2003 4x4 BLAST - The Mongo Sand Trap

started by Elmo, finished by Jennifer

More photos are here.

What a great weekend for running trails. The 4x4 Blast and Mongo trail were the playground for a large part of my family again.


Early Thursday, well not real early, 8AM or so, found Barry (my newest son-in-law) and myself working in the garage putting the last minute fixes on all the Jeeps and loading them onto the tractor trailer flatbed for transport to Pittsfield. We had planned to take all four Jeeps on the flat bed but, Sarah (my oldest daughter) and son-in-law Jeff, borrowed a trailer to haul their Jeep. Last minute fixes to the Jeeps were just the simple things like airing up the tires, checking fluid levels, and packing coolers and baggage. The more extensive preparation came in the form of getting Barry some advil, after falling through the hole I had just pointed out to him in the deck of the flat bed. Needless to say that was our first thing to fix. We bolted down a 3/4" piece of plywood and then it was time to load. My Dad's red 79 CJ5 was the first to be loaded then my black 95 YJ, and finally Jennifer (my youngest) and Barry's black XJ.

Once we were loaded up, Barry and I drove the Bug behind Dad and Barbara in the big truck. After the 2 hour drive, we arrived in Pittsfield around one o'clock or so. Barry and Dad unloaded the Jeeps and we headed for Green Acres Motel, where Dad, Barbara, my Aunt Susanne, Uncle Roger, Grandpa, Sarah, and Jeff stayed. Barry and I, being the newlyweds, chose to camp at Pine Lakes. After arriving at Green Acres, it was decided that the U Joints on our Cherokee were not going to last (especially with me driving!!). So, I headed for Pine Lakes to set up the tent while Dad, Barry, and Barbara stayed at Green Acres. Dad and Barry set about replacing U joints while Barbara ran parts. So, there I was at Pine Lakes, looking at our brand new tent, and saying to myself "Self, there's no way you're putting up this tent by yourself". So, after pitching nothing but a fit, I headed back to the motel. I found both Barry and Dad working up a really good sweat and mildly cursing at the Jeep. Once the joints were replaced, we decided to head to the American Legion. That's where we caught up with our might-as-well-be-family member, Todd Whitaker. Poor guy, we met him about four Blasts back and he just can't escape being grouped with the Johnson Clan! By then we had also received a phone call from Sarah and Jeff saying they would be there by about 6:30. So it was decided that we would all go to the Red Dome. "We all" meaning Dad, Barbara, Uncle Roger, Aunt Susanne, Grandpa, Sarah, Jeff, Todd, Barry, and I. We're not joking when we tell people that Jeepin' is a family affair!!!!

Then we ran into a problem, we couldn't find the keys to Grandpa's jeep. Never a good thing. After many sweeps of the grass and parking lot with mumbles of annoyance and flashlights, still no keys. I took several trips back to the campsite thinking that somehow Barry and I ended up with the keys and they were just lost in the tent that was finally put up by both Barry and I (yeah, I took a lot of teasing about that. Barry kept telling me that he didn't see why I couldn't put it up myself... something about the 2% rule...). No dice. Still no keys. By then everyone was getting really ticked off. It was hot, we had already replaced parts on the Cherokee before hitting any trails, and everyone just really wanted to go to bed. We ended up finding the *#@*! things sitting on top of the Cherokee. Yeah, no one was very thrilled with that outcome, especially since no one remembered putting them up there. Unbelievable. Oh well. At least we found them. But, only after we called a locksmith and the poor guy agreed to come by Friday morning to see what he could do.

After a good night's rest, we all met at the American Legion for a wonderful breakfast provided by the Ladies Auxiliary. As always, it was very tasty food! After gathering the "troops", we headed out for the driver's meeting and to chat with our fellow Mongo-goers. Truth be told, I, personally, had more fun on Saturday so we're going to warp time a little and go straight there. Not that Friday wasn't fun. I just thought Saturday was better and I'm writing the article, so there! :o)

So, Saturday. Another yummy breakfast found us all gathering around the line-up wondering what the day would bring. After the usual safety warnings and drivers meeting talks, we were Mongo bound. Barry rode with Todd, Dad and Barbara were together, Sarah and Jeff in their Jeep, Grandpa and Uncle Roger in Grandpa's Jeep, and my Aunt Susanne and I in the Cherokee. Much to my pleasure, we had a terrific group of people on Saturday (again, everyone was great on Friday too, it's just that I'm Tree Girl and I wanna write about Saturday!!). Here's where an apology comes in. See, I'm very much a slacker when it comes to writing these articles. I love doing it, but it always takes both Dad and I to get it done (you know, each of us nagging the other until it gets finished!!). The thing is, I don't have all the names of the people we started out with on Saturday. I have the names of only those of us who stayed late. See, we started out with about 12 Jeeps, but several of them dropped off somewhere between maybe one and two o'clock.

