd lead @optimus
, with @Johanna
positioned within the convoy for rescue/support, as well as @Saeed FJ
and @haider alnuaimi
floating around. Last but not least, @Booy
were also with us doing their own thing.
We had a soft and easy start, a nice but short warm-up period. Things escalated fairly quickly and we had our first stuck a few minutes into the drive. This was just a small preview of what we would face throughout the day. I have not experienced such a high number of stuck and 2nd try scenarios before in any drive I attended (which is not many though hehe). Really though, there were a lot of 2nd tries and recoveries! This was, by all means, good because it showed that we were being pushed to improve ourselves while staying within safe lines and I strongly believe we all benefited from these.
1st half of the drive was all about straight cresting but the 2nd half things got a bit wild. Now I'm not sure whether the speeds we reached were part of the plan or caused because of the long gaps that happened within the convoy and we were speeding (not on flat hard ground as in some other drives) to close those gaps but still nothing that made (at least) me feel we were stretching the borders of safety for our category, it was just exhilarating. We still did have many straight crests on the 2nd half but different obstacles/styles were thrown into the mix and it was a lot of fun!
I don't want to sound like I'm complaining but I was not happy with something in this drive, which is the convoy order. Now, I'm not sure whether what happened was normal or not (as I had not seen it happen before) but it was odd that the convoy order changed "multiple" times between stops. From what we were told before (since the CM drive) everyone stays in their position throughout the drive, which was not the case on this occasion. Nothing major but I found it a bit "weird".
There were 3 pajeros in our convoy, which is something that doesn't happen often! We missed @Loca
, our intermediate driver with a Pajero, as he was assigned to the other convoy but let's hope one day we will end up with more Pajeros within the same convoy hehe
I'm still trying to (mentally) recover from the effects of the recent repairs I did on my car so was thinking I'll have a lot of 2nd tries if not stucks today but it didn't turn out as bad as I expected hehe! I managed to finish the day with one 2nd try but I did get 2 minor hits at a wonderful straight angle to my front skidplate while starting the climb on 2 steep dunes which I'm not happy about but lessons learned, at the end of the day it is all about improving gradually. I do not think I had any jumps that day either (except a small one while on flat ground, don't ask how) if anyone has seen otherwise I'd be happy to hear about it though so I know where I messed up.
I saw the importance of driving regularly that day, not leaving big gaps between the drives. Due to my work I was missing out on a lot of drives and ending up with having 1.5-2 months between each drive which really works against us when we are still trying to learn and at the very early stages of our journey. Every month without a single drive does roll-back a lot of experience and confidence I think and hopefully I will not have to leave such big gaps again in between drives.
We had an unfortunate incident just before the end of the drive. A fellow Pajero driver had a disagreement with a ditch and side-wall while climbing and took a bit of a nasty hit sadly, resulting in a half-broken front bumper and a few things shifted around. This all happened (from what I could see as I was 2-3 cars behind him) as he did not follow the track exactly and was maybe just 1-2m to the right of the original track. In all fairness, while he was climbing there were already 4 sets of tracks immediately next to each other where the incident happened. This showed everyone once again (and repeatedly on many other past occasions) following the original track is EXTREMELY important as the lead cars set the course ensuring we will be safe following him/her, there is a reason he/she has chosen that path.
Almost4x4 family immediately rushed to the rescue. The driver and car was immediately checked by senior members to ensure they were safe. It's not just the status of the car in such moments that matter as the driver could very well be in a small shock! It took a while inspecting whether everything was OK and some makeshift repairs were made on the spot to prevent more things falling apart. And at the same time by weird luck, an Fj Cruiser had a problem, over-heating! This is one to be discussed at length around the campfire I'm sure after so many people mocking Jeeps for overheating problems hehe
I'm not sure whether the lead and/or 2nd lead noticed that very problematic path immediately next to our track but I think they could have warned over the radio about the very bad path to the right and remind people to be extra cautious here. I hope nobody gets me wrong for this remark though, it's all with good intentions :)
once again for organizing this fabulous day and all other Marshals, Advanced & Intermediate drives for being there to support and look after us. It was a great day out as always, thank you Almost4x4!
ps Photo credit for the 3 muskeeters go to @aminemac