Labor Day Ft. Hood Run
By Rick Cassani

Labor Day 1997 found several of us making the trek to Killeen for a weekend of 4-wheeling at Ft. Hood. We met at the Access Center on Saturday morning. Bob and Shirley Keniston in Jeepin' Creepin', Conrad Hartwig and the kids in the Land Cruiser, Richard and Cindy Hackemack in the Wrangler, Erik Hekkert came in from Dallas in his Wrangler, Don Cavanaugh in the Rio Grande Wrangler, David and Diana Lewis in their 1997 Grand Cherokee Limited, and I in my CJ-7. Earlier in the week a guy named Scott from Seabrook asked if he could join us on the run. He drove up with Conrad and me in his FJ-40. This Toyota is awesome. From the outside it looks like something from the junk yard. From the inside it is a great trail machine. Equipped with a V-8, it has a spring over, 33 inch Buckshot Mudders, and a locker in the rear.

We headed out around 10:30 Saturday morning for area 34. When we got to "Marbles", Bob, Erik, Scott, and Richard went up while Conrad, Don, David, and me decided to take the chicken route. As Don and David had never 4-wheeled before this was probably a good idea. We followed the creek for a while and took the turn to cross it. When we got to the crossing it was impassable due to a fallen tree. We had to improvise by driving in the creek for several yards and exiting up the creek bed. The next major hill found the 4 of us taking yet another chicken route (you gotta do what you gotta do when you're 180 miles from home in your daily driver). As it turns out, this trail was also not as we had anticipated. The trail had been washed out and all that was left was a series of ledges. I lead and Conrad pulled up the rear as we guided Don and David through the trail. This turned out to be a good lesson for the new guys on how to find a line and let your vehicle crawl up the rocks.

We met up with Victor and Johnny from Heart of Texas. With their GPS we had a much easier time finding the good trails. We all stopped at the sand pit for lunch. Everyone took turns trying to climb the dunes. By mid-afternoon some folks wanted to go home, some wanted to do more hardcore stuff, and some just wanted run intermediate trails. So we split up into 3 groups. Bob and Richard called it a day. Scott and Victor went off to find more challenging trails, and Erik, Conrad, Don, and me went off looking for anything we considered challenging. The 4 of us weren't on the trail 15 minutes when Don ran over some razor wire. If you've never seen razor wire it is NASTY. Anyway, he had it all wound up around his front axle. Between Conrad and I we had enough tools to get the wire unwrapped. Unfortunately, Don's brake line had been severed. We had to call it quits for the day. The tricky part was getting back to the campsite while Don had no brakes. When we got to the public road Erik ran lead and stopped traffic where necessary to let Don through. Once at the campsite we tried to replace the brake line. When that didn't work we clamped off the brake line and refilled the brake fluid. With only 3 working brakes Don and Conrad then headed back to Houston.

After a dinner and a good nights rest at the campsite we were ready to do it again on Sunday morning. This time the field had been narrowed down to myself, Erik, Scott, Bob and 2 guys from Team Texas. One guy had a vehicle called the Raptor. It was a Toyota pickup with an IROC-Z motor, a spring over, and an unbelievable roll cage. The other guy had a Toyota pickup also. His name was Dave and apparently was very familiar with the area. We went to a trail that had a ver scenic overlook. The ride up this gravel road was terrible. Although not difficult, it was a limestone trail and thus by the end of the 5 mile ride those of us with no tops were absolutely covered in white dust. After a stop at the scenic overlook we headed off for the trails. On the way we came across a guy wandering down the road. While in most cases this may not be a big deal, when you are 10 miles from civilization in the middle of the woods, it is. He claimed he was driving the night before, got lost and started to walk. Apparently he had walked all night and half this day. We observed he was still drunk. Anyway, we gave him some water and offered to find his truck. He told us all he could remember was crossing a creek and going up a hill (that's not much help if you consider Ft. Hood is all hills and creeks). We kept going down a trail that turned into a series of ledges. I had to use 4WD low range to navigate the ledges. When we found his truck we were amazed he had it as far as he did in 2WD. At this point we hooked up with 5 other vehicles from Team Texas. We got the drunk out and on his way and made our way to the trails. Although these trails were not that challenging they were an interesting group of ledges, mud holes, and hills. We ate lunch at a little spot where a natural spring was dammed up. It was shady and the water was cold. A refreshing treat from both the heat and the dust.

After lunch Erik, Scott and I called it a day and headed back to the Access Center. I'm pretty sure everyone had a great time, from the hardcore enthusiasts to the first time novices. Ft. Hood is a great place for off-road fun. If you've been there you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, you're missing a great time. Hope to see you all there soon.