So, in keeping with my slacker article writing self, I got only the names of those who stayed late. So, here's what I remember. Because, truth be told, I, of course, don't have the list of names in front of me even now. I do know for absolute certainty that Randy Newport was in front of me with his buddy. I'm pretty sure his name is Ryan (if not, I apologize! I'd know you if I saw you!). There was also a Randy behind me. Randy Tallman. I think it was his son with him. Or some kinda relative! At any rate, my Aunt Susanne and I had a blast with our newfound pals. Actually, I had met Randy N before, at a work weekend (well, it was way more play than work, but who's keeping track...). Seems like there were about 6 or 7 jeeps that stayed that afternoon. Dad and Barbara, Todd and Barry, Aunt Susanne and me, Sarah and Jeff, Grandpa and Uncle Roger, Randy N, Randy T, a guy in a red jeep... and I think that may have been all! . Again, I'm writing this from my point of view, so the main players will be the ones I hung our with most of the day!

Back to the point... what was my point... oh, right. How the trail went. Well, Mongo is a heck of a trail if its wet. Lucky us, it wasn't. That made it so much more fun because we didn't simply sink in the sand everywhere. So, Aunt Susanne started out driving the Cherokee. She had never done this Jeepin' thing before, so she was kinda nervous, but she did a great job! After a while though, I got antsy and jumped into the driver's seat. See, Barry drove all day Friday so I was itchin' to drive myself. After switching drivers and getting teased by Randy and Randy, we set off to attack more of the trail. Since it's been a couple of weeks and my memory is fuzzy, I'll just tell the parts that really stick out in my mind. The first one being stuck in the "Toilet Bowl". After being told that I was going to have to gun it a little or I'd get stuck because of the length, I got scared and didn't drive it like I stole it so I got stuck. Sarah was actually excited about that because she got to use her brand new winch for the first time on me, her baby sister. She got us out of that with no problem. Her winch works well. :o) Well, at some point (again, my timeline is probably messed up because it's been a little while) we stopped for lunch. I know it's hard to believe, but I'm quite the instigator.

Todd was my target because he jumps at any chance to make fun of me driving. Well, what goes around comes around and it was very cold once it came around. See, I was pestering Todd, dumping little bits of water from my cold bottle on him at random while we were all sitting there eating lunch. Barry, being the wise one in our relationship, tells me that I'm definitely asking for it and that he's not going to feel sorry for me. Well, Todd says "that's it", gets up, goes to the back of the Cherokee and starts undoing the straps holding the cooler down. I, being the naive and trusting person that I am, just sit there and say "he's not going to really do that". Yeah right, like I said, Todd is like family so what's to stop him??? Yeah, I got half a cooler dumped on me. It was so freakin' cold I couldn't catch my breath after he did it. And the lousiest part is that the water had little chunks of turkey and salami in it because our lunch meat got waterlogged. So, not only was I soaking wet, I smelled awful. Thanks Todd. But, I did totally deserve it!

Back to the Jeepin' part. So, Aunt Susanne and I are just chugging along, making it through everything without much of a problem at all. Randy N. helped me out a lot, with various directing and a few (alright, THREE) yanks with a tow strap. So, we get to a spot where Dad gets stuck, has to be winched out (by Randy N. -- we're seriously considering having a "rescue team" sticker made up for him too!), and then successfully makes it through because he almost literally flew through it. So, my turn comes and I SWEAR all Barry told me was that I was going to have to really gun it or I was going to get stuck. I failed to drive it like I stole it before, so at this point I'm totally set on smashing the pedal to the metal and showing that even Tree Girl can make it through. As usual, the Cherokee suffered some damage. Okay... "some" is an understatement. See, when I drove through that section, I failed to realize a large wall of rock and mud to my right. Not surprising really... I'm always hitting trees, why not a wall of mud and rock?? Jeeze... So, when I landed on the other side, I was very worried because as I drove through, I heard a very loud snap. I was freakin' out thinking it was an axle, but that wasn't the case. It was a very large dent, almost a cave-in, starting from the right front quarter panel and going, quite literally, all the way to the back quarter panel. The snapping sound was the front passenger door handle being broken off and dented in. Never did find the handle... maybe next time we're out. At any rate, my Aunt Susanne and I are cracking up at this point and she goes to get out of the Jeep. Not possible... the door was caved in so bad that it couldn't be opened from the inside or out. I'm not kidding. We even kicked from the inside to try to get it open and it wouldn't budge. So, we finished the day up getting in and out Dukes of Hazzard style. It was funny... Barry even laughed although it was slightly overshadowed by his realization that we now have to replace the door... dangit...

