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My Blast at the BLAST courtesy of Paul -
a first time attendee.

We left Peoria at 4:30 Saturday morning and arrived in Pittsfield at about 7AM. You should have heard the "AWESOMEs" coming from the kids in the back seat and swimming in my head as we drove by the hotels lined with Jeeps and the few that had gotten to the Legion before we did. I went inside to register, explained to them that I had never been to this event before and immediately a trail guide escorted me out to the inspection area and told me to come back and see him after I was done. There was no "go find someone to check your Jeep and come back." He made sure I knew exactly what to do. It's unfortunate that I was introduced to so many people that day I don't remember his name.

Inspection: I get over to the inspection station and everything checked out except for the fact that I had no recovery strap and no anchor points on the back because I had a different bumper installed not too long ago and never noticed there were no hooks on the new one. A gentleman at the inspection station told me to go to the farm supply store down the road and get a pin in my hitch to use as an anchor and a strap. I went and got those 2 items, came back and the Jeep was cleared to hit the trail.

Trail sign-up: I took my inspection paper back to the trail guide that I saw at registration and we had a discussion about what I was looking to do and what I thought would be the most fun. He introduced me to another trail guide that was running a '3' trail that had plenty of mud on it and I quickly realized that I would be holding them up because (a) I did not know what I was doing, and (b) I did not know what I was doing. The guide for that trail was very nice and was definitely willing to keep pulling me out every time I got stuck, but I just didn't want to hold things up. With the exception of a few mods, my Jeep is stock and I was just a bit intimidated as he described the trail. He suggested I try Mossy Mountain if I wanted something with less potential for serious obstacles. This was definitely the best advice I got all day. I was introduced to the trail guide for Mossy Mountain and got signed up and pulled my Jeep in line with the others for that trail. I gotta tell you here that for my first time, parading through town in a big line of Jeeps was a thrill in itself.

Breakfast: it was yummy, would have eaten more if I wasn't so nervous about the run... next time I'll be able to pig out. HAHA!

Air-down: this is when I realized how unprepared I was. I borrowed some deflators from Doug (a new friend from Iowa) and we got my tires set right. I chose not to disconnect, not sure why and I'm not sure it made a difference on this run anyway... something I'm going to talk to one of the gearheads about later. We shifted into 4-low and off we went. At first the kids were kinda disappointed because we were moving so slow through the cow pasture and woods... and I was just smiling, knowing what was coming.

The trail part 1: We got into our first creek bed and we were bouncing and dropping and the kids quickly shut up and were clinging on for what they thought was their very lives. It was so funny. I got stuck on a rock that I really could not believe I got stuck on because it did not look very big to me, but I learned then that as you move over rocks, they move and shift. This one said "hello" to my rear axle. I made an adjustment and I was over it, nothing major. The scenery from driving in the creek was very nice, really a different perspective on nature. The CB chatter was amusing and people were getting to know each other and a little trash talking was going on.

I was still too intimidated to really participate in the conversation. This was a very odd experience for me because I'm usually the obnoxious and aggressive one in the bunch as you'll see later. We get to our first real climb and everyone stops and we get out to go over some safety precautions and get some tips from the guides. I'm looking up this hill having never done this before thinking there is no way. I got to the rut at the bottom, got a bit of a running start and up I went with no problem at all. It was like being on a really exciting roller coaster that only went 10 mph. Aimee and the kids were white-knuckled and grinning from ear to ear when we got over the crest of the hill at the top.

The next most memorable challenge was a bit more of a challenge because the bottom of the hill was a mud-hole. One good thing about the trail is that most of the very difficult obstacles had a by-pass. But there is no way I drove down there to let a good mud-hole go to waste. I believe only the first one or two up made it though and up the hill. I had to try, and at first I felt bad for wanting to because I think everyone knew it was a lost cause and one more Jeep to winch up the hill. But I was encouraged by advice from the guides and nobody else thought it was a waste of time to try. I came real close to getting up that hill. Someone may have warned me to put the windows on my Jeep first, but hey, I did say I wanted to play in the mud. Unless you have done it, you just cannot imagine how much mud was covering the outside of my Jeep and the inside of my Jeep not to mention the passengers. I remember thinking to myself, this is why I got this Jeep. It was the coolest thing trying to get up that hill, knowing that I was really close to making it up. I backed up and took another shot at it 2 or 3 times and just lost it about half-way up. I got pulled up and we went on about our business.

Lunch:The company at lunch was great. Good people and conversation. Chad was pouring pepper in his radiator, our only real casualty of the day I think. It was fun. If you've ever been white-water rafting, it was a lot like that in many ways. Everyone smiling, talking about what they did, what they should have done and what SOME chose not to do (Doug and Tammy got relentless ribbing for not wanting to get muddy. HAHA).

The trail part 2: This part of the trail seemed to be more challenging to the driver because there were more tight lines you had to maneuver though trees as you go down steep hills and back up again. This is where the advice and knowledge of the guides really paid off for me. I remember one case specifically where they said "stay left tight to the first tree, and you'll swing around the tree on the right." I was like "yeah right, here comes my first tree-rubbin." But sure enough, I did exactly what they said and as I got by the first tree, the back of my Jeep swung all the way around, stopped inches from the tree on the right and then back up the hill I went. It was really impressive how they know the trail. At the end of the trail is a portion called "Magic Mountain." And let me tell you, it looked like a true test for any vehicle/driver combo. I was not about to try it with my experience and vehicle (next time though). One of the guides made an impressive run at it and Doug took a shot as well. They did not make it to the top but the show was much appreciated by all.

The people on our trail were very friendly, generous and we were more of a team by the time we finished. I thank everyone that was on that trail for making it such a great day. I will definitely be back, I have joined the Two Rivers Jeep Club and will do all I can to help rebuild trails and promote any cause the club finds worthy.

Paul

Created: 26 Aug 2005