PJ’s First Offroad Trip to KS Rocks for Midwest Krawlers Sunflower Ride


Now on to the fun part of testing out all my hard work on ‘PJ’. In this post we tow it out to Kansas Rocks Recreation Park and give the new rig a workout. Read more to see how it went!

Shortly after I bought the Vitara ‘PJ’ I joined the Midwest Krawlers which is the largest and most active off-road club in KC.
I needed a network of people to go offroading with and I sure got it with this club! There are just shy of 500 members for 2019 as of this post. Probably 98% of those are Jeeps so I’m definitely an odd duck but it’s all good.

The Midwest Krawler’s largest event of the year is the annual Sunflower run at Kansas Rocks in Mapleton, KS. I figured there would be lots of people there to help if PJ left me stranded on the trails somewhere.

Offroad Trip to KS Rocks for Midwest Krawlers Sunflower Ride
Gassing up and doing a test run on the freeway the night before.

Quick note about towing with an Explorer

The 2011 and newer Explorers (and most of the other similar sized SUV’s) are rated to tow 5k. The Suzuki is ~3k and the trailer is probably another 1,500lbs-ish. The Explorer came with a tow package and was pre-wired for trailer brakes so I picked up a used Tekonsha P3 brake controller that works really well.

I never experienced any sway and it towed it well. Just don’t expect to get anywhere fast, use towing mode (downshifts automatically to help braking), and drive appropriately to not be too hard on it. With the 4 wheel disks and trailer brakes it stopped pretty good.

Towed it 1.5 hours each way to KS Rocks just fine (pretty flat drive) at about 12mpg (normally ~20mpg). I probably wouldn’t use the explorer to tow it through the mountains though. A transmission temp gauge would be nice, but Explorers aren’t set up with one to my knowledge.

Meeting up with the group to caravan to the park

Offroad Trip to KS Rocks for Midwest Krawlers Sunflower Ride
Offroad Trip to KS Rocks for Midwest Krawlers Sunflower Ride
Offroad Trip to KS Rocks for Midwest Krawlers Sunflower Ride
Offroad Trip to KS Rocks for Midwest Krawlers Sunflower Ride
Quick meeting before heading out!

It was such an epic caravan that we made it in a Visit Ft. Scott Facebook post:

Offroad Trip to KS Rocks for Midwest Krawlers Sunflower Ride
The park was packed with over 150 vehicles!
Offroad Trip to KS Rocks for Midwest Krawlers Sunflower Ride
The trails were pretty muddy and most required a significant amount of momentum or forward progress was lost.
Offroad Trip to KS Rocks for Midwest Krawlers Sunflower Ride
Shhh… PJ is in his native habitat, don’t want to spook him.
We were parked below the trail in the prior pic waiting to go up the hill, it was pretty steep and rocky but with some gumption we made it in one try.
Offroad Trip to KS Rocks for Midwest Krawlers Sunflower Ride
Nice and muddy. I was really impressed how well PJ did for being pretty much stock on 29″ all terrain tires and no lockers.

I clearly had the littlest vehicle at the park that day, but it turned out great. These Suzuki’s are like little billy goats and have the advantage of being super light.

Offroad Trip to KS Rocks for Midwest Krawlers Sunflower Ride 2019
Stopped to watch the big boys play for a while. He did end up making this obstacle called the ‘Wailing Wall’. The picture doesn’t do it justice, these rocks are huge.
Offroad Trip to KS Rocks for Midwest Krawlers Sunflower Ride 2019
Only in-action pic anybody else took to my knowledge and it was on the boring main road to get to the trails.
Offroad Trip to KS Rocks for Midwest Krawlers Sunflower Ride 2019
Huge catered lunch with all you can eat tacos. It was pretty good!

Cool video from the event on the Midwest Krawlers YouTube

Obligatory RTI Ramp Pictures

They have 2 RTI (Ramp Travel Index) ramps at KS Rocks. I pretty much can’t stay away from them. There is something satisfying about testing rigs after each round of mods.

Offroad Trip to KS Rocks for Midwest Krawlers Sunflower Ride 2019
I am impressed with how well it stuffed the front tire.
Offroad Trip to KS Rocks for Midwest Krawlers Sunflower Ride 2019
Offroad Trip to KS Rocks for Midwest Krawlers Sunflower Ride 2019

Didn’t make it quite as far as my ’71 Chevy Ol’ Blue. Below is pic from 2015 on the same ramp before I sold it:

Ol’ Blue in 2015 at KS Rocks on the same RTI ramp

Conclusion

Overall it was a great trip. The trip down and back were uneventful and PJ did great on the trails keeping up with some more well endowed jeeps. Also it is always a good trip when I don’t break anything.

The only downfall with an event this large was that we didn’t get to cover as many trails as I would have liked. On top of that, we ended up leaving after lunch to get our little guy back home since this was his first wheeling trip at 3.5 years old. No biggie, we will make it out there again!

We hope to make it back to the trails again soon! Now you go out and work on something.

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