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2009 Ultimate Adventure Midwest Four Wheeling Part 2

Posted in Ultimate Adventure: 2010 on December 1, 2009 Comment (0)
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Welcome to Part 2 of the '09 Ultimate Adventure. For those of you just joining in, here's a refresher on what the UA is all about. While the off-road convoy can easily be confused for a traveling circus, the reality is that this off-road adventure is great mix of people, trails, camping, and drives through the amazing countryside and small towns across the nation. With the expedition covering fresh territory each year, it has evolved into one of the most challenging and incredible weeklong wheeling trips on the planet.

Making up this off-road festival is about a dozen readers just like you, a few sponsors to help us keep the lights on, a couple cronies, the 4WOR staff, and a handful of videographers to document the journey. Leading the adventure for the ninth time was Editor-in-Chief Rick Péwé. As head of our band of off-road misfits, he coordinated this Midwest Mayhem Tour and took his regular place at the front of the group piloting this year's Ultimate Super Duty. The massive fullsize Ranch Truck was built by the talented truck builders and fabricators at Offroad Design with the help of Executive Editor Kevin McNulty, and Péwé squeezed it anywhere he could fit it and a few places he couldn't.

While most of the group enjoyed a nice road day and fun-filled afternoon visiting the stores and sights of Michigan and Ohio, a few were hard at work. Now equipped with the correct pinion bearing, the Watson, Stearns, and Hobart crews were able to get the Ultimate Super Duty back in action and even managed to show up in time for the barbeque buffet dinner at Rocks and Valleys Off Road Park.

Last month, with the help of our title sponsor, Goodyear Tires, we fired up this three-state tour at the birthplace of the Jeep: Butler, Pennsylvania. Traversing the tight forest and hills of Outback Offroad Adventure Park in Six Points, Pennsylvania, we continued on through the scenic backroads and graduated to the mega-obstacles at JeepSkool in northeast Ohio.

The town of Somerset built a monument to General Sheridan's ultimate adventure!

After a few amazing days of wheeling we ended the first half of our tour on the slick rock and off-camber climbs of Painted Rock Adventure Park. Looking towards Michigan, we now pick things up on Wednesday morning, Day 5. With a few hundred miles of blacktop and some serious trails ahead, we set our sights toward Michigan's Upper Peninsula and continued our journey toward the final wheeling destination, Drummond Island.

Waterballon warfare is all part of the Ultimate Adventure. For many it's the only shower they'll have for a few days!

For those of you who missed last month's coverage and want to know more about what it takes to come on the Ultimate Adventure, visit 4wheeloffroad.com.

Day 5: Wednesday, July 8
On The Road Again
After a great night of camping under the Ohio stars we awoke to a cool breeze and clear sky. All loaded up, we said our goodbyes to the crew at Painted Rock Adventure Park and headed through the village of Somerset for an extraordinary drive past the General Sheridan monument and historic courthouse. With the UA Super Duty waiting on parts, Péwé hopped in Whopper Jr. (the $500 F-250 roadside purchase) and corralled our group toward Dundee, Michigan.

If you're into the outdoors, we suggest taking a trip to a Cabela's near you. We're not sure if they are all as massive as the one in Dundee, Michigan, but it's almost certain that you'll find something in the store that you didn't know you needed but now must have.

While Dundee doesn't hold any particular wheeling history to speak of, it does have one of the largest Cabela's Outdoor stores we've seen. Stopping by the massive outdoor-enthusiast Mecca, we loaded up on more bug spray, scored some new stuff that we had to have but didn't really need, and then fueled up for the highway journey ahead.

After downing a few convenience store burritos, listening to a couple hours' worth of garbled CB chatter, and gaining a nice rotisserie glow from the relentless sun beating down on the blackened pavement, we pulled into another surprise pit stop. This roadside rendezvous was all a little more drab than our last stop, but for this group that was just fine. Swinging into General Jim's Surplus store in Clare, Michigan, we got the chance to browse some sweet military goods and embrace our inner G.I. Joe. From complete military trucks to combat gear, General Jim's had plenty of new and old military items to choose from. Leaving the store with our arms packed full of olive drab goodies, we hopped back in our tired 4-bys and headed a little farther north.

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At Rocks and Valleys Off Road Park in Harrison, Michigan, later in the evening we were met by a huge group of good old-fashioned fun-loving wheelers. We were treated to a mouthwatering home-style barbeque buffet hosted by Ron Price and the Rocks and Valley Rangers. It was by far the best meal we'd eaten all week. So with our bellies full and sunlight still on the horizon we set up camp, looked over our rigs, and shot the bull around the campfire into the late evening light.

