Part 1: The Northeast Invasion
Every hobby or sport has a pinnacle event that defines its core and, for many, legitimizes its very existence. Traditionally, we magazine editors work to bring you the most dynamic and cherished off-road events from around the globe. From the barren Baja Peninsula to the Australian Outback, we have covered some of the most coveted 4x4 events, adventures, and competitions on the plant. While our role for many years has been to observe and report, 11 years ago we changed the history books by creating our own yearly wheeling expedition known as the Ultimate Adventure.
What started off with a few editors and friends looking to break away for a week of wheeling and countryside exploration has evolved into one of the premiere off-road trips on the globe. Now in its 10th year with Editor-in-Chief Rick Péwé at the helm, the Ultimate Adventure has become an exciting magazine tradition that is more than a weeklong off-road vacation. It's a true modern-day adventure.
The fundamentals of the UA include driving (not towing) your rig over nearly 1,000 miles of mud, rock, sand, trees, and asphalt, all while being entirely self-sufficient (camping gear, food, fuel, spare parts, mosquito repellant). While the UA motto for many years has been "Wheel for the Week, Not for the Day," the true slogan for the adventure will forever be "No Whining!"
Since the Ultimate Adventure is a reader-based event (we do it for you) becoming a part of it is as easy as sending in an application (which can be found on our website, 4wheeloffroad.com). If you do get picked, your wheeling buddies for the week will consist of the 4-Wheel & Off-Road staff, a few other invited readers, our gracious sponsors, a handful of old cronies that will show you the ropes, and a fearless film crew that will be there to document all of your off-road triumphs and disasters.
For this year's adventure we headed to the Northeast and started things off in the high mountain air of Keene, New Hampshire. Leading our group is our boss and adventure/logistics expert Rick Péwé in his custom-built CJ-7. While unique build themes have always been a part of the official UA vehicle, this year's rig took its cues from a more classic aviation source: the Boeing B-17 bomber of World War II. From rows of rivets to an actual B-17 steering wheel (more properly called a control yoke), Tech Editor Fred Williams did a great job of achieving almost the impossible, building a truly unique Jeep dubbed the CJ-17. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for articles on how the CJ-17 took flight.
While we don't want to spoil too much of the trip's highlights in just one issue, we will tell you that this year's UA may go down as one of the most damage-filled. And though we could easily spend an entire issue discussing the amount of breakage and mechanical chaos that almost every participant experienced, we'll just start you off with a taste and a closer look at how the first half of the trip broke down (literally and figuratively). Be sure to check back next month as we pick up on Day 5 of the event and round out our Northeast invasion.
Day 1: Saturday, July 3
Check In To Head Out
You'll likely never spend more time hanging around in a hotel parking lot than you will on the first day of the Ultimate Adventure. Though it may seem like an odd way to start an off-road journey, the check-in day is a vital part of the event. The 4WOR staff performs vehicle tech inspections, participants meet and greet, and most importantly, check-in creates a small time window for any and all last-minute vehicle fixes and upgrades.
Starting things off at the Best Western in Keene, New Hampshire, we received a taste of what the record-setting heat wave had in store. First to arrive at the hotel was our medley of invited readers, a total of six new and one returning. With stories of broken trailers, blown engines, and ejecting tires already buzzing around the parking lot, we had a feeling that this year's adventure would be an interesting one for sure.
Since participants for this year's event were traveling in from all across the U.S. and Canada, arrival times varied greatly. So when half of our group was still MIA around 5 p.m., we were hesitant to question their absence. But as night began to fall, we knew something was amiss. Most notably missing from the group was event leader Rick Péwé and his CJ-17.
As it turned out, a big chunk of our UA group, including virtually all of the old cronies, weren't simply stuck in New York City traffic, but rather were busy installing the final touches to the CJ-17 at the Williams family farm in Pennsylvania. The missing rigs and participants left many wondering when they would show and what the status of the highly anticipated lead vehicle would be.