I’ve got several friends here in Lincoln who drive non-Jeep 4×4’s. They’ve heard my stories of wheeling with the Flatlanders Jeep Club near Manhattan, KS, and were anxious to see the place for themselves. Since non-Jeeps aren’t encouraged to attend the club meetings, we found another day when we were all available. Several friends still couldn’t go, but we managed to scrape together my ’95 YJ, Chuque Henry’s ’95 Defender 90, and Cory Free in his employer’s Toyota pickup. That took guts, if you ask me.
The entire weekend was forecast to have sunny skies with highs pushing 90 degrees, but as we left Lincoln Sunday morning, the skies to the south were dark and cloudy with an occasional lightning bolt. I’d dressed my YJ based on the forecast, and had only the sun bonnet on. The wind was strong (50 mph) from the south, so combined with our 60 mph vehicle speed, we couldn’t hear anything during the two hour drive to the ORV area. During the brief east-west portions, the cross wind was so strong that my sunglasses and bandanna nearly blew off my head. Fortunately, the reduced profile of the topless jeep kept the cross wind from blowing me all over the road. The rain never got very heavy, so my wife and I managed to stay reasonably dry most of the trip. 10 miles north of the ORV area, the skies suddenly cleared off and we were greeted with the sunny weather that had been forecast. This was going to be a good day after all.
We hit the park around noon and headed out along the same path our club trail ride had taken in recent months for a couple reasons: 1) I was more familiar with that route, 2) Chuque had never been that way, so it’d be new for him, and 3) this was Cory’s first time doing serious off-roading, so I wanted to keep it easy until he got used to traversing the rocks. The Toy had plenty of clearance, but its approach and departure angles left a little to be desired. The first ledges that we hit almost claimed his rear mud flaps, since they were hard plastic, bolted to the wheel wells, and weren’t meant to move.
As we descended the bigger ledges at the west end of the park, we ran into fellow Flatlanders Bob and Manuella Belbeck. They’d brought with them a fullsize Cherokee, which they were in the process of parking to avoid damage on the narrow trails, and a CJ. We joined them and headed back to the southeast, but had our path blocked by numerous downed trees from Friday’s storm. There were tons of downed trees in the area. Many of the trails we tried to take were impassable. We turned around and headed back to the ledges, but as the CJ (right behind me) was climbing a short hill, his carb sputtered. He gunned it, and the horsepower was enough to snap his rear driveshaft free. Turns out he sheared the pinion right in two. He parked it next to the Cherokee and rode shotgun in Cory’s Toy for a while.
We wandered around basically the entire park. Bob and Chuque did Driveshaft without incident. The most interesting obstacle was the steep, 30-foot climb with two parallel routes where Red Rocker lost his front driveshaft back in September. Bob took three(?) tries to make it up the left side. I took three to make it up the right side, and reportedly was two-wheeling for a while. Chuque made it up the right with two tries and a complete lack of finesse — he simply went straight over the stump and the root that most people try to avoid. Whatever works, I guess. Cory made three attempts at the left side, but never could make it over the last little ledge, and finally took the long way around to meet us back where the crippled vehicles were sitting.
Belbecks left then to help the SJ and front-wheel-drive CJ back to Manhattan, but we stuck around a while longer. On one steep turn down a creek bank, the Toy got its rear wheel a couple feet in the air, and the Rover even did a little three wheeling, so they stopped to take photos. Chuque thought it was cool, but Cory was just sure his boss’ pickup was going to kiss a nearby tree. It wasn’t, but I couldn’t convince him of that. After unintentionally kicking his left rear wheel skyward, he finally crossed the creek unscathed.
We hit a couple good mud pits before heading out. Since my Jeep was topless, I tried to avoid the worst of it, but I did manage to spray my wife a bit once. Cory and Chuque weren’t so careful. We headed back to the parking area via Falcetto Lane, and then showed off our axle articulation on a large bump and a deep rut on the way out.
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