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2009 Ultimate Adventure Alumni & Enthusiasts - Jeepers, Jokers & Jerks

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Posted December 1, 2009

The Cronies & Ultimate Alumni

In addition to the five selected readers and our much-appreciated sponsors of the Ultimate Adventure, a handful of knuckleheads accompanies the group each year. Some of these guys are alumni from the inaugural trip 10 years ago, while others are barnacles who have latched on and kept coming (sneaking) back into the group every year. These guys are the grease in the ball bearings of the UA. They keep the group together acting as mid and tail gunner of the troupe on road days. They have enough experience to help fix just about any carnage or catastrophe while on the road or trail. And they bring plenty of humor to the week like only dirt-encrusted whackjobs with an amazing ability to get a week off work each summer can do. Trying to scrape these leaches from the trip, we do require different rigs each year; but they figure out ways around that rule-and we're glad they do, as we couldn't make it 1,200-some miles across viper-infested swamps and highway-patrolled highways without them, nor would we want to.

Alumni: Wrecking Ball
Clifton Slay has been on a fair number of Ultimate Adventures as guide, sponsor, and invited crony, so this year he got the nod to return as the unofficial tail gunner of the trip since he's good at rounding up stragglers in busted junk trying to find the rest of the group. Unfortunately this wasn't the bestest year ever for Slay. His own Jeep had suffered some breakage, but luckily good friend and fellow UA crony Keith Bailey offered his '84 CJ-7 as a backup ride. Slay was much appreciative and claims he was just barely into the throttle on the first day on the trail when the rear ring-and-pinion gave up the ghost. Greater repairs had been done other years, so we quickly got the Jeep to the street and headed to a shop for some new axle parts; that's when it got messy. Along the backroads of Pennsylvania, in front-wheel drive only, something in the transmission, transfer case, or front axle locked up and made for a big bang. The TH-350 housing was broken, and the transfer case wasn't much better. With more than 50 percent of the powertrain in bits and bleeding oil or ATF, it was decided that Slay would hop in as co-driver for Fred Williams in the Fun Buggy.

Rig Recipe
Driver: Clifton "Wrecking Ball" Slay
Co-Driver: Not brave enough
Vehicle: '84 CJ-7
Stomping Grounds: Colorado
Engine: GM Vortec 5.7
Transmission: Turbo 350
Transfer Case: Dana 300, twin stick, JB conversions Lo-max kit
Front Axle:
High-pinion 60, Detroit Locker, 5:13 gears
Front Axle: High-pinion 60, Spool, 5:13 gears
Suspension: Spring-over
Tires & Wheels: 38-in Pitbull Rockers on 18-in Spyderlock beadlocks
Winch & Bumper: Rear 8,000-lb Warn winch, 8274 custom Off Road Connection bumper
Other Stuff: Voice-operated windshield wipers; Off Road Connection tube fenders, side armor, traction bar, and high-clearance skid plate; on- board shower; on-board welder
Dimensions: Wheelbase 100 in, weight 5,800 lbs

4W Staff: Wonderman Gonderman
In an effort to get the best coverage of all time, we tried something else different this year. We brought along one of our stock trucks as a mobile camera studio and office for Feature Editor Ali Mansour, and Web Producer Jason Gonderman. (In case you missed it, there were exclusive early-bird photos from the trip in the blogs at 4wheeloffroad.com). These guys were zipping around getting highway shots and hauling camera gear galore, and were the general workhorses of the trip along with our video crew. They were lucky enough to have the keys to our yearlong test vehicle and winner of the 2009 4x4 of the Year: the Suzuki Equator. This little truck is the perfect road trip truck. It has plenty of gear space and was still able to get to all the camping spots and some of the wheeling spots on the trip.

Rig Recipe
Driver: Jason Gonderman
Co-Driver: Ali Mansour
Vehicle: '09 Suzuki Equator 4x4 Crew Cab RMZ-4
Stomping Grounds: Everywhere
Engine: 4.0L V-6
Transmission: Stock five-speed auto
Transfer Case: Stock 2.625:1 low range
Front Axle: Stock IFS
Rear Axle: Stock Dana 44 axle
Suspension: IFS, leaf-spring rear
Tires: P265/75 R16
Winch: Nope
Other Stuff: Oatmeal raisin cookies made by Ali's girlfriend
Dimensions: Wheelbase 125 in, weight 4,500 lbs

Alumni: The Clown
Tom Boyd is the clown. He's been coming on our trip every year, and he gets a little crazier every year. Recently he has been spending way too much time in China for work, so getting back to the U.S. where we all expect him to be a maniac was like letting a wild animal out of a bag. Since Boyd has been overseas working, he also signed up for the Keith Bailey rental program and brought Bailey and Bailey's Bruiser Buggy along on the UA. The buggy had a new paint scheme, so Boyd and Baily packed all their gear in the rig and cruised the highways in style. They volunteered to be the mid gunner many times since their hot rod CB could reach to either end of the group and keep everyone in the loop about the next turn or whoever may have pulled over with some breakage. Plus Boyd was the first of our group to surmount an impossible waterfall climb at the Painted Rock Adventure Park; he christened it Turtle Head Hill. Rumor has it that he will be prepping his classic Bronco for a return next summer.

Rig Recipe
Driver: Tom Boyd
Co-Driver: Keith Bailey
Vehicle: Bruiser Chassis
Stomping Grounds: China, Gray Rock OHV Park, anywhere else in the southeast
Engine: '03 5.7 Hemi
Transmission: Dodge 545RFE
Transfer Case: Dana 300, Twin Stick, LowMax kit with STaK replacement case
Front Axle: Rockcrusher high-pinion Dana 60, Detroit Locker, 5.13s, 14-in rotors with four-piston Wilwood rotors
Rear Axle: Rockcrusher high-pinion Dana 60, spool, 5.13s, 14-in rotors with four-piston Wilwood rotors
Suspension: Four-link with 14-in Fox emulsion coilover shocks, Sway-A-Way air bumpstops
Tires & Wheels: 42-inch Irok on 17-in Spyderlocks
Winch: Warn XP9.5
Other Stuff: Full hydraulic ORC steering, custom toolbox fuel cell, 1350 driveshafts, CB radio that reaches 12 miles
Dimensions: Wheelbase 113.5 in, height 79.54 in, full width axles, weight 4,000 lbs

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