Back 40 - 2002 Safari

by Deb

Our trip leader for the day was Walt and we had two tailgunners - peeJ and Hayward. Most of the group was made up by members of the Firewalker Four Wheel Drive Club, but there was also a Jeep from Michigan and peeJ's dad. We were fortunate to have the landowner's dog, Bear, run with us the whole trail to act as our "tick magnet". (It worked, I don't think any of us left the trail that day with any ticks.

As we lined up to air down, Gary and a few others worked very hard to get his disconnects off. (Trail fine?) Walt handed out safari hats to the two boys in the group, although the weather wasn't quite safari-like. With a forecast of ~50 degrees with 30% chance of light rain that was to end by noon, we thought we had it made when it wasn't even raining as we lined up. But mother nature played a trick on us and it rained all day (even harder after noon). The Firewalker's flames of enthusiasm were not put out by the rain - it only made things more interesting.

The Firewalker's collect trail fines for anyone having to be strapped, winched, hood opened, etc. I think everyone, except Alex, owed a lot of money by the end of the trail that day. Alex, also known as "Axel" since he has broken many axels on different trails, had a very good day. Sue won the honor of most dry that day. Sometimes it pays to be in the front of the line and then making it tougher for the rest of the group.

Jim maintained his name of "Lucky" for most of the day, with the second fewest trail fines. He got to take a lot pictures with his new camera too. I even got a trail fine when Jim had to give me assistance on using my camera.

Dave had some real trouble with his lockers and earned the honor of the first trail fine of the day, when he had to be strapped up a hill. The Jeep from Michigan had a rough day - first they bent their trail rack while backing into a tree, they broke a U-joint before lunch and headed back to town for repairs.

There were times when we had two or three strappings and winchings going on at the same time on different places on the trail. While Carol was waiting for an obstacle, she overheated and they finally removed her thermostat.

Hank earned the first "Trifecta" - when he had to be strapped, then winched and then winched again to get him back onto the trail and up a hill after he slid sideways off the trail into some trees (thank goodness there were trees there). At some point after this he broke his front axle ring gear and it caused him problems the rest of the trail.

Bear was a quiet companion on the trail except for when the sandbag was placed over the winch cable. He must have thought it was some sort of an animal moving above the ground, cuz he barked and barked.

The Smiths were the first to lose a tire at the top of a hill on the right front passenger side, for no apparent reason. The Andy and Hank pit crew took care of the tire change in record time.

As usual, Gasoline Alley proved to be a challenge. Most made it up, but the Michigan Jeep and Dave had to be strapped and Scott, Hank and Gary used their winches to get up.

On the last hill climb before a late lunch, Dave finally got his lockers to work and he powered his way up the hill. On the same hill, Scott had to be winched and then hooked to two TJ's with straps to get him up, after his winch cable jammed. Smith's almost made it to the top, but had to be strapped over. At the end of lunch, Walt brought out his traditional homemade cookies to rejuvenate us so that we could finish the trail.
We had quite a view of the flooding in the farm fields as we made the loop at the top. It was said that there had been 20 inches of rain in the past 14 days.

The next thrill was the 6-foot drop into the river. It's always quite a thrill when you can't see over the hood to know where you're going. As we followed the river bed out we had to blaze a new trail because of downed trees and the second tire of the day had to be changed by peeJ's dad when he caught the tire wall on a log that jutted out into the trail. Gary bent his Hi Lift jack as he teetered by a tree. He could only hope that he had bought the lucky ticket for the Hi Lift jack that was to be raffled off that night.

As we made our way down the river and back to civilization, I finally got back into Scott's Jeep (thank goodness the heater was fixed as I was probably the most wet passenger). A warm shower was all that I had on my mind as we headed back to the motel while the rest of the group joked and reminisced about the great time they had on the trail.

Thanks to the land owner, Tom for letting us ride on his property and for allowing Bear to join us, and to Walt, peeJ and Hayward for all their help and humor on the trail!


Created: 05/26/02