Part 1: Midwest Mayhem Tour
Every wheeling trip is an adventure. Whether it's the last-minute scramble to meet your buddies at the local mud hole or being broken on the trail and in need of that one tool you managed to leave back home, chaos seems to shadow most off-road journeys. It's these very trips that our campfire stories are built from. For true adventure seekers, we have created the off-road trip of a lifetime, the Ultimate Adventure.
For those of you who've been stuck living in your parents' basement for the last decade, please allow us to fill you in on how the Ultimate Adventure (UA) has evolved into one of the most incredible wheeling trips to span the nation. The fundamentals of the trip involve traversing a thousand miles of rock, mud, and sand trails and contending with big bugs, bears, camping, little bugs, freeways, highways, and two-lane backwoods roads to view the scenic countryside. Participants include sponsors, a few cronies we can't seem to shake, the 4-Wheel & Off-Road staff, a video crew so we can prove it happened, and most importantly about half a dozen die-hard readers that have been handpicked to participate.
There's no fancy support rig to help you fix your truck when you break it (no trailers allowed), climate control is provided by Mother Nature, and you and your rig must be self-sufficient for the entire trip. There is a mindset that you learn to live by on UA: Wheel for the week, not for the day. That being said, there are no bypasses or excuses, and above all, no whiners!
Leading this medley of off-road enthusiast is our editor in chief, Rick Pw, who has coordinated this logistical nightmare for the last nine years and who took the helm of this year's Ultimate Adventure Super Duty. Dubbed the Ultimate Ranch Truck, the UA Super Duty was the result of many long and dedicated hours spent by an amazing crew of fabricators at the official build shop, Offroad Design, and by project manager Kevin McNulty.
Marking the 10th year of the adventure, we found ourselves on a three-state tour of the Midwest. Starting off in Butler, Pennsylvania, we set our sails to the northwest and churned our way through Ohio to end in Michigan's picturesque Drummond Island. A caravan of approximately 18 well-built rigs spent a solid week pushing through some of the toughest trails that the heavily wooded Midwest parks had to offer. From rollovers and incredible truck-devouring obstacles to the rolling countryside cut by the southern tip of the glacial retreat many lifetimes ago, this year's trip proved to be one of the best yet.
Follow along as we document the first half of the journey and be sure to check out next month's issue as we pick up on Day 5 of the Ultimate Adventure!
Day 1: Saturday, July 4
Check In Or Else!
Sometimes just getting to the start of the Ultimate Adventure is a challenge. With rigs cruising in from all over the country, Saturday check-in and vehicle inspection is usually a day filled with a mix of last-minute welding, fixing, and wrenching.
While each participant was slowing rolling into the Day's Inn parking lot in Butler, Pennsylvania, we were treated to an important history lesson. We know what you're thinking. Who wants a history lesson while you're getting your 4x4 ready to wheel? Well, if you know your Jeep history then you've probably figured out the significance of Butler. It's not only a nice little town, but the birthplace of the vehicle that went on to become the Jeep.
Although Willy's received the military contract, the first jeep was designed and built by the American Bantam Car Company in August 1940. Working with the military, Bantam went on to produce 2,675 jeeps. Only about 30-35 are believed to still exist. If you'd like to know more about the Bantam and are in the area, swing by the Butler County Heritage Center for more firsthand history and an informative tour. While there, you can see an actual Bantam jeep and view the original factory.
Getting your vehicle inspected by us is likely worse than your local smog checkup. We don't let anything slide. From current registration, insurance, and plates to battery hold-downs, rollcages, and a winch, it all has to be there and in working order to go on the trip.
In the history of Ultimate Adventure we're not sure if there has ever been a more catastrophic breakage on the first day. After destroying the rear ring-and-pinion on House Rack, Clifton Slay opted to pull the full-float shafts out and drive the CJ-7 back to camp to replace the gearset. Before he could get the CJ back to the hotel parking lot the transfer case locked up, which in turn snapped the output shaft on the transmission. This was the end of the CJ's UA run. Luckily Tech Editor Fred Williams had an extra seat in the Fun Buggy so Slay could continue on the journey.
Day 2: Sunday, July 5
Outback Off Road Adventure Park
The first trail day of the adventure is always the most anticipated. Generally it's not the most difficult compared to what lies ahead, but it gives the group a chance to see everyone's rig in action and shake out a few nerves. Think of it like the butterflies you had the first day of school. Everyone wants to have a great first day, but you know there's always that one kid that spills milk on the front of his pants at lunch, and you hope that it's not you.
With lunch packed in the coolers and tanks full of fuel, we headed to Outback Off Road Adventure Park in Six Points, Pennsylvania. Open to the public by appointment only, the park has a rich mix of scenic and challenging trails suitable for stock to heavily modified rigs. With their geographical cues taken from the massive glaciers that tumbled the terrain many moons ago, the tight and windy trails will keep you on your toes, especially if you're navigating a fullsize rig.
Though most of our UA participants were running 37-inch and larger Goodyear MT/Rs, the light moss on the rocks and the brown soupy mud made the Porcupine Trail ride a genuine challenge and a blast to watch. Navigating us through the massive rocks and twisty creek beds were Rob and Terri Grinnik of Meridian Off Road Center in Butler. The park is owned by Rob and Terri along with Chuck Greenlee, and they, with a handful of helpers and trailbuilders, led us through the obstacle.
The pride of the park is the massive House Rock obstacle, standing roughly the size of a two-story house. Each wheeler got three tries to make it up. While some of our crew put their Warn winches to good use, a few managed to make it up with ease. The final obstacle was the rock strewn Snake trail, which cause even more carnage before the day was over
After a fitting first-day trail and amazing time, we all aired up and headed back for a late-night bite to eat and our last night in the hotel room.