Welcome to the second half of 2010 Ultimate Adventure. For those of you unfamiliar with the UA, here's a rundown. Each year we gather up a group of diehard wheeling enthusiast for a weeklong off-road journey unlike any other wheeling trip on the planet. In the group of off-road misfits are readers just like you (a record seven this year), a handful of old cronies to help herd the pack, a few sponsors to keep the lights on, 4WOR staff, and a film crew to document the chaos sure to ensue.
Leading the group for the 10th time was Editor-in-Chief Rick Péwé in his highly custom Jeep, dubbed the CJ-17 for its WWII B-17 bomber influences (look for more info on the CJ-17 in this issue). The rules of the trip include no trailers (must be able to drive at least 1,000 miles both on- and off-road), vehicles and participants must be entirely self-sufficient (food, water, spare U-joints, and engines), and most importantly, No Whining! Those are just a few of the basics. If you think you have what it takes to come along on the adventure, apply for next year's UA at our website, www.4wheeloffroad.com.
With this year's trip kicking off in Keene, New Hampshire, we have steadily made our trek through some of the toughest wheeling the Northeast has to offer. Last month we left off as our medley of off-road patrons was finishing up Day 4 at the Rok-Park OHV Area just outside of Fonda, New York. For this final installment we journey through the last four days of the adventure, which take us through the backwoods of Pennsylvania and into a secret off-road paradise in the Virginia Mountains. To find out more about the Ultimate Adventure and see lasts month's coverage, visit www.4wheeloffroad.com/2010/ultimateadventure.
Day 5: Wednesday, July 7
Ice Cream 4-Wheeling
As we rolled up our sleeping bags and packed our rigs for the trek ahead, we heard the call for the early morning drivers meeting. Making our way up the wooded path from our primitive camp ground digs, the sun radiated through the treetop canopy, a warm reminder of why they were calling this Northeastern heat wave record breaking. Once we arrived at the top of the hill we found our band of veteran UA cronies whipping up a pancake and Spam breakfast for the group. The reason for stopping earlier in the week to load up on containers of Smith Family pure Vermont maple syrup became clear. The rich blend of fancy syrup and golden homemade flapjacks kicked off the morning nicely. With our bellies full and gas tanks nearly empty from yesterday's epic wheeling, we said goodbye to the gracious Rok-Park host (www.rok-freekz.com) and continued our tour of the Northeast.
Cutting our way through the scenic backroads, we dipped and climbed through the heavily wooded forest and valleys. With views of the countryside that seemed to continue for miles, we slowly etched our way out of New York and into the state that many Amish love to call home, Pennsylvania. It wasn't long before we were passing buggies of a more classic nature and adding a touch of color and modern rumble to the very rural and picturesque part of the nation.
By this time in the week the tough trails, long miles, and nonstop pace usually begins to wear on both the rigs and their drivers. Whether it's a worn suspension joint, an out-of-balance driveline, a loose bolt, or a shrinking bladder, a quick jaunt down the highway can bring these seemingly small problems to light fast. So with less than 80 miles of highway driving under our belts, we made a pit stop so a few of the rigs could check out some concerning noises.
As luck would have it, our impromptu pit stop happened between an ice cream shop and a flower nursery. Since no one was really in the market for tulips, we sweet-talked the ice cream shop owner into opening up a little early and serving up a few scoops of his fresh soft serve to the group. Downing our chilly treats before the heat melted them away, we all loaded up again for another long leg of driving.
While the straightest line to your next destination may be the quickest, it usually isn't the most scenic. Shadowing our trip through Pennsylvania was the Susquehanna River. This long and wide flowing body of water crisscrossed us throughout the day and was a refreshing sight, even if we didn't get to dive in.
Along with the river we encountered a series of notable sites. And while a drive past a nuclear powerplant and a turn under the world's largest concrete bridge might not be high on your must-do list, they were interesting ways to break up the blacktop jog.
