The evolution of the off-road hobby can be seen everywhere you look. From your neighborhood Jeep dealer to the Outdoor Channel, the recreation and competition sides of the wheeling world are currently making great strides. While the aftermarket continues to churn out new and inventive ideas, we are also fortunate to still have OEMs taking wheeling seriously and building vehicles with much more than flashy off-road sticker packages.
Like our hobby, we as a magazine continue to evolve. This is especially evident with our annual wheeling crusade known as the Ultimate Adventure. What was once a small wheeling outing with a few friends and editors has transformed into one of the most well-known and respected 4x4 trips in North America. For those who have been abducted by aliens or are too busy looking at what your BFF had for lunch in Mybookfacetwitter land, please allow us to catch you up on what the Ultimate Adventure is today.
For the genuine wheeling enthusiast the Ultimate Adventure is the trip of a lifetime. Each year we pick a part of the country to invade, head there with cameras, 4x4s, and camping gear, and attempt to conquer the toughest trails the region has to offer over the course of a week. The idea is to have fun while wheeling new places with a group of likeminded people, and ultimately test you and your rig’s ability to adapt to whatever obstacles lie ahead.
Since you must drive your rig (no trailers allowed) you and your copilot must be completely self-sufficient for the week. This includes camping gear, tools, spare parts, food, and a copy of Kenny Loggin’s 1986 hit “Danger Zone” for when the going gets tough. Trust us, the going will get tough. There is a mind-set that you learn to live by on the UA: Wheel for the week, not for the day. That being said, there are no bypasses or excuses—and above all, No Whining!
As for the participants, the trip includes a handful of sponsors to help pay the bills and show off their wares, a few old cronies to help with unforeseen problems, 4WOR staff, a video crew to document your every move, and most importantly a dozen diehard readers that have been handpicked to partake in the adventure. There is no magic formula to participate. To apply, simply go to our website (www.4wheeloffroad.com), look under the Ultimate Adventure section, and submit your application.
Leading our group of off-road gypsies for over a decade is Editor-in-Chief Rick Péwé, who coordinates this logistical juggernaut. This year he used the Ultimate Jeep JK to guide our group through the twisty trails and trees of the Pacific Northwest. With Jeep as the title sponsor of this year’s UA the off-road legacy brand helped not only with a new vehicle for us to modify, but Jeep also sent along two of its top engineers to come wheel side by side with us for the week. The unconventional-looking two-door Wrangler Rubicon was the brainchild of Tech Editor Fred Williams. Working with the crew from Hazzard Fabworx in Spokane, Washington, Williams transformed the ’12 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon into an ultra-unique and nimble wheeling machine (“OJ the Ultimate Orange Jeep,” Aug.-Nov. ’12 so far). Sure, even we couldn’t tell at times whether it was coming or going, but it somehow always managed to go in the right direction—whichever way that may have been!
This year’s Northwest adventure kicked off in Redmond, Oregon. Over the course of a week we snaked our way through the scenic landscapes of Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Idaho. The week presented plenty of challenges for the crew, but not even a blown engine could stop the trip’s momentum (more on that later).
This month we recap the first half of the adventure, and next month we will pick back up with the final leg. Those who can’t get enough of the UA can check us out on the web at www.4wheeloffroad.com and www.facebook.com/4wheeloffroad for web-exclusive extras, including behind-the-scenes photos and video.
Day 1, Saturday, June 31:
Check-In & Vehicle Inspections
The first day of the adventure is a parking lot party of sorts. Everyone is arriving from their own neck of the woods (some as far as Chile!) and getting to know one another. It’s a time for vehicle inspection, last-minute prep, and the always fun free T-shirt and sticker corral. This year’s kickoff was held in the parking lot of the Sleep Inn hotel in Redmond, Oregon.
Unlike past UAs, summertime heat was replaced by cool and rainy weather. As usual the crew arrived in steady waves, some a tad later than others. In the midst of laughter and old wheeling tales, the sounds of hammering, grinding, and wrench turning are a constant buzz. A broken ring-and-pinion in the rear of the Hazzard Fabworx Jeep sent the guys scrambling for parts and kicked off our damage report early in the week. While they were able to get a fresh set of gears, the swap in gear thickness forced them to change out their old locker for an open carrier with a set of spider gears. Since lockers are mandatory on the UA, they found a welder and fused the free-spinning spider gears into a makeshift spool to get them through the week. Meanwhile, long hauler Chris Durham swapped out the highway differential gear ratio for a more trail-friendly ratio after the road trip from South Carolina.
With tech inspections and a few trips to the local Wal-Mart for some last-minute camping gear and supplies, time quickly faded into the chilly evening air. At the start of many Ultimate Adventures there’s usually a rig or two MIA. This year’s two absent rigs at check-in happed to both be Toyotas, one belonging to invited reader Jody Ardrey and the other to old cronies Dave Chappelle and Tom Boyd. Both were driving from afar and wrapping up fresh builds. Maybe it was a Toyota thing and we just didn’t understand?