Mongo- 2002 Safari
by Rich and Fuzzy
On Friday, Mongo could lure only one victim to his lair, John Bruder. With the two guides, Fuzzy and Dave, it made for a small group. The trail was surprisingly good for all the rain we had on Thursday, and the first two obstacles were taken without the winches. Mongo woke up at the pit and the winches were rolled out. The hill after the pit also proved to need a winch. John's winch broke, which limited our trail choices. This was to our advantage, since we weren't too far from the road when the rain came down again just after lunch. Early quit today!
On Saturday, May 18th, we knew something was wrong when we arrived at the staging area for Mongo at the American Legion, on time, and there was no one there by the trail leader and tail gunner. "Where is everyone?" we asked Fuzzy, our trail leader. "You're it!" he replied with a grin. I looked around. On one side of us 15 Jeeps were lined up to go on Montezuma's Revenge. On the other side 12 Jeeps were set to go out on Tall Dog (I think). Here we were at the Illini 4X4 Safari with close to 200 highly modified off-road vehicles and not one of them had selected Mongo. I couldn't believe it! "What did everyone else know that we didn't?" we asked ourselves. We would soon find out.
This was the second day of trail riding at the Illini 4X4. The first day was miserable, cold and rainy with a dampness that chills your body from head to toe. I had worn a long sleeve shirt and 2 sweatshirts just to keep warm. However, this day showed signs of promise. The sun was out, the temperature was rising and the puddles in the parking lot were drying up.
My buddy, David and his girlfriend Allison (a.k.a. Pentelope) had also signed up for Mongo. However, he broke a control arm the day before on Montezuma's Revenge trying to jump over a couple of large fallen trees, so they were riding with me.
"Welcome" said Fuzzy, our trail leader, a he slowly eyed our TJ. "Got lockers?" he asked. "Yep" I replied. "That winch of yours work?" he continued. "Yes, sir, it does" I answered. "We burnt the guy's winch out yesterday" he said slyly. "Oh, no" we muttered to ourselves.
We met one another. Fuzzy was a friendly older fellow with a brown hat with a big brim, sunglasses and a beard (hence the name Fuzzy, we guessed). He was driving a CJ with 33x9.5 TSL's. Dave, the tail gunner, was a young fellow, thin, clean shaven and on the quiet side. He also had a CJ with 33/14's. I have a TJ with 33/12.5 MTR's. We were all locked and had winches. David and Allison live in Chicago. She is a redhead from Scotland with a lively accent, and outgoing personality and a good sense of humor. David is an unemployed IT professional, looking for a job.
We headed out. Introductions, which normally take place on the ride out over the CB, weren't necessary since we personally met everyone in the parking lot and learned their life history. There are advantages to being in a small group.
At the trail, Fuzzy showed us the "old" way in. The "old" way in was a steep hill climb that started in a stream bed, then promptly made a right and left "S" turn, and then went straight up. And it was nothing but slick, greasy mud. "At the last trail ride, we started here, winched most of the Jeeps up this first hill and then it was time for lunch" Fuzzy told us. "We ain't doing that today", he said. "Thank God" I thought.
The sun was now getting high in the sky and the temperatures were on the rise. All of us decided to take off the windows and doors. This is what jeeping is all about.
We crossed the stream and went down a little ways and then made a sharp 90 degree right turn up a hill that was just a little less daunting then the one we just looked at. We had begun. We had been looking forward to this trip for at least 6 months. The entire trail was hill climbs and descents. Up and down, up and down, up and down. Some ascents are steeper than others. Some descents are slicker than others. And the descents were no piece of cake.
The most heart stopping moment we experienced was when we were descending an unnamed hill. It didn't look too bad, and Fuzzy made it down so we headed down. I was in low range, first gear crawling down this innocent looking hill. It was narrow, relatively straight, tree lined with a clearing at the bottom (thank goodness). About 1/3 of the way down we started slipping. I was careful not to hit the brakes. All of a sudden all hell broke loose. "Hold on!" I yelled to David and Allison. We lost all traction and began to slide. I was steering madly trying to miss the trees as we slid uncontrollably down the hill. I don't know how we did it, but we slid all the way down to the bottom without hitting anything. We just sat there catching our breath for the net 5 minutes. Dave, behind us, did the exact same thing only worse, his engine having stalled on the way down.
We had some lighter moments. On one hill climb we were stuck half way up the hill waiting for Dave and Fuzzy to bail us out. Our winch remote control was hanging from the rear view mirror, except the end wasn't pointed toward the floor like in normal circumstances. It was pointed right between our shoulders like an alien force had taken it over. We were that much on the vertical. Eerie.
Of course, when you don't have your doors or windows in and your tires stick out beyond your flares and you are going through mud, it flies everywhere. We had it on the inside of our windshield, on the radio controls and on our glasses. We came up with a new saying that was very appropriate. "Here's mud in your ear".
All in all, it was a great trip. Since there were only 3 vehicles, there was a lot of trail riding and not a lot of waiting. Even if all of us had to winch ourselves up a hill, it didn't take long. Being out there with good friends and good trail guides on a nice day, well it just doesn't get any better than that. We can't wait to do it again next year.
After we finished, we figured out the real name of the trail. Just rearrange
the letters in MONGO to spell NO-GO-M.~