If you only buy American cars, chances are you haven't come across a 3-cylinder vehicle in a long time.
On the Trail: Exploring the Mountains of Maryland with Erik Miller
For most people out West, the idea of an off-road excursion has them picturing purpose-built 4x4s traversing open landscapes filled with red rocks, sandy washes or jagged mountain trails hundreds of miles from the city. But for East coast off-roaders, adventure can be found just outside of town. One such place is the Green Ridge State Forest located in the Appalachian Mountains of Maryland. This system of trails is just a short drive away from cities like Washington DC, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh, and offers miles of backcountry trails that even a stock truck or SUV can easily navigate. Perfect for a day-trip with the family, the Green Ridge area offers many points of interest, including historical sites, picturesque overlooks and creek crossings.
Lead by local dirt gurus, Driving Line’s newest video series, On the Trail, takes us to some of the best off-road destinations in the country, with the purpose of providing both novice and seasoned adventure-seekers with everything they need to know before embarking on an adventure of their own. On our latest episode, two-time KOH King and championship-winning Ultra4 driver, Erik Miller, takes us on the ultimate outdoor getaway through some of his favorite local trails in the Green Ridge State Forest. “This trail system is as elementary as it goes for 4-wheeling. It’s mostly comprised of forest service roads, so any level of off-road expertise can enjoy Green Ridge. The nature here caters to families and couples looking for a getaway from the city, with lots of activities such as kayaking, camping and hiking. Anyone with a four wheel drive can come and enjoy it,” Erik said. Piloting a 2020 Jeep Gladiator on Nitto Tire Ridge Grapplers and a 2016 Jeep JK on Trail Grapplers, we set out for the mountains for a full day of fun.
Our day began at the Oak Barrel Cafe, just off Route 40 and the National Pike. This is a great place to grab a bite or a cup of coffee, and fuel up before setting out for the trail. Hitting the dirt, we headed up to our first stop at Town Hill Overlook, where you’ll find an old bed and breakfast, which was part of the old National Road and was one of the original hotels in the area with a gas station. This is also a great spot to catch the view of the forest and valley below.
From here, Erik lead us back down, crossing Route 40 once more towards the next dirt section of our trip on Piclic Rd. After a few more miles, we reached our next scenic stop, Point Lookout, which was a great place to stop and take in the view. Point Lookout is described as one of Maryland’s best-kept secrets, and was once used by the Union troops during the Civil War to keep an eye on the C&O Canal along the Potomac River and Railroad below for movement of the Confederate Army.
Heading down along Carroll Rd, we reached our lunch stop for the day at the Bond’s Landing area, which is another historical point of interest along the Potomac. Just over 60 miles into our journey, we reached Log Roll Overlook, which served as an important engineering site in the early days of the forest’s settlement. Erik explained how the hill was used to roll the cut timber down to Town Creek below, where it was floated to the sawmill, eliminating the need to transport the logs down manually. Very cool stuff!
Moving alone, we made our way towards the town of Flintstone, crossing Town Creek three times. These creek crossings make for great photo-ops and test your off-road driving skills. While the water is usually only hub-high throughout the year, you’ll want to keep in mind that these creeks get deeper with severe weather.
After hitting the pavement in Flintstone, we made our way to the the 1812 Brewery in Cumberland for a cold beverage. This was the last stop on our trip, and the perfect way to end a day full of sight-seeing and mountain adventure with the Jeeps.
Back On the Grid
Green Ridge is a great example of a trail system that’s accessible to most enthusiasts, while still close to many major cities. Rounding out our day, we asked Erik what attracts him to this area. “I personally love this area because it’s what first got me interest in four-wheeling. I used to camp out here when I was into mountain biking, so it was the first back country area I started exploring when I was young,” Erik explained. We highly recommend taking at least a day-trip to these trails if you’re in the area, and be sure to bring a good camera with you. Trust us, you’re going to need it!
Photos Courtesy of Aaron McKenzie
Be sure to watch this episode of Driving Line’s On the Trail on our YouTube channel, along with our other episodes featuring some of the most scenic trails across the US.
If you can add head studs and manage to avoid cracking a piston, the 6.4L can make some serious power.
Like the Gladiator, the Comanche rode on the wave of success generated by its platform-mate.
