Fathers Day Elbe Jun 2004

Fathers Day @ Elbe (#7) … Another Memorable Father’s Day at Elbe……

Well – a Father’s Day without Elbe, would be kinda like – well – a Fear Factor bimbo participant without silicone. The two just go together! I’ve lost count – this was at least the 6th Father’s Day running of Elbe – or maybe even more than that. Elbe is still a trail system that is more demanding than most – but a number of key things have changed that really alter some of the more memorable parts of Elbe.

One is that area of the mudholes. Used to be it was almost impossible to get into the Busywilde without getting sunk in at least one mudhole, if not more. Many tales abound of Mike Grecula bailing out of his Jeep before setting neck-deep in the goo driver’s side down. Or John Lane performing emergency radiator repairs on “1BADCJ5” when water encouraged his fan to pull through the first 2 cores of his radiator – leaving just enough to fold what was left of the tubes over, and solder them off with a butane torch. And who can forget Scott Hanline’s stock YJ, the year he was trolled behind I think Mike Grecula most of the time on a strap – his stock (at the time) YJ losing its trail virginity, along with most of its low hanging mechanical vitals, and a fair amount of its sheet metal before the weekend was through.

Much of the rest of the Busywilde is even more hammered, and more deeply rutted than I remember before. Moosenstein racked up quite a few minor trail modifications to the sheet metal this year, as it punched and banged between trees, rocks, roots, stumps, and just Elbe as usual.

Another change was the rotted out bridge. A curious thing happened though. The bridge had become so rickety, that it was finally cut up to keep people off it. However, the trail wasn’t closed, so it took quite the effort of winch, strap, snatch block, and superhuman strength to get the rigs past this little detour. On the high side – the detour was straighter and shorter, but softer and perhaps more treacherous. It was about 20 to 30 minutes per rig to get bypassed around – until it became obvious the Rock only had 2 wheel drive on his Cruiser. It took him a little longer.

On the low side, there were a bunch of Toy Boys from Oregon Tillamook country coming the other way. They were employing the typical S.C.A.B. driving method (Smash Crash And Bash) generally favored by Toyota Drivers. Of course, it didn’t help that they appeared to be driving rigs with highly inflated tires, open diffs, no winches, no recovery equipment, and apparently precious little common sense. The low side actually ended up being more doable (proven by one of our guests who drove through it in 5 minutes with no assistance or winching, in a properly equipped and aired-down vehicle – a Jeep of course) but he was delayed because it took a long time for the other group to clear it after first chewing it up pretty good.

Another little difference in the trail was coming up to an area that had been thinned. There were tall, majestic trees – just nowhere near as many of them as usual – and they were standing on a fairly broad and open hillside that takes quite a bit of wind to it. As we were slowly picking our way through this area, some breezes left over from earlier scattered thunderstorms started to really buffet the hill. I already had my eyes on the trees, because I know how thinning can make for unstable conditions. Sure enough, we were near the top of this hill, when I started hearing a huge cracking of overstressed timber. While not far off the trail, the tree that broke was fortunately far enough off the trail the it didn’t hit any of the Tamers. But still – it was a 60 to 80 foot tall tree, about 14 to 18 inches across that I saw coming down in 3 pieces off to the side of the trail – but still fairly close between me and Mike Grecula. Exciting!

Well – even better wheeling was to be had on Sunday on the Pirate Trail – just down from the campground. This little path was first explored 2 years ago, and has been a crowd pleaser ever since. The spacing between the trees is tighter than a nun’s buns in most spots. And I‘d forgotten about the sidehills – but if leaning HARD is your thing, you will absolutely love parts of this trail. Danny and Jules loved this trial so much, that he figured he’d get snuggled in up close and personal on a part that looks to be an old railroad grade. The grade has been unused so long, that in one part, there is a tree that has to be at least 6 inches through, growing not quite in the middle of the trail. There is only one choice for getting around the tree. You can’t go around on the down side, since the grade just drops away down a steep slope. But neither does conventional wisdom apply to sneaking around the up side of the trail. You have to go around to the left, up the cut into the hill to get around the tree. If you don’t go enough, you won’t clear the tree, as it slants into the hill a little. BUT – if you swing really wide to the left to miss the tree – the farther left you go, the more the left side goes up, tilting the right side of your rig back into the trunk. Meaning – you kinda have to be, for once in your life, a middle-of-the-road type of person. Yes, yes – I understand not the easiest thing in the world for a Tamer to be.

Well – on this particular day, Danny was exhibiting his extreme left-wing tendencies – as he swung up to the left – and never quite came down the way he’d expected.  His front tire climbed, climbed, climbed up the cut – leaning his rig farther and farther to the right – until his rig was not only sitting on its tire, but also the top bar of his cage on the right side. Danny was expecting his left tires to drop back down to the road bed – but his cage beat him to it. Just as the tree ran out of roll cage with which to prop up the Jeep – Danny’s famous “UPNOVER” rig dropped over on it side – predictably the side Jules was sitting on – (as usual). If we hadn’t been out of phone range, a call would have gone out to Mike Robinson on the spot, telling him that his tenure of hauling around the cowbell to be over for the time being.

Suggestions were made that Danny really oughta get another license plate. Instead of UPNOVER, may it should be ‘OVR4EVR” or ‘OVRNOVR’ or ‘DMPNDAN’ or ‘GTDNJUL’ or something like that. Fortunately, Dan and Jules once again only had injuries to their pride, but not to their bodies – so with some snatch blocks, and a little winching from Dirtball, it didn’t take long to get Danny back on 4 wheels and headed up the trail again.

The trail emptied out onto a road – which was then found to be blocked with stumps the size of rigs. A few seconds before Dirtball and I found the bypass around the obstacle, Gary had sized up what was perceived to be a weak point in the defenses, and he headed to get up and over the least imposing stump. Unfortunately, his aim was just a shade off, as his suspension unloaded, bouncing his TJ over the stump, but then setting him back down at a most precarious angle, with his left front tire WAYY-Y-Y past full stuff into the front fender. Trying to gently pull himself off with a winch only eventually served to increase the tension on the front of the suspension – which finally caused the drag link to break into 2 parts. Steering his rig back to camp was no longer an option – but it didn’t mean the fun was done for the day. Gary lined up his front D-ring over Dirtball’s rear tow hook, and proceeded to be towed down the road just like we meant to stick him on a tow bar. The best part – was that with no need to use his hands to steer – Gary was able to put them to use creating other mischief. First was the Oreo aerial mortar assault on Dirtball, in which layered cookies were lobbed up to the unsuspecting tow rig. Following that was the unceremonious, but strangely hilarious mooning of the Tamers, in which glimpses of the sideways smile were seen in evidence from the deck of Gary’s Jeep (the horror, the horror….). Return to the camp found the temperature to have climbed into the mid-80’s, which made packing up the rigs onto trailers sweaty work. But all in all, it was another memorable Father’s Day, wheeling in the woods of Washington.