7/21/01 & 8/5/01
4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD!
It dawned another beautiful day. It has been an incredible summer, with precious little rain, to the dismay of my garden and lawn. But this saves grass mowing and frees another day to go wheelin'.
So it was when, on Thursday night, I read that Mark Long was pulling together a group to go out and see Peter's Mill that I decided to make it three weekends in a row, to go out with the kids and the Jeep. Maria was working (rats) so that made it easier to claim the day.
I got up before dawn, loaded the coolers (3), kids bag, camera bag, boonie boxes, and finally the car seats. Then a cup of coffee and the three S's. Woke the kids up, dressed them in a bit of a bums rush and we all tossed into the Jeep for the ride to Edinburg, VA.
I made a cursory stop at Wendy's in Manassas. This was part tradition, as the kids, for some strange reason, savor the orange juice there, and part to see if anyone had shown up there for the ride (they had not). So it was back onto Route 66 West and down 81 south to Edinburg. Something of a solitary ride if you discount the kids squabbling in the back over whichever toy the other one had. Don't let anyone tell you that getting two of each toy ever solves the problem. Somehow they know which one is which, and always want the one they don't have...
We stopped at the SubWay in Edinburg to get sandwiches. It was a real comedy of errors. The kids were out of control, the woman making the sandwiches was nice enough. But they (the sandwiches) would turn out to be nearly inedible - my absolute worst experience ever at a SubWay. We later discarded all but 1/2 of the foot-long that I got. The bread was leftover. The sandwiches were not made as requested (I was busy watching the kids tear around the candy counter). Then I turned around to discover that Tomi had filched a lollypop after I had already paid. Fifteen cents and an object lesson later, I was towing two screaming kids out the door to the Jeep, with my crappy packed lunches. What a great start...
Our ride up to the trailhead took us on a detour through the used Jeep dealer on the corner of 675, where I almost missed the turn. The two gents talking on the stoop watched us breeze by. On up the road to Edinburg Gap where we found Jim and Tracy Cleek and their silver TJ parked and waiting, a few minutes before the appointed hour. Off to the right was a group of guys sitting on the ground, looking worse for wear. I was to find out they had spent the night wheeling, getting "stuck", and walking out to the road here. The seriousness of their predicament didn't really sink in until I saw how far in they got stuck, how badly they got stuck and under what circumstances.
OK, so the rest of the group formed up. Eric, the Longs, with Chris, Pam and son rolling in, followed by Ken, who arrived after we had started heading up the trail (just) and chimed in when I requested a radio check. The CB Radio earns it's keep yet again. Onward and upward. This trail is certainly more challenging than anything I tried last week in Green Ridge but still very do-able with a stock Jeep. So here I am enjoying myself when Whooop There! and we stop, right on the side of the first or second big hill. What?!
Chris, leading the column, immediately has his toolbox out and disappears under his CJ. Within a couple minutes he resurfaces with a front driveshaft that Ken scoops up and carries away like a newborn baby. Turns out the u-bolt that holds it on had come away and the cap and needle bearings had started to scatter. Ken came back with the drive shaft wrapped in swaddling cloth- no, make that Duct Tape to keep the parts from getting lost.
Up the trail, at the top of the first hill, we took a break. Then we continue along. Credit where credit is due, Chris made that whole trail with an open rear diff and no front wheel drive. So ignore the sign at the trail head folks (if you know how to drive that is...)
Somewhere along the way I heard a lot of encouragement coming over the radio. I checked back and noticed that Eric was not behind me. It turned out that he found a spot that just wouldn't let him by. So I backed down the hill, threw him a strap, got him past whatever was holding him down. Although tempted to gloat, I should admit that having a limited slip rear does come in handy sometimes and I tend to take it for granted. Imagine what a locker is like!
Mark looped the strap up and put it back in my Jeep where it stayed for the rest of the day. We chided Eric about it a little, which was a little out of line, Sorry Eric. The trail is not a place to go with a car so really, it does deserve some respect, as do the crazies like us who go out there. We tend to forget how easy it seems.
Finally we wound up at the site where the "truck fell in the bushes" as Teddy said. Let me tell you, if it had been my truck and I was driving, I would have been emitting pickles from my posterior when it happened. I could put it another way but you get the idea. We are talking ultimate pucker factor here...
