2005 Ultimate Adventure, Part 1
2005 Ultimate Adventure, Part 2
Load up your 4x4, hop in and drive halfway across the country, wheel/drive/wheel/repair for six days, and then go home and tell the greatest adventure story of your life. That's what we offer each and every person who comes on our Ultimate Adventure. Nothing less. Every year we do our best to bring that kind of life-changing experience to your door through 16 pages of the greatest off-road trip on earth. But hard as we try, we know it's just not the same as being there.
How could it be? We dream up, plan, and lay out the best Ultimate Adventure route we can find in some nook of our nation. Then we construct an Ultimate 4x4 that we prep to handle anything we throw at it. To make the trip worth taking, we hand-pick an elite group of off-roaders, toss in a few surprises, and then invite you, the reader, to come along and teach us a thing or two. It gets better every time and it keeps us going through the other 51 weeks of the year.
In Part 1, we introduced you to our band of wheelers that came from all over the country to meet in Seymour, Missouri. The town practically shut down in our honor so we could check out each other's rigs. We introduced you to the Southern Missouri Off-Road Ranch and the Outlaw Adventures Off-Road Park. We took a tour of Brian's Truck Shop in Lead Hill, Arkansas, caught a free ferry ride, and lit up the biggest campfire Arkansas has ever seen. In this installment, it gets even better.
A good road trip is filled with lots of stops along the way. Our first one in Oklahoma was at John Holt's Truck Salvage yard. We had to work some UA magic, but we convinced John he needed to let us roam through his yard - even though it was well over 100 degrees and there were surly rattlesnakes in the tall grass. What were we looking for? Dana 60 front axles. We came home empty-handed, but we did stumble on this M38A1, a GM NV4500 transmission, and two intercooled 12-valve Cummins engines rotting away in early 1990s 3/4-ton pickups.
After driving all day and sweating like pigs in the 90-degree weather, we smelled like Highway 271 we rolled into Clayton, Oklahoma, on. With no showers or swimming holes in sight, we decided it'd be best to feed the stinking masses outside. So as we found our way into Clayton, BFGoodrich was out buying up every breast of chicken in town to barbeque. We ate like kings that night in the glow of the BFGoodrich support trailer thanks to BFG, and reader Lee Jenkins who manned the grill.
While we were stuffing our faces at the BFGoodrich trailer, a wrenching party broke out about 100 yards away at our host Slim Williams' shop. You see, Slim wasn't expecting us for another day or two, and was still finishing up the two Jeeps he planned to lead us through the Rock Creek Off-Road Park with in the morning. Since we had brought a little 4x4 building talent with us, our crew offered to lend a hand. Slim's black YJ on 1-tons needed some caliper grinding to fit the 42x14-15 Iroks over the Ford calipers. Reader John Hughbanks is all too familiar with this modification so he grabbed the angle grinder while a few of us mounted the tires.
Slim's other 1-ton YJ inside the shop needed a little more manpower. After his one-man 72-hour wrenching spree, the Jeep's hydraulic steering still wasn't finished. So with less than seven hours to sunrise, some of the best minds in the off-road world jumped on the project to get it done. This year's invited readers Paul Chowanec, Lee "The Chef" Jenkins, Scott Kittinger, and Nate Marsh worked on armor-plating the body, while Chris Durham and Tim Hardy were busy machining a steering shaft for the orbital valve out of an old axle. But, in the wee hours of the morning, a failed hydraulic pump told us it just wasn't meant to be.
Dawn came, and with it the sounds of log skidders rolling around our campsite. Sam Gillis and Keith Bailey began the steep descent down Three Trail around 9:30 in the morning with Donnie and Patty Hargrove leading the way in their YJ on 44s. We all dropped down a series of ledges and snaked our way through the trees till we came to a dry creek bed that formed the start of the Jeff's Ledges trail.
Ultimate Adventure drama unfolded quickly on the trail. Less than 100 yards into Jeff's Ledges, our trail leader, Donnie Hargrove, lost the inner bead on his 44-inch Swamper. No biggie, except he also lost the inner bead on the wheel. And no, that ain't aluminum - it's steel! To make things worse, Donnie wasn't carrying a spare 'cause there's no place to fit one on his Wrangler. John Hughbanks came to the rescue with a 44-inch loaner that he'd been carrying around for his Bronco.
It was onto the Green Momba trail where the rocks got wet and the ledges a lot more challenging. It quickly became clear that Stephen Watson's K5 Blazer was just about the ideal setup for this terrain. His 42-inch tires, 120-inch wheelbase, and 16 inches of front suspension travel let him scale off-camber ledge climbs like this without hesitation.
