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BY Will Wills
On the occasion, I have heard it said that TRS people don't 'wheel. Well, I'm not going to argue that, yet, because TRS is not a club. TRS is a bunch of enthusiasts (often members of clubs) of varying levels of skill, craftsmanship and, of course, enthusiasm. Because of this, our gatherings are different than a club's gatherings. We get a bunch of trucks, often from people we have never met, and we try to put them into groups that are appropriate for the truck and driver. Most of the people that show up are not familiar with the terrain so there are down times as we wait for the trail leaders to come back from scouting or helping someone else out. And because of our diverse make-up, things aren't always as smooth as butter.
In the past, we have had breakdown after irritating breakdown; we have had barely driveable trucks show up, we have had trucks that didn't belong offroad show up and we got through it all by being patient and understanding. But that is all changing now, as I think many people noticed at the Spring Round-Up in Wellsville. One of the biggest things I noticed this spring is that we covered terrain. There were very few breakdowns. When people got stuck, the equipment showed up to unstuck them and the trucks were equipped to be helped. All of the above allowed a lot more time to run challenging climbs and obstacles. As more people learn the terrain and see what they need to do to improve their machines, things will get even better.
My part in this Spring Round-Up began an hour north of Louisville where I met Sambo at about 8:30AM Friday with his F250 and an empty trailer. We headed down to pick up Ryan on the east side of Louisville where he arrived an hour late from the rain, snow, roving bands of marauders and the tense miles his Bronco had subjected him to. One mile can feel like six if you have the (ahem) right modifications on your suspension. We failed to meet up with Chris (97_4x4) and Brian (LNranger05) in Columbus due to our tardiness. But we poured the fuel on and made it to Jim's house before dark.
The event started with a Friday evening cookout at Jim Oak's house. Jim provided the food and an RTI ramp for forum users to flex their trucks on. I believe Jim's riding mower actually won the competition. But, to prove flex isn't everything, I noticed the mower was absent during Saturday's run.
There was also a D28 axle swap competition which Matt888 won with a time of 5:40. Since he now has a D35 in his truck with D44 outers, I guess we know where he developed his skills (snap-crackle-pop: chunk).
After the cook-out Ryan, who had come from Dallas, Texas (sort of patronizing us, don't you think?) had a wheel bearing fire on the way to the hotel. It was only 4 miles on it's feet after being towed by Sambo from Louisville that morning. The scary thing was that Ryan had driven the truck from Dallas to Louisville, only to have the axle seize 4 miles later. Sambo, Ryan and myself got it back on the stretcher and there it lay, making Ryan a passenger in Eric the Red's truck for the Round-Up.
The next morning we met down at the Ames lot in Calcutta and headed for the trails. We had a bit smaller group than the last couple of runs, but the over-all quality was definitely better. It is very encouraging to see people on the TRS forums working on their trucks like this. We went in over the rail tracks and broke up into three groups. Jim Oaks took the advanced group, Johnny O (recovering from elbow surgery--it's an aging thing, you wouldn't understand) took the stocker's, and I took the intermediate crowd. I think the line between the intermediates and advanced was pretty thin as we had four winches and three trucks locked on both axles. But, hey, every group needs a name, right?
Taking Randy M's advice, the intermediate group skipped the Tank Traps, and it was a good move. Instead of spending the morning pulling each other out, we had a great time running some climbs to the west of Twister, and then several of us successfully ran Twister itself. Besides Chris Warren surgically removing a tail light and a mirror, no body damage occurred. We then climbed the hill behind twister and made our way toward Powerline Hill.
One thing I have to say is that I was very impressed with the two SLA Rangers with us: a '98 owned by SnowRacer and a '00 owned by TrailRunner. Both trucks were essentially stock on aggressive tires and they really had very little trouble. In spite of the hate vibes aimed at that suspension on the boards, I believe that when the time comes to accept them as viable trail rigs, they will do fine. Sometimes the theory and the reality are dissimilar.
Up behind Twister we found a mess of mud off to the left of the beaten path. Once I saw Chris and his 9" lifted and locked '97 Ranger on 35s having trouble getting through a pit, we decided to back track and move in to the easier trails. In the meantime, Chris managed a gentle flop on his way back out. Fortunately, the mud was thick and soft. I think his truck just want to wallow in it's coolness, like a hog.
