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2014 Ultimate Adventure - Part 2

Posted in Ultimate Adventure: 2014 on October 28, 2014
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Photographers: Dave Chapelle

Last month in Ultimate Adventureville we spun a yarn about this year’s on- and off-road trip through the Midwest. We told you all about how our epic trip started in North Platte, Nebraska, with tech inspection and check-in on UA 2014’s first day. Then, as day two rolled around, the group loaded up in our rigs for the first wheeling day playing in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. On day three, the first road day, we drove an epic 700 miles over nearly 19 hours through rain and cool air to the hills near Dubuque, Iowa, where we pitched a late-night (or rather, early morning) camp in preparation for the next day’s (or rather, same day’s) wheeling excitement. We then spun tires at the Complete Off Road Ranch before rinsing off to head into Illinois, where Part 2 of the adventure picks up now. It’s Road Day 2, the fifth day of Ultimate Adventure 2014.

Day 5: Road Day 2, With Wheeling
We started the day rolling out of the hills of Illinois ready to pound some pavement. Not knowing what was in store, we were ready for another epically long road day, a day with wheeling, fun stops, pie, and almost anything. Somewhere along the way we had a chance meeting with a special customer of Steven and James Watson from Offroad Design, Tony Rea. Also, at a corner near a cornfield we found Sam Gillis and Dave Chapelle in Gillis’ Green tube car, and Tim Hardy and Philip in Hardy’s ’87 Suzuki Samurai. Oh, what a tale they had to tell of their Alternate Adventure!

Ultimate Adventure 2014 had lots and lots of fullsize rigs. Here are just a few of the big rigs to hit the trails on this year’s adventure. The only fullsizes not shown in this picture were the Voodoo Crew’s own Trent McGee’s budget-built ’89 Blazer and reader Bryan Schlagel’s ’78 Bronco. All these big rigs made the trip relatively unscathed despite early warnings from Péwé about tight squeezes between trees and rocks. Fullsize rigs add a bit of a challenge to the UA but also provide more room for packing gear, tools, and parts. Can you guess the heaviest rig on the trip? Here is a hint. It’s in this picture.

Once reunited we rolled on down the road to a welcome surprise in the form of some wet wheeling, wading, and a few hillclimbs. Without expecting it (although we were all prepared) the group turned off the paved road onto dirt near Smithfield, Illinois. Here we found plenty of action in the form of a flowing creek to drive in and some slick and steep hillclimbs. This series of trails, privately owned by Kevin Engquist, features a few trails that weave in and out of cornfields and the Laswell branch of Put Creek. Thomas Chambers would be our local trail guide for the next few hours as we played in the hills and water of Illinois. The first hill we tackled is called Beehive since it used to be home to a wild colony of honey makers. This hill, along with a subsequent climb, was slick as grease. Plenty of wheel speed and motor is what got a rig to the top.

Somewhere in Iowa we ran into Tony Rea. Generally when the UA rolls into a small town we draw quite a crowd. When we saw Rea and his very unique Suburban we flocked to it like a bunch of giddy school girls. The Suburban has been modified to slide out and lift/lower the driver and his wheelchair. Rea also has a K5 Blazer with a similar lift, and he is a regular customer of Offroad Designs, Ultimate Adventure 2014’s Official Transfer Case. It seems ORD had recently set Rea up with a suspension lift for a K5 Blazer that he is building. The suspension was a custom job to help deal with the weight of a similar lift for Rea to get in and out of the rig.

After splashing through the creek and slinging muck up the hills, the group headed to another property, where a hill with more of a grade, more rocks, and much less greaselike mud, known as The Rock Hill, gave us a different kind of challenge. Here nerves, careful steering input, and plenty of motor helped the adventurers make it to the top.

After airing our tires back up, the road day came to an end. The group rolled into the fields surrounding the Hopewell Winery near Rockwell, Illinois. Under the shine of our headlights we set up camp and promptly hit the hay to grab some rest for more fun the next day.

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The Ultimate Adventure always keeps you guessing. Péwé likes to mix things up and keep us on our toes. This day we pulled off the highway onto dirt roads not knowing what to expect but ready for anything. Near Smithfield, Illinois, we dropped into the Laswell branch of Put Creek and also hit some greasy mud-covered hillclimbs.
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Day 5 Breakage
• Mel Wade’s 1949 Dodge M37: Lost a fan belt, had a wheel bearing failure, lost a taillight.
• Stephen Watson’s 1999 GMC 2500: Clutch master cylinder failed.

Day 6: Tearin’ It Up in Pike County Illinois
As the sun rose over the fields around the winery, the group awakened from dreams of tough trails, ready for the real-life version. What was to come that day was more awesome off-road action on the trails of Pike County, Illinois. With steep climbs covered with more slick mud, the group first attacked the Atlas trail on private property owned by the Wombles family. Tom Wombles was a trail leader on an earlier UA that passed through Illinois, so he was known to many of the UA regulars, such as Péwé’s cronies, aka the Voodoo Crew due to their preparedness with VooDoo recovery ropes.

