Memorial Day Weekend in Clayton, OK
by Steve Snyder (Pics By Steve Snyder, Lenda Hill & Jack Brinks)
May 28-30 was the Memorial Weekend High Country Trail Ride sponsored by Fort Worth/Dallas-Four Wheel Drive Club. This weekend had been on my calendar for quite some time and I was looking forward to hitting the trail for the first time since Moab last March. In fact, things were beginning to slow down in the shop at TGTW Offroad. We had spent a few months building up Dana Woodruff's TJ (remember...it's the one Shawn called TJ on STEROIDS!) and it was time to be trail tested.
On Thursday afternoon, the children and I headed up to The Woodlands to pick up Shawn Pagan and meet Ed Ciecko in his TJ. Shawn was Jeepless for the weekend pending some steering upgrades on his Jeep but he decided to come along anyway and occupy as many passenger seats as possible. The trip was uneventful until we entered Oklahoma. There, the skies opened up and the rain came down HARD. I was really not too eager to set-up 'Hotel Snyder' (aka...the tent) during a torrential downpour so Shawn called Chris, who was back in The Woodlands, and she was able to get us a couple rooms at the A&A Motel for the evening.
When we woke up Friday, it was a beautiful morning. We quickly checked out and headed for the Clayton Country Inn where we were planning to camp. For future information, The Clayton Country Inn does not usually take reservations for folks to camp (it's usually first-come first-served), HOWEVER, on holiday or large event weekends they do take camping reservation - and you MUST have one. I got lucky and Jack Brinks grabbed the last two reservations for him and me. When we arrived, Jack, Karl Pretzer, Jay Albrecht were already there and set-up. Ed, Shawn and I quickly pitched our respective tents, unloaded the Jeeps, and went to the Corner Cafe for breakfast with the whole crew. I forgot to mention that on the drive up to Clayton I came to the realization that I had an extra Jeep on the trailer. Seth Bothner was riding up with Dana and wouldn't arrive in Clayton till Friday afternoon so I towed 'Pinky' and 'Tripod'. A quick phone call to Seth confirmed that Shawn would not have to ride 'shotgun' all day. He drove Pinky.
After breakfast we made our way to the fair grounds for registration, vehicle tech inspection, and trail sign-up. No one in our group had been on the new property so we signed up for a trio of 'extreme' 5 or 6-rated trails that were lead by Mike Green. If memory serves, we had approximately 10 vehicles in our group and the vast majority was SHR members. Sorry, but I cannot remember the name of our first trail (creek something). It dumped us into "Jeff's Ledges". On one of the optional ledges Mike and Jay plowed right through (Mike on 44's and Jay on 46's). Most everyone else followed choosing a slightly different line.
This is where Shawn (remember...he's driving a borrowed Jeep) decided to test the limits of Pinky's break-over-angle. The ledge clearly demonstrated that Pinky's BOA is not limitless - Shawn called for the winch when things started to get too close to the rear drive shaft. The only thing worse than breaking your jeep on day one of a three day weekend, is breaking someone else's jeep on day one before they even get there.
Lenda Hill (from Lone Star Jeep Club) and David Lewis both had tire sidewall issues along the trail so we changed a few tires. Speaking of tires...I believe that I was the recipient of the "Lucky SOB" award. As I climbed the last ledge, Karl was spotting me and all I heard was 'git-it' so I promptly punched the throttle. This gave me enough momentum to pop over the last ledge. When I came to a halt everyone standing around had huge eyes and was sort of shaking their heads and smiling. Evidently, when I popped over the ledge my rear tire came completely off the bead (so much that everyone said they could see the inside of the rim) and in an instant of weightlessness followed by a mild bounce back on terra-firma, the bead reseated. Cool...no, actually VERY lucky!
We spent the rest of the afternoon with Ed high-centered (on the same ledge). It probably was not ALL afternoon but it seemed like a few hours that we were there waiting for Ed's winch to finally pull him off the ledge. Those hydro winches are really slow. Just kidding Ed - I've got to give you grief whenever I can - Ed's winch was actually pretty quick compared to the Toyota guys in our group that did, in fact, take about an hour to replace a drive shaft trying to make it over the ledge.
We finished Jeff’s Ledges and about half of our group broke and went back to camp. Karl, Ed and I were the only one's left so we followed Mike and ran Green Mambo - an awesome slow uphill climb through a boulder-ridden creek.
