Carl let me
know that Camp Jeep was again taking names for Trail Guides lottery so I
threw my name in the hat. I came up as Alternate #19 so there was
a pretty good chance I would make the cut and work Camp Jeep.
About a month before the required pre-run (the last possible one of
several held all spring and early summer) I got
submerged in a mud hole that
kept me busy for several weekends cleaning mud out of every orifice the
Jeep has. That left me really close to being ready in time but
just a day before our family vacation, the Jeep was ready to go wheeling
again. Or so I thought...
I decided to run the bikini top with
half-doors and just pack light with the small tent, an air mattress,
sleeping bag, cooler with water and Diet Coke, change of clothes and a
pillow. Of course I brought my winch kit, tools, and other
wheeling necessities. But I didn't load up with a lot of camping
gear like what we bring when we go to a campground. This would be
lean and mean sleeping only with food sourced elsewhere. Here's
what the Jeep looked like minutes before I hit the road.
I shot a route that took me through
Deep Creek Lake, Oakland, then along the valley to Route 33, over
Shenandoah Mountain at the WV/VA State Line.
I got to the stateline at 8:08pm,
about 45 minutes before sunset, stopped for a quick break and a couple
There was a little noise coming from
the new steering box so
I checked that. No leaks, no foaming in the fluid which was up to
the correct mark. I'm not sure there is a problem or not so I just
continued on my way.
When I reached the Sheetz in
Harrisonburg I stopped for gas, having stopped in Oakland and Petersburg
as well (just in case...). I called Maria and let her know that
everything was OK but that I would not get into Oakridge until about
10:30. We talked for a few minutes and then I continued down I-81
South to I-64 East. I dropped off the highway at Exit 99 and beat
a cross-country path down to Route 29 and then to Lovingston, where I
stopped for a quick car wash and then over to the field used for camping
I arrived at 10:36pm, and drove along
the side of the field. I spotted Alan Staiman in the dark somehow
and said hello. Down near the bottom of the field a little way
past the last tent, I pulled in and set up in the dark then walked up to
see if anyone was still awake. There as one group of guys I didn't
know, and Alan and his crew were all gone to bed. So I walked back
and turned in.
I got up around 6:30am, and packed my
stuff in about 20 minutes flat, including getting the Jeep ready for
wheeling. This traveling light has it's advantages.
I noticed a number of full-blown RV's
in the field and wondered what kind of effort that requires.
Probably more than a pup tent and sleeping bag. I think my
sleeping bag gets better gas mileage...
Once packed I drove over to the
McDonald's where I found Carl at the pumps, just in from his drive down
from Maryland. He came in and sat with me while I ate breakfast.
We caught up on things, not having talked for a few months. Seeing
Carl again it always feels like I saw him just the day before.
With breakfast out of the way, Carl came out and topped up my tires.
I had aired down earlier and went a little low on one or two. Then
we drove over to the Muster field to wait for the party to begin...
We parked over by the fence where the
The selected trail guides line up
just like they would for Camp Jeep. While I was taking a
bio-break, Chris came around and filled some of the trails with
alternates because there weren't enough people to run the trail.
Figures I would go away for a second and miss that... Later it
would turn out not to matter much. We walked around and
reconnected with folks from OCC and others we'd met here at Oakridge at
various functions. Jason came over and said Hello. It was
good to meet him too!
The Trail Guide has many things to keep
track of. The trail route is important but only one part of the
big picture. So for two hours we sat in the field and got briefed
on the things that would be important once the event starts. Trail
Guide work is just that - work. The wheeling is fun but in terms
of time spent, my experience is that I probably spent about 20 hours
getting back and forth and doing the meetings and about three hours
wheeling. It's still fun but that's the behind the scenes stuff
that the participants don't see. And people like Chris and Carla
and their key helpers spend far far more than that, and probably don't
wheel at all. I admire their commitment. It's a huge job and
they always do a great job.
Here are a bunch of images of the
comings and goings around the time of the Trail Guide's meeting and
loading out to the trails.
A time into the meeting, when it was
beginning to be important to pay attention, a powered para-glider slowly
flew in from the horizon and then made a few circles around the field.
It got a lot of attention.
After more important information was
shared and questions answered, the groups were sent out to run their
Those of us left in the "alternates"
group ran the new trail designed for the Patriots and Compass vehicles.
We had a lot of fun with this and provided the necessary dry run to
determine the run time for the trail. We came in a few minutes one
side or the other of the target time with only a brief stop to locate a
threatening rut that the trail builders had cautioned about.
