By: Tom Mueller
I have been looking forward to these dates for a l-o-n-g time. Back in September I bought a used Bronco, full size and this would be my first run in my new truck.
Jeff, my brother, and a strong turnout from the four-wheel drive club that I am in went too. We left on Friday morning and got to West Branch around 2:30 in the afternoon. We checked into our motel room and signed up for a four o’clock run. We had an hour to kill so we went to the Super K-Mart in West Branch to get some food for the run in case we would be out all night, which has happened in the past.
Our trail leader, Jim Mazzola, has been known to take a group out on Friday night and not return until the Saturday morning run. Food was essential!
We left the parking lot shortly after four and got to the trailhead around 4:20. There were about 12-15 vehicles, mostly Jeeps, but there was one other Bronco that made the trip from Canada.
We aired down the tires to about 15-psi. There wasn’t much snow, mostly ice. Everything was fine for the first couple of hours. Then ‘things’ went to hell in a hand basket.
The group stopped for a potty break and to shoot the breeze. We all got back into our trucks and started driving off to the next trail. I heard the guy behind me on the radio say that I may want to stop and put air in my tires. I stopped, got out, and sure enough both rear tires were flat. Of course they were flat only on the bottom!
We got on the CB and told Jim that we had a problem. Fortunately, there was a Jeep Scrambler with us that had an air compressor rigged up under his hood. He turned around, got out his air hose and I filled up the tires to 17 psi. With that done we were on our way again.
We got to the next trail and had no problems, yet. The trail that we were on was hilly and icy, with very little snow covering the ice made for little traction. I refer to it as driving on ball bearings, ‘cause it is so slick’. Our first challenge was to go down a hill, staying on the trail, and then get as much speed as you could to come up the other side. Now, coming up the other side is tricky ‘cause you go into a rut, if you don’t make it you can’t get out of the truck because the sides are blocked by mother earth!
Some people made it, some people didn’t. I didn’t. They had a Jeep with a winch at the top to winch me up the hill. Now I have a full size Bronco, heavy, heavier than a Jeep. Behind the Jeep they had a strap to a Cherokee as an anchor. I almost pulled both Jeeps down with me until they chocked the tires on the Cherokee. I was winched up the hill with no damage and the ‘buck-a-stuck’ was a dollar richer.
Off to the next trail. Now this trail is mainly for snowmobiles. Snowmobiles love to have their trails with tight corners and very steep banks. Picture ‘S’ turns that have a 45 degree or so bank. So far so good. I was having fun, Jeff was having fun, and the Bronco was having fun too.
After being on this trail for a while Jim crossed the top of the ‘S’ to go on to another trail. Now most of the Jeeps didn’t have a problem with getting over the berm. There was a 4×4 pick-up in front of me that had a bit of a time getting over the berm. Next was my turn. I was concerned about getting high centered, didn’t want to do that. After several attempts I finally made it over the berm and on to the trail. I pulled up far enough to make sure I gave the Bronco behind me room so when he cleared the trail he would have room to stop too.
While I was stopped I got out and checked my tires. After having two flats I didn’t want to take a chance and have another one. Well, this time it was worse than the flat tires. I had spun my right front tire of the wheel. I called Jim and told him of the situation and that I needed a Hi-Lift jack.
The nice thing about four wheeling with a bunch of people is that someone in the group usually has what you need, and that they are willing and able to help you get on you’re way again. This has been the case for me on this night’s run. We started changing the tire, we put the spare on, and I looked back at the Bronco behind me to see how he was doing. He wasn’t doing to well, he got high centered! The vehicle behind him had a winch so they hooked him up with the wire and got him off the berm.
About the time he was off the berm, we had the tire changed and were ready to go. Everybody got back into his or her Jeeps/trucks and Jim told us about another trail that we could go on. He wanted a vote to see how many people wanted to go. Jeff and I talked about it and decided that we would vote to go back to town. By this time it was about 9:30 or so and we would get back to town around 10 or 10:30. If I still had a good spare tire we probably would have continued. The majority of the vote was to go back to the motel. I think that this was Jim’s first run that he wasn’t out all night!
That was Friday nights run.
Jeff and I stopped in West Branch and had dinner. We talked about the run and I told him that I wasn’t real happy with the Bronco. He told me that it was slick out there and don’t be too harsh. I would wait and see what Saturday’s run would bring.
Back at the motel room we got ready for bed. Jeff told me that he was “fading fast”. Now when Jeff says he is fading fast he means it. If he is driving and says that, grab the steering wheel fast. After saying that he put his book on the nightstand, turned out the light, pulled up the covers and a second later (or less) he was snoring! That kept me awake most of the night. I did manage to get a couple of hours of sleep. At four in the morning I decided to say the heck with it. Actually, I got out of bed at five or so. I got dressed and went to town and filled up the Bronco with gas, as we like to start out on a full tank.
I told Jeff over breakfast that he had a choice. We can stop at Walgreen’s and get some breathable strips to put on his nose or I can bring in my duct tape. It was his choice; it didn’t matter to me. We stopped at Walgreen’s!
Saturday was a fun day. There were about 117 4×4’s and somewhere in the neighborhood of 236 people. With this many trucks we get lined up in the motels’ parking lot. There are several different trail leaders and about forty different trails that we use during the weekend. Leaving the parking lot of the motel we have the police stop traffic from the parking lot all the way through town, about five miles of road.
I had a much better day on Saturday. I only got stuck once, another buck to buck-a-stuck, and the air stayed in the tires.
I am already looking forward to next year’s run.