County Line- 2002 Safari
by Gerald and Debby
County Line was led by Gerald and Randy. We had a great group of jeepers on Friday, BUT the weather was very disagreeable, to say the least. The temperature was in the low forties, windy, and a cold rain started which continued to get heaver as the day continued.
As we headed to the trail, everyone introduced themselves; where they were from and what club they were a member of. We had a great group from Wisconsin: seven Jeeps and eleven people; one Jeep from Missouri with four people, and the rest from Illinois. There were thirteen Jeeps in all. On the way to the trail, some said they wanted to find some mud. Well, their wish was fulfilled and then some.
Our first challenging hill was a slick, slimy mess by the time we all got up.
Four made it unassisted, the rest had to be winched or strapped. From there on
things got worse, or better as jeepers would say. Our lunch break, which is usually
held under a beautiful, huge oak tree, was un-accessible for some, so we had lunch
in the swamp area. Then, part way through the trail, I (Gerald) checked out a
difficult loop, and decided it was too slick. Well, some wanted to try it anyway.
About two hours later we finally got the last Jeep out, having to winch up side-ways,
pushing and shoving, with a few words of, well, encouragement. Those trees seem
to always get in the way. Most of the group had rain gear and boots, but not all.
The creeks were on the rise when we were leaving making them quite difficult to
The sun was a welcome site Saturday morning. Our trail leader, and the landowner, was Gerald and our trail gunners were Randy and Brady in their YJ. Our group was made up of mostly members of the Firewalker Four Wheel Drive Club with a Jeep from Wisconsin and Chris in his Toyota truck. Hank wasn't able to drive his Jeep due to the breakage the day before, so he was the camera man/pit crew member/cheerleader along with Andy. Although Andy sold his Jeep last summer, I'm sure he will be buying another Jeep soon after getting back on the trails again this weekend.
On the drive to the trailhead we went through Griggsville, IL and learned some history. It is the purple martin capital of the nation. They manufacture purple martin houses. Purple martins are good to have around because they eat mosquitoes. After all that rain, they'll need to build a lot more houses to keep the purple martins around to eat the millions more mosquitoes that are sure to hatch.
Since we didn't have Bear along today as a "tick magnet" we were lucky enough to have Craig and Tina join us today with their dog, Sophie. Even though the sun was out, the trails were muddy and the fields slippery from all the rain. No one escaped trail fines today - not even Alex. It was so unpredictable who would finally make over which obstacle today. The ones you thought would have trouble didn't and vice versa, and without a reasonable explanation. It was really weird.
The first two obstacles were too much for the TJ from Wisconsin who left the trail after making some good attempts. It was amazing to see how slippery a field of grass can be after all that rain.
Once Gary blazed a new trail off into the trees, when trying to back down for
a better run up the hill, the following vehicles followed suit. After the Toyota
slid into the trees, he was able to make it up the first obstacle. Andy took my
place as passenger with Scott and ended up in the pine trees on the passenger
side a quarter of the way up the hill. From there, Scott was able to fly up the
hill covering himself and Andy with mud.
On the second hill climb Scott put Andy into some thorn bushes and I thought he was going to roll. Everyone else at the top didn't seem to notice the precarious position Scott was in until he finally yelled for a strap. (Why don't videos or photos do justice to these situations?) Once everyone made it up and over we had a leisurely drive on a slant through the slippery fields. When Scott tried to turn on his air locker for a bit of assistance, it powered his back end around and he ended up in the trees and towed off by Randy and Brady. Scott definitely won the award that day spending the most time literally "in the trees" and for treading lightly the least (but not by choice.)
The third obstacle proved to be too much for the Smith's front passenger side tire, and again for an unknown reason. And it was only the first of two today for them. While the Hank and Andy pit crew changed their tire, Craig moved Gerald's vehicle ahead to make more room as Tina attempted to move their Jeep forward, only to end up high-centered. (She was thankful there was no permanent damage for she was sure that she and Sophie would be left behind in Pike county in their tent when Craig went back home.)
The funniest thing that happened that day was when Alex hit a tree head-on, during his running start up a steep hill climb. He was getting a running start when the track threw him into the tree. You should have seen the look on Randy's face, trying to figure out why Alex had done that. You could hear the crack when he hit the tree at the back of the line. Everyone after that, would let up the gas just when they were pulled towards that tree, so it made it tough to get the momentum needed to get up. The Toyota missed Alex's tree on his turn, but managed to swipe another tree further up on the other side as he bounced to the top of the hill.
We finally stopped for lunch at the usual place under the ancient oak tree. Brady figured out how to climb the lowest branch and jump off. After eating and a photo session we went on to finish the trail.
There were many obstacles after lunch, including some American Eagle roller coaster drops that caused Beth to lose her voice for the day and the Toyota to leave some yellow paint from his rear quarter panel on one tree.. The river crossing created excitement with the very first crossing when Tina joined Gerald to get over to the other side for photos and they almost rolled it into the thick sticky, muddy river bottom. After winching over, a system of winching and strapping was developed to get the majority of vehicles over. . Jim probably got covered in the mud the most on his attempt. I think he had his window rolled up this time. The three who powered over on their own steam, were Tom, Scott and Russell.
The last large obstacle for the day was "The Ravine Drop". There first is a 50 foot slide straight down to the bottom of the ravine, followed by winching/strapping to make a 90 degree turn to the right so you can meander off-camber down the muddy, curvy ravine bottom with the side of the vehicle touching the bank on one side or the other. I think it was Dave Lloyd who said, as he looked over the edge, "My thought on taking the bypass for this one is, 'Let's live to see another day.'" Of course there were those without a moments hesitation who said, I'm going DOWN! And down they went. First Gerald, who has probably done this a couple dozen times, and then the Smith's. After they made the drop and with the help of Gerald and a strap, made the turn, "Fisssssss," there went another tire. Yes, it was the third tire for the weekend. Thanks to their good buddy, Carol, who loaned them her spare tire, the Hank and Andy pit crew changed the tire. This time there was a reason - a tree root. So while the tire was being changed, Gerald used his chainsaw for a little trail repair to remove the tree root.
Then Tom and Ceil slid down and lifted their rear tires off the ground as they hit the bottom. Andy and Hank had the turning process down, and around Tom and Ceil went. Carol followed Tom down and made the turn. But as she tried to meander down the trail, she broke a U-joint. Two-wheel drive it was for her with the help of Tom down the rest of the trail. She was able to help the Toyota around the turn at the bottom with Tom hooked up to her. He got some great air when he made the turn. Then it was Scott's chance for some free-falling. Down he went and around the turn with the help of a strap from the Toyota. He got some great air too, and I tried videotaping it while I shot a still shot. Of course, I missed the great shot with both. So much for autofocus cameras.
Once we were out of the ravine, it was down the trail and over a few more obstacles
then back to the motel. On the way back we all thanked Gerald for a great time
on his land and apologized for sliding off the trails into his trees. But he said
that he understood that we had no control over the muddy, slippery mess. We also
thanked Randy and Brady for all their help on the trail.