A couple of
months ago, we slaved day and night on my Land Cruiser, to prepare
it for the holy grail of rock crawling... The Goodyear Extreme Rock
Crawling Championships, in Phoenix, Arizona. The Cruiser was a good
rig, but we wanted to perfect it for flawless performance. After
3 weeks of late night wrenching, she was ready to rock... Never
again would I rush like that... At least so I thought....
Time sure does
fly, that's all I have to say. The next thing you know, it's t-minus
3 weeks to the next event in Cedar City, Utah. Bob insists on taking
his Jeep Commando, since he thinks the added wheelbase will help.
So with 3 weeks to go, we rolled up our sleeves for an all-too-familiar
reconstruction on a good rig, to make it an even better rig. Time
became the limiting factor once again, and attention was not able
to be given to everything. The motor was ignored for the most part,
which as you will soon read will be the demise of our success in
After all the
late nights, the Commando seemed to be fairly ready. We were working
on it till the very last minute before we left. We swapped out the
carburetor at the very last minute, in hope of a smoother running
motor. While it wasn't perfect, it seemed to be good enough.
So at about
3:00am Thursday morning, we headed for Cedar City, Utah. Eleven
LONG hours later, we arrived at Rich Klein's house, who was gracious
enough to let us stay at his home for the weekend. After a much
needed rest, we decided to check out the local trails, and test
out the Commando's condition.
Rich took us
to a trail called "Wild, Wild, West." A relatively easy
trail, with one good climb on it, Bob managed to taco the tie rod
and almost ripping the ARB line right off the front end. It wasn't
his fault, it just turned out that the tie rod wasn't beefy enough
for a new Dana 60 front and and 38" tires. So we straightened
it out, and headed back the the house. Once back at the house, we
sleeved it with some tubing, and hoped for the best. I suppose it's
better that we exposed that weekness on the trail, and not during
rolled around, and it was time to get it awn. We went to a great
cafe for breakfast, and then over to the driver's meeting. At the
driver's meeting they give a quick run-down of any new rules, etc...
etc... After the meeting, everyone caravaned to the "secret"
area that the event was to be held. Apparently the area wasn't that
secret, and some of the competitors were able to do quite a bit
of pre-running before the competition.
We had drawn
position number 25 in our group of 30. Since the group is then divided
in half again, we were actually number 12 out of 15. A good position
to be in on day one, since you can watch everyone take their lines,
and decide what line you'd like to take. However on day two, the
positions are flip-flopped, so we would be in position number 3.
No biggie, we aren't afraid!
all of the people in front of us negotiate the first obstacle, it
was determined that there would only be one difficult area for us
to traverse. It was a deep crevase with a flag positioned just in
the wrong position. We elected to run our driver's side tires in
the crack and sneak right around the flag, just as the Scorpion
MK1 in front of us did. Doing it in this fashion causes both passenger
tires to become air-borne, as you grind around the flag on your
driver's rocker panel. A very cool photo opportunity area for sure.
As we easily
walked through the beginning of the course where shorter wheelbase
rigs were having trouble, our confidence grew. Once we made it to
the "crack", I used my strap and hung off the passenger
side to keep Bob from rolling all the way over as he drove through
it. But even with my 250lbs literally hanging off the side of the
Jeep, it still managed to roll all the way over. Not quite what
we had planned! I jumped off the Jeep (now completely on it's side)
and tried to push it. Bob gunned it, and the Jeep drove a good 6
feet forward toward the finish line (only about another 6 feet away)
where the front tires enountered a crack that it could not "slide"
over. Since it became clear he couldn't drive it all the way through
the finish line on it's side, Bob got out and we tried to push it
onto it's wheels. Normally it takes a good 5+ people to push a big
4x4 back onto it's wheels, so the deck was stacked against us. With
the adrenaline flowing through both of us, and the what-seemed-like
1000's of people cheering for us, we were able to lift it about
2 feet before running out of steam. A second attempt proved futile,
as we expended all of our energy on the first attempt. Winching
was not an option, since driving on our side destroyed the remote
cable. We soon timed out, and received the maximum 40 points. Not
the greatest way to start off the day, but exciting none-the-less.
