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Invited Readers of Ultimate Adventure 2018 #UA2018

Posted in Ultimate Adventure: 2018 on July 23, 2018
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Photographers: 4 Wheel & Off-Road Staff

We asked three lucky readers and one returning reader to join us on the 2018 Ultimate Adventure. The trip is invite only, with the staff carefully sifting through all of the applications looking for a unique blend of cool vehicles, diverse experience, and better-than-average competency from readers from all over the country. All of the readers invited rogered up, despite having to travel a minimum of 800 miles to get to the starting point in Wilton, Maine. And that was East Coast resident Adams Clarke! The long-haul award goes to Johnny Wood and Amber Medrano, who rented a truck from Enterprise to drag their Ram trail rig 3,200 miles to get to the UA. Chris Paul had never trailered his H3 before, but tossed it atop a deck to make the trip from California. And Rick Prater’s drive from Utah was no Sunday cruise either.

That kind of dedication was demonstrated throughout the week, and the cronies agreed that this was the best group of readers we have had on a UA. Ever. Rather than needing their hands held when adversity reared its ugly head, this year’s crop of readers helped each other and even the cronies and sponsors when they needed it. More than any mechanical component or piece of equipment, that attitude is the most important thing to bring on a trip like ours, and this year all the invited reader and their co-drivers were simply outstanding in that department.

Last year Chris Paul drove his H3 from his home in California to the start of the Ultimate Adventure in Phoenix and drove it home afterwards. This year, since the event started in Maine, driving both ways would have been daunting. He bought a trailer, and his co-driver, Kyle Cunliffe, bought a Chevy 2500 with a TBI 454, and they drove across the country. The Hummer worked well all week, and Paul proved once again that he really knows his rig and how it works, making him a great pick for returning reader.

2006 Hummer H3

Driver: Chris Paul
Co-Driver: Kyle Cunliffe
Hometown: Mather, CA
Engine: 5.3L V-8
Transmission: 4L60E 4-speed auto
Transfer Case: Borg-Warner 4494 (factory 4:1 H3 case)
Front Axle: Dana 70 with 35-spline axles, 5.13 gears, and Eaton ELocker
Rear Axle: Eaton HO72 with 5.13 gears and Detroit Locker
Springs & Such: Custom 3-link, 4 1/2-inch ZJ coil springs, Bilstein 7100 shocks (front); spring-over with factory leaf springs (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 40x13.50R17 Cooper STT Pro on Battle Born beadlock
Steering: Nissan Xterra steering box with hydraulic assist
Winch: Warn VR12000 with VooDoo Offroad synthetic winch line
Other: Hybrid rollcage, half-doors
What Broke: Eaton axleshaft, gas tank skidplate bracket
How Many Times Have You Applied for UA? 1
Why Did You Want to Attend? I love the adventure, seeing new places, talking to new people and wheeling new terrain. I feel it’s also a challenge on the vehicle and drivers, which I really enjoy as well.
Modifications Since Your Last UA: Battle Born beadlock wheels, Yukon hardcore locking hubs, new rock sliders
Favorite Part of Trip: Wheeling parks was fun. Out west I’m used to trails. When we went to a park it was cool to hear how the park came to fruition and the excitement people had to be hosting the UA.
Advice for Next Year’s Readers: I would advise people to drive their rig at highway speeds, do a 200-mile highway run on a hot day. This will allow them to make sure things run properly. You can overlook a lot of “problems” in your rig like unbalanced tires or drivelines when only moving at 10 mph on the trail versus going for hours on end at faster speeds.

Adams Clarke is a father of four who works in law enforcement, so while the UA seems chaotic to some of us, it was a relaxing vacation for him. He and his co-driver, John Bailey, were repping the East Coast for the reader contingent and did a great job demonstrating what a strong, simple vehicle on leaf springs can accomplish. Although they battled some cooling issues all week long (later diagnosed as a blown head gasket) they never lost their composure and were always in a great mood. Clarke also wowed the group with his UA DVD collection and amazing, encyclopedic knowledge of past trips and project vehicles.

1981 Jeep Scrambler CJ-8

Driver: Adams Clarke
Co-Driver: John Bailey
Hometown: Mechanicsville, VA
Engine: TBI 350ci V-8
Transmission: NV4500 5-speed manual
Transfer Case: Dana 300
Front Axle: Dana 60 with 5.38 gears and Detroit Locker
Rear Axle: 14-bolt with 5.38 gears and ARB Air Locker
Springs & Such: Spring-over with Skyjacker springs and Skyjacker M95 monotube shocks
Tires & Wheels: 38x13.50R17 Falken Wildpeak M/T on 17x9 ATX Chamber Pro beadlock
Steering: High steer with Redneck Ram hydraulic assist
Winch: Warn XD9i
Other: GenRight fenders and armor, Bestop seats, Tuffy console, retro graphics
What Broke: Stuck thermostat, burned plug wires, leaking power steering line hose, torn brake line, broken winch rope, bent tie rod, electric fan failure
How Many Times Have You Applied for UA? 1 (with previous rig)
Why Did You Want to Attend? I've always watched and wanted to go on an amazing trip with folks I knew would be great friends/family. I spent the first few days in La La Land, star struck with everyone I had dreamed of meeting and wheeling with.
Modifications After Being Selected: Genesis dual battery kit, ARB fridge-freezer, Torq Motorsports big brake kit
Favorite Part of Trip: I am a family man first and foremost, and I love the idea that the wheeling community and this trip is like a big family vacation. Getting to wheel some of the toughest trails is just icing on the adventure cake of life!
Advice for Next Year’s Readers: I would tell and encourage everyone to build your rig around the simple and strong theme and don't be afraid to ignore the little things like temp and gas gauges, windshield wipers, and headlights. Just go in with the attitude that no problem is too big and you'll enjoy your week so much more.

