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August 2018 Member of the Month: shrdnar





We'd like to congratulate shrdnar - Kyle for being selected as the August 2018 Member of the Month!



Hayden: Tell us a bit about yourself (Family/pets, work/school, hobbies/interests, location, etc.)​


Kyle: First off, thank you! Yes, all of you! I'm truly honored, and entirely humbled by the collective wisdom found in this community. So a proper thanks goes out to all of you for your inspiration, knowledge, advice, opinions, and friendship. This forum is among the nicest, most helpful and friendly environments out there; the moderators deserve a big shoutout as well.

It's going to be tough following last month's featured member, Boosted. Mine looks practically stock compared to his beast! However, I've always enjoyed reading other member's stories in these posts every month, so I'll do my best to keep it interesting and entertaining.






I'm Kyle, AKA SHRDNAR (pronounced "SHRED GNAR") I'm a software engineer currently residing in Salt Lake City, UT with my girlfriend and our two dogs Roni (like pupperoni) a German shepherd mix, and Boston terrier Lucy. Originally from New Jersey, I made my way out west to the beaches of Southern California in 2004 to finish my bachelor degree in computer science. I spent the entirety of my twenties working, surfing, snowboarding, hiking, biking, and wheeling all over the West. In 2013, the year I turned 30, I left my job to travel for a while and ended up taking a life-changing solo trip to Alaska (flew there, didn't drive). Days after returning to California, I had a job offer in Salt Lake City. It's one of those crazy stories where all the pieces just somehow fell into place. It wasn't until I moved here that I got really, really into off-roading.






I guess I should explain the meaning behind SHRDNAR. For those who have never heard the phrase, I'll hand the mic over to Mitch Tobin and let him talk about what it means to "shred the gnar"�

I've been surfing and snowboarding since my childhood in Jersey. Moving to California only escalated those passions. My love of snowboarding played a big part in the decision to choose an FJ Cruiser over other vehicles and also one of the reasons I ended up in Utah. Seven years ago I graduated from paying for lift tickets at crowded ski resorts and found myself alpine touring in the backcountry. Splitboarding is probably something many of you have never heard before; it's basically human-powered snowboarding that involves "skinning" or hiking up a mountain to snowboard back down. It requires a ton of motivation and hours of hiking for a ride that only lasts a few minutes. The payoff is always thrilling, unspoiled, and totally worth it.







Hayden: How did you come to own an FJ Cruiser? Is the FJ Cruiser your first off-road vehicle? If not, what was the first vehicle you took wheeling?​


Kyle: Flashback to 1999, northern New Jersey suburbs, shrimpy high school teen with just a learner's permit, I started to look for a vehicle to call my own. My only requirement was it had to have four-wheel drive in order to handle the snowy Northeast winters. Just around the corner from the school parked in the front yard of a house was a used but beautiful, white, early 90s Land Rover Defender. Man, I wish that story ended the way you all thought it would, but, mom said "no." It didn't have an airbag which was my mom's only requirement. The sad but ultimately not-so-sad ending to that story was I bought a 1993 red Jeep ZJ Limited. AWD, leather seats, reliable 4.0 inline 6, and the previous owner conveniently installed a radar detector, it was perfect for a mischievous teenager!

It really was reliable and got me everywhere I wanted to go. The earliest off-road memory I have with the Jeep was around fall 2000 on Tucker Island, NJ -- the sandy southern tip of Long Beach Island. That's the place I first learned about airing down, from a fisherman no less. I wheeled on a handful of other beaches along the East Coast in high school, most memorably the Assateague/Chincoteague area of Maryland and Virginia. But it saw a lot of snowy mountain roads in the Northeast as well. Some standout powdery days in the New York Adirondacks, and White and Green Mountains of Vermont. The Jeep ended up making the trip out to California with me and that's when everything changed.






After graduating in 2006, I landed a job conveniently located next to a Toyota dealership. By this time, my trusty Jeep wasn't so trusty anymore and I was in the market for something new. Now living on the beach and close to real mountains, again, my only requirement was it had to have four-wheel drive. During my lunch break one day, I walked over to the Toyota dealership and saw the just-released all-black 2007 FJ Cruiser TRD sitting on the showroom floor. * SWOON! * I told the salesman I'd be back after work to put a deposit down. I'm almost certain I got nothing done at work that afternoon; I spent hours reading and researching what the FJ Cruiser was all about. 5:30 rolls around, I run back next door with checkbook in hand.... * GASP! * Someone beat me to it! It was GONE! The salesman could tell I was crushed. He was really helpful building another one with all the same features without the TRD price tag. By February 2007, my FJ Cruiser arrived at the port in Long Beach fresh off the container ship from Japan with 6 miles on the odometer. And to top it off, my mother was thrilled to know it had more than one airbag!

Flash-forward about a decade later to more recent times, and I guess you could say I've expanded my fleet of four-wheel drives. For my girlfriend to drive around in the snowy UT winters here, perhaps for nostalgic reasons too, I acquired a red 98 Jeep XJ Classic (REDGNAR AKA Scarlet) which, don't hate me, I still love to rip around town every now and then. But my most recent purchase this past December was a 1996 80-series Land Cruiser (GNARNAR AKA Betty), and she's a serious contender for attention these days.