With daylight drawing to a close, we arrived at our next wheeling and camping spot, Rausch Creek Off-Road Park (www.rc4x4.org). Waiting for us with the floodlights on and dinner packed in the pavilion were Tremont, Pennsylvania, locals and park overseers Bruce Shallis and Lynn Ehrenfeld. After a few brief introductions and setting up our campsites, the group was invited to grab some grub from Paulie's Cookin' catering service. This mouthwatering food selection was a great way to end a long and hot road day and a perfect way to unwind under the starlight-free sky.
Day 6: Thursday, July 8
Up A Creek
After a long road day and great night of camping, the group was fired up for what was sure to be a memorable day of wheeling. Though most of the crew was familiar with Rausch Creek Off-Road Park, few had ever dug their cleats into the dry and rock-covered soil. With so many off-road areas closing down in the Northeast, Rausch Creek has become a wheeling haven for off-road enthusiast from across the country. With countless obstacles, action-packed trails, and scenic overlooks, there is literally something for every wheeling level and vehicle type. Open to the public year-round, Rausch Creek's 3,000 acres of wheeling paradise is one of the most organized and topnotch wheeling destinations you'll ever visit.
Starting off the day with a brief trip through the wooded acreage, it didn't take long for the first hillclimb of the day to prove treacherous for a few. From a quick flop by Tim Hardy's Samurai to a complete front-axlehousing explosion under Tom Boyd's Bronco, before breakfast had even settled, we had witnessed some of the most intense carnage of the trip! With some of our group forced to limp back to camp for repairs, we continued on to the next black-diamond challenge.
This monster wall of rock was known as the Level 5 hillclimb and offered wheelers three very different, and extremely challenging, lines. Though there were a few tense moments here and there and one near roll, the Goodyear MT/Rs worked great to find traction where there didn't appear to be any.
With some of the larger rock obstacles conquered by the group, the Rausch Creek crew took us to some of their more technical and rock-filled areas. These boulder creek beds were a fun way to mix in some technical rockcrawling with the loose-dirt hillclimbs. To clean off some of the dust, we crawled down to one of the more mud-soaked areas of the park. While most of the crew chose to take the high line through the mud, some were brave enough to head for the deep stuff.
Though some of the group suffered a wet sensor here and there, no one had it worse than Shay Stepp and his Bronco II. A quick dip in the deep-water mud pit gifted the SoCal wheeler with a hydro-locked engine. Though understandably disappointed, Shay wasn't done with the trip just yet. But more on that later.
While we were all having fun wheeling the park, the Hobart M-37 and old cronies were back at camp mending Tom Boyd's Bronco's front axle. In what could go down as the quickest complete frontend fix and rebuild on record, they were able to fix Tom's Bronco and catch up with the rest of the group just in time to finish the last trail of the day.
With the exception of our local trail leader's buggy taking a flop, the last trail section proved to be a trouble-free and fun way to end the day. With ominous skies approaching, we all hightailed it back to camp and into the pavilion for another round of Paulie's Cookin', courtesy of Daystar. Cool air began rolling in and a nice breeze kicked up, signs for a summertime shower. Not long after most of the campers had retired for the night, big drops came thundering down.
Carnage Report, Day 6
•Broken rear locker and axleshaft: Hi-Lift TJ
•Broken front axle, ring-and-pinion, and hub: Tom's Bronco
•Broken front axleshaft: Daystar TJ buggy
•Broken front ring-and-pinion: Matt's K-10
•Hydrolocked engine: Shay's Bronco II
•Broken control arm mount: Lance's S-10 Blazer
•Bent driveshaft and wheel: Andrew's Ranger
•Cut sidewall: BDS TJ
Day 7: Friday, July 9
A BoatLoad Of Rigs
With the ground saturated after a long night of heavy rain, we packed in our camping gear one last time. Friday is highly anticipated by many of the campers, since it brings the guarantee of a real bed and shower at the end of the day. But before we could get to our fine hotel digs we had to make it through one more surprise-filled road day.
Not long after we exited the park, residual damage from yesterday's hardcore trails began to show up in a few of the rigs. Hit with a mix of death wobble, loose bolts, and wobbly tires, the group was forced to split up so that the rigs with issues could get fixed and then meet up with the pack.
