Camp Jeep 2007 Pre-run at Oakridge

Pretty Maids all in a Row

7/6/07 - 7/7/07

4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD! - Click here for details!

4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD!



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.

Refinishing Complete
Cargo Net over Trunk with Camping Gear
Half-DoorsReady for Camp Jeep Pre-Run

Road Trip


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 photos.

Shenandoah View at WV/VA State Line 7/6/07 West
Shenandoah View at WV/VA State Line 7/6/07 West

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 on pre-runs.

To Oakridge from Morgantown

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. 

My Campsite at Oakridge Camping Field

Jeep with Trail Cover

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...

Oakridge Camping Field
Oakridge Camping Field

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 "alternates" go. 

Alternates Against the Fence...

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.

Carla Boucher

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.

Cross-bred Jeep

Kids MeetingTrail Guide MeetingTrail Guide MeetingTrail Guide MeetingTrail Guide MeetingTrail Guide MeetingTrail Guide Meeting

Trail Guide MeetingTrail Guide MeetingTrail Guide Meeting

Carla and Chris Boucher

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.

Powered Para-Glider over Trail Guide Meeting

After more important information was shared and questions answered, the groups were sent out to run their trails.

Ready for the TrailInteresting RigsAlan, Melanie, and Sir Benjamin PugsleyInteresting Rubicon UnlimitedInteresting Rubicon UnlimitedBig Yellow JeepLine of WranglersMore JeepsReady for AnythingBig JeepKelley and Rick VergotBlacked Out TJ

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.

Carl on Trail

Carl Crossing Meadow Creek/Edward's Branch

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.

Carl checks out Alan's CJ

Pretty Maids all in a Row

Trail E

Alan, Melanie and Sir Benjamin Pugsly StaimanCarlRick and Kelley Vergot


Andrew and Kathy
Andrew and Kathy


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.

Carl on the Rocks
Carl on the Rocks

Rich decided to try a road less traveled and entertained us for a few minutes.

Rick Stirs the PileRick Stirs the PileRick Stirs the Pile
Rick Stirs the Pile
Rick Stirs the PileRick Stirs the Pile

Harvin came up so fast I didn't have time to get but one picture of him!

Andrew Punches Through

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.

Alan. Melanie and Pugsly


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 limited my choices and taxed my alternator unnecessarily.

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.

Jeep Before Carwash - Click to Enlarge Jeep After Carwash - Click to Enlarge



Jeep After Car Wash

Route 33 Harrisonburg, VA

I made serious tracks after that, stopping again at the top of Shenandoah Mountain to catch the sunset (I missed it by 10 minutes).

Shenandoah Mt at WV/VA State Line

Shenandoah Mt at WV/VA State LineShenandoah Mt at WV/VA State LineShenandoah Mt at WV/VA State LineShenandoah Mt at WV/VA State LineShenandoah Mt at WV/VA State LineShenandoah Mt at WV/VA State LineShenandoah Mt at WV/VA State LineShenandoah Mt at WV/VA State LineShenandoah Mt at WV/VA State Line

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!


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