There are far worse things in life than 'wheeling in south Florida. That's what we were thinking as we sat bathed in warm sun in the passenger seat of Jay Onsager's '77 CJ-5 as he piloted the V-8-powered, Bogger-shod machine down a palmetto-lined trail deep in the Florida backcountry. The reason for our visit to the Sunshine State was to attend the 4th Annual Palm Beach Adventures Association annual Spring Fling, and it was a jam-packed weekend of 'wheeling with beautiful scenery and lots of off-highway action.
Palm Beach Adventures Association (PBAA) may seem like an odd name for a four-wheel-drive club, but it was chosen because it directly reflects the basic creed of its members. You see, PBAA members love to be outdoors, and they don't limit their list of activities to 'wheeling only. They also engage in a variety of other outdoor activities like camping, hiking, swimming, biking, canoeing, fishing and boating. The blood-thirsty insects and high heat and humidity of summer in south Florida are part of the reason for the wide range of activities, as wheelin' the backcountry during this time frame would be miserable, at best. The club's main focus is definitely 'wheeling, however, and it sponsors numerous outings, as well as yearly club trips to hot off-highway spots like the Upper Tellico ORV area in Tennessee, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and the woods of Virginia.
The two-day Spring Fling was held at the awesome JW Corbett Wildlife Management Area, which is located about 40 miles northwest of West Palm Beach. This sprawling area encompasses over 60,000 acres of which a good portion is open to four-wheel-drive exploration. Sources tell us that the land is owned and managed by the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission and is used frequently by hunters. The PBAA has always held the Spring Fling at the JW Corbett Wildlife Management Area, and club members dedicate time annually for a Corbett Cleanup, which is a time when scores of PBAA members swoop in and clean up the mess that other people have left behind.
The Spring Fling began on a Saturday, the day's schedule of events centering on friendly competition. After competitors demonstrated their vehicles' flex on an in-camp RTI ramp, they competed in Wilderness and GPS runs. The timed Wilderness Run required participants to find a number of off-highway locations deep in the Florida backcountry by following written directions. When these locations were found, participants were required to take a photograph that matched one provided in the directions. The GPS run wasn't timed, but it required participants to retrieve flags at specific GPS coordinates. Obviously, a basic understanding of land navigation and a GPS unit were important during this event. After these two events were completed, the large group of competitors and judges moved to another section of the park for the Blind Man Run and the Obstacle Course. The Blind Man Run required a blindfolded driver to rely strictly on verbal directions from the navigator/passenger. Anyone who's ever witnessed one of these events knows how difficult it is, and this one was no exception as teams weaved their vehicles slowly from start to finish. The Obstacle Course was the last competition of the day, and it was an entertaining exercise in foot-to-the-floor driving as competitors raced around a lengthy course filled with obstacles. The goal in this event was to get the fastest elapsed time, and thus, the result was big air and a fair amount of carnage. With Saturday's schedule of events completed, the action moved to camp, where a full-on barbeque meal was doled out to participants, while live music carried them well into the night.
Sunday was trail-ride day, and about mid-morning a group of more than 20 vehicles left camp to explore the park and its diverse obstacles. Deep mud holes that one would well expect to find in Florida greeted the group almost immediately upon entering the trail, and a couple of these holes swallowed a few of even the most well-built rigs. After exploring the trails for several hours, the group headed back to break camp and head home.
In addition to the vast array of events and the beautiful weather and scenery, one of the most fascinating aspects of the Spring Fling was the wide variety of vehicles. As you'll see in the following photos, many of the rigs are very unusual as well, with some very unique modifications. Participants and spectators were in agreement that the Palm Beach Adventures Association Spring Fling was the best one yet, and you can bet it'll be cranked up a notch for 2004, when it returns to the JW Corbett Wildlife Management Area. For more info contact Palm Beach Adventures Association, Dept. FW, 1584 Magnolia Ln., West Palm Beach, Florida 33417, 561/662-9793, www.pbadventures.net.