Hayden: How/when were you first introduced to the forum and what made you decide to join?​


Kyle: I'm almost certain the first memory I had of the forums was sometime back in spring of 2007; I was searching for a way to turn off the seat belt chime. Then in August of 2007 I came back looking for some electrical / fuse box info when I was building a "carputer"�, my first real mod I guess you could call it. I don't even think I created an account back then so I lurked until 2016 when the mod bug bit me so hard I had no choice but to join.



Hayden: What modification is your favorite or is the most worth the money/time/effort that you'd recommend it to someone else?​


Kyle: The first mod I ever did was during the summer of 2007 and is still one of my favorites. The previously mentioned “carputer”� was just a fun personal project. Back then, there were no iPads or tablets or touchscreen head units. So I built my own. I wanted to have offline GPS navigation, all my music, a collection of movies, and be able to play DVDs. It wasn’t the smallest infotainment device, about the size of an amplifier, but it did everything I wanted it to do and I used it for years. I always loved tinkering with technology, and still do, so I revisited this project a few years ago and rebuilt it in a much smaller form factor with more modern technology. The second iteration used a Raspberry Pi, bluetooth, airplay, and I could stream videos from my phone. Eventually I removed it, but I really enjoyed the challenges trying to make it all work. I’m not going to lie though, it was a pain in the ass to get all the hardware and software to play nicely together. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it these days; just get an iPad or a fancy head unit and call it a day.







Hayden: What upgrade is your least favorite, or what modification would you do differently if you had to do it over again?​


Kyle: This one is more about timing than anything else. Back in 2014, I was driving through some really fine silty dirt in central Nevada and my rear diff finally bit the dust, pun intended. It didn’t grenade spectacularly, but it definitely lost a few teeth. Luckily I was still able to make it home without having to remove the driveshaft. My regret is that I hadn’t really gotten into modding yet, still running 265/70/17 tires, no lift, bone stock except for wheels. I ended up replacing the entire third member but kept the stock gearing. If that happened now… Oh man, I’d upgrade to at least 4.56s and throw a locker up front in a heartbeat.



Hayden: What has been your favorite thing about owning an FJ Cruiser?​


Kyle: I have to split it between its reliability and the off-road community. Ultimately, you want a vehicle to get you to your destination safely and reliably, no matter what the weather is doing. Having chased a fair share of snowstorms through sub-zero temps and icy mountain passes, I always made it there and back in the FJ; the old Jeep left me stranded in the cold more than once. But the people you meet on the trails often end up becoming good friends, and that just might be my favorite thing about owning an FJ. Being able to access the hard-to-reach places we take our vehicles and bonding with friends around a campfire is what it’s all about.






Hayden: Has anyone on the forum inspired your build or been a go-to resource for you?​


Kyle: Gosh, there are so many. Basil, debFJVT, LandCruiserSteve, lgrt, Bandi, Mark&Merri, and literally way too many others to list, all inspired different things on my build. From trip reports to remote destinations to bumpers and lighting, and suspension to electrical to scuba mods and everyday tips. Multiple pieces of my build were made by a handful of members here, and it’s really cool to support each other within the community.



Hayden: Where all have you been with your FJC? What trail/park/location is your favorite?​


Kyle: Over the course of the past decade, my FJ has taken me all over the West. From Mexico to Montana to Mammoth and Moab and everywhere between. I lost count of how many National Parks I’ve driven through. The vast majority of trips revolved around either a surfboard or a snowboard. A lot of time was spent in the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains, Sierra Nevadas, San Juans, Tetons and Rockies. Now I live in the foothills of the Wasatch range, and despite a relatively dry couple of winters, I have to agree that Utah really does have the “Greatest Snow on Earth.”�



Ever since I became serious about my build a couple years ago, I’ve been trying to explore as much of the southern Utah desert every chance I get. Slowly but surely, I’m checking off trails in the FunTreks Moab book; the amount of terrain to explore down there is so vast. Out of all the places my FJ has taken me, it’s really difficult to pick one favorite. They are all so different, unique, and beautiful in their own ways. But if I had to narrow it down to a top three: the eastern Sierra from Lone Pine to Lee Vining holds a special place in my heart, the San Juans in Colorado because how can you not love that area, and the greater southern UT desert.







Hayden: Is there a trail/park/location you haven’t visited yet that you would like to take your FJ to someday?​


Kyle: My bucket list is continuously growing. Somehow, the more I check off the more new ones make it on. But there are a few items that have been on the list for a long time now. I’ve always wanted to complete the “Haul Road”�, also known as the Dalton Highway, up through Alaska past the arctic circle into Prudhoe Bay. Basil’s trip is still inspiring me to go for it. Another old one on the list is to complete the “Powder Highway.”� A loop around interior British Columbia in the winter or spring, but rather than ski at the resorts, I would splitboard and camp or stay in backcountry huts along the way. Finally, probably the oldest and most ambitious trip on my list, is to drive down to the tip of Argentina. This would be my ultimate once-in-a-lifetime road trip. If you time it right, you can surf and be a beach bum most of the way but also snowboard some of South America’s highest mountains and volcanoes. It’s good to dream big, right?



