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We just got back from a wonderful week at Hatteras National Seashore in the Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina. The Ridge literally made the trip a success for us. I bought it with beach driving in mind, but not as the principal factor. Then I saw some posts about the VSA coming on when you lower tire pressure (a must for the soft sand), and almost decided not to try it. But, we'd already booked the week in the OBX, so what the heck! We got the number of the local beach towing service and headed out!

Hatteras is known for having some of the softest, tire swallowing sand on the east coast. It's like powder. Hoping to avoid the VSA issue, I first tried it with normal tire pressure, VSA off, and VTM4 ON in 1st gear. That got me all of 40 feet into the beach before I was stuck! We dug a short path with our shovel, and made it another 5 feet before stopping. One more try and I made it near the water - oops - too close! Here, my inexperience almost caused an awful situation. I tried turning to face away from the beach and with the slight slope, the tires on the drivers side sunk in up to the rims! Now I'm really sweating it since the tide is coming in, slow but sure. One wave got to within a couple of feet of us.

My son and I jumped out and dropped the tire pressure to 15psi all around. Thank goodness for Staun Tire Deflators. I put it in 1st gear, VTM4 ON, and prayed. Just a light touch on the gas pedal, and she jumped out of the holes and was rolling again! After that, we could go anywhere out there. VSA being on at low tire pressure just was not a problem for us.

Lessons learned:
- Air pressure, air pressure, air pressure! 15psi was like a miracle for us.
- Be extra aware of where the beach begins sloping. Combine a little slope with some semi-wet sand, turning parallel to the beach, and you've got a very scary situation.
- Most any kind of vehicle can get stuck out there, and it's usually because they didn't air down. I saw F-150s, a CRV, an Explorer, and yes, even one rented Jeep Wrangler get stuck, and it was all because of not lowering the tire pressure. The people with the Jeep nearly burned out the clutch trying to get out before they dropped the pressure. Once they did that, the 4WD worked well. A guy working at a local surf shop says the sand is especially soft this year for some reason, and that everyone needs to air down.
- If you're going to Hatteras, there are gas stations with free air within a mile of the beach.
I'll try to post some pictures, but I'm new at that too! :)
It was difficult to get a good picture showing the sand softness, but take my word for it, it was impressive.
 

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Looks like a great time was had by you all! The truck looks awesome out there in the sand :)

Hope you washed off all that sea salt!
 

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I used to fish there many years ago. Had a late '70s Jeep Cherokee Chief. Saw many people stuck just like you. That is some pretty tough sand to get through. Nice pics, looked like you had a great time.
 

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Ok, I just dont get it... Why does lowering the pressure make a difference? All I've ever heard was that this was an "old wives tale". Obviously you will get a slightly different foot print in the sand, but with the reduced pressure, wont you also get a distorted pattern in the middle of the tread?
 

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thumper said:
Ok, I just dont get it... Why does lowering the pressure make a difference? All I've ever heard was that this was an "old wives tale". Obviously you will get a slightly different foot print in the sand, but with the reduced pressure, wont you also get a distorted pattern in the middle of the tread?
No, lowering tire pressure to drive on sand is not an old wives tale. It works!

In areas with deep loose sand you need to lower the pressure so you "float" on top of the sand. If you don't lower the pressure you will "cut" thru the sand rather than float on it. Once you start to cut thru the sand you're finished. There's nothing under the surface to offer better traction... it just gets worse.
 
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VaVet96 said:
We just got back from a wonderful week at Hatteras National Seashore in the Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina. The Ridge literally made the trip a success for us. I bought it with beach driving in mind, but not as the principal factor. Then I saw some posts about the VSA coming on when you lower tire pressure (a must for the soft sand), and almost decided not to try it. But, we'd already booked the week in the OBX, so what the heck! We got the number of the local beach towing service and headed out!

