Tuesday, December 20

An Introduction to Off-Road Driving

For most 4 wheel drive vehicles on the road today spend their entire lives…on the road. For the average driver, a 4×4 option is only a way to retain resale value in their vehicle and possibly be able to still get groceries when the snow starts falling. It is time to get that off road machine of yours off the beaten trail. Men, let’s get a little mud on the tires.

Off road driving can take several forms. From the weekend trail rider to the die hard rock crawler, off roaders the world over know that there are few better ways to get your jollies than taking total control of your vehicle as you take it places most people never knew they could go. Let’s take a brief look at some of the places you might find yourself when you decide to leave the pavement behind, keeping in mind that this is just an introduction and is by no means all you need to know when hitting the trail. Remember, the most important elements of a successful off road adventure are safety and preparation.

A Brief Lesson in Off Road Vocabulary

4×4 High: All-purpose four wheel drive mode used in most cases. As opposed to 2 wheel drive, all four wheels are engaged and powered by the powertrain. “High” refers to the gear ratio, meaning that the gear ratio is unchanged from the ratio used in 2 wheel drive.

4×4 Low: Four wheel drive mode where a lower gear ratio is engaged, thus delivering higher torque to the wheels and lowering maximum speed. Useful in slower off road situations, rock crawling, and for getting unstuck when things go south.

Locking Differential: Also known as “diff lock,” this refers to the speed at which the wheels turn. In most standard 4×4 modes, the wheels spin at different speeds to compensate for loose or uneven terrain. When the differential is locked, wheels all move at the same speed. A tool used in advanced off-roading and for getting unstuck.

Approach Angle: The maximum incline angle that a vehicle can climb or descend without any part of the body or suspension making contact with the driving surface.

Wheelbase: Distance from the center of a truck’s front wheel to the center of the rear wheel on the same side of the vehicle.

Wheel Travel: The maximum distance a wheel can move up and down. The greater the travel, the more capable the suspension system and the better on and off road traction.

Rock Massage: What you get when you attempt rock crawling without taking the necessary precautions and being properly qualified.

Essentials for Any Off Road Adventure
  • Full gas tank
  • Tow rope (be sure it is rated heavy enough for your vehicle)
  • Spare tire and everything needed to make a change in the field
  • Portable air compressor
  • Navigational aids
  • First aid kit
  • Mobile phone

Recommended Extras

  • High lift jack
  • Vehicle mounted winch
  • Shovel
  • Spare tanks of water (for radiator) and fuel
  • Two way radios for communication between you and your off road buddies
  • Fire extinguishers

Tips and Tricks
On the Trail
(tested by our team)

Terrain Type: Gravel, Dry Dirt, Grasslands

Equipment Needed: 4 Wheel Drive vehicle

Difficulty Level: Beginner

Trail driving is the simplest and safest of your off-roading options and is a good choice for the beginner just looking to get their bearings in the off-roading world. Many state and federal parks have off road trails available specifically for vehicle travel, so do your research and see what is available in your area. If you are new to off-roading, make sure you are comfortable with the level of difficulty. Don’t attempt any steep climbs or descents or water crossings of any type, particularly if your off road machine also serves as your daily driver.

On The Dunes

Terrain Type: Sand

Equipment Needed: 4 Wheel Drive vehicle, air compressor and tire gauge

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Before you set out on the dunes, make sure what you are about to do is legal. Most beaches will be clearly marked designating whether the area is 4×4 accessible or not. Since traction is not easily acquired on sand, most drivers will need to deflate the air pressure in their tires down to between 15 and 20psi, allowing the tire tread to spread more and grip more surface (remember to immediately air back up to recommended levels before driving on pavement). Momentum is key when traveling on loose terrain such as sand, so be sure that if you are driving through soft sand you do not slow down unless absolutely necessary. If you feel the vehicle digging in or getting stuck while moving, turn the wheel left and right repetitively to allow the tires to grip fresh terrain and gain better traction.

In the Mud
(tested by our team)

Terrain Type: Mud, Shallow Water (6 inches or less)

Equipment Needed: 4 Wheel Drive vehicle, All Terrain or Mud Terrain tires

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

The tendency with driving in the mud is to floor it, spin the tires, maybe slide the vehicle around a bit. While this is certainly fun, it is also risky business. Once your vehicle starts sliding, it won’t stop until it wants to, and you have forfeited all control. Sure, it will impress your buddies to see you pull off that 360 degree spin you’ve been dreaming about, but they’ll forget how impressed they are when your finishing move involves the oak tree on the edge of the mud hole. It is much better to be the guy who maintains control of his vehicle, maybe even the guy who is towing all the showboats out of the mud, than to be the showboat yourself.