Hayden: What is your local Utah FJ community like? Any trail runs, get-togethers, mod days, etc?​

Kyle: I feel pretty fortunate to call Utah my home. This state has some of the best and most varied terrain for off-roading in the country, and with that comes a fantastic and large community of like-minded people. It’s not all FJs and Toyotas though. In fact, one of my favorite groups to go wheeling with are all Nissan owners. Off-road legend Kurt Williams of Cruiser Outfitters and Expedition Overland not only lives down the road, but is highly active leading trail runs and volunteering with the local TLCA chapter Wasatch Cruisers. And if you didn’t already know, Salt Lake City is also home to the Land Cruiser Heritage Museum -- the sexiest collection of Japanese trucks you will ever see under one roof. Expedition One is an hour north of me, and Ricochet Offroad is ten minutes south. There are a ton of FJs driving around town, and I’ve had the pleasure of wheeling with a number of them. The abundance of friends to join you on the trails or help install that heavy new bumper is plentiful here, that’s what makes Utah’s off-road community so awesome.







Hayden: What has been the most memorable experience with your FJ Cruiser?​


Kyle: There have been a lot of memorable experiences over the years, but one stands out among the rest. A few years ago I attended Silverton Splitfest. Imagine FJ Summit but for backcountry snowboarding, and instead of headquarters at Ouray in summer, it’s in Silverton in the spring, and rather than driving up the mountains, you have to hike... For those who’ve attended FJ Summit or are familiar with that area, there’s a good chance you gazed at Red Mountain or passed through Animas Forks at some point. The time spent in the FJ wasn’t the most memorable part, but it was essential to get us around the snowy, muddy trails. The most memorable part of that trip was, you guessed it, shredding the gnar down Red Mountain #3 and the peaks towering above the old wooden ghost town of Animas Forks with some good friends. Truly some memories I hope to never forget.






Since I started my build and began to tackle more challenging trails, I’ve had a few other memorable moments wheeling around Moab and the San Juans. Dropping down and crawling back up Wipeout Hill on Seven Mile Rim was exhilarating. Even more exhilarating though, was slashing a sidewall descending the switchbacks of Black Bear Pass in the rain then having to change tires with not much room to work, very exposed to the elements and edge of the trail. That one got my blood pumping. And most recently, attempting The Wall on Poughkeepsie Gulch and making it up the first try. It was such a good feeling.







Hayden: In a world without new FJ Cruisers being built, do you plan on keeping yours forever or upgrading to a newer model ever?​


Kyle: Original owner since the early days, February 2007, and I have no intentions of ever parting ways with her. We’ve been through so much together, traveled over 175,000 miles to so many amazing places out West, and I’m way too attached to even think about giving her up. I never want the adventures to stop.



Hayden: What do you expect to be in your FJs future build-wise/travel-wise/etc?​


Kyle: In preparation for Summit XII this year, I made the jump up to 35” tires. They are a little heavy and the sluggishness is noticeable up in the mountains of UT and CO. I’m planning on a big brake kit next, then re-gearing and adding a locker in the front, eventually. We all know how expensive this hobby is! Besides that, I’d also like to add a rear swing-out bumper to keep the weight of the spare tire off the door. And a fridge would be nice to have too. In the meantime, I’ll be taking a lot more trips down south to Moab and beyond.



Hayden: What final advice do you have for someone new to the FJ Cruiser or the Forum?​


Kyle: Search first! Chances are, your questions have already been answered. This is a well-established community that’s been around for as long as the FJ Cruiser itself. The amount of knowledge and product insight found within these pages is not only astounding but sometimes downright overwhelming; it’s always worth it to spend a solid amount of time researching all the different options in order to pick the best solution for your particular needs and situation. The majority of us are familiar with the phrase “buy once, cry once”�, and the sooner you come to terms with that, your bank account will be thanking you. Other than that, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Everyone here is friendly and eager to help out those just getting acquainted with their trucks.






It’s been great answering these questions, and I’d be lying if I didn’t have a good time digging through some of the old photo albums too. Whether it’s with your build, or pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, I hope my stories inspired some of you. So, go on! Get out there and SHRED SOME GNAR! See you on the trails!
 

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Congratulations Kyle! That was a good read. You live an adventure filled life in a beautiful place. And you have a perfect vehicle for your lifestyle. With all the history you have with your FJ, I’d never sell it either. Everything you said about our forum community is absolutely true


Sent from my NiPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Congrats! Great story too. It’s always interesting to read what has motivated folks along the way. If you every get back to the east coast and want to wheel, look us up!
 

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Great Read . I was really happy to be able to spend some time on the trails with you and April . looking forward to many more trips .
 

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Congratulations!!!

The FJ picture on the cliff face overlooking the valley is my favorite..
 
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Congratulations Kyle! I wish I could've spent more time talking with you in Ouray. I like how the ZJ slowly fades into the background in the pic spread. :lol: Dalton is also on my radar. One of these days, Prudhoe Bay!

Nice 80 too! :wink :cheers:
 
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