Far be it for me to preach, so please don't take it that way. These guys apparently decided to go for a ride, in the wee hours of the morning (1 am) and went on up Peter's Mill from the northern end of the trail. Strike One. I suspect, owning to the smell of the breath of one of them, that it was a booze cruise. Strike Two. They traveled about 2/3 of the trail, headed south - the easy part. They reached a rock that offers two trail options - easy and not so easy. The details recounted at this point are as clear as mud. They found their Ford F-150 pickup truck completely off the edge of the trail, prevented from falling off the ridge by a couple of 4-inch trees wedged against the cab. They tried for hours to get it out with no success. They were not accompanied by another vehicle and had no choice but to walk out. Strike Three.
I won't tell you that I never made a mistake in my life, and many times I have gone wheeling "alone" with my previous Jeep. And I paid for those mistakes. None of them were life threatening goofs, but call that dumb stupid luck. When I got this Jeep I decided I wouldn't venture into the unknown without being seriously prepared and sober (the sober part was never an issue anyway). If at all possible, I would be sure to have a friend along in another vehicle. Of course last week I went to Green Ridge without a buddy, but it was like driving normal pavement so... Anyway, < soapbox mode off> and all that, but these three rocket scientists came darn close to falling into an abyss. What really underlined it for me, and what confirmed their lack of awareness, was the turned-down offer to use a cell phone to call loved ones to report their location and put any fears to rest...They were only gone for 14 hours - no biggy...
As usual, the photos don't begin to give you an idea of how critical this truck was. This thing was listing about 50 degrees away from vertical, and was on the side of the hill, held in place by only a couple of little trees and sheer determination. I must shorten the story about it to say that the group spent three hours trying every which way to get it out. I really have a hard time imagining how it got there, but that's logic for you...
Ken deserves a lot of credit for trying as hard has he did, and everyone else who helped. It's tricky business to get a rig off the side of a hill. No one was hurt and nothing that I know of was broken. I was busy taking care of the kids and trying to entertain them, so I was no help at all. It was hot and dry in that spot, with barely any shade at all. I used up three quarts of water, keeping the kids and myself from drying out. I usually don't even crack it open!
We ate lunch there, sitting in the Jeep to stay in the shade. Finally, it was determined that the truck was not going to come out (easily). We packed up and moved on. Noticing that the owner of the truck and crew had been missed, someone had come looking for them. It could have been worse. The three muscatel-leers got a ride out with their friend and we finished the trail moving northeast.
The rest of the trail was pretty, rocky, and otherwise a 2-wheel drive effort. I put it in 2WD for the last several miles, making it a little more pleasant. All the while, we encountered ATV after ATV, a few motorcycles, and a lone mountain biker. Some ATV drivers were rude, blasting by with barely enough room, sometimes taking unnecessary chances. Others were quite nice, pausing to let us pass. The lone mountain biker probably cursed us - he was covered with sweat, pausing as we passed in a cloud of dust...
We stopped at a pond for a break. On the way out, Ken treated us to some light banter and clowning ("Walk the Jeep"). He could not resist an opportunity to "flex" his suspension and of course, we all had to follow suit and record our "ramp scores" for posterity:
The side trails have been very religiously closed and made inaccessible to any but the most persistent and foolhardy. I think this is a good thing although I must say that several of them looked very interesting. There were ubiquitous signs of warning, probably meant for those who could not understand that the berms, moats, multi-moats, and tank traps were not meant as obstacles...
At last we made a little stream crossing and reached the other end of the trail. Ken, Jim & Tracy decided to run it the other way.
The rest of us hit pavement and made a stop at Waterlick Grocery Store for some refreshments, then parted ways.
I headed back to Manassas where I was lured by the promise of cheap gas and something to eat. We made a side trip to replenish our bug spray supply and get some other things the kids needed. Then we got gas ($1.39) at RaceWay.
Next was my great obsession - the Jeep Wash. It didn't take long to locate my favorite kind - the self-serve bay with a high-pressure washer and coin slot. The thing that got me was the sign at the entrance that said "NO CONSTRUCTION, OFF-ROAD OR MUDDY VEHICLES IN WASH BAY - VIOLATORS WILL BE PROSECUTED". Huh? Now I can understand being excluded from some parts of the forest, but now the car wash?! Man I am starting to feel persecuted! So I suppose the question you are thinking is "Well, did you wash your Jeep?" OK. Fair enough. Here's the reasoning behind my decision. The trip was not through mud, so I would not say that my vehicle was heavily soiled. And since I had come to the Jeep Wash on pavement, I was not "off-road". Of course I washed my Jeep, silly. Damn! As far as "prosecuting" me, that's a good one. I can see it now: First we must define "off-road vehicle" - that should pretty much keep it out of court by itself... I swear, it just gets weirder all the time. After the wash, I went to the vacuum cleaner to get the inside clean. That thing was the best vacuum cleaner I have yet used at a car wash, and better than mine at home by far. Well worth the $1 I spent on it. No one came to prosecute me, there was no mountain of mud left clogging the drain, and I left $5 lighter in a Jeep that has never been taken off-road.
