Midwest Metal Mash
Five days into Ultimate Adventure and we had already made our way through parts of Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma. By now we have also figured out this is one of the toughest UA events in recent years due to the extreme wheeling, blazing triple-digit temperatures, and torrid humidity.
All the adventurers were in tune with the performance of their vehicles, most of which had just been built or were heavily modified a few days before the UA. Worn and failing parts and the weakest points on the rigs had been found by now, which usually led to mechanical failures, trail repairs, and late-night dirt lot wrenching. Only a couple drivers had to search in the small towns we passed through for parts or had them shipped in. All the driving teams (except one Jeep the last day) made their repairs, and all caught up with the group at the next destination. But that’s what Ultimate Adventure is all about, and there’s no whining!
We’ve found over the years that no matter how much preparation went into a vehicle, something always goes wrong. This can make that lucky guy or gal a little nervous, but the fact is usually only one or two vehicles survive the UA without mechanical failure or breakage. The drivers who manage to escape harm have a champion’s swagger until next year’s UA. If they can pull it off two years in a row, then they are legends.
There is always a bit of anxiety in participants, even among hardened UA vets—whether they admit it or not. Everyone is concerned about how their rig will perform or how they can stave off precarious mishaps. After all, it’s not much fun being stuck in the middle of the trail when there’s a killer trail obstacle just up ahead. The uneasiness includes the fact that all eyes and the film and camera crew are trained on the drivers and spotters while they are making their way through the trail. Mess up here, and millions could be watching you on television or on the DVD later.
There’s No Turning Back
Up to this point we were all holding up physically and were upbeat, even in the oppressive heat. Everyone was always reminded by our fearless leader, General Péwé, to “hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.” There was always an array of junk food to nourish our disheveled bodies. It seems every gas station in this part of the country has some sort of greasy fried food in a glass case that is kept lukewarm with heat lamps. It’s not the food we like to survive on, but an occasional and delectable basket of fried chicken gizzards, okra, hush puppies, and a side of thick country gravy never hurt anyone.
A requirement of the Ultimate Adventure is that everyone must be self-sufficient, but we also understand that not everyone is perfect and that a guy just can’t carry everything in a small rig. This is where our four-wheeling teamwork shines. Someone is always there to lend a hand, part, drink, or sandwich.
Our traveling band of four-wheelers has really come to appreciate the products the Ultimate Adventure sponsors provided to get us through our journey. We can’t count the times the cables were pulled from the Warn winches or the Bubba Ropes were yanked from their storage bags and slung between vehicles. Some of us had run Nitto Mud Grappler tires before, but not during a weeklong event filled with hundreds of highway miles and slick, rocky, and wet terrain. The Mud Grapplers performed exceptionally well due to their extremely aggressive tread design. The wide voids between the tread blocks did exactly what they were designed to do: self-clean and spin off even the thickest sludge we drove through.
So here we are, halfway through Ultimate Adventure. There was no turning back. By now everyone had fallen in line and found their place in the daily routine: travel, wake up early, grab a quick meal, break camp, hit the road. The readers have found new friends, and everyone was always right there if anyone needed assistance. We were getting ready for our first long day of road travel, and everyone was looking forward to the unique and unusual stops and roadside attractions.
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