Part II: Off-Camber Hillclimbs, Huge Rocks, and Desolate '08 Highways, We Kept On Wheeling!
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 www.4wheeloffroad.com.
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.
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
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.