Imagine bulldozing your backyard into a four-wheel-drive playground. Now imagine inviting hundreds of total strangers to bring their trucks over for a bit of four-wheeling. Sounds crazy, right?
It is crazy, but that's exactly what Jeremy Naeger, of Bloomsdale, Missouri, did. The response from the 'wheeling public was overwhelming, and it instantly fueled spectacular growth. Nowadays, Naeger's backyard has gotten quite a bit larger, it sports enough gnarly obstacles to keep even the saltiest 'wheeler happy. As a result of all that happiness, Naeger sponsors four huge Mud Bash events annually.
To understand the events and what they're about, you must first understand Naeger. As the quiet, polite owner of a shop called Custom Differentials, he lives four-wheeling 24/7. He's a walking encyclopedia of axle knowledge gleaned from years of experience building said items. He and his crew specialize in creating hard-core driveline components, and their work resides under some of the most functional rigs on the planet. As you might imagine, Naeger is also an experienced 'wheeler and the owner of some outrageous trucks, like the airborne '72 Chevy Blazer that graced the August '02 cover of Four Wheeler.
Naeger says the catalyst for opening his land to the masses was created as he saw less and less land remaining open for four-wheeling. Initially, he offered only a tough-truck course for drivers to challenge, but things quickly evolved. Nowadays the complex sports a brand-new infield, complete with bleachers. Mud has become the focal point of activities, and Naeger takes great pride in offering a variety of challenging mud pits known as play pits. Additionally, there are side-by-side mud pits for racing and a number of other four-wheeling activities. One thing that has remained constant through all of the changes is the down-home grassroots feeling of the events.
We recently attended a Naeger Mud Bash. The attendance was overwhelming, and by mid-morning the 13-acre parking lot was almost completely full of spectator cars and participant tow vehicles. Naeger estimates that more than 3,100 people were in attendance. The multi-acre obstacle course, rock garden and the numerous mud play pits were open all day, and it didn't take long before they were challenging drivers and claiming victims. Naeger's friend Mike Warren, of 310 Racing, is the official master of ceremonies and promoter of the events, and he kicked off the day's laid-back schedule of events with a fascinating four-wheel-drive burnout competition that has become a unique trademark of the Mud Bash. Then it was off to a field for the Tug-O'-War, where trucks were tied end-to-end for a little dirt-throwing action. The final competitive event of the day was a mesmerizing long-jump competition. This competition is exactly what its name implies, and features trucks launching at full throttle off a dirt jump into a water-filled mud pit. Trust us, this creatively sick event would alone be worth the price of admission, even if none of the other cool stuff was on the agenda.
Things continue to evolve rapidly in Naeger's backyard, and by the time you read this, Naeger will have held his first-ever hard-core rockcrawling competition on a brand-new course. Perhaps the most fascinating thing about Naeger's backyard is that it's open to 'wheelers anytime, whether there's a formal event or not. Just call first. The Fall Mud Bash is right around the corner on October 18, and for more info on any of the scheduled events, contact Naeger at Custom Differentials, Dept. FW, 9095 Misplay Rd., Bloomsdale, MO 63627, 573/483-3343, www.custom-differentials.com.