Things were going almost too smoothly for us when BFGoodrich's Fred Perry and Gary Enterline tore the track-bar mount right off the axle of the yellow Wrangler. Ouch! Unfortunate for them, but perfect timing for the rest of us 'cause it was just about time for lunch. We rolled the Jeep back off the ledge and Chris Durham, Keith Bailey, Sam Gillis, and Tom Boyd went to work on it. An hour later the Jeep was back in business and the only casualty was Tom Boyd's leg - which now has a welding scar the size of a silver dollar to remind him of the trail repair.
The temperature and humidity kept creeping up and we could hear thundershowers rolling in towards us from the west. John Hughbanks wasn't about to get caught out in the open, so he lit up the 460 in his Bronco to literally leap up a couple of the waterfall climbs.
The toughest obstacle on Green Momba is this double ledge climb that's 4 feet high, slightly off-camber, and wet. If you get to the top you have to make a hard right-hand turn and drive across a rock razorback without rolling. Our trail leader Donnie Hargrove couldn't make the climb with his 44-inch tires, 1-ton axles, and 6.17 gears. When he saw Editor Rick Pw scale it (at times with both front tires off the ground) two thoughts must have been going through his head: one, we drove this truck from California and were wheeling places he couldn't; and two, he needs a set of BFGoodrich Krawlers!
Mike Cox of Sam's Offroad had to try a few different lines coming up the wall before pulling the winch cable out and coming straight up the middle. You'll have to watch the DVD to really appreciate how hairy an obstacle like this can be, as the right line for the first climb put the short wheelbase Jeeps in a horrible spot to try and make the second climb without rolling.
As narrow as a Jeep and longer than our Ultimate K10, invited reader Paul Chowanec went way left on the first climb and took advantage of his wheelbase. His extreme line also helped him make the turn at the top, but it still looked scary enough to keep us from standing in his fall line. Cameras just don't do this stuff justice.
Then came "Mr. Sideways" Tom Boyd. He's still the only guy that can roll his rig and have three wheels in contact with the ground. He didn't go over here, but he sure gave Caleb Krisher from Hobart Welders (riding shotgun) the thrill of his life on the Green Momba.
Coming out of Green Momba was one final obstacle that looks like it would be real bad after a storm. We felt a few raindrops, but nothing that made the trail any harder. Still it was a tight squeeze for the fullsize guys who had to plot a line through the rocks and vegetation. Invited reader Nate Marsh was already on the lookout for some new Wagoneer doors, so he didn't mind a little more of Mother Nature's pinstriping.
Our third wheeling day came to an end on an uphill rockcrawl known as Black Sheep. We were playing in some big rocks now! And at first sight some of us didn't think anyone was going to crawl up the steep chute. Trail leader Donnie Hargrove busted a 30-spline Dana 60 stub shaft, we cut a tire on the UA K10, and Tom Boyd lost his quarter-panel (which Keith Bailey was nice enough to carry back to camp for him). But the rest of our posse made it through just fine. Tired, dirty, and dehydrated, we climbed back up to our campsite on top of the hill.
The final 100-mile leg of UA 2005 road trip took us through Talihina, Oklahoma, where we stopped for food, fuel, repairs, and some souvenirs. Fred Williams' Toyota needed an alternator, one of Sam Patton's Boggers had to have a tube put in it (the fan-belt tire plugs weren't working), and a local mechanic brought out his small-block-powered VW drag car (on a Jeep DJ frame) to see if we would buy it. He said he'd part with it for $4,500 if you've got to have it.
Before we could get back on the road Mother Nature snuck up on us with a healthy summer storm. It was like we had stepped into a swimming pool, and in two seconds we went from being hot and sticky to cold and wet. Even our full-cab K10 was leaking! Editor Rick Pw rounded up the troops and drove us north out of town and out of the storm.
This is not 4-Wheel & Off-Road Publisher Jeff Nasi's M715. We stopped in Big Cedar, Oklahoma, for him to check this one out, but Jeff (and his M715) couldn't be in our group photo cause he was shortcutting his way up Highway 271 instead. It turns out a noise Jeff thought was coming from the NP205 in his M715 was really the ring-and-pinion in his 14-bolt chewing itself up while he drove. We figured he better play it safe and limp it to Poteau, Oklahoma, while the rest of us took the scenic route. Sorry, Jeff, you would have loved this thing.
Our final trail day took us to Cavanal Hill, the tallest hill in the county, where Tim Sims led us through the Axle Breaker trail in his heavily modified CJ-7. Things got off to a rocky start quickly as we looped down a steep incline only to come back up this loose rock mess less than 30 yards away. Our trail leader tried to work a few different lines, but even with 44s he had to winch to get up. For a while it seemed like we might be on this one obstacle all day.
The next two rigs up the hill struggled with the climb. Our Ultimate K10 had to winch when a steering line came loose. Keith Bailey busted a driveshaft and had to winch. John Hughbanks was ready to winch, but he surprised everyone when he throttled up the hill in a single try. Once the line was established and a few of the rocks were blasted out of the way, everyone made it up the climb. Scott and Zach, the "Tuff Country Brothers," practically crawled it in their Toyota buggy.