The rest of the trip out to Powerline was uneventful with the exception of Matt sliding his rear down into a hole and pulling himself back out with the winch. Out on the Powerline, Zman discovered that his camera was missing so Matt took him in to look for it and the rest of us hung out. We were also waiting for the advanced crowd because we had heard that the trail had slid off of the hill side and weren't sure how to get out of the creekbed if we ended up down there.
Eventually the advanced guys showed up and due to the time (hey, we almost made it out at the set time--I think), we elected to accompany them. Jim and company took the middle route down and we took the right side, as viewed from the bottom. Halfway down Jim rolls a tire off the bead (as he is wont to do) and we continue to the bottom. Waiting for Jim's crew, I get bored and decide to roll my truck. So there we have both trail leaders Zulu'd on the hillside. Thanks to everyone that helped rescue me. About that time Jim decides to blow up his PowerTank hose and I don't think that I am the only one that thought he had shot his truck through the heart with his service revolver. Considering all the new parts sitting in his garage, it isn't exactly unthinkable.
We get rolling again, this time in a mixed group following Jim's friend, Bob (ok, I mentioned Bob). On the first hill we run into, I see the stock 2000 go up with barely an effort; I see Casey's awesome Dana 60'd Ranger crawl up like it was his driveway; I go up and don't make it. I try again and bust a shaft. Then I attempt to get my stealth winch on but there is too much mud in the receiver because I left my plug out. Casey winches me out. Then I almost flop it again going down the other side in 2-Hi. A few more trucks make it up and then the hill is pretty well destroyed. I believe Chris Warren did some winch-work to get people up. Maybe a few trucks found another route. I'm not clear on that.
The last obstacle was the climb up to Oak Tree. Everyone made it fine, except 351Ranger who had fuel problems and ended up mashing his door on the stump. I'm waiting to see what the replacement for 'Unscarred' will be. We made it back to river road and had to wait a while for everyone to catch up. In the meantime, we held our prize drawings, distributing generous prizes from our sponsors: Randy's Ring & Pinion; the Plano, Texas 4-Wheel Parts; PTC Factory Outlet; BFE Films, and it seemed that everyone who won was in the delayed group. A bit of a consolation. But then the most amazing thing happened: we discovered that Jim Oaks knows of a decent restaurant within a days travel of Wellsville. We ate at the Roadhouse and the food was good, though the Chevrolet atmosphere was a little overwhelming. We were tired, but at least we were dirty.
At this point, my knowledge of the events ends. I believe there was a brief night run with Eric, Matt and Chevy Girl. I believe there was a Sunday run that at least Matt attended. I believe the stockers did some absolutely amazing things as well, but I didn't hear of them. They were too modest. We did hear a rumor of Johnny O rescuing a brand new Jeep Rubicon from a mud hole, however.
Sambo, Ryan and myself towed our broken down junk away the next morning. Sam and I traded trailers so I could run Ryan down to Tennessee (I get better mileage). I ended the day at 3:30AM on Monday--and began the next one at 6:00AM. In between, I couldn't sleep. I couldn't sleep because I have plans. Yep, I broke. Yep, I flopped. Yep, I learned. And the wheels are turning. And I am not alone in that, as this years turn out showed. Like anyone, I do not have the time and money to do everything I want for the next event. I need tires with big arse lugs; I need to make my front receiver a lot higher so I can leave the winch on so it is useable, while still being able to move it to the back if need be; I need to make the gear in my truck roll-proof so I am not swimming in junk looking for stuff next time I flop it; I need to limit my droop so I don't bust another shaft; I need; I need; I need. Maybe I can do one or two things before the next event. What do you need? What are your plans?
So, is TRS a wheeling club? No. TRS is a place where enthusiasts meet to discuss all aspects of Ranger's and Ranger-based vehicles: Street, Show, Trail. It's all here. But does TRS wheel? Does a one legged duck swim in circles? See you next time.~TRS
We are always looking for hometown events to feature here. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.