Many of the same principles apply to mud driving as sand driving. Maintain momentum if possible. If you feel you are getting stuck, quickly and repetitively turn the wheel left and right. Most importantly, if you do get stuck, the last thing you want to do is dig yourself in deeper, so avoid the tendency to floor it and spin the tires. First, get out and look at what you have gotten yourself into. Depending on how bad it is, you may be able to drive it out, you may not. Try rocking the vehicle back and forth by shifting from reverse to drive, at very low RPMs if you think it is escapable. If not, you may be hitting your buddies up for a tow.

More advanced off road environments, such as river runs and rock crawling, are best left to those with a great deal of experience, and no written how-to will ever be as valuable as the knowledge acquired through hands on experience.

Important All Purpose Tips

In off road driving as well as life in general, nothing beats knowledge. Prepare for every circumstance, and know what you are getting yourself into. Familiarize yourself not only with the environment you are entering, but with the vehicle itself. Sure, you know how to switch on the air conditioning, but do you know the location of your air intake or on board computer in case you get into some deeper water and risk submerging them? Familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s manual and you will be best equipped for the unexpected. Most importantly, never, ever go alone. Have another driver in another vehicle with a tow rope and be sure you have cell phone reception in case of an emergency.

A few more tips:

1. If you’re traveling in a group, let the least off-road capable vehicle lead. That way, if it get’s stuck it doesn’t get left behind and you can plan a different route.
2. If you’re going slow enough through the right type of terrain, you can use chains for that little extra traction.
3. Take big puddles slowly, you never know if there is a huge drop or a massive boulder that could cause serious damage.
4. Make sure you know where you will be attaching your tow strap for if (when) you get stuck. Prepare ahead and have whatever hooks or loops needed.
5. And brake less — keep your wheels spinning for traction.

And a pro's advice:
As someone who has been off-roading for several decades, I would like to say NEVER go alone (with one truck) if at all possible. There is a reason Camel Trophy, Dakar, etc. drivers have support teams. A winch doesn’t count. Winches break, hurt people (even kill) and people get injured. You don’t want to roll your truck, injure your passengers, and have your truck on it’s roof wondering if anyone is going to notice (done that).

Sunday, October 30

Sergeant Harold Marshall - Canadian Sniper

Harold A. Marshall was a Canadian scout and sniper sergeant who served in the Second World War with the Calgary Highlanders' Scout and Sniper Platoon.

On 30 January 1942 the Hamilton Spectator mentioned him in an article about ongoing training simulations the Highlanders were engaged in at an undisclosed location in England.

He was wounded on 15 December 1944.
The well-known photograph shown here was taken by Army photographer Ken Bell of the Canadian Army Film and Photo Unitnear Fort Brasschaat in Belgium in September 1944. He is carrying a Lee-Enfield No. 4 Mk 1 (T) and wears a modified version of the Denison smock. Other equipment includes a No. 36M grenade and a camouflage face veil worn as a head covering. The handle of a Kukri can be seen above his belt at his left side.

In 1973, he was profiled again for Bell's commemorative book Not in Vain, which showed him as a curling enthusiast back in Calgary.

Lieutenant-Colonel D.G. MacLauchlan speaks with scouts Corporal S. Kormendy and Sergeant H.A. Marshall, Kapellen, Belgium, 6 October 1944.

Corporal Steven Kormendy and Sergeant Harold Marshall pose for photographer Ken Bell in Belgium on 
6 October 1944. Kormendy had been wounded on 26 August 1944; 
Marshall would be hit on December 15th.

Tuesday, September 27

Lê Đức Thọ

Lê Đức Thọ (October 14, 1911 – October 13, 1990) was a Vietnamese revolutionary, general, diplomat, and politician, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1973.

The United States actively joined the Vietnam War during the early 1960s. Several rounds of Paris Peace Talks (some public, some secret) were held between 1969 and 1973. While Xuan Thuy led the official negotiating team representing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam at the talks in Paris, Thọ and U.S. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger since February 1970 engaged in secret talks that eventually led to a cease-fire in the Paris Peace Accords of January 23, 1973. The basic history of the Accords included: release of POWs within 80 days; ceasefire to be monitored by the International Commission of Control and Supervision (ICC); free and democratic elections to be held in South Vietnam; U.S. aid to South Vietnam would continue; DRV troops could remain in South Vietnam.

