Are You Man Enough For This Trip?
Summer brings with it lemonade stands, baseball, and for the last 13 years, our annual wheel/wrench/drive-athon known as the Ultimate Adventure. Editor-in-Chief Rick Péwé has a self-imposed mandate to go to a new location each year, and the low-hanging fruit like the Rubicon and Moab was picked long ago. This year at the end of June the 4WOR staff, sponsors, readers, and our old cronies assembled in Oxford, Alabama, where the humidity was so high that each participant was issued a bottle of Gold Bond powder.
Before the real sweating could begin though, Péwé inspected each vehicle for necessary items like 35-inch-tall (or taller) tires, lockers front and rear, full rollcage, fire extinguishers, and more. Meanwhile old friends that only see each other once a year reunited and new friends were made in Oxford as everyone speculated about what General Péwé had in store for them in the next week.
“The shortest distance between two points is boring”
The Best 4x4 Trip Ever
The Ultimate Adventure is like no other trip in the world. It’s a happy cross between death-defying feats of 4x4 bravado, tedious hours of waiting in line or pounding along pavement, fixing broken rigs MacGyver-style on the side of the road or trail, eating at gas stations while living out of your 4x4 for a week, an excruciting lack of sleep, and wheeling with a group of people who will become lifelong friends. It’s like a 4x4 summer camp where you get to wheel the tar out of your rig and yourself while realizing you get to wheel for the whole week.
Trailers aren’t allowed. Each vehicle has to be street-legal and capable of spending all day (and night) at 65 mph with a range of at least 150 miles between fill-ups. It’s not a trip for dedicated trail rigs, but we still expect you to wheel hard. There are no go-arounds or bypasses on this trip, and everyone pitches in to make sure the entire group makes it to the end. That’s why our motto is No Whiners. After a week of wheeling at this boot camp you’ll figure out why.
This year’s 4x4 Camp crossed Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina in a 1,500-mile grueling extravaganza that saw carnage galore—even before we hit the trails. Fun is the main objective, with a heavy dose of camping and wheeling thrown in. With 24 rigs this year the trails were packed with some of the best action around. Check out www.4wheeloffroad.com for more photos, and don’t forget to pick up next month’s issue for Part 2 of the Ultimate Adventure!
Day 1: Morris Mountain
The first park the convoy hit was Morris Mountain, a 400-acre private park located only a stone’s throw away from our starting point in Oxford. Morris Mountain is open most weekends of the year and has been made famous on YouTube with videos of 800hp rock bouncers launching up ledges. But extreme rock bouncers like Timmy Cameron and JoJo Tanner don’t have to drive their rock buggies down the road after beating on them all day, so it was interesting to see what our diverse group of wheelers could accomplish on the same terrain.
There was carnage on the very first obstacle, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Despite the best efforts of Mopar engineer Tony Carvallo, the front locker on Cooper Rasmussen’s JK would not engage. “I don’t think you can make that line without a front locker,” Carvallo warned.
“Challenge accepted!” Rasmussen enthusiastically replied. Unfortunately his rear ring-and-pinion gears did not accept the challenge, and our first casualty had occurred. It would not be the last.
While conquering The Gauntlet, Los Primos, and RBD, several other parts let go. There were more than a few nervous glances since Péwé typically starts the UA off easy and makes it harder as the trip progresses! Fortunately Keith Bailey’s shop, The Offroad Connection, was nearby and had plenty of parts on the shelves. Many of the group didn’t even get to enjoy their last night in a comfy hotel bed because they were too busy changing ring-and-pinions and busted lockers in the parking lot.
Day 1 Carnage
- Keith Bailey: Broken high-pinion Dana 60 ring-and-pinion
- Alan Buchholz: Leaking master cylinder
- Aaron Duncan: Broken Dana 60 hub and Detroit Locker
- ARB/Matt Glass: Broken rear CV driveline
- Tim Hardy: 5 blown tire beads
- Nitro Gear/Carl Montoya: Sheered rear full-float axle studs
- Offroad Power Products/Cooper Rasmussen: Broken high-pinion Dana 60 ring-and-pinion
- Nitto Tire/Mel Wade: Shattered window
Day 2: Alabama to Georgia
Archimedes was the first to identify the shortest distance between two points as a straight line. Péwé counters that the shortest distance between two points is boring and not likely to reveal cool old 4x4s hidden in the roadside weeds. Thusly our first road day began with a visit to a local salvage yard before the thermostats even had a chance to open.
