2002 Father's Day Run
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Just Another Weekend with the Johnson Family
written by Elmo (with a few touches from Jennifer)
The Father's Day Run was especially sweet for me this year as both my girls were there with their significant others. We started out signing up for the Black Oak Run after the difficulties we encountered on Montezuma's Revenge during the Safari 4x4 Event.... Since I didn't have time to submit an article for the Safari, please allow me to digress
(Think Safari, think rain, LOTS of rain...) So, during the Safari, as you all know, it rained ALL DAY Friday. I was chastised for leaving my rain gea rin the Expedition (a.k.a. Jeep Hauler) so when it began to rain, I donned a 50 gallon trash bag to keep from getting soaked to the bone (might I add that Todd was nice enough to loan me an actual rain coat, thanks Todd!) On Friday, the whole day consisted of two uphill runs, two downhill runs, and a run through the creek bed where Stu had an altercation with a tree that popped his left rear window out of his Cherokee (been around us too long ,haven't ya Stu... with that whole tree business).
All morning Friday was spent climbing (alright, winching) up the hill. Once most everyone had been winched up the hill, we had to pull Stu away from the tree he had used. After winching up the hill, we had to pull some people over a log. In some cases, we had to pull them off so they could go around. We may have been wet, but our spirits were not dampened as we continued to play. At lunch, we took survey of all involved and found all to be well, save for Stu's window and my right front tire (which was going flat due to wood jammed in between the wheel and the bead of the tire. The tire was changed thanks to the help from our trail buddies.
After lunch, we slid down a hill and ran through the creek bottom where Stu broke his window out. Then we played on another little hill where all who chose to had to be winched back up to the top. The end of the day found us pulling a few people up the hill we first went down in the morning and watching a few make it on their own. Saturday of the Safari, we chose to do the same trail as Friday. Montezuma's Revenge has become a Johnson favorite. With the sun shining and the promise of no rain from the forecasters, we couldn't wait to see what we might get into. By the time lunch rolled around, we had completed all the trail we had taken all day Friday to traverse. This allowed up time to go play in a creek bed we had prepared a few weeks prior on a trail building weekend (Yep, the Johnson's were there for that too...).
Since the Illinois River was way out of it's banks, we had to do a little trail building just to get into the spot. My youngest daughter, Jennifer, talked Stu into letting her drive his Cherokee since it has an automatic transmission (allright, so, I -Jennifer - am typing this and I didn't talk Stu into letting me, he just let me). In case you're wondering why she wanted to drive one with an automatic transmission, please refer to the article entitled "The Trees Revenge" for Montezuma's Revenge. That would be the article causing Jennifer to be referred to as Tree Girl. Stu, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING LETTING HER DRIVE?!?!
Back to the story: After a little cutting and clearing, Stu, standing outside directing, led us into the creek bed with Jennifer at the wheel and Momma Miller (Tim and Tom's mom) riding shotgun. Stu directed Jennifer down the side of the creek and into a maneuver we're referring to at a 6 point turn which virtually turns jeeps 180 degrees from the point of entry into the creek. Once this was accomplished, Stu gave the go ahead to Jennifer to enter the creek bottom. As Jennifer inched forward, the jeep began to lean hard to the right. Stu stopped her for a moment and decided she would be okay. Well, she was kind of okay, but, as she accelerated gently, the jeep began a slow roll to the right creaking and popping as it fell onto it's side (sorry Stu!!!). With the engine still running, I first yelled to turn it off. Stu, standing in total disbelief, finally realized he wasn't dreaming and jumped onto the bottom side of the Cherokee facing us for a look into the cockpit. There hung Jennifer from her seatbelt, yelling together out (not because she was hurt, but because she was terrified), and Mom Miller giggling so loud we thought she might be hurt.
Neither of the ladies were hurt in any way, except for maybe Jennifer's pride. We hooked up to the rear bumper with the winch line from my jeep and with the winch weight in place, we gently pulled the Cherokee back up on it's tires (all four of them!). With the line still attached, a shaken Jennifer was instructed to move forward until the Cherokee leveled out on its own. Due to Jennifer's example (haha), the rest of the group began moving through the same area and we were very careful of their placement. Barbara piloted my jeep through mostly without incident. As she made her way up the rock area of the creek, some rocks found their way in between the bead and wheel of my left rear tire. Thankfully, I had taken the spare and had the chunks of wood removed Friday evening at the NEW Neal Tire and Battery location next to Wal-Mart. Once Barbara had finished pin striping my jeep on the fallen trees in an area we are still not sure how she got to, I once again did the spare tire change out thing (yep, that's right, two days in a row). One of the guys with a Bronco had a similar problem as mine in the creek bottom. His, however, needed attention right then and there as he popped his tire off the rim.
