EXBRO6 Update: The Tracker Is Ready To Make Some New (Steep) Tracks

The EXBRO route this year includes some steep, rocky sections? I’m on it; or more accurately, the Tracker is on it. If it can make it up this rough and rocky incline with its new Geolander AT tires, it should be able to take on anything that Burma Road has in store.

And no; the xB wouldn’t have even had a remote shot of making it up this on its own.

Realistically, the steep section of Burma Road won’t be as steep as this gravel pit, as these remote high desert and forest roads were created at a time when there were quite few 4×4 vehicles. RWD trucks with low first gears were the norm back then, but not FWD cars without a very low first gear. If my F100 had a four speed with a granny low, I’d have been tempted to take it instead.

Although it’s not nearly as fun to drive as the very tossable xB, the Tracker does engender a much more invincible feeling. I haven’t had a proper 4×4 since I sold our 1985 Jeep Cherokee in 2000, and have had to say “no” a number of times when confronted with a section of remote “road” that was simply too steep and/or rocky for the xB. No more.

With its big new 235/75R15 Geolanders ($130 each at Walmart), its Low range and plenty of ground clearance, the Tracker is even more off-road capable than the Cherokee was.

Given what a very wet and cool endless spring we’re having this year, I’m wondering if we might still encounter some remaining snow banks in some shaded, North-facing sections at higher elevations.


A leftover can of semi-flat black paint was put to use de-chroming its overly bright beak, and another can went on the wheels. And since these pics, it’s had the rooftop cargo basket I got last year for the xB, for the recovery gear and anything else that might better belong up there than inside.

I rigged up a bed for me, and unlike in the xB, where I had to remove the front seat, all I have to do is slide it forward and tip the seatback forward.

The two pieces of foam were already cut, and are from Stephanie’s bed in the van; very handy.

Here’s how it will be underway. I need to have a passenger seat available, as my nephew Eric will be joining us. Since son Ted’s GF will not be joining us this year, the three of us will take turns driving our two vehicles.

The Tracker is not nearly as fun to drive as the xB, except of course when the going gets really tough. It’s “trucky”; not surprisingly, given that’s what it essentially is: a quite compact BOF SUV, with a solid rear axle. The bigger tires only accentuate that feeling, to a small additional degree.

The lack of a stick shift kind of sucks; it’s obviously a bit modestly powered (130 hp 2.0 L four) for today’s standards, and the four speed automatic shifts down into third at the slightest grade at highway speeds, thanks to its tall and un-aerodynamic stance and being not exactly overly-light (~2800 lbs). The xB, even with its raised suspension, winter tires and lack of a front roll bar feels like a sports car in comparison.

I know I’m going to miss driving the xB 99% of the time this year, until we hit that steep and rocky section of Burma Road. Now if only I could convert the xB to AWD. Or maybe just RWD and a granny low gear?

Update: here’s the tentative routes that we will follow, but not necessarily all of them. Some details are still TBD.

Sunday 6/19: I will drive from Eugene to Derrick Cave. That includes Forest Roads past Hwy 97. Ted and Erik will meet me there, having driven down from Portland. We will explore this lava tube cave, as it’s a Niedermeyer tradition since Ted and I first went there in 1995.

Monday 6/20: The three of us will take back roads to Green Mountain, and meet up with the other EXBROs; Randy from Eugene and CC’s dman, who will be driving up from California. This marks the official start of EXBRO6.

I’m not sure if we will be starting on the first leg on Monday, or Tuesday morning. The route is from Green Mountain to Hart National Antelope Refuge and its hot springs, more specifically.  This is a long (143 mile) route; it’s possible we may chose to shortcut part of it.

The next leg would be from Hart Mountain to Alvord Desert (132 miles).  Again, we may deviate to some degree or another.

The final track that was posted goes from near Alvord Desert to Burns, through the Steens Mountain area. it’s quite long, 161 miles. I believe Ted said that we may be deviating a fair bit from this, but in any case, we will be in the general area, a quite remote one.