I was a little late getting in on this
trip. Announcements had been floated telling about the Jeep Jamboree clean-up runs and
trail guide pre-runs at Oak Ridge in Virginia. I ignored them thinking it conflicted with
my schedule. And besides, pffft, Jeep Jamboree?!? Well at the beginning of the week before
the first pre-run I realized two things: 1.) I wanted to go wheeling that weekend, and 2.)
I wanted to go someplace new. Then I noticed the last reminder about the Jeep Jamboree
pre-runs. So I shot off a message to the coordinator and was told that I had a slim to
none chance of making the final cut as a trail guide but that all VFWDA members were
welcome to come on the pre-runs. So I decided that I would go out there and contacted some
of the usual suspects from the club who would be driving down early on Saturday morning.
I was able to contact Mark L. and Jon F.,
as well as Mike B. They were all planning on attending but only Mark and Jon planned to
drive down that morning. I quick check of Yahoo! Maps revealed a four-hour drive
Ouch! I figured that was a worst-case scenario but even with a three-hour trip, that meant
getting on the road by 5 oclock AM in order to be at the meeting point at 8. I
decided to err on the side of reason and planned a 4 AM departure time. Jon and Mark were
both planning on arriving at the same time as me, and we made arrangements to meet. I
planned to meet Jon (coming from Arlington) at the Wendys on Rt 66 in Manassas at
4:45 and Mark on Rt,s 29 and 230 in Madison at about 6:15.
It looked like it might not line up for
all of us hooking up at the same time. My guess was that with Jon and I having the same
travel time to Wendys and both leaving at the same time from home, wed meet
without too much trouble. And sure enough, when I got into radio range of the intersection
of Rt. 495 and Rt. 66, I gave a couple shouts for Jon and he was right there! Perfect.
There was a window of opportunity for that to happen of about 2 minutes and we hit it just
right. We didnt even stop he caught up to me on Rt. 66 and we took a little
tour west of the Route 29 exit, and hit down Rt. 17 to 29 when we realized our goof.
We made great time and arrived at the
spot where Mark was planning to meet me, and sure enough he was there a little
earlier than he promised, but no matter. Jon and I took on fuel and we headed out for the
meeting place in Lovington, VA.
There at the entrance of the Oak Ridge
estate, is a large field. It was full of Jeeps, with a couple of stray 4WD vehicles.
Some Clubs and Association Stickers
It was interesting to note the variety of
vehicles and the level of build. They ranged from "stockers" to some pretty
trail-ready rigs. After considerable milling about we were all instructed to get in our
Jeeps and turn our CBs to channel 4 for a broadcast from Chris and Carla (the
coordinators). We received an overview of what lie ahead for us during the day. We were to
start with a quick trip to the mansion and carriage house, followed by our trail
assignments and general instructions.
When everyone was ready, we hit the road
down to the mansion. There, we parked around the drive and got more instructions on the
radio, milled about for a few minutes while Chris and Carla made their rounds to get
Then we went over to the carriage house
where we got our trail assignments and a quick look at the dining hall.
I got assigned to "Bobs
Creek" a pair of trails that constitute one of the rides available to Jeep
Jamboree attendees. If I am not mistaken, it consists of parts of Trails 7 and 3. The
other folks with me were:
- Mark L.
- Steve J.
- Ken S.
- James A.
- Jason N
- Sean (video)
Sean from Sights and Sound was shooting
video. "Zen" was not signed up for the trail guide slots but came for the trail
rides. Ken had someone riding shotgun as did James or Jason (or both). We got acquainted
and went to our Jeeps to get lined up for the ride.
The whole shebang went back to the muster
area and lined up by trails. We went to channel 5 for our trail. It might make more sense
to run on whatever channel your trail is numbered but thats just me.
Anyway, once we were all ready to go, Ken
led us down the road to the first entrance. It must be mentioned at this point that the
entire area is part of the estate and all the land is private. All the trail entrances are
gated with cable and locks, preventing unauthorized entry. All the land is posted just in
case the gates dont send a clear enough message. In some of the photos you will see
these signs. We were authorized to be on these trails and did not go anywhere but the
The first trail was just a little loop
that went in a dirt road, up a little erosion, then cut down into the woods where a nice
little hill climb waited for us. As it had not yet started raining, it was no trouble to
climb the hill and thread through the trees. This was fun but quite short compared to what
I am used to doing. Once we returned to the main trail, we went further in and up another
hill to the top of a ridge. We drove along over rocks and some fallen trees and made a
U-turn near the top and doubled back the way we came. It was a little off-camber but
nothing like what I encountered on State Line, so I was able to relax and enjoy the ride
knowing that I wasnt in much danger of having trouble.
