Part I: From The Black Hills To The Badlands, We Wheeled It All!
Busted knuckles, metal splinters, cuts, bruises, sleepless nights, and corneal flash burns-if you have as much adventure flowing through your veins as we do, then you would understand why we endure the pain to fulfill our passions. We dedicate months of our time to never-ending projects, spend piles of money, and exert exceptional amounts of effort preparing physically, mentally, and mechanically for the greatest event of the year, the Ultimate Adventure-it's a vicious cycle.
The Ultimate Adventure is a four-wheel event like no other. It's the heavyweight title bout of four-wheeling. Over the years the event has become the passion of Editor-in-Chief Rick Pw. When it was started it was patterned after his lifestyle of four-wheel adventures with his friends. When we sat down this year to plan the Ultimate Adventure, we scoured our maps and called out-of-state contacts looking for trails that would give our four-wheeling cohorts and selected readers participating in the event something to brag about. The staff at Petersen's can assure you that no stone goes unturned when we're searching the country for tough and interesting trails. One day Rick just disappeared, only to reappear a week later. Once we had him seated behind his desk, he began regaling us with tales of extreme trails, vast expanses of open range, one dead deer, a smashed Grand Cherokee, and metal monsters alongside the highway (see page 96). What did this all mean? We had ourselves an adventure to prepare for.
So who gets to go on this raucous dirt and rock pilgrimage? None other than the adventure-loving advertisers that sponsor the trip, a few lucky readers, the magazines editorial, art, and advertising staff, a tight-knit group of the original UA cronies, and a film crew. This year we had 48 people in attendance, 17 trail rigs, and a few chase vehicles like the cool BFGoodrich tractor-trailer loaded with spare KM2 Mudd Terrains. This mishmash of trail vehicles included a mix of old Jeeps, new Jeeps, trucks, rock buggies, a classic Ford Bronco, a Toyota Tundra, a Suzuki Samurai, a Geo Tracker, a Sidekick, and the pinnacle of the Ultimate Adventure-our Super Sleeper UA Z71.
In its ninth year, the Ultimate Adventure is a weeklong four-wheeling event that consists of driving thousands of miles of highway-with responsible four-wheel hooligans-to find and conquer challenging trails. Now that scenario may sound straightforward and simple, but throw in some trail disasters, vehicle breakdowns and recovery, chasing replacement parts, inclement weather, and a lot of tall tales around the campfire at night, and it makes for one heck of a slow-rolling good time
What's it like building a UA vehicle? Any one of the Ultimate Adventure participants will tell you that building a UA vehicle is a time-consuming, tedious, and slightly frustrating endeavor. The pride and joy of the magazine, the amazing UA Z71, was built in three months by Mel Wade and his staff at Off-Road Evolution. Mel and his posse swarmed the truck daily, his mechanical engineer slaving away in CAD creating suspension parts, while his top fabricators worked on the truck around the clock. Three days before the Ultimate Adventure, Feature Editor Ali Mansour and Mel pulled a few all-night wrenching sessions trying to finish the rig. It wasn't until the drive to UA that either one of them stole some sleep. This is typical of the other drivers and participants. Some of them rolled into the parking lot at the meeting place in South Dakota only to fall out of their vehicle's door, grab their tool bags, and start working on their rigs again while trying to meet the vehicle inspection deadline.
This year, the Ultimate Adventure began in Sturgis, South Dakota, made its way up through North Dakota, headed west through Montana, south through Wyoming, and then continued on down to Colorado for one last day of ultimate wheeling. The final destination was more than 1,400 miles away from our starting point and ended in an amazing new off-road park created by local four-wheelers and the BLM in Rangely, Colorado.
In between, we negotiated some incredible trails, met some very affable local four-wheel club members who helped lead us on their local turf, and enjoyed their down-home hospitality. It's hard for all of us to believe that this year's Ultimate Adventure is over. Regrettably, at the end of the day we packed our gear, shook hands, said our goodbyes, and then headed home only to lust for next year's event.