We continued on, still laughing because I was getting picked on, as usual. We found ourselves at another section where it was looking like it might be difficult to get through. Dad went first, being our trailguide and all. He got it after a couple of attempts. Randy N. was next... it took him several tries as well. As for me... Sheer determination and a love for jeepin' got me through on the very first shot. It was the coolest thing, especially since I could rub it in to Dad and Randy N. that a GIRL driving a CHEROKEE made it through the first time after seeing them struggle. Obviously, I'm still feeling the satisfaction from that!!! :o) Jeff was driving Sarah's jeep on Saturday and he decided to take a different approach. He crossed it several feet down from where I did. He got stuck... then he got stuck after they un-stuck him the first time. Again, I find some satisfaction in that, being the little sister and all, especially knowing that they got to use their new winch for the first time on me. Randy T. went through the same way Jeff did. The hill was off camber enough that his front end was lifted off the ground. It was a very cool picture, but a kind of precarious situation. In other words, it was very cool. If we digress just a little bit, I'll tell ya what happened to Randy T's starter. See, previous to all of the above, his starter froze up. Barry, Jeff, Todd, Randy T, and his son set about working on it. Trouble is, Randy got whacked in the head while he was under his Jeep trying to fix it. He wasn't hurt bad, no need to worry. But he did get hit square in the forehead. After fighting back, it started up just fine. I think being in the precarious state it was in was it's way of saying it wasn't sorry for hitting him in the head!

So, although my story is scattered and seems to be a bunch of randomly collected thoughts, I think it gives you some idea of what our day was like. But nothing rivals actually being there. I had so much fun it was almost unbelievable. Plus, at least its an article to finally put up on the website!!!

OHMYGOSH!!!!!! I almost forgot what was quite possibly the most hilarious part of the day. See, Barry was riding with Todd. Todd's the tailgunner, so he does a lot of driving around in places that the rest of us don't so that he can be where ever whenever if someone needs help. So, he and Barry decide to go back out to the hard road a different way than the rest of us. Apparently on the path he chose, you're supposed to go down a hill and make the natural turn to the right toward the road. Well, not Barry and Todd. Nooo... they decide to go to the left. That had bad idea written all over it, which was immediately apparent when Sarah and Jeff arrived to see Todd's jeep on it's driver's side, with not a single wheel touching the ground. Before you think I'm heartless, I did ask if they were both okay before I started laughing my head off. They were both fine. We've decided that Todd is a very special Jeeper. After all, anyone can dump a Jeep on it's side in the woods! .It takes a very special driver to do it on the HARD ROAD... :o)

All of our articles always end just about the same way, but we feel like there's no better way to wrap up an article than to say thanks. Having said that, a great big thanks goes out to the landowners because we all know that without them, we couldn't have the awesome fun that we do. Thanks as well to everyone who pitches in at the American Legion to help feed all of us very hungry Jeepers. Thanks especially to the many Jeep friends we've made. Jeepin' is a great family hobby for us, but it's nice to have buddies out there too. To Randy Newport -- where's my reply message, man?? I have pictures to send you... you know, of you standing in front of the tow strap trying to hide the now very well known fact that my dad had to pull you out... :o) To Randy Tallman -- how's your head? And I'm still sticking to what I said about my jeep being curvaceous. Just like a woman, it adds to the appeal. hahaha! To Todd -- Did you get the pics in the mail yet?

See you all next time. Take care. Keep in touch, all that jazz. It was an insane amount of fun, as always. :o)

Oh yeah, one more thing -- Silly boys, Jeeps really are for girls!!

Jennifer and Elmo

Created: 10/14/03