Then, in response to popular demand, we hit the McDonalds for burgers and playground. We went to Toys 'R Us, where I found a '98 Jeep Wrangler made by Matchbox, complete with roof rack that almost matches mine! I bought Matchbox ATV's for Teddy and Tomi. By this time it was 14 hours on the road and time to get back. By ten o'clock PM, the kids were in bed and I was ready to crash out.
Later we learned that Chris cooked his rear-end and had a tow home. I never saw the smile leave his face all day - "Don't stop 'til the wheels fall off!"
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I wrote to my friend Hugh about going out riding and he told me that he had not yet gone on Peters Mill. So we took a ride out on Sunday morning. The trail had changed some since the first time I went a couple weeks ago. The rock climbs that we took the on the 21st were not as rocky. I think rain may have washed dirt into the rocks or the traffic had tamped down the loose rocks.
On the way in we met a stock TJ coming out after the driver decided that the rocks in this section might be too troublesome for a lone vehicle. We invited him along but for whatever reasons, they continued out.
Hugh and I continued along and eventually came to the section where the rocks look pretty difficult. In actuality, they are not bad at all. They taper off into the ground on the high side but from below they look really tall and it would seem at first that you'd have trouble clearing the sides of the Jeep. I spotted Hugh over them and we continued along up to the spot where the pick-up truck went off the edge, and the optional rock sits waiting to be climbed...
Along the way I snagged some blackberries that were sticking out from the side of the trail. Then we got to the rock. Hugh decided that he didn't want to risk it. I almost passed it by but it just didn't look that bad. And a few people had gone right over it the last time we came here so I didn't think it would be a big deal. I guess I should have paid more attention to the line they took...
I took a low line, planning to go up the right side of the rock at about a 50 degree angle towards the top, where I wanted to place my left-front tire on a high spot that looked like it wanted to munch my transfer case skid plate. Well that seemed like a good plan and it started out OK. Then when my left front tire reached the high spot and started to climb it, the whole Jeep tipped away from the rock and teetered on two wheels (the left front and the right rear). This was very uncomfortable. Imagine that you are tipping back and forth on these two wheels and you can't see anything but sky in front of you, and sky to your right. Not fun.
Fortunately Hugh hear my whooping and came to my aid. He put his hand on my front left fender and stopped the teetering, then held it down while I eased back off the rock. End of rock climbing attempt. Adrenaline coursing through veins at high rate. It took a few minutes to calm down. But of course, I want to take another look at what I did wrong and try again on another day. One thing - I think that it is time to get some sway bar disconnects because I think that would have let my right front wheel droop some and that might have added some stability. Hard to say. Neither Hugh or I was thinking of taking pictures when the problem arose...
After that, it was pretty uneventful. We stopped for lunch where the trail makes a split, and rejoins itself just a little way down. From there we traveled out to the pond and stopped for another break. Here we talked with an ATV driver that stopped to catch his breath and wait for some companions.
Up the trail a ways we stopped to check out the new section that is marked by two white posts. Unfortunately the gap between them is about a foot too narrow for a Jeep to pass through. I am not sure that this trail is meant for 4WD vehicles but it is not accessible at this time. We spent some more time talking bikes and stuff with some guys that were coming out and going by.
Back on the trail, a Jeep Cherokee caught up to us and followed us out to the end of the trail. When we stopped, he pulled up with his family and handed me my CB antenna that had fallen off on the trail! It was very nice since this had cost a few bucks and could not afford to replace it right now. I over tightened the thread on the coupler and stripped them... I am such dimwit sometimes...
We wound our way out and looked for more trails that were shown on the DeLormes maps but none proved legal. Hugh did find one trail that looked promising. After he headed in I noticed that there was a mailbox and suggested that perhaps this was someone's driveway and maybe we should not be going there. Onward and upward anyway. Well we got to the end and there was a yard and a house, with road appearing to continue on. And coming out of the house and straight towards me was a very pissed off guy. He had every right and I was trying to apologize and turn around but he wouldn't quit. He got even more mad when Hugh returned from where he was, on his way back out. The guy said something very strange though and I still don't know why - he kept asking if we were on an "official mission". I have no idea what that was about. I don't think we looked official but who knows...
Along the way we passed Cooter's Garage (of Duke's of Hazard TV Show fame).
Then we drove back to Hugh's house on the 211 and called it a day. A pretty nice ride and no trouble that followed us home....
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