Somewhere along the way, Ken told us
about a mud hole that was "impossible" and a little bit about those who had
tried to make it through. Since I am not much for mud to begin with, I was glad to hear
that there was a bypass.
We came back out the way we went in. All
along the way, Sean was moving up and down the column, shooting from all angles and
catching what little bit of challenging spots there happened to be. It was not long before
we got back to the road. From there we went back the way we came and branched off to run
the second half of our assigned route.
We reached the trail entrance. We skirted
the edge of a large field and dropped into the woods when we had gone back a ways from the
road. After winding down the trail a ways, we came to Bobs Creek. The bank was
The road runs parallel to the creek and
drops you into the creek at right angles. It is well traveled and smooth higher but
easier than Old Long Run crossings. Notwithstanding, you cant see down the bank into
the creek when you turn in so it is a little difficult to know where you are headed until
your nose drops down into the creek. Again, nothing new, and I am enjoying myself.
Just out of the creek is a corduroy road
of sorts railroad ties laid side-by-side to provide passage through a section that
stays soft. Near the end of that, a pair of ruts branches to the right and leads to a huge
mud hole that has a vertical wall standing between you and solid ground. And sure enough,
there was a drier route that thread through some small trees to the left.
Everybody ahead of "Zen" took
the bypass. I was behind him, and Steve behind me. I got out to watch as Zen took the
muddy ruts instead of the bypass.
He made a first storming run at it and
blunted against the wall at the end. Undaunted, he backed up and made another run at it.
He made two or three more swipes at it
without any better success. On his last run, his engine was missing and the exhaust pipe
was generating some steam from the water in the mud hole.
And then he stalled. Cranking. Nothing.
Cranking. Nothing but a weak hit, not enough to start. Finally, Steve winched him most of
the way out of the mud. Zen and his co-pilot started working on their Jeep.
Right about this time, the promised rain
started to fall. Up until this point it had just been a little chilly and overcast. The
rain was light but the trail was getting pretty wet.
So while Zen worked on his Jeep, I
decided to go ahead and take the bypass (didnt want to steal his thunder
park behind the rest of the group. The bypass was, shall we say, interesting. You have to
thread your way through some little trees. It is pretty tight and rutted. It looks like
someone has been stuck here when there is more water. You have to finesse it so that you
slip around and through the trees without hitting them with your roof or flares. And on
the exit is a deep hole that wants your left front tire. My first attempt left me clawing
for traction in the hole. Ken spotted me and I was able to get over to the left and pull
We talked about the trail, the Jeep
Jamboree event, and wheeling in general while we ate and watched Zen work in his Jeep. He
was not having much luck. It just wouldnt fire up. After about an hour with rain
coming down the whole time, Carla and Chris came through on the radio asking how we were
They agreed to take over waiting on Zen and we got back in the business
of running the trail.
The trail runs parallel to the other side
of the creek and makes a 90-degree turn up a steep hill. The bottom of the hill is coated
in bare clay. With the rain, it is slippery. But everyone ahead of me disappears up the
hill without any trouble. One guy even comes back down and goes up again.
I took a walk up the hill. If it was dry
out, it would be a no-brainer. With the rain, it became somewhat more challenging, with
some potential for trouble. Ken tells me that I am going to have trouble getting up.
Great. I walked around the top and familiarized myself with the optional obstacles. I
decided that most of them were not for me, including a little shelf rock way off to the
right, about halfway up the hill (the second time you come up). Im figuring that if
I make the main hill I am not going to tempt fate by playing on rocks halfway up.
So I dont expect too much trouble
until I try to make the turn and head up. I drift a little to the right and make the turn
but start losing traction about 20 feet up the hill. I put on the brake to shift into
reverse and the Jeep just starts sliding backwards. Nothing was going to stop it. No time
to get into reverse and try to get control back. So I watch where I am going and get a
nice little Ka-Bonk! at the bottom of the hill. Damn!
I got out and reluctantly went to look at
the back of my Jeep. Sure enough, a large, solid stump has stopped me from going further
down hill. In the process of saving me, it distorted my bumper and crushed the bumper
support where it bolts to the frame. There is no other damage, which was good news. So I
turned my attention back to trying to get up the hill. I must get through this trail. I
dont want to be left hanging around with Zen
I made a couple more swipes at the hill.