Hatteras is known for having some of the softest, tire swallowing sand on the east coast. It's like powder. Hoping to avoid the VSA issue, I first tried it with normal tire pressure, VSA off, and VTM4 ON in 1st gear. That got me all of 40 feet into the beach before I was stuck! We dug a short path with our shovel, and made it another 5 feet before stopping. One more try and I made it near the water - oops - too close! Here, my inexperience almost caused an awful situation. I tried turning to face away from the beach and with the slight slope, the tires on the drivers side sunk in up to the rims! Now I'm really sweating it since the tide is coming in, slow but sure. One wave got to within a couple of feet of us.

My son and I jumped out and dropped the tire pressure to 15psi all around. Thank goodness for Staun Tire Deflators. I put it in 1st gear, VTM4 ON, and prayed. Just a light touch on the gas pedal, and she jumped out of the holes and was rolling again! After that, we could go anywhere out there. VSA being on at low tire pressure just was not a problem for us.

Lessons learned:
- Air pressure, air pressure, air pressure! 15psi was like a miracle for us.
- Be extra aware of where the beach begins sloping. Combine a little slope with some semi-wet sand, turning parallel to the beach, and you've got a very scary situation.
- Most any kind of vehicle can get stuck out there, and it's usually because they didn't air down. I saw F-150s, a CRV, an Explorer, and yes, even one rented Jeep Wrangler get stuck, and it was all because of not lowering the tire pressure. The people with the Jeep nearly burned out the clutch trying to get out before they dropped the pressure. Once they did that, the 4WD worked well. A guy working at a local surf shop says the sand is especially soft this year for some reason, and that everyone needs to air down.
- If you're going to Hatteras, there are gas stations with free air within a mile of the beach.
I'll try to post some pictures, but I'm new at that too! :)
It was difficult to get a good picture showing the sand softness, but take my word for it, it was impressive.
WOW!! Looks like fun I need to have soon. She sure is pretty sittin' out there against the ocean. Nice job VaVet.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for all the replies. CSIMO's explanation of airing down is exactly right. I even saw a small study of sorts where some guy on a fishing site had actually done the measurements of how much extra surface area you get at each pressure level. The real increase in width on the sand comes at the 15psi to 12psi level. Before that, the tire is maintaining most of it's normal shape. You have to be careful of going too low though. Turns for example with really low pressure (8-10) can pop the rubber off the rim. Then you've got a really bad day! The Staun deflators were a godsend. Someone else on ROC had recommended them, and while they're not cheap ($40-$50) for a set of 4, they are fast, and go to the exactly the pressure you've set every time. We could've done it the normal way, but when it's hot out there, ease and speed count.

Hatteras is indeed a very special place. As is the small island of Okrakoke. You take a ferry from Hatteras to Okrakoke, and the ride is in itself worth going there. I've attached a picture of my RL taking a ride on the ferry. We went over and back twice. You're really packed in there, but surprisingly nobody banged their doors into my truck! The seagulls did score a couple of direct hits, but my son, my #2 RL fan, quickly got that cleaned up :)
 

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Discussion Starter #11
JulesK said:
I used to fish there many years ago. Had a late '70s Jeep Cherokee Chief. Saw many people stuck just like you. That is some pretty tough sand to get through. Nice pics, looked like you had a great time.
I think there were more Jeeps out there than anything, for obvious reasons. There's a dealership up in Nags Head (on the way to Hatteras) that will rent them - a good alternative if you'd like to keep your RL on the road. Jeeps and Silverados - they were everywhere. At least the folks in the Silverados drove slowly. The kids in the rented Jeeps drove like it was a thrill ride at Six Flags - just because they could I guess. It was good to see how helpful people on the beach were though when someone got stuck. It wouldn't be but a couple of minutes before folks would show up to offer advice, and push. Surprising how well a push from 2 or 3 folks works.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Kellcut said:
Looks like a great time was had by you all! The truck looks awesome out there in the sand :)

Hope you washed off all that sea salt!
Yes indeed. I'm still a little nuts about keeping it cleaned. It got a good wash each evening, including the undercarriage, and a thorough cleaning when we got home yesterday. We brought back a bunch of sand in the carpets, but there's still plenty left for all :)
 

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Wow, I guess there's all kinds of sand. Thanks, that was a good post with excellent info. I haven't had to air down in sand yet. I've done pretty well just in the normal AWD mode in deep dry sand. it's good to know the magic 15psi number if I need to. I guess people should bring a tank of air so they can air back up when they hit the pavement.
 

