Most of my friends are constantly hearing of my wheeling exploits down in Kansas with the Flatlanders Jeep Club. Since non-Jeeps aren’t encouraged to attend the club meetings, we periodically take a mixed group of Lincoln 4×4 owners down there for our own little outing. Our latest trip was planned for the Saturday right before Sunday’s Briggs Jeep Jamboree. That allowed the Jeeps in our group to spend the night in the area and then attend the jamboree without having to drive 2.5 hrs to make the 8am starting time.
I brought along some of my friends and Chuque Henry, a buddy with a ’95 Defender 90, brought along several people that he ran into around town. Chuque’s outgoing personality and his red D90 allow him to meet more wheelers than I knew existed in Lincoln. Our group consisted of:
- Ben “Obi-Wan” Hollingsworth (me) in a black Jeep YJ with stock tires, a 1.5″ lift, on-board welder, on-board air compressor, and lots of tools and spare parts. I’ve been wheeling here for over a year.
- Chuque Henry in a red Land Rover Defender ’90 with a 2″ lift, 32″ BFG ATs, and four shiny new auxiliary lights. Chuque had been down here a few times before.
- Cory Free in a stock red Toyota Tacoma pickup that actually belongs to his employer. This was Cory’s second trip to this ORV area. Read about the first trip.
- Jim Free (Cory’s dad) in his wife’s white Geo Tracker, which was stock except for the BFG Trail T/A tires. This was Jim’s first trip off road.
- Brian Zemaitis in his silver ’87 Jeep YJ with a 4″ lift and old 33×12.50 tires — badly in need of a frame-off resto. This was Brian’s first trip off road.
- Jared Wood and his mechanic friend in a ’62-ish Dodge M37, stock except for an electric fuel pump. Quite a beast, and unstoppable in mud. This was his first trip to this ORV area and the toughest wheeling the M37 had ever seen.
- Jared Wood’s friend in a stock silver Isuzu Trooper.
- Jared number 2 and his girlfriend in a newer white Jeep YJ with an RE SOA lift, 33×12.50 tires, a Warn XD9000i winch, and a rear locker. This was his first off-road trip since moving to Lincoln from Colorado this summer.
- Chris in a red Jeep YJ with a 4″ spring lift, shackle lift, and 33×12.50 tires. This was Chris’ first wheeling trip since moving to Lincoln from South Dakota recently.
- Rob in a white Jeep YJ with a 4″ lift and 33×12.50 tires. This was his first trip to this ORV area.
“It was a bad outing, but at least it was eventful.”
We just had bad mojo that weekend. The ORV area isn’t excessively challenging when it’s dry, but it gets really nasty when it gets a little muddy. The rock ledges get slicker than snot, and most of the steeper hills are impassable without lockers (and sometimes even with them). Just our luck, the area got plenty of rain the few days before we went down. We didn’t get rained on while there, but the existing mud was enough to keep us on the simpler trails.
Right off the bat we descended into the low lands and tried to do this hill (pictured) in reverse. It didn’t feel too bad on foot, but I made several runs at it without success. Jeep Jared tried it with similar results. On one of my runs, my cooler of water broke free from the bungee cord, struck my hi-lift, and dumped half its contents on the rest of my gear through the large hole in its lid. Our first of many casualties of the day.
Many of the trails had large muddy sections with deep ruts and standing water. These provided some good photo opportunities for some, and a chance to get stuck for others. I had to get strapped twice, and narrowly avoided a third yank. Many of the vehicles hit the water holes with reckless abandon, providing some very picturesque mud sprays. The M37 wasn’t the prettiest vehicle in our group, but that thing just walked through every mud hole as if it was dry ground. I think the 6000 lb curb weight and the 9″ wide military tires had something to do with it. It became our rescue vehicle of choice most of the day.
The numerous rocky ledges provided a different challenge. Most of these ledges are doable by many vehicles in dry weather, but when both your tires and the rocks are covered in slick mud, they become all but impassable. Jared’s locked YJ and Chuque’s D90 were the best rock climbers in our group that day, and they even had trouble on all but the easiest ledges. The M37’s 8-ply tires, non-existent axle articulation, and open diffs reduced it to just average performance on the rocks. Jared’s YJ even had to strap it over one ledge that was just too much for most of us. We passed one group of heavily-built vehicles belonging to several employees of Ultimate Truck in Omaha. When we found them, they were trying to walk an early Bronco over a set of nasty ledges, and eventually had to strap him up while our group took the easier bypass. Only Jared’s YJ was able to make it over the moderate section unassisted.
The ORV area seemed to be pretty busy that day. A group of 8-10 members of the Flatlanders Jeep Club, were out prerunning the trails for the next day’s Briggs Jeep Jamboree. We also ran into several other groups from Nebraska, including some from the Good Times 4-Wheelers, and a number of local folks out on their own. I’d guess there were maybe 30-40 vehicles in attendance that day. While it didn’t seem crowded, we did run into each other quite a bit. Many more than that would have been uncomfortably busy.