Day 6: Thursday, July 9
Rocks and Valleys
After a cozy night's sleep under the northern moonlight we all squinted our way through early morning sunshine and gathered around for our daily drivers meeting. Since Rocks and Valleys had opened only 12 months before our arrival, we eagerly anticipated checking out the freshly laid trails. Shaped by the hard-working guys and gals from the Rocks and Valleys Rangers, the park is filled with a seemingly infinite amount of steep climbs and sharp drop-offs. Generally they require you to run marker flags on the front of your rig so it can still be seen as it drops in and out of the endless gullies. And while their manmade rock sections are tough, to say the least, the park's mud-soaked trails hidden throughout the dense forest would prove to be quite the challenge for the group.

After taking a rock to the oil pan early in the day the Light Force TJ, piloted by Chris Corbett and Chris Begley, headed back to camp to patch things up. With help from Hobart and Chris Durham, they made a record-setting pan repair and were able to catch up with the group before we even stopped for lunch.
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Though we lost a couple rigs early in the day due to a few broken parts and an oil pan that received some tough love from a jagged rock, the majority of the crew managed to crawl their way through the initial couple of sandy and rocky trails without issue. Arriving at the first mud hole of the day, the Ultimate Super Duty wasted no time and gave the forest swamp path a go. With rich brown mud slinging from the tires and a tall ledge-and-stump combo to challenge you at the exit, the muddy path proved to be a great opportunity for the crews to test out their Warn winches.

A balance of wheel speed and momentum was all it took to make it through the Northern Michigan mud. Jonathan Cooper and Andrea Miller piloted their '01 Tundra through the thick of it and still have the muddy floor mats to prove it.

Once we all drug and clawed our way out of the pit we headed to a more wide-open section of mud. Admittedly, there was a curious smell eking out of the earth, but each driver took the plunge through the muck and made it through to the other side. With sheets of goop now dropping beneath the rigs we made our way to the mega rock hill. Each participant attempted to navigate his or her way to the top without being tossed over by the washing-machine-sized boulders.

After challenging the obstacle and having it defeat a vehicle or two, we continued on to an inviting sight, a carwash. Although there were no bikini models or college cheerleaders to help us knock off all the mud, the fire hose nozzles cleaned up our rigs in great time. As a matter of fact, we cleaned up the rigs so fast that we had enough time for one more trail!

Equipped with BDS coils at all four corners, Mike DeMarco's ZJ had no trouble stuffing the massive 42-inch MT/Rs over the rocks. While the new Goodyears seemed to perform well in a variety of environments, they really shined in the rocks. Using the big cleats to hold traction, they hooked on and rolled over the dishwasher-sized boulders with ease.

On Winch Hill, a moderately difficult rockcrawl course set up through the woods, each participant made his or her way to the top and crept back down. Short on daylight and with all of our bellies on empty, we headed back to camp to unwind. We were greeted with another all-too-delicious barbeque put on by the locals. Feasting late into the night, we aired up our tires and began preparing for a long road day tomorrow.

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Day 6 Breakage
Stub shaft and front locker: Durham TJ
Hole in oil pan: Light Force TJ
Rear axleshaft: Ultimate Super Duty
Power steering pump: K&N Jeepster
Broken synthetic winch line: Cooper Tundra
Fuel leak and steer pulley: Hobart JK
Minimal body damage: Most rigs!
Bent rear axle: BDS TJ

Day 7: Friday, July 10
Are We there yet?
There comes a point in every camping trip when you realize that the funny smell you keep getting a whiff of is actually coming from you. For us, this day is usually Friday. Getting an early start to the day, we rolled up our dusty camping gear and packed up for the final road day. Though each day we have a certain schedule we need to stick to, this day was particularly important. Why? It all boils down to a little ferry. OK, it's actually a really big ferry and one that we had to catch to get to Drummond Island before its nightly shutdown.

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Not long after we made our way onto the road, a CB call goes out that the BDS TJ needs to pull over due to an intense drivetrain vibration. The culprit for their problems turns out to be a broken-off U-joint tab on the rear yoke. Luckily the Hobart support trailer was in close pursuit and fixed them up a solution in just a few minutes.

As the official welder and sponsors of the '09 Ultimate Adventure, the Hobart crew was there to help whenever you needed a hand or a weld. Armed with their new portable Trek 180, they spent the trail days cruising in the massive four-door JK piloted by Mel Wade. For those in need of a more permanent repair, Caleb Krisher, Don Foster, and Darrel Sickles were always ready to lend a hand at their support trailer, which is nothing short of a mobile fabrication shop.

