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They came from locations coast to coast, from Canada and Florida, for one purpose: to put their off-road rigs to the test, and perhaps promote their products a bit in the process.
And that they did as 27 vehicles built for off-road driving gathered in Pike County, Ill. last week as one stop on the annual Ultimate Adventure.
The event sponsored by Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road Magazine, is held in a different region of the country each year and draws some of the most impressive off-road rigs to be found. Some are product sponsored, while others are simply enthusiasts who want a new challenge.
Oddly enough, those who sign up for the event don’t even know where it will be held until shortly before the first day of off-roading.
In all, the drivers visit a half dozen or so off-road trails in a little over a week. The kicker is each vehicle must be driven from one location to another. That amounts to about 1,200 miles of driving, not counting the mileage to the first stop in Nebraska.
Two trails in the network of the Two Rivers Jeep Club, based in Pittsfield, were run last Thursday, the next to the last trail day for the participants.
Arriving at the Hopewell Winery, located between Louisiana and Pittsfield, at 1 a.m. Thursday, the group had little tent time before moving on to the Atlas Trail.
Rigs ranged from a battered but proven Suzuki to a pair of one-ton full-size trucks.
Walt Gilbert of Bowling Green is the trail guide for the Atlas Trail, and picked a pair of challenging obstacles for the off-roaders.
“We switched the trail up a bit and had them go up what we call the High Dive on the Pinball Loop,” said Gilbert. “It’s a steep climb with a rock shelf about halfway up.”
A few rigs, featuring monster tires and plenty of horsepower, made the climb look relatively easy. Some struggled and eventually called for the winch rope. One did an impressive rear roll-over which resulted in a battered rig and a pair of slightly injured occupants.
Then it was on to the biggest challenge – The Canyon, a steep uphill climb with three significant rock steps combined with a fair share of mud. Most slung mud and revved engines to the limit before pulling winch cable, but a very few found the right line and horsepower to make the climb unassisted.
A final stop was made at the Can Opener on the nearby Mystery Trail. There slow and steady was the call as the rigs climbed a rock bluff within the creek while trying to avoid the sharp edges of limestone.
“The day was long and a bit slower pace than a normal day on the trail,” said Gilbert. “That was due to the several camera crews that had to be stationed just right to catch the action.”
The magazine will give ample coverage to the event in their October and November issues, and a DVD will be created, which should eventually find it’s way to cable TV networks.
Tom Wombles of Pike County, Ill. was the local contact person as he worked with Rick Pewe, editor-in-chief of the magazine, 10 years ago when the event visited his off-road park near Rockport. Pewe was impressed with the area and chose to return.
“This is great exposure for the Two Rivers Jeep Club and for this area,” said Wombles, founder of the Jeep-only club.
The club provided supper for the group that evening. The drivers moved on to an off-road park in southern Missouri.