Part 2: Midwest Mayhem Tour
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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