After a little more highway driving we pulled into what seemed at first glance like a long dirt driveway. As it turned out we were heading down a heavily wooded county road that serves as a snowmobile thoroughfare in winter. Cutting through the dusty road, we stopped midway for a chance to check up on our rigs and have a midday drivers meeting.

Drivers meeting!

As is the case in most trips, there is that element of "hurry up and wait." After all, this medley of weekend wheeling machines and purpose-built buggies had spent the better half of the week getting beat on in the rocks, mud, and hills, so you can expect that a few components are about ready to call it quits. Always maintaining group integrity, each participant is there to lend a hand or a ball joint when you need it. So with everyone's rig holding together for the moment, we made the transition from the dirt to the street and continued our trek north.

As we stated, we love all things olive drab, so when we spotted Pineview Surplus and Supply in Frederic, Michigan, we had to swing in. Filled with racks of Army and Navy memorabilia and items for purchase, we spent a good block of time just checking out a portion of the goods. Now loaded up with a few more camo items for the road, we began to hone in on Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

To get to the U.P. we crossed the incredible Mackinac Bridge. Opened in 1957, the 26,372-foot bridge (yes, that's 5 miles) is the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere. Rolling our way over the Straits of Mackinac, we made our slow drive across the bridge and officially became Uppers.

With time definitely not on our side, we kicked things up and boogied down to the docks to catch the ferry. Arriving at the docks in the nick of time, we loaded the group onboard and set sail.

With the group divided into cabins and houses mixed between the Drummond Island Resort and Yacht Haven Resort, we all got to experience the lap of luxury on this island getaway. And while we rejoiced for the showers and fine digs, we all knew that tomorrow's wheeling would likely be the toughest.

Day 7 Breakage
Rear axle yoke: BDS TJ
Rear axle bearing: Hobart JK

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Day 8: Saturday, July 11
Finale
Starting off the last day of the adventure with a sound night's sleep and a great breakfast from the Drummond Island Resort, we rounded ourselves up one last time for another early-morning drivers meeting. Leading us through the day's trails at Turtle Ridge Off Road Park was Clint Carter and his fellow Williamsburg Welfare Wheelers. The local wheeling club is comprised of hard-working wheeling enthusiasts who work closely with Turtle Ridge land owners Eric and Ryan Ondrus to make the island a fun and challenging place to go off road.

Treated to a clear blue sky and a cool northern breeze, the locals said that we were in luck because the few weeks of rain prior to our arrival had made the trails that much better. We had a feeling that meant mud, and we were partially right. Seeing as how most of the island is at or below sea level, a little rain makes a huge impact.

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Making our way into the first trail, it didn't take long for us to reach the soupy island mud. As each rig nosedived into the glazed brown muck, you could hear the rev limiters tapping loudly and watch the mud fling high into the bright green canopy. Kicking off our day with a little goo on our trucks, we made it through the big pit and on to more rocky terrain. Navigating through the tight and windy park, each narrow trail connected us to a more open area. These play areas were lined with tall rock ledges and incredibly loose rich brown dirt that exploded beneath our tires as soon as a little throttle was applied.

Making our way farther into the forest, we arrived at the main rockcrawling and ledge area, the Citadel. While here, it didn't take long for the crews to find some new lines and push their rigs to the limit. Though a few rigs busted a couple parts, most managed to keep things together and make it up a handful of the incredible and very much vertical rock ledges.

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In the evening we headed off for one last trail that dropped us into a Rubicon-style rock course. Even with the colossal rocks standing in their way, our crews crept through like a seasoned bunch of rockcrawling pros. Little did they know as they exited the last rock ledge that they were exiting the last obstacle of the adventure.

It goes without saying that some road trips feel never-ending while others come and go so fast that if it weren't for the pictures you probably wouldn't remember them at all. Ultimate Adventure is more than just another wheeling trip. It's a chance to surround yourself with likeminded 4x enthusiast and not only complete an epic off-road journey, but survive it.

Day 8 Breakage
Minimal body damage: Everyone, even the Stearns Blazer!
Power steering pull: DeMarco Grand Cherokee
Broken front locker, hub, and rear driveshaft: Gillis Mean Green buggy

UA '09 DVD Ordering info
Only $17.95 plus shipping and handling.
Order by phone or online at:

National Tire & Wheel
800.847.3287
www.ntwonline.com

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