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Michigan Mayhem: Jeep Road Trip

Mud Water Hole
John Cappa | Writer
Posted January 1, 2011
Photographers: Matt Lisowski

Four Days In The Great Lake State

We were long overdue for a summer wheeling road trip. It's generally too hot to go off-road in the local Southern California deserts in the summer, so we made a call to a buddy and told him about our cabin fever. He said he had just the cure. Within a few weeks, we were on a plane to Michigan for four days of road trip and wheelin'. He even pulled some strings to set us up with a Jeep you may recognize, the Mopar Underground Sarge.

Sarge is actually based on an overseas J8 military Jeep. But this one sports a small lift and 35-inch BFG mud tires that are pushed along by the factory VM Motori 2.8L four-cylinder turbodiesel, an auto tranny, an NV241 T-case, a Dana 44 front axle, and a Dana 60 rear axle. For the next few days, we were happy to call Sarge our drab-green home.

If you've got a long four-day weekend to kill and you happen to be in or near Michigan, give our destinations a shot. You won't be disappointed.

Day One
We met up with Nick Cappa and Cole Quinnell early Thursday morning in Lake Orion and hit the road. We B-lined it to Rocks and Valleys Off-Road Park (rocksandvalleys.com) where we met with the great bunch of guys that run the park. Also waiting for us was a pizza and long-haulers Greg Henderson from AEV in his '05 Rubicon Unlimited and James Couch in an '08 Wrangler X Unlimited. After scarfing down the free pizza we hit the trails.

Rocks and Valleys truly has something for everyone and every skill level. There's mud, climbs, tractor tires, and even rocks. Coming from California we see plenty of rocks so we were interested in all of the other offerings the park had. But the funny thing is no matter where we go everybody insists on showing us the local rock pile. The truth of the matter is we'll take hills and mud-filled staggered holes over a rock trail any day of the week.

We started out on the Adventure Trail and eventually wound up on Python near the end of the day. The Adventure Trail gives you a small taste of just about everything Rocks and Valleys has and can be done in mildly modified Jeeps. Lockers are recommended on Python. Sarge was only sporting a limited-slip differential in the rear, but that wasn't what stopped us. We turned the transfer case skidplate into a cultivator over nearly every hump on Python. Most of the time we could throttle the 2.8L diesel and bump over the tough spots, but we needed a few tugs to keep moving when we were high-centered.

We left Rocks and Valleys before dark and hit the back roads for Silver Lake Dunes where we set up camp at the State Park Campground across the lake from the dunes. From there we went into town to spin some laps in the go-carts next to the ice cream shop.

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