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2008 Ultimate Adventure 2008 Four Wheeling Road Trip Part 2

Posted in Events on December 1, 2008
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Photographers: 4-Wheel & Off-Road Staff

South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. These five majestic states hold some of this country's most challenging wheeling. That's why Editor-in-Chief Rick Pw and our staff chose them for the 2008 Ultimate Adventure. We knew that without a doubt we were going to find some of the most extreme and unique four-wheeling to challenge not only ourselves, but our chosen readers and sponsors-and why should we wheel just one state when we could wheel them all?

We're a little over halfway into our journey, having begun a few days earlier in Sturgis, South Dakota (Nov. '08). We've logged almost 1,000 miles of trails and highway and unwittingly created a list of broken 4x4 parts longer than a rich kid's Christmas list. Most of the trails we hit are darn tough. If you are reading about this event for the first time, Ultimate Adventure is a week-long road trip that consists of the magazine staff, sponsors and advertisers, a few old friends of the magazine and event, and a handful of selected 4-Wheel & Off-Road readers. We scan the country looking for trails that will push the limits of well-seasoned four-wheelers and industry professionals.

This adventure isn't a cushy hotel-hopping escapade. Sometimes we go days on end without hot water or a roof over our heads. We find ourselves in bug-infested remote locations, eating food cooked on our engines or days-old gas-station sandwiches with soggy bread and wet, transparent lettuce.

Occasionally we get lucky and have delicious hot lunches served to us on the trail, but those days are few and far between. Most nights are filled with the sounds of portable generators, grinding metal, the buzz and crackle of welders and torches, and the relentless hammering of parts being put back together. For the lucky participants who didn't break anything during the day, nighttime is spent relaxing with friends, telling stories and lies, and recounting a great day of wheeling. Now don't get us wrong, to some this may sound like a complaint, but we live for this sort of thing.

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Last month we left you in the Badlands of North Dakota. If you missed Part I of the 2008 Ultimate Adventure you can read about it at

To bring you up to speed on UA we need to recap the first few days of the event. We spent day two running Hal John's Trail in the Black Hills National Forest. The trail is tough and it got the best of some of our rigs. It's literally a maze of rocks from one end of the trail to the other. There were huge obstacles, waterfalls, tight squeezes, and giant driveshaft-hating rocks. We had our first vehicle roll on its side, and it left a few of the guys wrenching on their rigs and chasing down parts for the next 24 hours.

Day three was our first road day traveling across a section of the Great Plains, and then on to a private ranch in the Badlands of North Dakota. This wasn't an uneventful day-a couple of the vehicles that had made it through Hal John's trail the day before decided to give up on the way to the Badlands. Did we tell you we love fixing things on the side of the highway? This is where gearhead genius and ingenuity shines, and watching these highway repairs is a joy. On day four, our UA crew woke to a spectacular sunrise on Dale Hagen's 2,300-acre ranch just west of Badlands National Park in North Dakota. The day was spent four-wheeling incredibly challenging trails that wound their way though the amazing and unique spires, buttes, canyons, and hills formed by thousands of years of erosion.

Everywhere the UA crew convoyed we were stopped and quizzed by locals and fans of the magazine. Believe it or not we were held up in line for an interview by a very nice young lady from the local newspaper.

Midway through the Ultimate Adventure, we were on a roll with our unstoppable convoy of 17 trail rigs, 48 people, and the BFGoodrich tractor trailer. Rolling through small-town America was a sight, especially for the longtime 4-Wheel & Off-Road readers that hadn't a clue we were driving through their hometown. Another cool aspect of the event is that the five invited readers and their co-drivers had blended in with the rest of the crew very quickly and felt right at home. We know it was a little nerve-racking, four-wheeling extreme terrain in front of the media, film crew, and cronies. But as intimidating as it may have been, the readers were just part of the gang and really felt like old-time wheeling buddies. They amazed us with their skills behind the wheel and their advanced automotive technical knowledge when it came time to fix trail damage.

If you are interested in participating in next year's Ultimate Adventure, then tear out the application on page 55 and start filling it out. Follow along in this article and we'll give you some pointers on making your application shine.

Day 5: Wednesday, July 9
Montana Trails
After spending a night under the stars in Dale Hagen's pasture-we are very thankful he cleaned up the cow pies-we packed up early and hit the road since we had several hundred miles of highway to cover. Some of the vehicles were starting to shimmy and shake and weren't in the best condition for a long road trip. But we had to push on, so we needed all the additional highway time we could find.