When we got back I pulled together a
few OCC folks - Rick and Kelley, Alan, Melanie and Pugsley, Andrew and
Kathy, and we threw in behind the Trail "P" group and ran that trail.
It's a short segment that connects several of the trails in Canada Gap.
It was so uneventful that we were in and out in about 20 minutes.
When we got back to the field I
decided I wanted to run Trail "E" which is a shortened version of the
old Findley Ridge trail. It's one of my favorite trails at
Oakridge because of the long climb to the top of the ridge on tight
trails with a couple good rock piles to get through. I got the
Trail "P" group to go too, and went and found the official Trail "E"
leader and got him to do the second run. A couple others threw in
with us too.
Most of the trail was the same as
Trail "P". Pretty soon we got to the climb up to the top of the
ridge. It was pretty good, nice to be back on a more challenging
trail, even if only just so. We got to the top and ran the ridge a
ways then came to the little rough spot that
I got hung up on a few years
ago. I gave the fellow in front of me a spot by CB and then
drove up the first part with no trouble. I benefited from watching
the person in front of me. On the second half, the part I had
trouble with in 2002, I got part-way up and then lost momentum. It
took me three tries to get over it, but I didn't have to winch. If
I had taken a little more time to look it over, I probably could have
done it first try.
Alan came up next and had no trouble.
Rich came after Carl, who made it cleanly.
Rich decided to try a road less
traveled and entertained us for a few minutes.
Harvin came up so fast I didn't have
time to get but one picture of him!
The run along the top of the ridge
was tight and rocky so it took us a while to get to the exit that had
recently been cut - about half-way across the ridge. it went
straight down the side of the hill, quite steep. I don't know that
I would want to be on it if it was wet... At the bottom it comes
out to another trail and shortly leads to the road.
But we weren't out of the woods
yet... I was just a little bit ahead of the group and talk came
over the CB to the effect that Alan was having troubles. So I put
it in reverse and drove backwards to the group. Alan was right
behind me with a fuel delivery problem. Someone took the gas tank
cap off and the pressure inside blew quite a spray of fuel out. We
waited a few minutes and the Jeep started up and sounded fine.
I had shut my Jeep off and left the key on
to be able to hear the CB since the trail leaders had disappeared.
When I turned the key to start the Jeep there was a brief engagement of
the starter and then nothing. The electrical system was DEAD.
No power anywhere. It was like the battery was disconnected.
So I got out and checked it. It was connected but a test with
Alan's Battery meter showed it was as dead as a door nail.
So there I was. After almost five
years, the Optima had finally given up the ghost. I was very happy
that I was not alone when it happened. I am also happy it didn't
happen on my way home later in the evening. It would have severely
choices and taxed my alternator
Alan pulled up next to me and gave me
a jump start. The alternator was putting out a strong current so I
finished out the rest of the trail and drove back to the muster field
where we aired up and reconnected sway bars. Alan hit the road,
presumably to put his CJ on a trailer and head for Northern VA.
Rick and Carl followed me to Charlottesville. There Rich and
Kelley headed their way while Carl and I used the GPS to pinpoint an
AutoZone and source a
new Optima. Carl hung around while I swapped out the old battery,
got it tested and traded in for a new one. Then we went to KFC for
dinner and a parting chat.
It had been a very full two days with
a little bit of everything that makes Oakridge a good trip. It was
nice to see all the OCC folks again, get some trail time at one of my
favorite places, and even to spend some time on the open road.
Speaking of open road, I still had my
five-hour road trip left to go. I plotted a course that took me
back the way I had come. I stopped for gas near Brownsville, VA,
off I-64, then made tracks for Harrisonburg and Route 33 West. I
topped up my tank at the Sheetz and called Maria again, after first
hitting one of the car washes right near Route 33 and I-81.
I made serious tracks after that,
stopping again at the top of Shenandoah Mountain to catch the sunset (I
missed it by 10 minutes).
Then the long drive back home, with a
stop in Franklin to get the coating of dead bugs off the windshield and
again in Petersburg to get more bugs off and to get some gas for the run
home. In Oakland I stopped for more gas (not needed but "just in
case"). I washed the bugs one more time and didn't hit another one
all the way home!
I got home about 11:45pm and had all
my stuff put away by Midnight. Again, the beauty of traveling
light. The long drive home had been quite good with the top off,
upper doors and bikini on. I went through a few CD's and had some
time to really drive and think. Good for the soul!