Thanks to the Pike Press Newspaper, and Leslie A. Willard, our club made the front page of Pittsfield's newspaper.. They gave us permission to reprint Leslie's article.
Why would someone spend lots of time and money putting winches, tow hooks, extra large tires on their Jeeps so they could traverse rocks, creeks, and yes, mountains, risking injury to themselves and their Jeep? It's a Jeep thing you wouldn't understand.
Over 300 Jeep lovers came to Pike County last weekend to participate in the 6th annual Land of Lincoln Jeep Jamboree. They filled the area motels and enjoyed the beautiful weather and sights of the area. "We had around 190 Jeeps on our trails this weekend," Tom Wombles, president of the Two Rivers Jeep Club and organizer of the jamboree, said. "We had to turn away that many more. It was a very successful weekend." People from around the United States and Canada ventured through Pike County. "This is beautiful country around here," Ron Baker from Canada said. "We are starting a Jeep Jamboree and I came to observe and have fun."
Some local residents partook of the festivities. "We were looking into going to a Jeep Jamboree, and we decided to try the one at our own backdoor," first-time jamboree attendant Julie Coleman from Quincy said.
Pike County has 13 different trails with varying levels of difficulties. On the Jeep Jamboree scale of one to ten, with ten being the most difficult, the Pike County trails range from three to ten and have a reputation for being challenging. Trail ratings change with the weather. Rain or snow may make a trail more difficult. The weather last weekend was dry and windy, but recent rains had created some good mud holes.
The trails were run on both Friday and Saturday with registration Thursday night. At registration, the jeeps are inspected and the drivers sign up for the appropriate trails, depending upon the equipment available on each Jeep. Each day began with a delicious breakfast served by the Pittsfield Legion.
Friday morning, the drivers were given a welcome speech. Drivers are asked to "tread lightly" for they will be traveling on private property. After the short safety talk, Jeeps are lined up behind their trail guides, and on their way.
Beginning drivers can sign up for Off-Road Driving 101. Here an experienced driver instructs new Jeepers on how to hill climb, descend steep embankments, rock crawl, cross water, tree bump, etc. Safety tips for the drivers, passengers, and vehicles are covered.
The guides lead the trails and directed them on the more treacherous parts of the trails. "You learn to appreciate your Jeep," Merlin Scott, one of the Driver 101 instructors said.
After riding the trails, the Jeepers returned to meal sites for lunch. They then headed out for an afternoon of dust, mud, rocks, creeks, and tree gazing. The scenery is breathtaking, and the trail is invigorating. Not all your time is spent in the vehicle. At each difficult crossing, jeepers grab their cameras, hop out and cheer the drivers on as they try to cross. When it's their turn, they grit their teeth and go for it. In the end, they stand in awe of the vehicle, as well as their driving skills. "It's an addiction," Wombles said. "Once you go trail riding, you're addicted."
The days ended with a hot meal and watching videos from the day's ride. Meals were prepared by the Pittsfield Legion, Pittsfield Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary, Quanada, Rockport 4H, as well as the owners of the trails.
For those of you who are new, the Black Oak Run trail is guided by us (Tough Nuts Team), Bob and Sandra Mikrut (Rooster), Steve and Linda Gambrill (Chief), and their son John (Cowboy). Sporting our trail colors (ORANGE!), we set up for registration on Thursday night at 5pm. Trailmaster O.R. limited trail registration to 15 vehicles per day but as usual, a few stragglers begged and bribed us to let them on. (I've noticed that it's usually the women doing the begging and the guys doing the bribing.) We ended up with about 20 vehicles each day for our 6-rated trail.
We were honored with the presence of several CBJ members on Friday including Mikey, Cuddles, and Sparky. The morning ride went well with no major difficulties to speak of. We avoided Winch Hill and the Washouts due to timeconstraints and actually made it to lunch on time! At lunch, Jim and Kathy Carson asked when they were going to have to put their Jeep in four-wheel drive. Big Mistake! We unanimously elected them as our honorary trail guides for the first section of our afternoon ride. If you've been on our trail, you know that the first section of the afternoon involves stinky mud - lots of it! When Jim and Kathy approached the mud pit, they tried in vain to let someone else go first. Jim revved up and launched into the pit before his abrupt stop just 10 feet through. Unable to move forward or back, Kathy climbed out onto the hood to hook up their strap. After extracting the Carson's from the bottomless pit, we told them that it might have been a good time to use four- wheel drive! Several other Jeeps got stuck and made for some great video footage. If you get a chance to see the Jamboree video, you'll see Chief's graceful balancing act and near mud bath, Tough Nuts running alongside Cuddles holding on to the tow strap that wasn't needed, and several other Kodak moments. The rest of the afternoon was a little slower than normal due to some mechanical difficulties with a couple rigs. We had to park one Jeep that couldn't be fixed and several others required expert technical assistance from our Mechanic-on-the-Spot Mikey Keller. We ended up the day at Rollover Hill for those who wanted to brave it. The trails were fairly dry and no one had a problem with the hill.
