Four-wheelers from eastern Canada to the tip of Florida recently made the journey to Winchester, Virginia, for the 3rd annual Grand Slam East, an event designed solely to promote the glory of the Grand Cherokee. Brian Garfield, the event's founder, said he wanted to create an environment "where Grand Cherokee owners could get together without the usual intimidation caused by other off-road enthusiasts assuming a Grand is not a capable 4x4." The dozens of proud owners who lined up for their chance to tackle the wide range of trails that crisscross the Virginia mountains didn't look intimidated by anything.
In fact, with more than a quarter of the drivers opting for the advanced trails, this group of Grand owners obviously took its 'wheeling seriously. There were no grocery-getters here. Most of the rigs were equipped with bull bars, winches, rock rails, lift kits, and aggressive mud-terrains. There seemed to be no fear of West Virginia Pinstriping, as the endless scratches are locally known. Body damage was not uncommon, and two owners with 2000 models both ended up with some serious dents over their right rear fenderwells due to the tight trails. One owner with only 2,500 miles on the clock commented that it gave the vehicle character. "There is definitely a line you cross. Once you get your first major dent, you start to enjoy more and worry less," said Garfield.
The event was well organized, and the weather could not have been better. All of the trails started from the dirt road system in the campground and then steadily became rockier and more challenging, with the most extreme trails reminiscent of the best at Tellico in Murphy, North Carolina. Many owners took advantage of the opportunity to talk about which parts and upgrades work best.
Serious 'wheeling in Grands is not yet commonplace, but they are gaining popularity as the costs of used Grands comes down and they become more plentiful. As one owner commented, "I have swapped in and out more lift kits then I can recall. Some things worked and some didn't, so I am running a variety of parts from different manufacturers." Some owners view the Grand Cherokee as part of an evolutionary process that the Jeep has undergone over the years. It has become roomier and more comfortable and certainly more utilitarian. With V-8 power and the terrific four-coil suspension, it is no surprise that there is so much ability waiting to be unleashed.
Camaraderie is probably the best part about these organized events. You can try things that you normally wouldn't and attempt more difficult obstacles because you know someone will be there to lend a helping hand. This year, many owners started with easier trails on Friday and stepped up to the next level on Saturday determined to test their vehicles' abilities along with their own.
For More Information
To learn more about the roster of Grand Slam events scheduled for 2001, contact: Brian Garfield, firstname.lastname@example.org