Returning reader Aaron James, inventor of the redneck cell phone tower (see November 2005 issue), came back this year with his 2001 Dodge Ram. Since we last saw Aaron's 1/2-ton, he fortified it with 1-ton axles to handle the 37-inch Krawlers. Aaron was the last in the group to hit the hill, but he had to make it up - cause he was carrying all our spare parts, tools, and juice boxes.
Clifton "The Spyder Man" Slay wowed us with wheelstanding action on Axle Breaker. Sure, his Poison Spyder Customs Unlimited is longer than a regular TJ - but not long enough to take this line without getting a little light in the front. Don't worry, Clifton didn't roll. If he had he would have flattened our art director, Alan Huber, and you never would have seen these photos.
The final obstacle on the last trail of Ultimate Adventure 2005 was this ledge-climb pinch that made the vehicles want to flop on to the driver side. Here you see readers and Bronco Brothers John Hughbanks and Jake Good (no relation) trying the long- and short-wheelbase lines. Everybody tried, but nobody could crawl this terrain, and in the end everyone had to throttle up it.
By some miracle every single one of us was off the trail long before dark. All that was left to do was throw a party. To celebrate our new friendships, and to get an early start on exaggerating our trail stories, we took over Warehouse Willy's in the center of Poteau. We kicked back and made ourselves feel a little too at home, wrote our names on the wall, and even stapled a few 4-Wheel and Off-Road license plates to the men's room door. You should have been there!
On the trip home, we had to brave a few days of triple digit heat and make a few roadside repairs, but we all made it back safe and sound. Plans for next year's trip are well underway, and it promises to be the best route yet! All we need is you. Do you think you've got what it takes and a rig that will take you there? Then we want to write about you next year on Ultimate Adventure 2006. You better get wrenching.
The Scott Frary Damage Report
The Ultimate Adventure is tough, with lots of casualties along the way. "How tough?" you ask. Well, just take a look at the number of parts that were tortured, busted, or just plain used up in one week of wheeling.
Steering-arm studs ripped out of steering knuckle
Broken traction-bar rod ends
Two broken CBs
T-Max winch remote box failed
Torn rear shock mount
Temperamental steering pump
Minor body damage
Disc-brake caliper retainers fell off
Broken front driveshaft
Lost parts from transfer-case shifter
Enough body damage to turn his fullsize Bronco into a 3/4-scale model
Torn brake line
Bent rear leaf springs
Blown front locking hub
Destroyed roof rack
Body-side molding scattered among three states
Blown front locking hub
Blown front locker
Destroyed rear driveshaft
Rear driveshaft U-joint
Valve stem torn off
Additional body damage is hard to find on old body damage
Nut fell off tie-rod end and allowed drag link to separate from tie rodnBroken front track-bar mount
Replaced leaky steering box
Leaking air shocks
A/C quit working
Stephen Watson/Off Road Design
Slight body damage
Loose power-steering belt
That's it. Nothing else. Nada. (Steve - you suck. Wait!! You missed the first day. Yeah, you would have torn your rig up in Seymour.)
Clifton Slay/Poison Spyder Customs
Broken sway-bar mount
A few scratches
Lost a nut of lower link mount
Mike Cox/Sam's Offroad
Broken shock mount
Cut fuel line
Rick Franco/Sam's Offroad
Broken shock mount
Broken inner and outer front axle
Broken steering knuckle
Two CB antennas
Sam Patton/Sam's Offroad
Burnt spark-plug wire
Hole torn in sidewall of Bogger
Replaced power-steering pump
Scott Sweeny/Tuff Country
Blown fuse on ARB
Slight (very slight) damage to body wrap
Two front axle U-joints
Replaced two rear springs
Rear fender flare pulled loose from body
One motor mount
Jeez ... imagine if he had wheeled more than one day
Non-operational rear ARB (now known as the Allen Locker)
Leaking front steering ram fitting
Multiple taillights torn off
Brake line leak
Cooler lid hinge broken
Body damage? Everywhere. Twice.
Blown front locking hub
Broken exhaust hanger
Multiple repairs to rear mud flaps
Multiple rear-spring failures due to driver ...ummm... tenacity
Body damage was minimal and no one cares
The Usual Suspects
Three blown locking hubs
The high-quality fiberglass fenders almost proved to be Boyd-proof ... almost. "Almost" means they spent time in the bottom of a waterfall.
Broken steering-box bolts
Ripped off a rear fender flare
Hassled the entire week by locals trying to recycle his Suzuki's body
Two blown locking hubs
Two blown rear taillight bulbs
One valve core (yep, core)
Two slightly dented front fenders
2005 Ultimate Adventure, Part 1
2005 Ultimate Adventure, Part 2