Saturday morning we set out again with our group in tow. We weren't far into the creek when we heard a distress call from tailgunner Rooster. "Somebody get me a winch!" "I need a winch NOW!" Chief shot back to the rear of the trail as the trained Fire Chief he is. He arrived just in time to see Rooster's family bailing out of the sinking Jeep. Seems Rooster didn't follow his own advice (now famous advice on the Black Oak Trail) - When you're in the creek, make sure you follow the guy in front of you. You never know where the holes are and if you don't follow the same path, you may get sunk! (This is good advice as long as the guy in front of you isn't swimming!) (Editorial comment: Kent Martin learned this valuable lesson a few weeks ago, right Speedo?!?) Anyway, Emory and Chief both put winch cables on Rooster and hauled him back to dry land where Tough Nuts took over and strapped him back to the barn. After 4 oil changes, Rooster was back on the trail, raring to go. Our trail riders were a bit restless after seeing their Guide being towed back for repairs so early in the day but Chief and Cowboy took over and led them through the North trail with no problem. We covered a lot of ground on Saturday morning including a couple brave-hearts who conquered winch hill. The washouts are too badly eroded to tackle going in the forward direction but we managed to run them in reverse for a change of pace. The real fun for the morning was when we decided to try out the new Thunder Run Trail that was just recently finished. We figure if our regular trail is rated a 6, Thunder Run has to be at least an 8. We gave everyone the option of bypassing the most difficult part but with white knuckles for some, they all followed us! What a trail! The first part of the trail is cut through a ravine so it is wet and rocky. It takes some nimble maneuvering to make it through without any scrapes. We suffered our first 'body damage' when our left rear fender flare got snagged on a tree and decided to jump ship. At one point, our Jeep was laying so far over on one side that I could touch the ground just inches from my seat. I don't ever remember tipping that far over before without actually laying the Jeep in its side! A few Jeeps got stuck and had to use winches and a comealong to get out but everyone made it though with only minor problems. One guy pulled a Rooster and knocked his windshield frame pretty good and another guys lost a tail light. The nice thing was that the sense of accomplishment was tremendous when you got through. We headed for lunch - right on time again! After lunch, we loaded up to hit the trail again and realized we had a fuel pump problem. Frank Smith jumped in to help out and took Durrell to the auto store for a replacement. The rest of us headed toward the mud pit for day #2. Jim and Laura Sorenson were our designated 'Trail Leaders' through the mud pit on Saturday. (They were overheard commenting at dinner the evening before that they wanted to transfer off our trail because the mud pit looked too difficult. Ooops. Guess they were overheard by the wrong person 'cause we nabbed them right after lunch and broke the news to them.) Jim (a.k.a. Maui) handled trail leadership very well although he didn't make it any further into the pit than the Carsons did the day before. Emory gladly strapped them out before humiliating them further by backing all the way through the mud pit and then driving all the way through it again. It's amazing what a little speed and some good lockers can do for you.
The rest of the afternoon was fairly uneventful for everyone except Cowboy and Tough Nuts. After Durrell and Frank got the Scrambler running, they tried to catch up and Durrell took the wrong approach to the mud pit. When Frank strapped him out, he packed the radiator and starter full of mud and had to abandon the vehicle for a couple hours. Cowboy suffered the same fate and eventually had to give up on his rig too. Everyone else made it through the rest of the trail and several headed to Rollover Hill to cap off their day. Mad Brit was ecstatic to make it through Thunder Run, through the Mud Pit and up Rollover Hill all under his own power! His life is now compete! His son Shawn (Dirt Dog) has great plans for Dad's Jeep including lockers, a lift, bigger tires, lower gears and removing the doors!
In closing, we want to say a special thanks to our fellow Trail Guides
Bob and Sandra as well as our Trail Assistants Chief, Linda, and Cowboy
Gambrill. Without you guys helping out, Black Oak just wouldn't be the