Ultimate Adventure 2016 – Day 1 Recap #UA2016

    The first trail day of Ultimate Adventure is like the first game of playoffs in many sports: though the outcome of the day isn’t everything, it does tend to set the tone for the week. All of the individual players are nervous and want to do well, and while there’s no competition whatsoever among participants of the UA, everyone wants to show that they know what they’re doing and deserve to be there. And above all else, no one wants to be the weak link. No matter how laid back Hazel and the rest of the staff try to be and put everyone at ease, the truth is that everyone tends to be a little jittery on that first morning. It often takes someone to break the ice and put everyone at ease.

    In the opening hours of the 2016 Ultimate Adventure, none other than our own Verne Simons was that guy. But this one is worth a little backstory. While everyone works hard to prepare themselves and their rig for Ultimate Adventure, few can claim to have worked on one harder than Verne. After nearly two years of work and three solid months of continuous thrashing, Verne’s Wicked Willy’s project was lined up for the first obstacle on the first trail of Ultimate Adventure, which also happened to be the project’s very first trail obstacle. Anyone who has undertaken more than one major vehicle project knows that some go easy and some go hard. For Verne, the Willy’s had been especially hard. Hand-fabricated and scratch-built, countless obstacles had been overcome, including building two engines for it, and it even failed to make the drive to the start of the UA. It had to be towed most of the way, with replacement parts for failed engine internals being hand-delivered by another kind participant just hours before UA was set to begin. With the repairs made, it had made it up to the trailhead under its own power and was set to follow the line up the difficult waterfall on the first trail. What does Verne do? He promptly and very gently laid the Wicked Willy’s on its side. He could be heard giggling the entire time.

    Once Verne’s gentle flop happened, all of those first-day jitters disappeared. Everyone hopped into action to assist with the recovery, and while rollovers are usually serious, the irreverent manner in which Verne took the incident, which was really caused by being just slightly off line with an unlucky bounce more than anything, broke the ice and put everyone on the same page. Ultimate Adventure isn’t about tackling the hardest core obstacles or attempting the gnarliest lines, and it’s certainly not a competition. It’s about people from all different walks of life joining together with common interests and seeking out cool new places and experiences while helping one another along the way. The truth is that stuff like Ultimate Adventure happens all over the country, it just so happens that this event has lots of cool ways for people to be a part of the fun whether they are actually attending the event or not.

    As for the rest of the first trail day, it was one of the best in UA history. Though a bit more difficult than the typical first-day UA trail, the Isham Trail outside Trona, California, it chock full of fun stuff. It took nearly 10 hours for all the vehicles to tackle the approximate three quarters of a mile that the trail encompasses, and the Isham claimed many more victims in addition to the Wicked Willy’s. Cooper Rasmussen of Off-Road Power Products managed to frag an axleshaft in his 1975 Cherokee Chief on one of the nastier waterfalls, while the steering linkage on reader Ben Mahin’s Grand Cherokee received a not-so-gentle massage on the trail’s nasty rocks. There were also a few tight squeezes that made major rearrangements to buggy and fullsize truck sheetmetal alike, including the Super Dirty, the driver bedside of which looks like Hazel got T-boned in an intersection. The record-setting heat started early and also took more than its fair share of vehicular victims, but fortunately most of the group was able to keep well hydrated in the heat, which reached over 114 degrees by 2 pm. Everyone was able to make it back to town under their own power, but several were up late making repairs and prepping for the first road day and more record heat. Stay tuned for Day 2 and more hijinks!