I was able to keep from sliding backwards again, and each time got a little bit better
line. One of the guys asked me if I had aired down. At first I just thought "Well
DUH!" because I had. But then I thought "Wait a minute Roscoe is always
telling me I should go down to 15 psi but I usually only go down to 22psi
" So I
aired down one tire on the back to 15. By that time Steve was offering to pull some cable
down to me from the top of the hill so I figured it was now or never.
Without airing down the other three
tires, I backed off, put it in 2nd (yes I have it in 4-LO), and hit the loud
pedal. I slid my way through the corner at the bottom, managed to get myself to the
less-slippery-looking left side and clawed my way to the top, where you turn 180 degrees
and point yourself straight back down the hill. Thunderous applause at my success. I felt
like such a newbie. Damn tires. Everyone but me was running pretty aggressive treads. Even
though my tires are better than the stock ones that come with the TJ, they look pretty
wimpy compared to the rest of my group. And I think it made my trip up this hill a lot
more tortured. I think I see tires in my future
After putting the Jeep into 1st
(4-LO), I crawled down the hill without touching the brake. Fortunately the trail was not
as slippery here and I was able to navigate the bottom of the hill without slipping. From
here there are options. Once option to the left is a large bald slippery rock. I have no
interest in trying this. If it was dry I might consider it but today was anything but dry
and the hill climb would keep me in adrenaline for a few more minutes by itself.
A little to the right of that is a bypass
that skirts the rock shelf and leads directly to a rocky final ascent, sort of an obstacle
in its own right. And to the right of that is the trail branch that leads over the
rock shelf. Now for whatever reason, despite my decision to skip the obstacles, I found
myself on the far right trail branch heading straight for the rock shelf. With my slipping
and sliding still fresh in my mind, I decided that I might as well try the obstacle
because if I stop to back off, things are going to get interesting anyway
surprise, I went over the shelf rock without any trouble.
One thing I will say about these
Pirellis is that they are good on wet rock. And no doubt my recent lift helped me
clear the front bumper and chassis going over the rock. I got past that and was
approaching the rocky exit up the middle when, because he had slid off into some rocks,
Ken advised me to take the bypass. That was challenge enough as it required me to make a
110-degree turn while off-camber, head back down the hill again, then right back up to the
top. I was able to do it without any trouble.
I am starting to think that I need to air
down deeper in these conditions. I didnt see much difference between the bottom of
the hill I had trouble with and the rest of the spots on the hill later. It was all the
same kind of ground.
After I parked, I walked down to the
large rock where Steve was doing his best to climb it. He made several attempts with all
kinds of sights and sounds smoke, steam, crisp snaps
Crisp snaps? Hey Steve,
wait a second
Ken checked out and found nothing obviously broken.
So Steve tried again then went around to
yet another obstacle.
This one is extreme. It is a face of
random boulders, I think the outcrop is about 6 to 10 feet high, and there is no
"good" line of approach. It looks like you might be able to nudge front wheels
up, let them kind of slide over to the right. You will hopefully notch above the lower
boulders, and get a wheel up to the next tier where you have to slot between more boulders
so you can get your diff past.
Steve made a few good tries but he could
not get a good grip on the wet rocks. And in the process he tweaked some sheet metal. So
he backed off and went up the rest of the hill.
That would be the major thrashing on our
trail ride. The rest was easy stuff.
We drove the trail out to a gate, turned
left and rode along down through some logging, and back along the woods near where we had
come in. One little hill looked interesting but even with the rain was no problem at
By the time we got back to the road,
everyone had a smile on their face, and more than a little mud here and there.
We drove back to the carriage house where
some of the other groups had returned ahead of us. Chris and Carla debriefed us and told
us what to expect for the next pre-run and Jeep Jamboree. We were given the opportunity to
stay and run more trails but with the long ride ahead and the bad weather, I opted to make
my exit, accepting my bumper as the only carnage for me. The other thing I discovered when
I went to air-up was that the quick connect below my spare tire was jammed from the bumper
being bent so I could not air up the back tires.
Mark and I traveled together, with a stop
at the car wash. We washed Jeeps and aired up. A couple guys from other trails were there
and we talked a little. Then we jumped back on Rt. 29 and head for home. Along the way,
Mark invited me to stop by his place. It turned out more beautiful than the pictures show.
After some coffee and cookies I drove the rest of the way home.
It was a great trip, a nice chance to do
some new trails, and I think it stretched my capabilities to new bounds. I think I am
still re-learning stuff I knew back when I had my Willys. I hope it doesnt take too
much longer for me to get it all back!
I called my friend Carl and was able to
convince him to sell me his factory original rear bumper, and installed it the next day.
Good as new!