Rick Prater and his father-in-law, Todd Daines, were off to a rough start when they broke a front axleshaft 50 feet into the first trail on Day 1. Everyone started to wonder whether inviting a guy rocking a 10-bolt had been a good idea, but they got the ’shaft changed in short order and never had another issue all week long. These guys wheel in Moab all the time, and it showed in their preparation, driving prowess, and ability to work together as a well-oiled machine.

1951 Willys Wagon

Driver: Rick Prater
Co-Driver: Todd Daines
Hometown: Uintah, UT
Engine: TBI 350ci V-8
Transmission: SM465 4-speed manual
Transfer Case: NP205
Front Axle: Corporate 10-bolt with 4.10 gears and Spartan Locker
Rear Axle: Corporate 14-bolt with 4.10 gears and spool
Springs & Such: Leaf springs front and rear with simple twin-tube shocks
Tires & Wheels: 37x12.50R17 Falken Wildpeak M/T on 17x8.5 Allied beadlock
Steering: Crossover steering with TJ steering box
Winch: Warn Zeon 10-S
Other: Floorboards made from old license plates, clearcoat over the original patina, plaid flannel headliner
What Broke: Long side inner axleshaft, cracked side window
How Many Times Have You Applied for UA? 2
Why Did You Want to Attend? I have always dreamed of going to a new place, on a long trip in my Jeep. Getting to go with the caliber of people that are involved in UA was icing on the cake. It was much more amazing than I ever imagined.
Modifications After Being Selected: Beefed up the transmission crossmember and built a rollcage.
Advice for Next Year’s Readers: Don’t overthink it, and don’t over complicate it. Bring spare axleshafts and driveshafts.

Johnny Wood and Amber Medrano had the longest drive of anyone at UA, traveling from the southwest corner of the country to the northeast corner. And even when the rest of the group was staying in hotels they camped on most nights in the back of their Ram truck. Wood bought the truck new and it has been a work in progress ever since. Medrano has a rig of her own as well, and the couple brought them both to Moab earlier this year for the Fullsize Invasion, demonstrating to our staff that they have no issue going on wheeling trips far from home.

2000 Dodge Ram 1500

Driver: Johnny Wood
Co-Driver: Amber Medrano
Hometown: San Marcos, CA
Engine: 360ci V-8
Transmission: 46RE 4-speed auto
Transfer Case: Offroad Design Magnum and NP205
Front Axle: Dana 60 with 4.56 gears and ARB Air Locker
Rear Axle: Dana 60 with 4.56 gears and Detroit Locker
Springs & Such: Custom 3-link with King coilovers (front); Skyjacker 5-inch leaf springs and Bilstein shocks (rear)
Tires & Wheels: 38x13.50R17 Falken Wildpeak M/T on 17x8.5 Raceline Monster beadlock
Steering: PSC hydraulic assist
Winch: Warn XP9.5
Other: Custom rollcage, York air compressor, dual batteries, ARB Elements freezer-fridge
What Broke: Fried ECU, dented driveline, dented gas tank
How Many Times Have You Applied for UA? 4
Why Did You Want to Attend? As a longtime reader I looked up to the people and the rigs they built. I made it a goal of mine to build a capable, roadworthy, and reliable vehicle. I wanted something different. At the same time, I built what I had. Daily driven, driven to and from the trail, shop rig, and even a tow rig.
Modifications After Being Selected: When I found out I was selected my rig was almost there. I knew wheel speed was necessary on the East Coast so I upgraded all the axleshafts to 35-spline chromoly units. New winch line, setting up recovery gear, and planning the load-out were also included. Knowing the east has unpredictable weather and I sleep in my truck, maintaining a dry sleeping area and gear was at the top of the list.
Advice for Next Year’s Readers: Don't give up. Wait to apply when you and the rig are good and ready. Don't rush it—there will always be another trip. Lastly, keep applying! You never know what kind of vehicle the staff will be looking for next year. Don't modify what you don't need to. It’s hard to find custom parts on the quick. I left my engine stock. Lack of power keeps the drivetrain alive. I can find any sensor at nearly any auto parts store. Also, beat your rig at home so you find the shortcomings and weak parts. Carry spares or upgrade. If you have a unique vehicle, carry spare parts that others won't have, as well as the tools to get the job done. The cronies are there to help you, not fix your rig for you. Having knowledge of your rig and mechanical ability are both important.

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