The next obstacle,
seemed to be the most technical of the event. With huge boulders
in a narrow chute, the perfect line the first time was required,
or it would swallow you whole. After watching almost everyone get
eaten alive, it was our turn. We took our time, and easily idled
over the first 95% of the course. Once we got the the very top,
we ended up a little too much to the left, and the Jeep did not
want to climb it. After several attempts, Bob called for the winch.
While under the gun, you are so focused on getting the Jeep through
the course, it didn't dawn on me or Bob that was were actually shooting
ourself in the foot for winching. Why, you ask?
ARCA rules go something like this:
40 points is
the maximum you can get on a single obstacle. Either by "pointing
out" or by "timing out". Winching
is 20 points. In addition to the 20 points, you are issued 3 "winch
tokens". At the end of the competition, you turn in your "winch
tokens" for a face value of -10 points off your overall score
for each token you turn in. So in essence, winching costs you 30
points. So if you have more than 10 points, and you winch, you are
getting more points than if you were to simply "time out".
Well we had 15 points when we opted to winch. Thus giving us 45
points after it was all said and done. Once we realized this, it
was decided that winching was no longer an option. We now had a
total of 75 points (plus 10 for the lost winch token!!!) and had
only done two obstacles! Ok, no more Mr. Nice guy... We ended up
doing excellent on the rest of the obstacles for the day, and netting
a total of 91 for the day. While we only had a few minor mechanical
problems that day (carb didn't care to run on verticle climbs) we
would soon find day two to be a nightmare.
After a good
day of spottting, you feel like you've been in a Triathalon (at
least if you're a fat out of shape guy like me.) Every muscle in
my body was sore, so I decided to hit the sack early. Bob and company
decided to go out the the local bar. After some serious beer drinking,
Bob told Vince to hide his quick release steering wheel so nobody
would steal it. Well needless to say, the next day we pulled into
the competition, less one steering wheel. Bob didn't remember telling
Vince to take the steering wheel, so we thought somebody had stolen
it! I went all over the place asking everyone if they had a spare
steering wheel, and of course nobody did. Bob left, and went into
town to try and find another one. After Bob left, Vince and Donnie
pulled up, and handed me the steering wheel. I about punched him
in the nose, since I thought he has played a joke on us. When he
told me that Bob told him to take the wheel last night, I let him
off the hook. :) So now I had a steering wheel, but no driver (Bob
was in town looking for a wheel) and I had no way of getting a hold
of him. Or group was lining up and heading over to the course to
begin. Unfortunately, we were 3rd in line, so our turn would come
up quick. I explained the predicament to the marshal, and he told
me that there were no exceptions... If he wasn't back by the time
it was our turn, all I could do is request our 45 minute breakdown
time. The two guys in front of us did their turn, and just when
it was time for us to begin, Bob pulled up, and we were able to
start in time. Not a great way to start your day, but at least we
didn't get penalized. Well the day didn't get much better, because
once we began the obstacle, we easily walked the course without
even a single tire slip until we got within 10 feet of the final
gates. Then the motor quit running on a near verticle climb. At
first we thought it was just flooding out, but after multiple attempts
at trying to start it, we knew we had a much bigger problem. After
lots of cranking, the battery began to go dead. This wasn't good.
We soon timed out, and still had not gotten the vehicle to start.
After dumping some fuel down the throat of the carb, it fired up.
Off to the next
few obstacles, we had to fight the motor and charging problem every
step of the way. After timing out on Obstacle 4 thanks to a dead
battery and vapor lock, we pulled out the battery and swapped it
with a friends' good battery. Now all we had to combat was the vapor
locking problem... Or so we thought.
