This year I managed to sign
up for the Jeep Jamboree Trail Guide lottery on time and got myself seeded
21st in the list of guides. The first 10 or so are pretty much definite
guides; the rest are determined in order on the list by how many people sign
up for the event. That means that I wouldn't be a guide until about 105
people sign up. Slim chance I will be a guide. But I like this
group of people, and the trails are always interesting, so it's a chance to
wheel a place that is otherwise not open to me. So even if I don't get
on the final list of guides, I will enjoy the pre-runs and get to know some of
the folks better. Update 4/24/03: I made the final cut and was
a Trail Guide for the event.
Teddy has school on Saturdays
so he gets left out of trips like this. It's always hard for me knowing
that he likes to go but can't, so I didn't mention the trip to the kids.
But at 5:30 am, already running late because I slept through the alarm, I woke
up Tomi, asked him if he wanted to go 4-Wheeling (a groggy "Yes")
and got him dressed in the dark in my room. The Jeep was already packed
for a day trip so we hit the road without touching the ground.
The drive to Lovingston is a
long one. It is about 30 minutes south of Charlottesville, so it's about
3 hours away. We stopped for cash, gas and lunch stuff, and gas again
when we got near Oak Ridge. The start time was 8:00am and we were still
a couple miles away when it turned 8:30am
I was more prepared than my
late arrival suggested. I had loaded my GPS track that included all the
trails I have run at Oak Ridge. But I had not aired down and
disconnected. Driving around the perimeter of the field, we came upon a
slightly off camber section and I started to slide slowly off the side.
There was no place to go but into the bushes so I wasn't worried. But it
made me aware that I really did need to air down and disconnect soon.
In the interest of not making
folks late on my account, I waited for a brief moment when the column paused
to install my Oasis Automatic Tire Deflators. Then I jumped back in to
the Jeep and drove as they aired me down. Brilliant! Next, there
was a pause long enough for me to disconnect my sway bar and stow the
connectors. By the time we had covered the first few minutes of trail, I
had readied the Jeep for the trail without holding anyone up.
We drove the trail a little
different than the last time I had been on it, bypassed the skeet shooting
area since it will be in use when we run the event. That meant
crossing Rucker Run in a different place. That was fine since the
place where we crossed last time was pretty deep, and that was during dry
weather. I can't imagine what it would have been like on this
trip. Just past the crossing we had a climb that apparently cause some
people trouble as winching was heard and we spent some time waiting for the
group to move. I managed to get my hiking boots put on, and we took a
walk up to see if we could find out what the deal was.
It turned out to be a
moderate hill that was somewhat slippery. But I had no trouble climbing
up it. Perhaps if I still had Pirelli's and was open/open it might have
been a little harder? No matter, as we got to the top easily and soon
rejoined the rest of the group.
The red dirt had turned to a pasty muck
that stuck to everything. There was no getting off this trail
clean! We drove along what was for the most part an easy dirt
road. It eventually wound around back to where we had come in, and we
followed the road back out to pavement.
We came to the camping area
and turned down trail 3. When we got to the stream crossing we had to
stop because the vehicles in front of us were having trouble getting between
the two trees. And those who had gotten through the two trees were
having trouble making the hill that claimed my rear bumper the first time I
came out to these trails. I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I had
subsequently made it up the hill, and additionally had tackled two of the
three rock obstacles that awaited beyond. I was looking forward to the
obstacles but I was not really looking forward to the two trees and the
hill. It turned out that so much time was spent recovering the people
having trouble that it was decided we should all turn back and wait at the
By the time we finished here, one TJ had been smashed into a tree
trying to make the corner at the bottom of the same hill that I had lost my
bumper. I am not sure but I think there may have been other carnage
too. One guy had some missing bolts to replace on his suspension before
From there, we headed down by
the camping area, and beyond to Trail 6 loop. This was an interesting
little romp in the woods, following a cart road that branched of into the
woods, crossed down into another old, grown-in dirt road. Here, we drove
down into the old road, up it a few feet, then back out the other side.
Some people had no problems.
Others needed the strap.
I made it
down and back up on my own, and soon found that we were going down a hill,
off-camber, and with no ruts to help us stay put. At the bottom of the
hill was a tree that was waiting to sideswipe anyone who drifted too far off
the path. I had to force myself to use gas to keep my line high up on
the trail, and get past the tree. The trail spirals in on itself and
eventually pops you back out on the road, a few yards down from where we went
in. All in all, with the exception of the tree at the bottom of the
hill, it was a fun diversion.
Next we headed up to trail 7
so everyone could see where it was, but owing to time limitations we did not
run the trail. It was pretty wet too, so it could have been dicey
getting up and back down those trails. We turned around as each person
saw the trail entrance. Chris got me to sign the log and gave me a map
of the trails.
We moved down to the trail
I had been waiting for - trail 2. This was where I had climbed the big
hill last October. This time we skipped the hill because we were short
on time and because it looked a lot worse than last time. We went up
the main trail and then back down the ridge, skipping most of the trail that
goes up the ridge.
We came to trail 5 and
followed it down through some narrow sections and over some small
obstacles. Eventually we reached the river bank.
The first vehicle crossed
the river and climbed out onto the river bank on the other side. It
was deeply rutted and muddy but did not look bad from the other side of the
But the Grand did not make
it up without a strap. A couple other vehicles crossed before me and I
was able to guess that the stream was about 20 inches at its deepest point.
When my turn came, I
crossed the stream without incident but my first attempt to get onto the
river bank failed because I was in third and did not have enough wheel
speed. My second attempt, in second gear, put me on the river bank,
with my wheels "hooking up" as I got past the ruts, which were
much deeper than they looked from the other side. My engine skid plate
had plowed up a ton of dirt and rocks that I found a week later when I was
doing a more thorough cleaning of the Jeep!
After that, Mike Ball and
one other driver made it across and out on their own power. Everyone
else got a strap or got winched. One guy popped a bead. So we
spent some time (all the right tools were at hand) putting that back
By this time, it was
decided that the rest of the group left on the other side of the river would
double back and meet us at the road.