At the top of the first hillclimb on the Atlas Trail were a couple of large rocks. On a flat trail these rocks would have been tough to negotiate. At the top of a steep slick climb after an off-camber turn, however, these rocks became a real problem. You could either go right, left, or split the difference, going up both rocks at the same time. The middle line usually worked the best but could pop the tires up pretty darn high in the air. Fred Perry does an excellent job splitting the difference in his ’05 silver LJ. Perry, representing Warn Winch along with Adel Adams on this year’s UA, knows what he is doing behind the wheel.

The Atlas Trail, named for the nearby town of Atlas, Illinois, begins with one heck of a twisty hillclimb, called Pin Ball. This arcade game–themed trail is bound to bounce you around … if you can make it to the top. With plenty of off-camber areas and one particularly nasty rock near the top, you had to carry plenty of speed and pick the right line.

Next the group tackled an obstacle on the Atlas Trail known as Bad Dog. This started with a twisty gully and was followed by several mud-covered rocks about half the size of a Toyota Prius. You either had to weasel your way around these boulders or crawl over them. After that, you had to drive up a big flat and slick rock with speed and then dive right into a tight squeeze. Wheel speed, suspension travel, and plenty of power were necessary to make it to the top. As the day progressed the rocks became more and more slick, meaning the trail leader, Tom Wombles, because he was the first up this obstacle, had the easiest shot.

After climbing Atlas we tackled the Mystery Trail. This trail was led by Garry Williams and featured a nice crawl through a small creek that ended with a good rock obstacle known as the Can Opener. The Can Opener favored the small low-slung rigs with plenty of flex. Traction was pretty good, but picking the right line was key.

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The day ended with a delicious dinner back at the Hopewell Winery. A relatively early evening was a welcome change that allowed adventurers to catch up on rest.

Day 6 Breakage
• Chris Durham’s 2004 TJ: Locking hub not quite engaged; bent upper front control arm, passenger side.
• VJ Perrin’s 2079 CUCV: Broke a center pin on one of the front leaf spring packs.
• Shaughn Reid’s 1975 K-5 Blazer: Backflip basically totaled the vehicle from door handles up.
• JT Molder & Jason Speaker’s 2007 JK: Flat tire.
• Stephen & James Watson’s 1999 GMC 2500: broke a stub shaft.

Day 7: Road Day 3, Independence Day
The seventh day was another road day, eventually leading the group to Missouri, our final official state of this year’s UA. As usual, we woke without knowing what to expect, but by the end of the day we had seen plenty of water -- even from the deck of a few ferries. If you didn’t know it, Rick Péwé has a thing for ferries and WWII bombers. Unfortunately he hasn’t been able to get us all a ride in a WWII bomber, but he almost always incorporates more than one ferry rides into every UA.

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Oddly, until Day 7, no ferries and no ferry crossings had been encountered by the UA clan, but that was quick to change. Péwé found two, yep, two ferries that the whole group could ride across the Illinois river. First we all waited in line at the Kampsville Ferry, in Kampsville, Illinois. Once loaded, we headed east across the Illinois River. We then took a bridge back across the river, eventually weaving our way back to once again cross the Illinois River at the Brussels Ferry near Grafton, Illinois. This is just upstream of the junction between the Illinois river and the mighty Mississippi. Due to all the rain we’d been chasing over the past few days, both rivers were near flood stage and rising.

After playing with the ferries, the group rolled into St. Louis, Missouri, where a large off-road icon caught everyone’s eye. With tires larger than any UA rig, this special truck (or group of trucks, really) makes its home in Hazelwood, Missouri. That’s right! We got to go visit a big, big blue Ford that almost any UA fan would instantly recognize, the one, the original Big Foot! We got a chance to see a few of the trucks, tour the shop, and tell tales. All of us left with new memories and a few photos, and a few of us even picked up a Monster Truck–related collectable or two!

Sometimes knowing your limits and taking a bypass is more than just a good idea. Scott Bruder’s Power Wagon would fit in Can Opener like a square peg in a round hole. That’s not to say that the bypass was necessarily easy. The climb around Can Opener was steep and off-camber, making for a high pucker factor.

To end the day, the group rolled into the parking lot of our final home on the UA, a hotel in Salem, Missouri. Also, since it was the eve of the Fourth of July, we got to have a little fun with some fireworks, a beer or two, and good friends who are really like family. Independence Day came to an end with a bang! ’Merica, darn yeah!

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Day 7 Breakage
• Fred Williams’ 1990 Dodge, Tug-Truck: Bent rear driveshaft. Swapped in a rest area.