It was a truly amazing coincidence that when we pulled up to the Glendive Short Pine parking area we found this guy leaning against the sign reading the galaxy's most popular off-road magazine, Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road.

Our plan was to make our way from North Dakota to another expansive private ranch on the Montana and Wyoming border.

A great majority of the roads are still dirt and gravel in this part of the country, and they definitely help accentuate every existing little bump, squeak, and rattle a vehicle has. It turns road travel into a deafening roar. Sometimes the road is rough enough to rattle your teeth loose. We felt a little sorry for the guys without protection in the open-top rigs and buggies because of the road dust, but then again, they love this stuff and there's no whining allowed on UA.

It wasn't long after we started out that two vehicles dropped to the rear of the pack and quickly pulled over. A badly damaged rear driveshaft on Fred Perry's Jeep Comanche needed attention, and a broken rear tri-link on Mark Brancieri's Geo Tracker needed welding. Luckily, the guys from Hobart were able to weld up the tri-link. Fred's driveshaft was removed and repaired and both vehicles were back on the road in no time.

Glendive is 6 1/2 sections, which make it 4,160 acres of wheeling heaven. It is open to all modes of vehicular recreation. Its varied landscape offers hundreds of different challenges and obstacles, from steep hillclimbs to technical rock gardens and soft sandy trails. This OHV area was the perfect break for the UA crew in the middle of a long road day.

So what's a day on the Ultimate Adventure without a few surprises? Our fearless leader, Rick Pw, had secretly arranged for us to wheel the Glendive Short Pine BLM OHV area just outside of Miles City, Montana. This broke up the long highway drive and was a welcome relief for a number of us since we were already going through trail withdrawals. Glendive Short Pine is a successful OHV area created by the joint efforts of Bureau of Land Management and the hard work of local off-roaders. The park is 4,160 acres of steep hillclimbs. We ran a few steep and very off-camber narrow-ridge trails for a few hours and then hit the highway again. Glendive Short Pine is an area we could spend a day or two exploring.

After wheeling until we were content on the OHV park trails, we still had a few hundred miles of highway to travel before we landed at our next destination, the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch on the Wyoming and Montana border. Once we arrived, the nightly chores involved setting up camp, rustling up a hot meal cooked on the back of a UA rig, and catching a few z's under the Big Sky Country stars.

Wednesday's Carnage
Fred Perry: Remove rear driveshaft on the highway and straightened in Miles City, Montana
Mark Brancieri: Rear tri-link broken and welded alongside the highway
Keith Bailey: Leaky trans seal

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Day 6: Thursday, July 10
Ranchland Treasures
There's nothing more intriguing or inspiring than waking in the early morning to a burnt-orange sunrise on the Great Plains. The sights and sounds of ranch life, combined with the amazing smell of fresh-ground coffee percolating over a camp stove is nothing short of sensory overload. And let's not forget the fact that there are extreme trails waiting for us just on the other side of the barbed wire fence!

John Lambert continually amazed us with his go-anywhere, do-anything attitude. This is just one of the reasons he was invited back as a reader for his second Ultimate Adventure. Even in challenging situations in which a short-wheelbase vehicle would have extreme difficulties, John motored right on through like a champ.

Frank Bliss is proprietor of this sprawling ranch, which is unique in that Frank raises cattle and digs dinosaurs, and offers the same experience to enthusiasts ( The ranch straddles the Wyoming and Montana border and is a sportsman's paradise; and for sporting guys like us it's loaded with top-shelf four-wheel-drive trails. The ranch has trails that were cut by the folks from the Trailheaders 4x4 club out of Gillette (, but there are also areas that have never been wheeled before. The possibility of cutting new trails is like Christmas and our birthdays rolled into one.

We spent the day on three trails on Frank's ranch. The first trail was an extremely steep hillclimb. At the top, drivers had to negotiate their vehicles around a small outcropping of rocks, which really wasn't that difficult but tilted the rig precariously off-camber. Taking the wrong line around these rocks could have been a disastrous multiroll accident. As this trail peaked the top of the hill, it wound its way up and over a narrow ridge and finished off in a maze of technical rock sections. The next trail-which really wasn't a trail-started in a descending grassy V-notch and ended in a canyon with a 10-foot vertical drop into a steep ravine.