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Just curious, what did your NAV system say on your last picture? Great story, great pictures, great info. Thanks for sharing it with us. Again, I learned something today on the ROC. I never would have known about the tire pressure issue. Knowing that just may get me out of a jamb some day. Thanks again!
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Ridge said:
Wow, I guess there's all kinds of sand. Thanks, that was a good post with excellent info. I haven't had to air down in sand yet. I've done pretty well just in the normal AWD mode in deep dry sand. it's good to know the magic 15psi number if I need to. I guess people should bring a tank of air so they can air back up when they hit the pavement.
I thought about taking an air tank, but instead bought one of those portable units that run off your lighter ("not a lighter?") outlet. Well, it worked fine on the first and 2nd tires and then overheated. It was even labelled as being for truck and SUV tires. Guess that really means for one truck tire. After a 10 minute cool down, it would go again, but not for long. After that first day, I just drove the half mile or so to the gas station real easy to bring the tires back up. Much easier and so much faster.
There are a lot of Cape Hatteras National Seashore beach access points that are not close to any stations though, so the air tank would probably be a good idea. I knew I would be going on the beach right at that point, and I also wasn't sure how many of the tires a tank would bring back up. Might try it next time.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Ultra-HOG said:
Just curious, what did your NAV system say on your last picture? Great story, great pictures, great info. Thanks for sharing it with us. Again, I learned something today on the ROC. I never would have known about the tire pressure issue. Knowing that just may get me out of a jamb some day. Thanks again!
Thanks! I've learned so much on the ROC from all of you, so I went down there with the intention of coming back with some good info.
As to the NAV, I wish I could tell you. I'm one of those folks that didn't spring for the NAV when I bought my RL, and now wish that I had. We were out walking around the ferry most of the time, but my son informed me that we had lost the XM signal for part of the ride. I think that happened because of the large tower on the ferry blocking the satellite's signal though.
 
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You took your girl for a ride on a boat!! SWEET!! I'm jealous. I will not be showing this picture to Lady Ridgena. :D
Thank you for posting all this valuable information.
Direct hit huh?? Too funny!!!!
Have a great day!
 

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ladyridge said:
You took your girl for a ride on a boat!! SWEET!! I'm jealous. I will not be showing this picture to Lady Ridgena. :D
Thank you for posting all this valuable information.
Direct hit huh?? Too funny!!!!
Have a great day!
I hope my Ridge enjoyed it as much as we did! The ferrys are really something. Okrakoke literally relies on them for absolutely everything. In the summer, one arrives at each end at least every half hour, and more frequently sometimes. The ride lasts about 20 minutes and just as pretty as you could hope for. This year was unusual because the tip of Cape Hatteras (a favorite fishing spot) had no fishermen or their trucks on it. The last mile or so has been closed because an endangered bird species, the "piping plover" had some baby birds. It's driving the fishermen crazy, but apparently this bird likes to take refuge in low places (like tire tracks) when it's scared. Until they've grown up a little, the Park Service closed the area. Still plenty of beach to go out on though.
From Okrakoke there are ferries to mainland NC, but those rides last 2-3 hours.
 

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ladyridge said:
You took your girl for a ride on a boat!! SWEET!! I'm jealous. I will not be showing this picture to Lady Ridgena. :D
Thank you for posting all this valuable information.
Direct hit huh?? Too funny!!!!
Have a great day!
I'm not sure all RLs are girls, but then again I'm not sure how to sex a Ridgeline. How is this done?
 
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