While the UA is for the most part a finely tuned machine, some things Mother Nature won't let you plan for.
So when the Susquehanna River was running a little low, it meant that our group would have to forgo the opportunity to ride across on the classic Millersburg paddle ferry. Though we did get a chance to walk about the classic riverboat ferry, we had no choice but to drive around to what would have been the ferry drop-off. This ferry detour sent the group through a small camping and RV community along the riverbank. And even though the locals were sure some of our larger 4x4s could easily drive across the river's rocky bed, we opted to keep our rigs out of any fishy situations.
Since our schedule was now a little out of whack, we made the best of it by getting our feet wet down by the river courtesy of the park manager, Shaun, and checking out the locals' modified river toys. Once we had all the splashing around and dime-store candy we could handle, we made one last parade through the campground and back onto the rolling blacktop.
We cut over the Potomac River and through Maryland, and a few gas stops, some luscious green countryside, and a lot of winding roads later we ended our day at the Marriot hotel in Winchester, Virginia. This early evening arrival gave the crew a chance to clean up and grab a nice bite to eat, and left us all in suspense over what the last day would have in store.
Day 8: Saturday, July 10
Victory Is Ours!
After grabbing a solid night's rest and scraping off a weeks' worth of dirt from between our toes, we gathered in the hotel parking lot for one last drivers meeting. Though the trip had wound down to this point, there was no doubt that the adventure was far from over. With the blacktop glowing from last night's showers and a few clouds continuing to linger, mass speculation began to stir about what slick terrain lay ahead. As a rule, a heavy rainfall can make a usually easy trail difficult, and an extreme path practically impassable.
Ready for the challenge, we jumped in our rigs and headed to the highly anticipated final wheeling destination. On the road for only a brief stint, we soon found ourselves entering a winding forest road that led us to The Cove Campground (www.covecampground.com). Just 12 miles west of Winchester, Virginia, the Cove is a 3,000-acre multiuse facility that has something for just about every type of outdoor enthusiast. The facility is owned and operated by the McDowell family, and they open their off-road paradise to OHV owners about seven times a year.
This 4x4 portion of the Cove Campground is known as the MotoCove (www.motocove.com). You'll need to check with them or one of their local event promoters, such as Big Dogs Offroad (www.bigdogsoffroad.com), before heading out to wheel the park.
At first glance the glistening ponds and lush green vegetation mask any possibility of off-road trails, but as you drive a little farther into the Cove property, the trail entrances begin to peek out from around the forest. As part of the Appalachian Mountains, there is no shortage of elevation around the property.
While the big fields of glowing green grass may give you the impression that this property is boulder-free, one quick peek into the woods reveals a rockcrawler's haven. Though they do have a mix of loose dirt, muddy passes, and tree-lined trails, the real action is in their rows of rock gardens and boulder field trails. These tricky pathways to the top can challenge the best-built rigs, as washing-machine-sized rocks often shift and slide beneath your tires as you crawl your way up. And given the weather and seasonal rainfall, what line you take at the beginning of the season probably won't be the same one you drive at the end of it.
Since rockcrawling is what many of our UA attendees enjoy, these rivers of rock trails were the perfect way to round out the trip. Though some of the crew experienced a little carnage climbing through the Cove, most of the group crawled through with hardly any issues.
For many the last trail of the trip symbolizes not just the end of the journey, but also the feeling of pride that they survived this modern-day adventure. This year's trip will no doubt go down as one of the most carnage-enriched, but with our diverse group of fun-loving wheeling enthusiast, it may also go down as one of the best.
Carnage Report: Last Day
•Body Damage: Warn's LJ, Shay's Bronco II, Clifton's LJ
•Broken rear link bolt & hub: Jeff's Tacoma
•Broken belt, seized water pump, bent driveshaft: Tom's Bronco
•Bent radius arm and wheel seal: Andrew's Ranger
•Front axleshaft: Overkill TJ, Matt's K-10
•Busted rear U-joint: Paul's 4Runner
•Cut sidewall: Hobart's M-37
•Broken control arm: 4WOR's CJ-17
•Busted rear driveshaft: Sam's Liberty buggy