With the help of quite a few trail buddies, a little ether, and some fire, we managed to keep his Ford on the wobbly high lift and get the tire reseated. We all climbed the hill and began our trip back to town to enjoy the evening at the American Legion. Once we arrived at the American Legion, our first order of business was to get the jeeps clean. This was accomplished with only 10 dollars, the generosity of the Christian Church, and the Pittsfield Fire Department. I must say, it was a better wash than I usually do, so it was well worth the10 bucks. The Fire Department hosed off the biggest chunks, but the down and dirty part was left to the youth group. They did a terrific job, and we thank them VERY much! The people from the American Legion could not have been more gracious with their pleasant service and great cooking. Thank you for a great weekend of eating, I mean WHEELING... well, both!
Now, fast forward in time to the Father's Day Run. As I was saying, we could not have asked for a better day. The temperature was in the 70's with no humidity and clear skies. We first signed up for Black Oak because of its lower rating and the difficulties we were afraid we'd encounter after all the rain during the previous week. A lot of others must have taken the same line of thinking and soon there were 2 names in some of the 17 slots. After some discussion with Barry (Jennifer's boyfriend), we decided to try Montezuma. Barry was driving my Dad's CJ5 (yep, we decided to give Jennifer a time out on driving... hehe) since Dad was previously booked for my nephew's high school graduation (Thanks for understanding, Jeff, and congratulations!). Dad's CJ5 has only 3 modifications: 1) new carburetor 2)4" lift 3) new tires 31" 10.50/15. Not being a highly modified Jeep made us consider changing trails a little longer than usual. Barry had no problems climbing the hill we spent all morning winching up at the Safari. Barry, in fact, had no problems until the line he took on the rock creek caused his left front tire to be waving to the crowd and his right rear tire to be way down in the V-shaped crevasse we were going over. With a quick hook of the winch line, we had him and Jennifer with all four feet on the ground and rolling again.
After all but Stu, the trail tail for the day, made it through, we were all at the top of the hill when a call from the wild came through the woods. The cry "HEY DAD, BRING YOUR WINCH DOWN HERE!!" could be heard through all the valley (that'd be big mouth tree girl!). I went to see what the commotion was all about to find that Stu had once again directed his Jeep into a fight with gravity. In just about the same area as Jennifer, only a couple of weeks before, had taught Stu's Cherokee to lay down, Stu's girlfriend -Jerrilyn- had now accomplished the same Jeep trick of having only the 2 right side tires touching the ground. Once again, my winch was used to fight the pull of gravity on the left side of Stu's Jeep. However, we had a good day going, even with his being on its side because no carnage had taken place. As we got to the asphalt road after playing in the creek, we got a little separated in our run for Larry's fields near Pittsfield.
Come to find out, the reason for our separation was Sarah's left front tire. It had decided to take its own way into the ditch. Evidently, the nuts had backed off and become loose enough to allow the wheel to come off. Again, with the help of Stu and others, Sarah was physically ready to roll but was mad enough to call it a day. The rest of us continued on to Larry's fields where we got to play in a creek running about 2 foot deep with white water rapids in places. Stu got so excited he just had to see how much water he could push (Jerrilyn decided to let him drive again after falling over). That was cool, until it got something wet that would not allow his Jeep to run unless being helped by ether. After some discussion, we decided to pull him out of the woods and back into town, as the day was winding down anyway. Plus, the rest of the rest of the group was out of the woods and waiting to head back to town to get cleaned up and go to the dinner on the "Tough Nuts" farm.
(Here's the ending Jennifer got to write)
So, after telling the stories and mourning the death of Stu's Cherokee (it went home dead... bummer), we headed to the dinner. Many of us met at the VFW hall and we had a convey to the farm. When we finally arrived, I was chastised because Barry and I drove to Pittsfield in my VW Bug. A couple of Jeepers threatened to run over it like a large rock, but it arrived home unscathed. At any rate, we arrived at the farm and ate fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, and cookies. It was an excellent time. The food was good and the company was even better.
After visiting and telling all the stories from the day, several trail guides came together and presented Stu with the Father's Day Run trophy because his Cherokee had been dumped on its side TWICE and he wasn't a passenger, let alone a driver, in either case. There was a lot of laughter, but Stu called for everyone's attention again and announced how appreciative he was for the award, but he decided to give it to my dad (Elmo). Stu's decision was based upon the help he received from my Dad when Stu's jeep was taught and then reinforced the trick of laying down. Stu also took into consideration that Dad was the one to pull him out of the woods and all the way back to Pittsfield after the Cherokee bit the big one in the creek. There was a hug (a manly hug, don't want the guys to think I'm trying to make them look like sissies), laughter, and a handshake to solidify the bond between a man with a broken Jeep and the man with the plan to get it out. As always, it was an AWESOME time. Wheelin' is one of the best pastimes ever and I want to thank everyone involved for making it such a fun and friendly atmosphere. Wheelin' has created LOTS of memories for my family and I and I hope that you can all say the same. Because, with the Johnson family, there is never a dull moment!!!
Again, thanks to everyone. TRJC is a great club filled with friendly people who don't think twice when it comes to helping a fellow Jeeper. Until next time....
The Johnson Family