Toumbstone Invitational Rock Run 2001
Eighteen Jeeps had registered, eleven were expected the night before after several competitors were forced to cancel due to work commitments and summer mechanical attrition. On the morning of the event we were down to six, at the start of the competition it was five. But amazingly, this turned out to be the perfect number.
The Invitational Rock Run was the brainstorm of John Toumbs to put together a friendly competition of the Two Rivers Jeep Club's best drivers, spotters and Jeeps. It was also designed as appreciation for the club's trails guides and volunteers that put in so much work on behalf of the club and community.
The course was comprised of three stages. Each progressively harder. The course was wet from .45 inches ofrain the day before. The course rarely sees daylight because of the dense tree cover. Moss was everywhere. Even on a dry day the moss is very, very slippery. The base of the course was wet and muddy so all the competitors started with wet, mud caked tires. Scoring was based on ARCA rules and the club's own safety standards that were rigidly enforced by the event Grand Marshall Tim Miller who had the unfortunate duty to scold his friends when something did not comply with the club's strict rules.
The teams were Gary Shadwick and Bruce Erlinger, Bill Zoetvelt and Dan Reische, Mike Westphal and Jeff Christensen, John Toumbs and Randy Whitaker, and Glenn Engelmann and Craig Laurich.
Staring order was by lucky number draw. Gary Shadwick driving a 1997 TJ started off auspiciously by getting stuck after just 6 feet. Fortunately he was out quickly and hammered through the first stage with a little help from the winch, it was decided that he could continue to the second stage and off he went again treading cautiously up the slippery rocks but requiring the winch to complete the section. Team-Shadwick was fast and precise and the rest of the competitors knew that they would have to work hard to match the performance.
Next up was Screemin' Billy Zoetvelt. To know Bill you have to know Bill. At the end of section one was a very, very, nasty rock and Bill's 1977 CJ7 hit it hard with a shower of sparks erupting from his wheel spindle area. Neither the spotter nor driver had seen this and were unaware of the serious damage caused. The beadlock was destroyed with a massive dent. All eyes were looking at this when the wheel, spindle, and whole shebang came off. And that as they say, was it and all about it. Two hours later Bill with the aid of many had the Jeep put back together sufficiently to drive it off the course under it's own power.
During this down time Gary and Bruce tackled stage 3. This stage started with an extreme downhill combination of mud, rocks, mud, one horrible looking ledge which you just could not see from the drivers seat and yet more mud, and of course at the bottom of the hill, yep, a right angle turn back uphill. Gary came down safe but was quickly hung up on the uphill. Once again, relying on his new Warn 9500i to hoist the TJ to the top of the waterfall.
Next up was Mike Westphal in his 1969 CJ5. Mike needed no help from the winch to complete the first stage. He made it look too easy. John Toumbs in his 1998 TJ hammered through the first part of the stage with crowd cheering on Randy Whitaker who had to run incredibly fast to stay ahead of the TJ. However, John got stopped by the same nasty rock that halted Screemin'. John did not hit as hard or he had a tougher Jeep. A short winch later and he was up and over. Glenn Engelmann followed last with his 1977 CJ5. After a hard and fast start with parts of his soft-top bows flying loose he was also stopped equally hard by the now infamous Billy's rock. The same amount of winching extracted him also.
The second stage was very slippery with moss and mud. Temperatures were now in the mid 90's with humidity so high you could cut if with a knife. Mike started slow but soon realized he needed his corvette engine to horsepower him up the rocks. After several nasty bounces the winch was needed to help out of a precarious position on the rock face. John did the same thing but started of hard ending up needing the winch to get him out of the same exact spot. John barely finished the stage before all the air from his rear tire escaped. Glenn also ended in the same spot. It was either the winch or roll over. Glenn also chose the winch. Glenn also tried driving through a tree but the tree won, Glenn tried reversing through five-ton rock, but the rock won. The crowd was hooting and hollering as body panels crunched. Sadly a clutch linkage failed and Glenn had to winch out of the stage.
Mike, John and Glenn had all watched Gary traverse the third stage and thought they had it licked. Get down safe, winch back up if they couldn't drive it. They had seen his winch points and thought they could beat him. They had all seen the giant spiders that threatened to carry competitors and Jeeps of the course. Many suggestions were made to paint numbers on them and let them compete. I have seen big spiders before but had no idea that Illinois had spiders bigger than Tarantulas! Mike, John and Glenn each came down the first part of the third stage with as much grace as gravity and a near vertical descent would allow. Climbing back up the waterfall each competitor fought hard. John hammered up the furthest to the astonishment of the crowd that he did not destroy his Jeep. Glenn slammed, banged, and crunched his way off the course and had to be winched back on. Mike with careful spotting from Jeff still couldn't get it up. All three has to rely on their winches to complete the stage.
Four out of the five competitors made it to the top with many smiles, many laughs, no injuries and only a few broken parts. It took a long time for the audience to realize that ghosts were not throwing things at them but were being showered by hickory nuts falling from the trees. Glenn Engelmann was awarded the trophy for the most spirited and entertaining driver, Bruce Erlinger was awarded the best spotter trophy but this was a hard decision with such hard working, sweat soaked spotters, third place was Team-Westphal, second place was Team-Toumbs, and first place with only 6 points separating first and second was Team-Shadwick.
Many thanks must go to the event trail preparation team of John Toumbs, Mike Winfield, Craig Laurich, and Randy and Brady Bullard. Also many thanks to the event Grand Marshall Tim Miller and his judges Paul Beyer, Chad Suhre, Trent Knoles, Mike Winfield, Rick Culberson and Walt Gilbert.
Special gratitude and thanks to landowners Steve and David Gerrish, and the hard work of Randy and Brady Bullard.
And thank you John for thinking up the idea.