We tried to
determine the cause of the vapor locking, but could not figure it
out. The exhaust seemed to be far enough away, and nothing else
seemed to jump out at us. So after watching some vehicles literally
get swallowed by obstacle number 5, it was our turn. The very beginning
of the obstacle required Bob to take the high line, to clear his
Dana 60's. I hung off the passenger side, and he was able sidehill
it prefectly. I went to jump off, and slipped. I fell right under
the vehicle, and Bob didn't notice. I slipped out just in time,
just before I became traction for the Jeep! With a majorly scuffed
up leg, I jumped back onto the Jeep, and accidentally stepped onto
the passenger fire extingusher, and busted the valve right off of
it. It shot right up into my face, and covered me with the white
powder. Man, does that stuff taste like crap! People went nuts,
groaning, yelling, and laughing. I had to take off my sun glasses
since I couldn't see what the hell I was doing. While I shook my
head, and regained my composure, Bob nailed the throttle, and negotiated
the next part of the course without my help. Everyone was hooting
and hollering, and my adrenaline took over, forgetting about the
fact I looked like I rolled around in flour. We now were at the
crack that had previoulsy eaten Randy Ellis' entire Samurai (it
took about an hour to extract it!) We crawled right up it without
slipping a tire... That is until the fuel line vapor locked again!
80% of the way up it, the rig wouldn't start again, so Bob had to
back all the way down it, onto flat ground, to try to get it to
fire. Of course it wasn't cooperating, and we were running low on
time. I popped the hood open, removed the air filter, and grabbed
an empty water bottle. I ran to the back of the rig, and dunked
my arm into the fuel cell, and filled the bottle with gas. I ran
back over, poured a little in, and we tried to start it. It fired,
but only ran for a moment. After a couple of attempts, I refilled
the bottle and poured a little in... Bob fired it up, and before
it could sputter out, I fed it some more gas. I kept slowly feeding
it, until the bottle was almost empty. It finally began to run on
it's own. I tossed the air filter aside, slammed the hood shut,
and shouted "GO!" he re-crawled the line, under throttle
so she wouldn't die, and finished the course with only a minute
to spare! What a wild one!!!!
The next obstacle
unveild yet another problem. The steering box decided it only wanted
to turn left, and almost no right hand turn was now available. All
the linkage was fine, so it was determined to be internal to the
box. We were able to conquer obstacle 6 with only having to make
one two-point turn thanks to the non-coopertive steering box. Only
2 points, so that's not too bad. On our last obstacle of the weekend,
it looked pretty difficult, and of course it was all right hand
turns. Not good! It also had a VERY steep stair step climb. The
very beginning of the course consisted of a steep climb that you
could see a LOT of people were hitting their differentials on. So
Bob and I went way left, and climbed the wall. No tire slippage,
and up he went. Now it was time to climb the large stair steps.
Since he had no right hand turning, he had to make a two point turn.
Once he was lined up, he attempted to climb it. Once again, 3/4
of the way up, the motor quit running. It would not fire, so he
had to back it down to flat ground. After multiple attempts to start
it, I yanked the fuel line from the fuel pump, and gas squirted
all over the exhaust manifold... Yikes! After the air bled out,
I reconnected it, and the Commando fired up. I jumped out of the
way, and yelled for Bob to "HAUL ASS!!" We were running
low on time, so it was time to get it awn! Bob nailed the gas, and
pretty much launched over the stair steps with all four wheels in
the air. It was bad ass!
Once we made
it to the top of the stair steps, it was a hard right, and then
another sharp left and down a very steep dropoff to the finish line.
Once again, thanks to no left steering, Bob had to make a 2 point
turn. What a brutal day it was. I felt like I had been drug through
the Rubicon with a tow strap. I was beat. But I felt great at the
same time. Even though all the cards were stacked against us, we
survived. Maybe not on top of the heap, but certainly not on the
After a few
beers, we headed back to the house and got cleaned up. Later that
night, we headed over to the Holiday Inn for the awards ceremony.
We had speculated that we were in about 20th place after all was
said and done. Not a bad guess, since we ended up in 19th place
overall. Two people tied above us, so that would give us a 19th
place standing. Not horrible, but certainly not where we want to
be. The winners of this competition ended up with an astonishing
-4 points. That's right, NEGATIVE 4 points. Chris Durham from South
Carolina drove his blue and black tiger striped CJ10 to perfection
over the weekend. With a gross 26 points and subtracting the 30
points in winch tokens he had, he ended up with negative 4 points.
He literally blew the competition away. My hat goes off to Chris
and his spotter, "Moose".
Special Thanks go
out to our very generous sponsors:
Casper's Muffler &
here to see MORE pictures!!!