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Ultimate Avalanche Goes Home

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on December 14, 2004 Comment (0)
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Photographers: The 4-Wheel & Off-Road Staff

This is not the final story. In fact this is barely the beginning of the final story. As we write this, the Ultimate Avalanche that we built during 2003 -- with the coverage starting in the Aug. 2003 issue -- is sitting broken, awaiting repair. We will not try to explain why it is there since that may never be determined. Rather, let us tell you how it got there. When we last left off on the story, our truck was ending the Adventure in Arkansas. However, my trip home from there was as much an escapade as the official Ultimate Adventure itself. During the trip some problems arose and parts broke that we hadn't expected, and now it was time to get it back to L.A. for repairs. Little did we know that half of that trip home would be with the Avalanche on the back of a semi.

Some folks get wedding singers for entertainment, but at my brother's wedding, the new Mr. and Mrs. Williams got the '03 Ultimate Adventure Chevy Avalanche. Not bad considering rain during the ceremony made for some good mudding during the reception.

Arkansas to Pennsylvania Wedding
Leaving Arkansas, I realized that the front steering tie-rod ends were bent and the oil hadn't been changed in over 4,000 miles. I had to get to Pennsylvania for my brother's wedding and then take the truck to the Bloomsburg Jamboree, but first I stopped in Knoxville, Tennessee, for a much needed oil change and tie-rod repair.

I really wished I could have gotten a picture of the Avalanche in front of the White House or Washington Monument, but security there is pretty tight, so here it is in front of the Hershey's Chocolate Factory in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

After that I hauled tail up to Washington, D.C., where I had the weirdest exchange with one of the locals. Since big red Chevy Avalanches rolling on prototype BFG Krawlers are rare in our nation's capital, I didn't think it unusual when a fellow in a car next to me rolled down his window and asked, "Drive that thing in the mud much?" I replied, "Yes, I do." Then when he asked if I was from Virginia, I replied, "No, California." This is when he looked very perplexed and asked me how I had gotten the truck that far east. I told him I had driven it there and his reply astounded me: "You can drive from California?" I guess no one has informed the residents of Washington, D.C., that the Mississippi is now a river and no longer an ocean.

On the way home from York I stopped to get a picture of the Avalanche in front of Three Mile Island. This is the sight of the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history, and I was hoping it would give me X-ray vision and an Incredible Hulk physique. I think it worked.

Damage Repair
After the wedding I tried to get the truck ready for the Bloomsburg Jamboree, which we covered in last month's issue. I didn't really feel I needed to fix all the body damage, but the passenger rear window wouldn't roll down completely and the plastic body panels were looking pretty ratty and falling off. We fixed this in three easy steps. First, we tore off all plastic body cladding that looked ugly from the start, and filled any holes in the body with expandable foam. Next, we stopped by Martin Wilt's auto body shop in York, Pennsylvania, and had him beat the truck with a hammer till the window rolled up and down. Finally, we got Rhino Linings of York to spray whatever was previously covered with plastic to give the truck a much cleaner look.

PhotosView Slideshow

Bloomsburg and Long-Haul Prep
Next, I headed to the Summer 4-Wheel Jamboree in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, where we put the Avalanche on display at the Dynatrac booth. Many people seemed to enjoy the truck and I enjoyed sitting on Main Street after the event and watching people cruising in their trucks until the cops shut down the fun at 11 p.m. on the dot. I must say that I felt a bit out of place since the Avalanche didn't have the prerequisite Lund sunvisor. I could show you a picture of the truck at the booth, but wouldn't you rather see the winners of the Bikini Contest?

PhotosView Slideshow

The Indianapolis Off-Road 500
I hit the road early and by the middle of the second day I was nearing Indianapolis. I figured it would be cool to run a few laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but there were all these guys from NASCAR practicing for the Brickyard 400. As much as I thought the Avalanche could have kept up with them, the security guards knew better and kept the truck and me behind the fence. Maybe next time I'll get to show those speed racers what us off-roaders can do.

Crossing Indiana, I stopped at the Badlands Off Road Park near Attica. This is a great place to wheel your rig, with 700 acres of trails for trucks, quads, and motorcycles. Plus they have a fabrication shop where they build custom tube buggies. I didn't stay long since I didn't want to break anything on their trails, though I should have stuck around.

Badgers in Smalltown Iowa
This is a badger. While driving across Iowa around midnight I noticed the shifter knobs for the transfer case starting to vibrate very loudly. I slowed down and the vibration went away, so I decided that I should probably stop at the next exit. After coming over a small hill, I sped up slightly and was rewarded with a loud explosion of parts under the truck. Something came loose and by the time I coasted to the side of the road, the transmission had a broken housing, the transfer case was destroyed, the rear driveshaft was missing and I was stranded in the middle of nowhere.

I called Pw to tell him the situation and then called a tow truck. And while I waited I walked up the median looking for some of the parts. This is when I found a big fat badger. He didn't like the looks of me standing there with two flashlights, but unlike a raccoon or friendly bunny he decided to chase me down the grassy knoll and eat me. Imagine driving down Route 80 in the middle of nowhere at midnight and seeing some nut running backwards in shorts and sandals while being chased by a big furry critter, and you can see just how crazy this trip was becoming. Luckily for me the badger could sense my new radioactive strength and crossed the road before disappearing into the woods.

About this time Scotty Harkins showed up and towed us into Adair, Iowa, where we would spend the next three days. Little did I know that within 24 hours, half of the population of this 900-person town would know about me and my big red pile. Word travels fast in smalltown America and it was great. I found a couple fellows to help me go find my driveshaft and a few parts of the transfer case along the highway, and everyone was happy to talk to me about my big broken truck. Lucky for me I had picked the best weekend ever to get stranded in Adair.

For you history buffs, Adair, Iowa, is the home of the first train robbery by Jesse James and his band of outlaws back on July 21, 1873. And for the past 40-plus years the locals have celebrated that fact by having a big party, aka Jesse James Days, on a certain weekend every July, and I happened to make that event. I saw some local bands play on the main street, watched some kids ride a mechanical bull, and even got to see the water fights where teams of firemen and firewomen compete to push an empty beer keg suspended on a cable back and forth using only the water from a fire hose. It was cool and I will most likely never see that on the streets of Los Angeles.

Then after three days in Adair I had organized for an auto shipper to pick up the Avalanche, ridden a borrowed bike to the next town to go swimming, and contacted a friend to pick me up so I could make my flight home out of Omaha. It turns out that Dave Knight of JP Off Road, an attendee of Ultimate Adventure, was heading across the country with his wife and four kids and they were willing to pick me up on their way to see Mount Rushmore. They stopped, we all got ice cream cones for the trip, and within a few hours I was on a flight to Los Angeles. The Avalanche will hopefully be rebuilt by the time you read this, and we will fill you in on what changes we did to get it back up and running even better than before. Once again, the trip was way more fun than the destination.


Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Tuff Country
West Jordan, UT 84088
Warn Industries
Clackamas, OR 97015
Poison Spyder Customs
Banning, CA 92220
Detroit, MI 48323
Lynnwood, WA 98087
Rhino Linings
San Diego, CA 92121
Detroit Locker
Madison Heights, MI
(800) 328-3850


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