ON TO OHIO
Miles on odometer: 2,682
Dirt miles: 83
Gallons of water drained from the Jeep’s tub: 5
Logbook quote: “Think we can bend it back with a winch?”
->By nightfall on Day Four, the Jeep had pushed across 814 miles of Texas, through Arkansas, and clear into Tennessee. Texas was full of distant lightning strikes, oil fields, and cow farts, leaving us good and ready for dirt. Thankfully, a quick jaunt off the highway afforded us dirt roads and a 3 a.m. tour past some creepy woodland cemeteries. <-The sun rose on Day Six, but we did not see it, as it was hidden behind a layer of thick overcast, promising rain. Nevertheless, the Jeep wandered toward the West Virginia border for a trail ride through some of Ohio’s most twisted, rutted, and goo-covered backcountry.
<-|>An unplanned rendezvous with a boulder dealt the Jeep’s frontend an immobilizing blow. The axle was crunched toward the rear of the rig, bending a lower control arm and binding the front driveshaft. We pulled the Jeep to a safe work area, removed the offending control arm, and with the help of some precision repair, returned its angle to within degrees of factory spec—or enough to last the day. Not only were our trail partners willing to help with the repair, but they also cooked dinner while we wrenched.<-<|To make sure the Jeep was roadworthy for the return trip, we found a friendly driveway and swapped out the damaged control arm and shocks. Also on the list was a tire change, beginning our time with a set of Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain Plus rubbers.
|>Dawn on Day Five was spent driving over the Ohio River, bridging the border of Ohio and Kentucky. Before sunset, the Jeep arrived at Yankee Lake for Truck Night—a gathering of 4x4s on the border of Pennsylvania and Ohio. Participants are encouraged to test their rigs in any of the venue’s mud bogs, woods trails, or on the tug pad.
|>The repair put a hiccup in the plans, forcing us out past dark, and inevitably into a monsoon. The ruts quickly turned to torrents; we would have been better equipped to navigate them with a kayak. Deciding to shelter in place rather than slide off a trail, we pooled our emergency tarps, draped them over the largest (also topless) rig, and huddled inside.
|>By the time the rain let up, it was well into the morning of Day Seven. We opened the Jeep’s drain plugs, bounced the mirrors and fender flares into a few trailside trees, thoroughly exercised the mud-terrain tires getting back to camp, and escaped the woods mostly unscathed.