On The Trail, Episode 1: Holcomb Valley
We teamed up with our friends at Toyota USA to tackle some of the best off-road terrain in Southern California, specifically, the Holcomb Valley trail system. Located in the mountains just across from Big Bear Lake and Big Bear Mountain ski resort, most people refer to this off-road area as Big Bear, but technically it’s Holcomb Valley. This area has a long history which goes way back to the California Gold Rush era of 1860s. Mining operations increased the population quickly which gave birth to a town of over 1500 people, which they named Belleville.
While no gold remains to be found up in Belleville, you can find some treasure on the trails— treasured memories, that is. Follow our step-by-step off-road route as we take you through the visitor’s center, around 3N16, and 2N09 and into some pretty technical trails like Little John Bull.
All of our trucks featured Nitto Tires, either Terra Grappler G2s or Trail Grapplers, and they all did amazingly well, from stock to a fully built, overland spec’d Tacoma by Eibach North America. We walk you through everything you need to know to go off-roading in the Big Bear mountains through the Holcomb Valley.
Not only does it have about 800hp, but there's a load of details in this build that the average car gawker might miss.
How To Service Beadlock Wheels
It’s hard to get excited about vehicle maintenance. However, for off-road enthusiasts, it can certainly make the difference between a good or bad day on the trail. Over the years, we’ve found little ways to speed up our basic service and done our best to follow pre-trip routine. While paint marking bolts can help expedite the basic pre-trail bolt check, there’s plenty of hardware on our Jeep that requires putting the torque wrench to work.
While suspension, drivetrain and armor typically get the closest inspection, our beadlock wheel set gets in the rotation frequently as well. No different than a suspension link bolt, the bolts that latch a beadlock ring in place can work loose over time. On a beadlock wheels such as our KMC Machete Crawl, a series of loose bolts could be equated to complete failure. Thankfully, there’s an easy and safe way to check your beadlock bolts.
In fact, after every major wheeling outing where our 37-inch-tall Nitto Ridge Grapplers are used at single-digit pressures, we go through a beadlock bolt check to ensure all the bolts securing the external clamping ring in place are torqued to spec. In this article, we’ll go over our time-tested method, which hopefully you’ll find a helpful routine that you too can working into your pre- and post-trip check list.
One of the most common styles of beadlock wheels use a single external ring to “lock” the outer bead of the tire to the wheel. This helps prevent the tire from coming off of the wheel, something that can easily happen when running extremely low air pressure off-road. For cast aluminum wheels such as ours KMC Machetes, you’ll find steel inserts that thread into the wheel. For this reason, we recommend using anti-seize on your beadlock bolts. This will also help with future service.
Before touching any of the bolts on the wheel, you’ll need to remove the load off the wheel and tire you are working on. We typically will do one tire at a time. This only requires us to drag around one floor jack and jack stand.
Once the load is off the tire, use a tire deflator or valve core remover (shown here) to completely deflate the tire. We like to keep the core out until the bolt check is complete.
Next, we like to inspect the wheel and tire closely for any damage. Our beadlock rings routinely get smashed on the trail. So, we like to check for any sharp edges that could potentially damage the tire. Given the wheel has countersunk Allen-head bolts, we rarely have an issue with our hardware being damaged. Occasionally, we’ll need to pull the ring from the Jeep and sand down the damaged areas. When that happens, we’ll pull the tire and wheel completely from the Jeep and set it up on a five-gallon bucket to work on it.
Torque To Spec
After inspecting the wheel, we’ll use a torque wrench and work our way around the wheel in a star pattern. For our KMC beadlocks, we set torque value to 22 ft. lbs.
For those of you daily driving your Jeep on beadlocks, you may wonder how often you’ll need to check those bolts. We recommend every oil change. Don’t be surprised if they are not loose or if only one side is. The concept here is just to keep an eye on them so you know either way. Since most modern Jeeps are equipped with TPMS sensors, it’s easy to see if all of your tires are holding the same pressure. If you do notice one is dropping pressure, and you can’t find anything that has punctured the tire, take a soapy sponge and run it around the beadlock ring to check for leaks. If you are finding that the wheel is always loose at every bolt check, it may be time to swap out the hardware.
Want to know more about the advantages of beadlock wheels? Check out this video.