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The first obstacle of the day was a steep hillclimb with a twisty turn over a small rock pile at the top. When we say "steep" we mean it was a long way down to the bottom of the hill. Some of the guys started losing traction and just froze. It's not obvious from this angle, but quite a few rigs had to be winched from this point on.

Towards the end of the day, the UA crew found themselves on a trail in a narrow canyon that dead-ended at a tough obstacle. There were two options for climbing out of this steeply walled gully. On the right there was a crazy off-camber climb up a loose embankment. The other option was a steep technical climb over a split rock waterfall on the left. Our trail leader, Dean Thompson and his wife Julia, were the first to try the rock waterfall. This attempt ended with a complete end-over-end flip, with the vehicle landing on its lid. Thankfully, Dean and Julia weren't hurt, and the Jeep was righted and driven off for repairs. The UA Z71 was the next to tackle the mighty obstacle, and after smashing in the door and damaging the cab with an amazing effort, they had to call it a day and winch out. Nobody else was able to make it up and over the waterfall. The rest of the guys either smashed the skinny pedal and blasted their way up the embankment, or opted to be winched out. This was the third most precarious and difficult obstacle of the event.

At the end of an awesome trail day, the first things that are usually pulled out of the rigs are the tool bags, spare parts, and cell phones to order up replacements. Our Hobart welder support crew, Caleb Krisher and Darrell Sickles, strategically placed their trailer full of welders, plasma cutters, and grinders in the middle of camp and opened shop. It was only a matter of minutes before a few rigs were lined up for repairs, and sparks were flying.

Thursday's Carnage
UA Z71: Shattered driver-side window
Fred Perry: Broken suspension bracket
Greg Higgs: Power steering malfunction
Jeff Mello: Rollover, broke transfer-case rear tailshaft
Clifton Slay: Front sway-bar arms bent, broken soft-top bows, cut tire, exploded sideview mirror
Keith Bailey: Broken muffler bracket
Jonathon Cooper: Broken rear ring-and-pinion, rear rotors cracked

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Day 7: Friday, July 11Blazing From Wyoming To Rangely, Colorado

It was not only intriguing and entertaining watching the crew fix busted components like Jeff Mello's transfer case, it was an excellent education in automotive field repair.

Rising early Friday morning, we quickly packed up camp, threw our gear in the rigs, and hit the road. We had 600 miles to travel in just one day, and the scuttlebutt around camp was that we weren't going to make it to our next destination until after midnight. Now 600 miles may not seem like a long way to travel-also keep in mind that some vehicles we are driving were wounded and limping along-but consider the fact that on the previous road day we traveled half that distance and it took us all day. Let's not forget that the silver-haired general leading this motley crew hates main roads. This means we weren't traveling on the quickest, easiest, and most direct routes.

We agree with Rick's philosophy of driving off the beaten path on backroads. It may be a little slow going, but there's so much more to see while driving through small-town America. It's not only a great way to enjoy small-town diners and rummage around in intriguing gas station/hardware stores, it's also an amazing blast through history and a wonderful way to get out and meet the readership.

We only had a few minor problems while making our way to Colorado. Keith Bailey's buggy was having fuel-cell issues and kept spitting gas out the filler neck as we drove. The temporary fix was to rock the vehicle while at speed, and the gas would retreat back down the filler neck-after a few miles he'd have to rock the buggy again.

Due to our steady and urgent highway pace, which was well monitored by General Pw, we arrived at our destination of Rangely, Colorado well ahead of schedule. We were greeted by Jeff Rector and the club members from the Rangely Rock Crawlers. We know we've mentioned small towns quite often, but we just can't get enough of their friendly hospitality. Jeff, his entire family, and the club members were waiting for us in the town park with truckloads of barbeque, refreshments, and homemade ice cream. The shindig made some of us want to move to Rangely. We have to thank the entire town since we were told the townsfolk went out of their way to help Jeff, his family, and the club members prepare for our arrival.

Just before dinner on Friday night, we had a meeting with Jeff about the new Bureau of Land Management off-road park just outside of town. This was our destination for the Ultimate Adventure's last day of wheeling. The park is the fruition of Jeff, the BLM, a few of the club members, and the town of Rangely. Jeff told us it was easy working with the Bureau of Land Management representatives in this area. After a thorough environmental impact and archeological study the area was cleared for recreation.

