5th Annual Flatlanders 4×4 Fest, 4 May 2002 near Randolph, KS

The 5th anniversary 4×4 Fest, sponsored by the Flatlanders Jeep Club, probably saw the best weather of any of them: 75 F, 50% humidity, 5 mph winds, and only a few clouds in the sky. The morning started out a bit misty, but it cleared up before we hit the trails around 9AM. About 80 vehicles attended and were split into 6-7 groups. I stuck with the medium group again (the event insurance requires a locker for the hard trails), but we still saw our share of breakage.

Of course, my 2-yr-old Jeep-fanatic son Micah went with us, and had a blast looking at all the Jeeps and playing on the slides in the city park. We even had a blue CJ-5 (his favorite color) in our group. He was so excited that he hardly slept a wink until we began the two-hour drive home.


M-715’s just ooze cool. This nicely-restored model was running 38x13x16″ tires with no lift.


Here’s a few of the other cool vehicles in attendance. The yellow Scrambler was coated entirely in bed liner. Note the powder coated frame and diff covers. The Gladiator pickup is the little brother of the M-715. The Commando was owned by the folks from “Tiny Pieces of Silver,” a jewelry maker from Colorado. The Commando had been shortened a foot and the rear axle ran disc brakes and coil springs — all of it custom. The deuce-and-a-half was brought as a flatbed truck to carry somebody’s full size Blazer wheeling rig. Your rig would have to be pretty uncomfortable to make flatbedding with a deuce worth the effort, IMHO. I don’t think the XJs were attending the 4×4 Fest, but they were still cool. They appeared to be setup identically. If it weren’t for the M-715, that red CJ would get the prize for the largest winch.


Miscellaneous shots from the morning’s trail ride. That’s Bob Gubser in the black Chevy pickup, Eric Wiechert in the Golden Eagle Cherokee, and the Ghost of Doug Knox in the blue Scrambler.


After lunch is when our group saw all its carnage. The afternoon started out slow, while all 15-20 of us waited our turn to run Driveshaft Hill. Other than that, the group moved plenty fast all day. Kudos to Vic, our trail leader! Oh yeah, about the carnage…

Here’s the description in the words of the driver of the yellow Xterra, Steve McArthur:

“There was a short gully crossing that with the approach and departure angles of my then stock Xterra could not cross. The only mods to the truck were better tires and a CB. Wranglers with their shorter wheel base had no issues and the Cherokees and Grand Cherokees had better approach and departure angles. I would drop in and hang up on both bumpers. The trail leaders on the trail did not respond to my request for help. They drove on up out of that area leaving me blocking the trail. Backing out and turning around was impractical because of the 10 or so Jeeps behind blocking an easy retreat. So I ended up getting down into the gully, followed it until I could find a spot to get back on the trail. Maneuvering through some trees I dragged one on the side, whoops trail damage, big deal. It sure wasn’t the last time.”

He buckled his left rear quarter pretty good.

The white CJ-7 took the wrong line down Corkscrew and dropped his front right tire into a hole with his wheels at full turn lock. You could hear his knuckle U-joint pop from hundreds of feet away. Fortunately, the axle shafts appeared to survive. He limped back to town in 2WD with a few friends. Rumor has it that two other knuckle U-joints were also broken that day by other groups. Another vehicle reportedly broke its rear driveshaft yoke clean off. The blue CJ-5 had the most spectacular breakage, and took home the Hard Luck Award for his efforts. Just after I snapped the first photo, he bounced hard and sent his cooling fan into his radiator (it was pretty close to begin with). If you look closely at the second photo, you can see coolant raining down all across the bottom of his radiator. Note the nicely curved fan blades! We were only a few minutes from the staging area, so he cut the fan belt, quickly drove it to the staging area, and then trailered it home from there. I had to assure Micah several times that, although the blue Jeep was “broke,” Daddy didn’t have to fix it.


I didn’t win any prizes at the raffle after the event, but I was one of only a half dozen or so folks who received spiffy certificates for having attended all five 4×4 Fests. Everybody who registered received a brushed aluminum dash plaque and (new this year) a hat pin.


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