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Tennessee Offroad Mountain Challenge 2000

Front Driver Side View Car Over Wood
Tom Ogle | Writer
Posted December 1, 2000

Four-wheeling, Daniel Boone style in the Tennessee Off-Road Challenge

Step By Step

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  • Despite a great start, the vintage military version of a CJ-6 drops a front tire off the bridge. Luckily, driver Matt Bluetts recovered quickly and drove the M170 to First Place for the weekend.

  • You don’t often see a Ford Expedition employed as a roustabout trail horse. But that is exactly what the father and son team of Harry and Brandon Russell uses. The team hooked a Terratrip to a laptop computer to calculate TSDs and to download GPS maps.

  • Down in the dark creek bottoms, pathways crisscrossed each other like so many cow paths. All were muddy and filled with water, some were rocker-panel deep. Unsuspecting teams who found the deep holes lost time and valuable points in the TSD rally.

  • The Dodge Ram Charger of Mac Abercrombie and Kyle Updegrove suffered flooding from the waters of Little Sequatchie River. Big rocks and rafted-up debris conspired to rip out brake lines, grenade the steering box, and destroy the alternator. On top of that a U-bolt nut worked loose on the left-front springpack, which eventually trashed the centering bolt. The team is working to get the axle under the springs. A winch cable from the CJ-5 in the background was wrapped around the axle tube to pull it back into position. The team worked heroically for more than 14 hours, eventually reaching pavement under their own power. Their efforts were rewarded with the well-deserved Hard Luck Trophy.

  • GPS coordinates were scattered along a series of gnarly trails, making the trails themselves as much of a challenge as locating the target.

After many years of competing together in four-wheeling events, Sam Lewis and Dave Cagle, owner and general manager, respectively, of Tennessee Off Road, in Nashville, took the next step. They decided to produce their own 4x4 competition series. They launched the Tennessee Off Road Challenge series in Monteagle, Tennessee, northwest of Chattanooga in territory doubtless trekked by Daniel Boone himself, with the first event held in the summer of 2000.

Located in the middle Tennessee heartland, the area is filled with wild rivers and steep ravines which provide an awesome variety of trail conditions —deep, gooey mud, hellacious swift rivers, big rocks, and steep talus slopes. This mix had the right stuff to challenge the 14 teams who traveled from as faraway as Indiana and Virginia to test their off-road skills and take part in a weekend of 4x4 adventure.

Beginning Friday afternoon after calibrating odometers and passing a vehicle safety inspection, the competitors tracked down GPS coordinates hidden in the heavily forested wilderness. Unfortunately, a Ram Charger succumbed to the rigors of the Tennessee bottomland mud and rocky fords and had to be abandoned for the night. The wounded beast became trail-impaired when its steering box let go, leaving the hydraulic winch in a very weakened state. Of course, Sam and Dave saw to it that the team spent the night in camp. The team returned Saturday morning with fresh parts from Chattanooga and worked feverishly throughout the day to revive the workhorse. After 14 hours of hard work they were able to drive it out.

Next morning the teams began the Time/Speed/Distance event. The route was 55 miles long, and led them through a confusing network of mountain trails. Their only guide was a segment map marked with distances and some landmarks. The team completing the course closest to the official travel time of three hours and 15 minutes got the most points. Several teams required six hours and some didn’t complete the course at all.

Those teams who did finish embarked on finding an additional set of GPS coordinates, scattered along steep mountain trails, for extra points. Each team was provided a notebook containing a photograph of each spot. To receive credit for a “fix,” each team was required to take a picture of its own vehicle in that exact spot with the provided Polaroid camera. Trees, rocks, and brush had to be in the background just as in the provided photo to prove that the target had been found. Since the coordinates were miles apart over the Stagecoach Trail (often referred to as a “spare vehicle trail”), few teams scored well.

Late in the afternoon the teams gathered for the paintball event. Six targets were scattered around rock piles, gravel berms, and mud holes. Although points were given for speed through the course, accuracy was emphasized. The navigator was given 10 balls for six targets. Only a twisted mind could have come up with the weird placement of targets, which required the shooter to squeeze off shots while the vehicle straddled rocks and climbed piles of gravel. Some targets were up-slope on the driver’s side, so the shots had to be fired off-camber and through the driver’s window. Darkness fell on the paintball course but the teams were having so much fun that they forgot their frustrations.

The last day of the TOR Challenge began with the .22-caliber target competition, followed by a speed run through mud pits and whoop-de-dos. Bridge building, driving blindfolded through an obstacle course, and an all-terrain speed run rounded out the day. When the dust settled Team Bluetts and Johnson took home most of the marbles, including a cash prize and trophy, a set of BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires, and an ARB gift certificate. The Second Place team of Conrad and Lloyd in the 4x4 Wizard CJ-7 came away with a trophy and gift certificates from ARB, Skyjacker, and Tennessee Off Road. Team Phelps and Phelps grabbed Third, less than 90 points behind the champs. They also were awarded gift certificates from Skyjacker and Tennessee Off Road.

The Hard Luck Trophy went to the crew of the Dodge Ram Charger, who was grateful to receive an extra supply of power steering fluid, a first aid kit, and a fire extinguisher. Also raffled off were entry fees for the Rosser Rendezvous, Superlift 4XAdventure in Hot Springs, Arizona, and for the one in Montrose, Colorado, as well as the Pocono Trail Fest in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, compliments of Bob Hazel’s Sports-in-the-Rough. If you would like to join in the fun contact Todd Lewis at Tennessee Off Road 800/538-2631 for the schedule of future events.