It's their newest pride and joy, and rightly so. The new OHV area is a spectacular park consisting of nine active trails, which range in difficulty levels from extreme to mild. Two of the trails are exceptionally dangerous. During our meeting it was decided that a mandatory winch hook-up rule should be in effect for anyone attempting these two obstacles. Only Rick had prerun the trails here, so it left a few of us wondering what we were in for.

Friday's Carnage
Fred Perry: Fuel leak, replaced O-rings, rear wheel bearing, bent axle (rewelded by master welder Tim Hardy)
Jeff Mello: Starter problems
Mark Brancieri: Burnt alternator wire, broken alternator bracket, seized alternator
Jonathan Cooper: Cracked windshield, damaged rear ring-and-pinion

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Shout Out!

Every year presenting sponsor BFGoodrich Tires follows us around the country with its tractor trailer as a support vehicle. BFG goes above and beyond and its efforts are greatly appreciated by everyone in attendance. This year wasn't any different except for the all-new 40-inch KM2 Mud-Terrain's we tested. The word amongst all the drivers is that the tires performed beyond their expectations and were able to endure well over 1,000 miles of extreme abuse. Our feature editor, Ali Mansour, along with everyone else on the trip, agreed that the new tire offered exceptional traction and was able to withstand the tortures of extreme events like the Ultimate Adventure.

The entire staff at 4-Wheel & Off-Road and all of the participants thanks the sponsors of the event for helping make the Ultimate Adventure possible. These sponsors are Off-Road Evolution, K&N Filters, Rough Country Suspension, Off Road Design, Warn Industries, PSC Steering, Flowmaster, and Hobart Welders.

Day 8: Saturday, July 12Rangely, Colorado, the Last Day

Some of us couldn't sleep; we lay awake all night just thinking about the two obstacles we were only going to be allowed to winch up. We knew there were guys in the group that wouldn't want this and could hear them now, "Winch up the obstacle on the first attempt, ahh at least let us try it." The reality of the problem was the incredibly great chance of rolling off the obstacle and sustaining serious injuries. After a quick breakfast, everyone jumped in their rigs and headed to the staging area. After meeting quite a few of the very affable locals and club members, Rick gave his morning drivers' meeting speech and we were off to the trailhead.

Rangely's OHV park is a geological treasure trove of fun. Its trails are already gaining national attention and a reputation as challenging. The park is only about a year old, but due to the four-wheel-drive-friendly community and environment, it's already seen a large amount of out-of-state wheelers. When we drove up to the staging area we could immediately tell the park's mesas and canyons offered just what we were looking for-steep off-camber challenges and technical slickrock obstacles. The area has a striking resemblance to Moab. Rangely has numerous slickrock trails that are on par with some of the best trails in the west.

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We finally made it to Megasaurus, the trail we heard was so difficult. The name is fitting since this is dinosaur country and a few of the obstacles are huge slickrock boulders with a potential bite. At first glace our immediate thoughts were, "that's impossible." But the longer we looked at the course, the more we could see the lines, and then "I can make that, no problem" ran through some of our minds. Towards the end of Megasaurus there's an off-camber climb up a ledge, which is similar to the first obstacle of the Moab Rim trail. It's not really difficult, it's the closeness to a sheer drop over a steep ledge that raises the pucker factor tenfold.

The trail action was intense Saturday, and there were moments when we thought a rollover was imminent. Thankfully that never materialized. Jeff Rector and the rest of the guys helping from the Rangely Rock Crawlers were exceptionally skilled spotters and worked hard getting us through their 541 acres of four-wheel heaven. After a great day on the trails we headed back to town and Rangely's Elks Lodge, BPOE #1907, for another incredible hometown meal. Rick's end of the Ultimate Adventure speech was inspiring and left us longing for next year's event. This year, Hobart stepped up and gave away a MIG welder to the driver with the most damage and repairs. Jonathan Cooper was awarded top honors and the MIG; he had continual issues with ring-and-pinion and brake components. He showed exceptional fortitude wrenching away each night after a trail run and sometimes working until sunrise. After dinner and drinks we headed back to our hotel rooms for a little shuteye and dreams of next year's event.

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Saturday's Carnage
Fred Perry: Rebroke repaired axle, damaged passenger door and sideview mirror
Tom Allen: Broken rear axle and locker
Nate Williams: Broken rear axleshaft
Mark Brancieri: Broken Birfield

UA '08 DVD Ordering info
Only $17.95 plus shipping and handling.
Order by phone, online, or snail-mail at:

Rough Country Suspension systems
1400 Morgan Rd.
Dyersburg, TN 38024

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