From there the group went to Cheaha State Park, the highest point in Alabama, and on to dirt backroads. That’s right, even on “road days” we hit dirt on the Ultimate Adventure. Sam Gillis had a stuck brake caliper along the way, so Tim Hardy went to retrieve a new one from the local auto parts store. In the parking lot the timing chain broke on his Hardy’s Samurai, so Hardy did what he always does—changed it in the parking lot.
His cellphone was also dead, but the kind folks at Napa let him use their phone so he could coordinate with Keith Bailey, who was battling transmission issues. Luckily Gillis was not in a hurry to get the caliper!
With stops along the way for fuel and food, it was well after dark before the rest of the group was setting up camp at River Rock OHV Park in Milledgeville, Georgia. Hardy and Bailey were not too far behind.
Day 2 Carnage
- Keith Bailey: Faulty transmission solenoid
- Sam Gillis: Stuck brake caliper
- Tim Hardy: Broken timing chain
- VJ Perrin: Slowest truck on the trip pulled over for speeding
- Ken Smith: Clutch linkage failure
Day 3: River Rock
Steve Renfro closed his 150-acre River Rock ORV Park in 2010 when he built his home on the property, but all of the trails and obstacles are still there. Since the park had a reputation for some of the hardest terrain in the South, Péwé wanted to visit River Rock badly, and his powers of persuasion convinced Renfro to let us camp and wheel on his property just this one time.
The day started with Renfro and the local wheelers feeling out our capabilities on some of the easier obstacles. River Rock consists primarily of a series of hillclimbs in and out of a deep ravine that has large boulders interrupted by slick Georgia clay. As more rigs went up the hills, the trails became harder and harder for the rigs at the back of the pack.
Now we know why they say “crawling is boring” in the South; it took wheel speed to climb these obstacles. But with the combination of clay and rock the traction is highly variable, and when the Nittos hooked they found the weak links in a rig’s drivetrain. Fortunately River Rock has a shop right on the property. Cronies Sam Gillis and Dave Chappelle were elbow-deep in grease from sun up ’til sun down helping others get their rides repaired.
Step By StepView Photo Gallery
Those who were still running wheeled through progressively harder trails, culminating in the infamous Trail 5. The huge boulders, steep grade, and strategically placed loader tires would make this a challenge on the driest of days, but our visit was not the driest of days. As Péwé pointed the Super Dirty up Trail 5 the skies opened up and unleashed a torrent of rain. We started to wonder if we should start rounding up animals two by two instead of worrying about our 4x4s.
Stephen Watson and Tim Hardy were the only ones brave enough (or was it foolish enough?) to follow Péwé on the optional obstacle, and all three needed help from their Warn winches to make it to the top of Trail 5. The rest of the group was more interested in going whole hog on dinner, which consisted of a whole hog slowly roasted by our hosts at River Rock to give our wet and tired wheelers a generous serving of Southern hospitality.
Day 3 Carnage
- Alan Buchholz: Blown steering pump
- Synergy Mfg./Lance Clifford: Tires got dirty
- Artur Pasternak: Broken welded carrier, twisted splines on Dana 44 stub shaft
- BDS/Carter Reed: Broken driveline flange
- Mel Wade: Twisted off rear driveshaft
Day 4: Georgia to Florida
Before the camping gear had a chance to dry from the previous day’s torrent, it was loaded up in the rigs and we departed River Rock and headed south. Like the first road day, it wasn’t long before Péwé was leading us into another salvage yard. Allied Metal had a bunch of old Jeeps in its yard, which drew Péwé like a moth to a flame. Allied let our group play monster truck and drive over a car while the guys from Nitro Gear & Axle bought a Toyota pickup from the pile for their next UA build!
From there the group meandered south toward Florida. Along the way Trent McGee ran out of fuel in the big diesel JK, and VJ Perrin stopped to transfer fuel from his 80-gallon tank. At that time a fuel issue was unveiled in the CUCV that, once repaired, unleashed newfound power. Returning reader Jimmy Jack had a fuel issue too, and Sam Gillis and Dave Chappelle stopped in Lake City, Florida, with Jimmy and his co-driver Tony Carvallo to diagnose the issue. When the sun had gone down and the issue was still unresolved, the wheelers found themselves surrounded by Lake City’s finest. Would they meet up with the rest of the group to get muddy or end up in the hoosegow? Check back next month to find out.
Day 4 Carnage
- Offroad Power Products/Cooper Rasmussen: Broken radiator
- Sam Gillis: Ran out of fuel
- Trent McGee: Ran out of fuel
- VJ Perrin: Clogged fuel system
- Jimmy Jack: Faulty fuel system
UA 2013 Locations
Morris Mountain ORV Park
River Rock OVP
Auto City Salvage
Allied Metal Recycling