Ah – derring do and diabolical diversions marked the Timber Tamer stamp on the Tech Course preparations for the PNW Summer Convention in August. We are charged with making and running the Tech Course – and since last weekend – we are halfway there.
Karl Van Petton and I were the first to lay eyes on the course – unused for the last couple of years is what we heard. Weeds grew 3 feet tall, obscuring the mole holes, the logs, the water hazard, tire pit, tank traps and rock crawl. We walked the course, thinking of the possibilities, and trolling for mosquitoes while we were at it. Dirtball showed up before the sun went down, and Gary and Lori pulled in about 10:00PM. Sleep came with the sounds of little frogs chirping, big bullfrogs ga-lumphing, and dreams of logs to set, and markers to place.
Saturday morning broke gray and drizzly – just enough to be more annoying than soaking. Besides the previous obstacles scouted the night before, there is also an old bridge and approach to make as part of the course, as well as an established, but overgrown track nearby, complete with observation tower. At first glance, the course looked a little too easy and quick. But you could see the wheels turning in Gary and Mark’s heads – places to stick bumps, and dig holes, and set logs; odd turns to create, and detours to line out. I took a little ride across the course with Gary, the high point of the morning being that we were driving through the low point (the water hole) of the course. Given the brown tea-like, tannin colored nature of the water – we really had no clue where the TJ would bottom out. Creeping in by the inch – the depth actually evened out not even tire-top deep, and climbing out was no problem. Dirtball was working at changing his moniker to Brushball, bydriving through some thick, overgrown greenery under the bridge and around the approaches. By the time we met back to confer on our findings – the TJ was dripping with mud, and Dirtball was sporting a new very bushy brushy green moustache across his winch. All he would have needed was some platform shoes and a pimping cap – and you’d think the 70’s had returned.
As the course was kinda conferred on and thought through – more folks showed to join in the festivities. Tom Baker, accompanied by Todd Yeager arrived with a trailer full of HUGE logs in tow. Mike Robinson was there from early to late on Saturday, building, sweating, and getting muddy with the best of them.
Rick Krog came to offer ideas from the capitalist side of corporate America. And we even were visited by the law – Trooper Mike and Richelle made it over from the far side of the water, with son Andrew and dog Tessa in tow. There were holes to be dug, and logs to be set. It was time to head out to find the land owner, and borrow his back hoe.
The Ethel Property belongs to a long stringbean of a guy named Ken. I had a chance to meet him, actually having to spend about an hour to track him down. I found him out on a tractor, preparing ground for some crops on some of the 400 acres he owns south of Chehalis. He is quite the pleasant fellow, and was very personable as he gave me the Cooks tour on using the tired old Case backhoe.
“Make sure no one gets close in front of her bucket, since her brakes are kinda weak.”
“Run her about half throttle, since she’s old and you need to be gentle with her.”
“Don’t bang her around too much, and she’ll be all right.”
“Keep her out of the mud, or she’ll sink on you – and you’ll be hours getting her out again.”
I wasn’t entirely sure if he was talking about his backhoe, or some retired female mud wrassler on the GJN (the Gum Job Network).
Well – running through the back road from the barn to the Tech Course site, it took me probably not even 7 minutes to find a place where she’d sink in the mud. And sink she did. Going down in a most convincing manner. (No – it wasn’t good for me.) And this was on the road connecting the two spots – I didn’t have to go looking for trouble – it came to find me. (Isn’t that just the way it is with women???) And – as I had given my word to Ken that I’d be gentle with her – I wasn’t having much luck trying to push or pull her out with either the front bucket OR the backhoe. So Karl went looking for Dirtball – and it didn’t take much to give her a little tug with a chain and get her back down the road again.
The rest of the afternoon was occupied with digging, pointing, setting logs, knocking Gary over with the boom of the backhoe, digging more holes, setting more logs, watching Gary stand a little farther away from the backhoe………. As much as we tried for it to not happen – the tractor got mud-stuck probably 5 or 6 more times. That was pretty soft ground throughout most of the course. But by that time, we had a better idea of how to manuever it while being gentle, and at no time did we have catastrophes of any sort. The day had turned sunny and warm, and by the end of the afternoon, we had created a decent course full of challenges to delight the hardest of hard core wheelers, while not being either impossible OR impassable. Concerned that we might have possibly overbuilt the course, having just Dirtball and Gary’s TJ to run it, we were delighted that Tom Hedburg showed up in his Suzuki Sidekick. Tom gave the course a romp, and went through successfully, except for 1bog/log combination. Tom Baker had stirred up one low area considerably, until it had the consistency of teflon covered wet concrete – and it made climbing out of that bog over a log just a little too difficult. But pulling thelog out of the way was about the only real revision we had in mind for the course, and having been on our feet for ten hours, figured it was a good time to call it a day.
Sunday was proving day – when we wanted to see what type of times to expect off the course, and whatever else we could think of to make things interesting. This was a little challenging, as Gary had a fuel pump problem, and the TJ just wasn’t running up to snuff. Dirtball also had a little problem with one of his front axles, the reasons why I won’t reveal here – so he was taking it easy in his now 3 wheel drive rig. Rick was thinking up ways to make a few extra bucks off the course – and it is realistic that we could station 3 or 4 cameras throughout the course, take pictures, make them into a video of the runs of the day, and sell them to the participants. Pretty cool, huh?
Hoping to get an independent audit of the course, we invited some passersby in a CJ-7 to run things. And the one guy actually wanted to run his Team Trophy Challenge tricked out bobbed, exoskeletoned Nissan pickup through the course. So – he got that lined up and took off. He looked good through the mole holes, popped over the logs well, up the mini hill climb, bounced over the bump, eyeing the rock crawl ahead, he blasted through the tank trap – annnnnd……..dropped into the water hole WAY quicker than we thought he would – and stopped cold. If we could have been inside his head at the time, after wading through all of the expletives to be deleted, of course, we’d be hearing “note to self – raise intake from stock position.” It is most unfortunate that he dunked his intake into the water, and hydro-locked his engine. For those of you who don’t know what this means – consider this. What your running engine does all day, is fires off in its cylinders a combination ofcompressible air and gasoline vapor. No problem. But when you introduce a non-compressible item, like water, into the cylinder, and the piston tries to compress things anyway – something’s gotta give. In this case, we think it was his valves. After pulling the plugs, and blowing the water out, he did get it started again, but with a very nasty knocking noise in the upper end. And worse yet – his mechanic buddy was there doing a very slow but obvious burn. Turns out – this motor only had 400 miles on it. Ouch. We felt bad.
That kinda ended things on a somber note. The sky had turned gray, and rain was threatening. These other guys did successfully run their CJ through everything, notably staying away from the water hole, and the rest of us packed up. We also ran Karl’s TJ through the course too, with no problems.
But – this is one cool course – we are filled with anticipation of getting back down to Ethel to see this put to use. It is going to be a lot of work, but also a lot of fun! Please plan to come down to Ethel to help run the course and to join in the festivities. The dates are Friday through Sunday, August 12, 13, 14. There is a cost of $60 for the weekend (paid in advance – before July 31 – $70 if you wait to pay at the gate) and you can get more information on that at the PNW website. We have a link to the PNW website on ours – so go there, link to the PNW website, then scroll down through coming events.
Thanks to all who helped make this course a reality. If you couldn’t make it for the building – you still have the chance to come for the running! See you at Summer Convention!
Moose (Tom James)
President – Timber Tamers 4×4 Club