The greatest (off)road trip On Earth.
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.