Day 8: Not So Flat, Definitely Nasty
The group woke up on the eighth day ready for what may come on our last day of UA 2014. Never one to disappoint, Péwé had something special in store for us. He had arranged for us to go play at Flat Nasty Off-Road Park. Flat Nasty is … well, flat out nasty. With plenty of trails to test the mild and the extreme, we spent our final day in the hills near Rolla, Missouri.

Our first trail of the day was a good warmup in the bottom of a dry riverbed. The trail was fairly easy and allowed participants to get a feel for driving on rocks and dry land again. Up until this point, basically every road and trail we had hit was either covered in fresh rain or rain mixed with the local dirt to create some seriously slick mud. Sure, there were rocks on other days, but up to this point the rocks were coated in goo.

Packing a ferry full of UA rigs is fun. To this day we are not really sure why the UA always involves a ride or two on a ferry, but it’s a great way to break up a long day of driving. Oh, and apparently Péwé has a bit of a thing for ferry rides. Who knew? Here the group unloads after crossing the Illinois River thanks to the Kampsville Ferry, in Kampsville, Illinois.

As the day progressed, the rocks and traction proved to be a welcome novelty for most, but the week of wheeling and the long road days also took their toll on parts. As the day continued, the rocks got bigger and the trails got better. We ended the day with a run up a few particularly nasty obstacles named Momma Bear, Papa Bear, and Baby Bear.

4WOP 141200 ULT 014 HR Photo 81240966

Tim Hardy’s Engine-Related Alternate Adventure Continues
If you’ve never heard the name Tim Hardy before and don’t recognize the images of the smashed red Suzuki Samurai, you must be new to this sport. Hardy is an amazing driver and an even more amazing tinkerer and roadside repairman. If something odd breaks and suddenly you need an improvised mill or lathe on the side of the road, Hardy is the person you want to have nearby. On top of that, his little red Suzuki has probably been on more UAs than any other rig … and Hardy might well have swapped more engines in and out of this little rig en route to or on UAs both past and present than anyone else.

Last month (Nov. 2014) we told you how a loose bolt in the Suzuki’s power steering pump caused the pump to fall and knock a hole in the 1.3L engine’s oil filter. The oil ran out. The engine began knocking and all but burned up. At that point we lost track of Tim Hardy, his co-driver Philip Vizgaudis, and tail gunners Sam Gillis and Dave Chapelle. Apparently the Alternate Adventure involved camping on the side of the road near a wildlife refuge (a fitting locale for these guys), then towing the Suzuki with a Voodoo rope 100 miles behind a green tube car to a friend with a Suzuki problem named Nick Demaio. Once there, the Alternate Adventurers tried swapping main bearings from a spare engine of Demaio’s, but the bearings were not much better than those in Hardy’s current engine (which had been installed on the side of the road en route to UA 2010 or 2011).

Hardy then attempted to tighten up the new (used) bearings by grinding them a touch on the side of a cutoff saw. Once this did not work, the Alternate Adventurers tracked down another spare engine (belonging to Demaio) and swapped it into the Sami. With this done, they headed down the road and waited for the group to catch up on the morning of Day 5.

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Day 8 Breakage
• Jeremy Ayers in Nitro Gear & Axle’s 2007 Jeep WK: Smashed exhaust repaired with Sawzall.
• Trent McGee’s 1989 Blazer: Broke a motor mount.
• JT Molder & Jason Speaker’s 2007 JK: Brake line.
• VJ Perrin’s 1979 CUCV: Bent rear driveshaft.
• Carter Reed & Dave DeVomer in BDS’ 2005 Liberty: Broken track bar.
• Stephen & James Watson’s 1999 GMC 2500: Broke a winch rope.
• Fred Williams’ 1990 Dodge, Tug-Truck: Bent rear driveshaft (he was trying to be like VJ).

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2014 Ultimate Adventure Sponsors
Official Exhaust Banks Power 800.601.8072 bankspower.com
Official Suspension BDS Suspension 517.279.2135 bds-suspension.com
Official Welder Eastwood 800.343.9353 eastwood.com
Official Lighting JW Speaker 800.558.7288 jwspeaker.com
Official Wheels Method Wheels 800.543.9276 methodracewheels.com
Official Gear & Axle Nitro Gear & Axle 916.673.6464 nitro-gear.com
Official Tire Nitto Tire nittotire.com
Official Transfer Case Offroad Design 970.945.7777 offroaddesign.com
Official Fabricator Pacific Fabrication408.600.0122 pacificfabrication.com
Official Retailer Power Products Unlimited Inc.866.379.8685 powerproductsunlimited.com
Official Bumper TrailReady Bumper 888.910.2999 trailready.com
Official Tow Rope VooDoo Off-Road844.VOODOO1voodoooffroad.com
Official Winch Warn Industries Inc.800.543.9276warn.com

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