While January 23 is generally recognized as the enactment date of the Peace Accords, the talks continued out of necessity. Sporadic fighting continued in some regions. While U.S. ground forces were removed by March 29, bombing continued in North Vietnam. Due to continued allegations of ceasefire violations by all sides, Kissinger and Lê Đức Thọ met in Paris in May and June 1973 for the purpose of getting the implementation of the peace agreement back on track. On June 13, 1973, the United States and the DRV signed a joint communique pledging mutual support for full implementation of the Paris Accords.

Lê Đức Thọ and Henry Kissinger were jointly awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in negotiating the Paris Peace Accords.When Henry Kissinger was announced to be awarded the Peace Prize two of the Norwegian Nobel Committee members resigned in protest. However, Thọ declined to accept the award and the prize money, stating:

"There was never a peace deal with the U.S. We won the war".

Thursday, September 15

François al-Hajj Commander of Maghaweer

General François al-Hajj was born in the southern Lebanese town of Rmaich. He was assassinated by a car bomb on December 12, 2007. The killing reverberated far beyond Lebanon. Condemnations poured in from the United States, Iran, Syria, France and Germany. Factions from across the Lebanese spectrum deplored the assassination, including Hezbollah, which called it a “great national loss.”

July 28, 1953 – December 12, 2007 (aged 54)

  • Place of birth: Rmaich – Qadaa of Bint Jbeil 
  • Place of death – Baabda
  • Resting place – Rmaich 
  • Allegiance – Lebanon 
  • Service/branch – Lebanese Armed Forces 
  • Years of service – 1972 - 2007 
  • Rank – Major General
  • Commands held 
Commando Regiment (1996 - 2002)
Third Intervention Regiment (1992 - 1996) 
  • Battles/wars 
Operation Nahr el-Bared
Operation Dinnieh
Liberation War
Israeli occupation in South Lebanon

He entered the military academy in 1972, graduating in 1975. He fought against the Israeli occupation in South Lebanon and was then transferred to head positions north of the Litani during the 1980s. In 1988-89 he fought against Syrian forces assaulting the “free zones” of West Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War, he also battled the Lebanese Forces militia. In addition, General Hajj, led the Lebanese Army operation in Dinnieh during 2000. He gained recognition as a brilliant commander during the 15-week operation against Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared camp northern Lebanon during Summer 2007. He was a supporter of General Michel Aoun, a Catholic Maronite, that in 2006 allied with Hezbollah to push for a strategy of "war against corruption".

General Francois Hajj received the following honors and medals:

Medal of War
Order of the Wounded
Lebanese Order of Merit (3rd degree)
Order of National Unity
Order of the Dawn of the South
Lebanese Order of Merit (1st class)
National Cedar Medal
Medal of Loyalty
Cedar Medal of National Honor
Commended by the Army Commander over 24 times

Monday, September 12

Wine Label Design

Age appears to be best in four things; old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read. Francis Bacon

Tuesday, May 24

Longest recorded sniper kills

1. Corporal of Horse (CoH) Craig Harrison (UK) - 2,475 m

In November 2009 CoH Craig Harrison struck two Taliban machine gunners south of Musa Qala in Helmand Province in Afghanistan at a range of 2,475 m (2,707 yd) using a L115A3 Long Range Rifle. In the reports CoH Craig Harrison mentions the environmental conditions were perfect for long range shooting: no wind, mild weather, clear visibility.

2. Corporal Rob Furlong (Canada) - 2,430 m

In March 2002, Furlong participated in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan's Shah-i-Kot Valley as a member of the 3rd Battalion of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI). A group of three al-Qaeda fighters were moving into a mountainside position when Furlong took aim with his Long Range Sniper Weapon (LRSW), a .50-caliber McMillan Brothers Tac-50 rifle and ammunition loaded with 750 gr Hornady A-MAX very-low-drag bullets. He began firing at a fighter carrying an RPK machine gun. His first shot missed and his second shot hit the knapsack on the target's back. The third struck the target's torso, killing him. The distance was measured as 2,430 metres (2,657 yd / 1.509 miles). With a muzzle speed of 823 m/s (2,700 ft/s), each shot reached the target almost four seconds after Furlong fired.

3. Master Corporal Arron Perry (Canada) - 2,310 m

Former Master Corporal in the Canadian Forces who in March 2002 briefly held the record for the longest recorded sniper kill in combat at a range of 2,310 m (2,526 yd).