Most Jeep fun runs with your friends are just that—fun. However, when you start adding outsiders to your group, sometimes the fun factor goes down. Not so with the Trail Tour. Dreamed up by Scott Frary 12 years ago, Trail Tour was designed so good friends could have a fun week of hard wheeling (a vacation if you want to think of it that way), and all come back still friends the next year and do it again.
As an invite-only event, it’s pretty easy to keep the slackers and whiners away and also those that only perform regular maintenance on the trail. In addition, the tour is usually based at one motel so stories can be swapped and repairs made during the night instead of fending off wild beasts and foul weather. Scott had been on quite a few of the 4-Wheel & Off Road magazine’s Ultimate Adventures and patterned his own event in much the same way with a different trail or tour every day.
The 2016 trip was a bit different than normal, as Scott felt that, after 12 years, he needed to shake things up. After all, who’s ever done a claimer wheelin’ trip? This was to be Operation Low Buck, rather than $50K-plus vehicles. His idea was first to limit the maximum tire size to 33-inches so that regular trails once again became difficult and the driver would make up the difference. He also designed it so that, instead of bringing the same-old trail rig, this year’s concept was based on claimers—any of the participating vehicles could be bought at the end of the tour for $3,000. Extras like a winch or tools or a freezer wouldn’t be included, but whatever vehicle you entered, you also had to be willing to let it go at the end of the week. This also had the effect of making sure owners taking care of their ride instead of thrashing the beater to death. If you thrashed your ride, it’s doubtful anyone else would want it in the end. In addition, sponsors this year included ARB, Mac’s Custom Tie Downs, Jeep Skinz, Trail Ready, PSC, Wheeler’s Off Road, and Olympic 4x4 Supply—all of whom attended the run for fun as well!
While the event wasn’t limited to Jeeps, naturally the best bang-for-the-buck 4x4 is the Jeep XJ platform, so out of 16 beater/claimers, there were six XJs, an MJ, a YJ, a ZJ, a fullsize Wagoneer, and a smattering of lesser brands. A couple of JKs were also along to help out the group, as well as CJs and flatties from the local guides. We felt right at home even though we didn’t bring one of our own Jeeps. We rode for the week in a built YJ piloted by Jesse Beckman and even spent a day in an open-top Blazer used as a camera car. Virgle Osborne was the main trip leader as his shop, Twin Peaks Off Road in Roseburg, Oregon, was the starting point for the entire week. With the help of his compadres, Virgle led us around southern Oregon on a whirlwind Trail Tour. In the end, it turned out exactly how it should have: everyone was happy and another Trail Tour was in the books.
Want To Go?
If you’re interested in the event, Jp Magazine
and Scott will be looking for two readers to join them, so contact Frary at firstname.lastname@example.org
for a complete list of rules and regulations and applications. Scott swears it will not be claimers or 33s but will still be great fun, and we hope to join them! Also be sure to check out all the extra videos and tons of videos at jpmagazine.com
Day 1, Monday
The started with nearly getting killed in traffic—not because of the group’s driving ability but due to the spectacle of 20-something 4x4s racing around town to the local grocery store. We would be gone all day in the woods, so filling up on supplies and fuel was the first order of business. Trail Leader Virgle Osborn led us over hill and dale to a section of the Oregon forest thick with trees, mud, and fun. A narrow two-track on a steep incline made for some tree-bashing fun, and before the day was done, there were more dents, dings, and dumbs collected for the whole group. A few tires lost their wheels, an A/C condenser spewed refrigerant, and the winches were whining full time. We even performed battery welding basics on top of a mountain where a track bar bracket finally ripped off an axle. Luckily, no full-on breaks or damage occurred, so we could trundle back to the hotel to nurse our wounds and fix the rides.
Day 2, Tuesday
With a luxurious wake up time of 8:00 a.m., an easy day was planned to get to the top of a mountain but not without many dirt roads and trails. Our hardy group mustered in form and traversed miles of winding pavement in the scenic greenery of southern Oregon in our clapped out 4x4s. While the summer breeze did it’s best to keep us cool, the amount of mosquitoes and other biting bugs challenged us often times more than the obstacles. Twisting through the forest also found our group stalled by fallen trees across the trail from the winter season, but our trail crew made quick work of the monster logs with chainsaws and winch cable to break the trail. We finally poked out of the forest to a view of the Oregon mountains dotted with volcanic peaks, then trundled back to our hotel for another night of vehicle repair and serious debriefing.
Day 3, Wednesday
When in Oregon, see the sights! The Trail Tour isn’t a hardcore wheel ’n’ bash every day sort of event—it’s for doing trails and touring! If there is something to see and do, it’s done right. Our outing on Wednesday was to Crater Lake, an ancient volcanic caldera filled with the coolest, clearest water you’ll ever see. Since it’s about a 6,000-foot elevation change from Roseburg to the top of the crater, some of our rigs overheated (even in the snow), but it was still full-on worth the drive. That’s also why the participating 4x4s need to be street legal (and safe) as it was a long day getting back around twisty mountain roads. When we arrived at the top, we couldn’t park at the visitor’s center due to the thousands of turistas clamoring for parking spaces, but we eventually found a wide spot in the road to view the lake and get treated to burgers and dogs for lunch from the JK Skinz guys. After filling our bellies and enjoying some impromptu snowball fights, we trundled back to Roseburg and readied ourselves and our rigs for a day in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
Day 4, Thursday
Oregon is one of the few West Coast areas for legal beach sand dune driving. In fact, there are many different areas set aside just for vehicular recreation. It’s a simply permit to buy, and the rules require a whip antenna and flag. If you have the guts, you can go try them out. Our group was again led by Virgle Osborne in his dedicated flat fender sand Jeep named Bad Habit. While we drove the many miles from Roseburg to the coast, Virgle trailered his along with his buddies—paddle tires don’t last long on asphalt. After leading us out to the dunes, we scattered like an army of ants all looking for the best jump, climb, or flat spot to run on. Some rigs could easily cruise the dunes while others floundered. Even a trip to the beach proved fun, but rugged, as tires were blown and axlehousings were bent. The rain was enjoyed as it firmed up the sand and kept the dust to a minimum. After fixing a severely bent axle, we all made it back to the hotel that evening, as one more day of fun and games awaited us.
Day 5, Friday
Fun and games were indeed the topic for Friday, as it was the last day and some guys were going for broke. At a private ranch, we all took our best shots at some trails and obstacles, with some members trying a bit too hard. The other half of the day was filled with games designed by Frary, such as the blindfolded spouse race and a drop the ball course—all designed to get teams aggravated in a fun way. After much carnage and fun, the group left for the hotel to spruce up ourselves and our 4x4s for the claimer auction and party at Randy Rubin’s property. Randy has been on the Ultimate Adventure as well and had kept his Grand Cherokee intact for the night’s offerings. After much food and libation at the party, most of the vehicles were sold, kept, or traded, without any muss, fuss, or calamity.