At one time, we got a call for help on the CB from a guy in a Nissan pickup that was out there alone looking for some friends. He attempted to traverse a deep ravine named Hard Luck Hill by himself, which was just plain stupid in this mud, and got himself into a “dangerous predicament.” Turns out he was sideways on the far side of the hill trying to go around the ledges. I started to lead Jeep Jared, who had our only winch, over to help him out, but we found our trail blocked by a J-truck with an electrical problem. Shortly thereafter, some of the Flatlanders drove up from the other side and were able to radio to some other folks to help the Nissan out of the ravine. Wheeling alone is always a bad idea. If you get yourself into trouble, a second vehicle could make the difference between getting yanked to safety and incurring serious injury to you and your vehicle.
Just before we left, we ran across Steve Wagner, another Lincoln Wheeler with a beautiful red ’71 Bronco. He was trying to ascend Falcetto Drive, got turned sideways on the ledges, and slashed his front left tire open. We talked with him while he changed the 35″ BFG, and then helped inflate it with my on-board compressor.
Five vehicles (eight people) including four Jeeps and Chuque spent the night at Broken Arrow Camp, a Seventh Day Adventist camp that Chuque got us access to. A mattress, hot shower, and heat for just $5 a head can’t be beat. The manager recommended a restaurant in nearby Oglesburg that had enormous chicken fried steak. Instead, we drove all the way to Manhattan, then wandered around for a while looking for a place to eat. We ended up at Bob’s Diner, and half of us got chicken fried steak anyway while exhausting their supply of potatoes. We’ll know better next time. The next morning, Jared, Chris, and Rob headed down to the Briggs Jeep Jamboree. I decided my injuries (detailed below) would make it unwise for me to participate, so I gave Jared my registration spot and I headed home with Chuque.
By Sunday morning, the damage total was:
- Chris had to dry out his distributor when mud from one of our many high-speed water hole crossings stopped his engine. When leaving the ORV area, he felt a terrible vibration that turned out to be a failed U-joint on his front driveshaft. I had a spare, so we replaced it on the side of the road. He also had to get strapped over a moderate rocky ledge when his rear diff sat on a rock and prevented backing down.
- Jared #2 had to dry out his YJ’s distributor after the same mud hole crossing.
- Chuque had to dry out his D90’s distributor after a different mud hole crossing. Do you see a theme developing?
- Jared Wood’s M37 had to be strapped over one rocky ledge by Jared #2’s YJ, and then had to be pull started by Obi-Wan’s YJ thanks to a flaky electrical system. I was the only one with rear tow points, so I got the job. Imagine a 4-cylinder Jeep pulling a 6000-lb military truck up hill!
- The nameless Trooper owner had to get strapped over an impassable rock ledge by Jared’s YJ.
- Jim’s Tracker had to get strapped out of one mud hole. He and Cory had to leave before the rest of us got to the aforementioned impassable rock ledge.
- Brian’s YJ had the vacuum lines on his front axle disconnect come loose a couple times, but an appropriate application of duct tape kept them in place for most of the day. Later on, his transfer case started popping out of 4-low into neutral. 4-high got him to dry ground, where Jared adjusted his shift linkage to keep it in 4-low. This happened twice. Toward the end of the day, we noticed some thick, black oil dripping from somewhere under Brian’s skid plate. It was a slow leak, so we decided to ignore it until he got his truck cleaned off enough to determine the source. Oh yeah, he also had to dry out his distributor once. He drove home under his own power that night thinking he’d had the worst luck of the day. Not so!
- I, Obi-Wan, broke my water cooler open when it came loose during a hill climb. I had to get strapped out of two mud holes, once by Chuque and once by the M37, and had to get strapped over an impassable rocky ledge by Jared’s YJ. Of course, I also had to dry out my distributor once. I broke the lower part of my fan shroud at once point and had to keep pushing it back into place because the fan made a nasty noise when rubbing against it. While leaving the ORV area, my volt meter indicated that my alternator was no longer charging the battery. A quick power wash of the engine didn’t help, nor did replacing the regulator, so I started to swap in my old, stock alternator for the now-dysfunctional Premier alternator. When I removed the lower mounting bolt, that part of the bracket fell to the ground. With a broken bracket, I decided I’d had enough trouble for the weekend and skipped the Briggs Jeep Jamboree the next day. I left the bad alternator in place with the broken bracket and swapped batteries for Chuque’s Optima, which gave me enough juice to drive the two hours back to Lincoln. A couple zip ties held the fan shroud in place temporarily. A very thorough cleaning of the alternator after removing the obstructing air compressor finally brought it back to life, so I guess it just didn’t like the excessive amounts of mud I subjected it to. The fan shroud was fixed by drilling a few holes and sewing it together with zip ties. The bracket has yet to be fixed.
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