Saturday was equally entertaining. We ran Limp Pine backwards and finished it off running up TSOB. My Jeep gave quite a performance on a small obstacle right before the BIG ledge on TSOB showing everyone why she's called 'Tripod'. Something about that small hole sent my driver's side tire skyward. I'm so used to only having three wheels on the ground it no longer surprises me but most everyone else was kinda surprised. Dana, who was right behind me, watching was overheard saying..."I wanna go there...but I don't want to do it like that!" Shawn, who was spotting assured her it was a 'Tripod thing' and she wouldn't have to worry about it.
A mere 30 yards further and we were at the big ledge. I asked Jack to spot me and as usual he did an awesome job. He put me in just the right position and said "GO". Tripod clawed right up. NICE! Everyone else in the group made a good attempt at the ledge but was forced to take the bypass. Jack was spotting Karl and 'The Short Bus' up the ledge when one of the bystanders watching our show shouted down that The Short Bus had spit out a u-joint cap on the front axle. Fortunately someone pointed out the problem BEFORE anything broke.
Saturday evening was a better-than-usual dinner back at the fairgrounds followed by a marathon raffle. I was so darn tired by this time I cannot even remember if any SHR members won stuff.
Sunday was the big day that I was looking forward to. We had decided that we would run as much of Frielings Staircase as possible for the day. Frielings Staircase is rated 6+++ for a reason. It is very difficult and very technical - my favorite thing about the trail is that it is a 'safe' trail. There are few chances of roll-over and almost no chance of a major-multi-roll-over. I really enjoy trails that are TOUGH so long as I'm not putting my life in danger.
This trail is one that the "Big-Dogs" can probably run in 1 hour or so (40"+ tires). Our group consisted of me (36's) Jack Brinks (35's) Ed Ciecko (35's) Dana Woodruff (38's) and Seth Bothner (36's). With just a few exceptions we moved up the trail fairly quick. Some strategic stacking (and then unstacking) of rocks and trying a few different lines got us up most of the obstacles. At some point everyone met their match and the winch was called upon from time to time to help out.
At one point Seth was working his way up a particularly difficult section. Shawn, who was spotting him, started barking orders at the churning tires "GRAB...GRAB". Unfortunately, Seth did not hear "grab...grab", he heard "GO...GO!!!" and immediately put the petal-to-the-metal. This launched Pinky up the rock face, into the air and spun her sideways mid-air. Hood...meet tree - OUCH.
After about 5 hours we were about 2/3's through the trail and it was getting late. We decided to bail-out fearing we wouldn't make the last third (the most difficult part) before dark. On the way out we hit Jojo's Yoyo. Finally on the main road back to exit the property I stopped to shift out of 4 wheel drive. When I put the tranny in gear and let out the clutch - - nothing. What the heck had I broken? Back in Houston I found out I had stripped splines on the main output shaft in the transmission and splines on the input shaft in the transfer case.
Jack strapped me back to where his tow rig was parked. We loaded up his trailer and went back to camp to get my truck and trailer. As we went back and forth to get my truck everyone else (except Shawn, who sat in my Jeep and waited for our return) went out and hit a few more trails.
Since this was Memorial Day weekend most of the folks in our group had Monday off so we stayed and camped one more night. What a blast the weekend was! Fantastic wheeling with a group of fantastic people. Every time I go on a trip we have great fun on the trail but one of the best parts of being associated with a club like Southern High Rollers is that we have an equal amount of fun back at camp, grilling our "bring-watcha-got-community" dinner, sitting around the camp fire (with Katie and Stricklin making smores for everyone), enjoying the stars. What an absolute blast.
Considering the almost non-existent email banter on the club list, it was amazing how many SHR members we saw in Clayton. Sorry if I miss anyone but these are the folks that made the Memorial Weekend run (in no particular order): Steve Snyder (with children Katie, Stricklin, and Grace), Jay Albrecht, Shawn Pagan, Jack Brinks & Friend Doug, Dana Woodruff & Friend (Sorry bad with names but she was a riot and needs to come on more runs with us), Ray Duncan, Seth Bothner, Carly McGee, Ed Ciecko, David & Diana Lewis, Ken & Evelyn Womack, Eddie Stokley, Lee Miller, Paul Beidelman and Karl Pretzer.
Completely omitted from the story is the 'tale' of our trip home - or should I say Ed's trip home. That will need to be a write up all by itself. Stay tuned and we'll tell you how to NOT modify your stock exhaust (unless you want to melt your fuel tank and possibly blow yourself up).
THE END!!! (For more pics check out the Memorial Day Photo Album)