Tony Crawford's Graduation Run
@ Shiloh Ridge

Ahh, Graduation! Long years of schoolwork come to a close! It’s the beginning of summer. Time for parties and celebrations with family and friends, Great Idea! Well, that it is, and Larry Crawford took that one step further by planning a 4x4 Party and Run for his son Tony. He planned this 6 months or more in advance, and invited The Southern High Rollers to join them. 

I met Larry Crawford and his family as well as Allen Dunbar and his family at the Hot Springs Jeep Jamboree in 1995. Larry had a yellow CJ-7 back then and Allen had a blue YJ. We ran the trails there and had great fun and I invited them to join SHR, which they did. Tony’s love of 4-wheeling grew over the years, owning a Dodge Raider and a Suzuki Samurai before building an awesome orange vehicle that resembled a flat-fender Jeep, but with a longer wheelbase, V-8 power, low gears, full cage, and lot’s of axle articulation. It worked very well on the trail and was quite an accomplishment for a young guy still in high school. 

As time went on, Tony decided what he wanted next was a truck that he could 4-wheel with and be street legal too. So he sold Hoopty (the orange Jeep) to Cecil McElveen, and used the money to start building his new truck. Being on a tight budget forces one to innovate, and Tony had learned that from his Dad, Larry. Taking a 2WD Chevy SWB Diesel, he used parts from a Blazer, the cab from a P/U, and body parts from 13 different Trucks! He took fenders, doors, and truck beds from all these rigs to weld up one complete truck. He did all the welding, electrical, and paint work himself. The motor came out of a retired police car. Heavy-duty axles were used. He painted it blue, and it looks really fine. It took 4 long months of spare time toil to finish, and he was really ready to try it out!

This run had past, present and possibly future SHR members on it. Larry Crawford and his Family (Larry’s 2000 TJ, Tony’s Truck & Girlfriend Lacey’s 2WD Chevy Truck), Allen Dunbar and family (4WD Chevy LWB Truck), Eric and Sheri Rachunek, (Cherokee XJ), Vince Grubb and brother Keith (98 TJ), Tim and Nicole Dorsey (2003 Rubicon TJ), Jonathon Parks (2WD Ford Truck- No Fear), Cecil and Amanda McElveen (The awesome orange Jeep that used to be Hoopty), Jason Sybert with son Heath and his buddy Manuel (2000 TJ), and myself in Red Rocker (1991 YJ). 

Larry and Allen and their crew had got up to Shiloh early Friday afternoon and set up their RV’s. It was supposed to be very hot that weekend, but we got a break. Instead of 95 deg. plus, it was in the low 90’s during the day, and high 60’s at night, very pleasant, and a surprise, too. I got up there about 4:30 PM and got set up.

Later we got a run going, and Larry took us to the ravine area to play. We ran several of the steep ravines and had a great time playing in the woods. Jonathon Parks in his Ford truck had just 2WD, but that didn’t stop him from having a total blast on the hills and in the mud, which he was in most of the time, slinging mud 30 feet in the air. 

We got back, had some supper and several of the guys and gals wanted a night run, so they took off for the ravines and mud pits for some late night fun. The next morning, Jason, Heath and Manuel rolled in and we all were getting ready. Tony, Allen and Larry all had been working on fixing little things on their rigs. We all finished up, aired down and got ready, except for Larry, who was doing the cooking on the pit.  

We started back at the ravines, then watched the folks do the mud pits, then took off to the steep, rutted hill next to the entrance to the Helicopter Pad. It had some interested holes in the trail, some deep ruts and a pretty good ledge on it. The rigs with smaller tires had a challenge getting through these, but all made it.

From there, we did the ledges along the main road. These will test your rig for what it could do. There are 4 ledges, one mild, 2 mediums, and one nearly impossible. That one makes for some nice photo ops, even if you can’t make it up. After playing, grinning and taking pictures, we moved on down the hill road to the right, taking us along the fence line down a steep hill and up 2 more hills until we got to the Rock Garden. We played there for a while, before going to the back of the property to The Hill.  

The Hill has 3 approaches, one nearly impossible, one doable, but hard, and one that was medium just the last time I was there, but is now a Rock Dog Delight! It got washed out and looked impossible. More on that one later….

We ran that one until lunchtime and headed back to camp to wash up for lunch. Larry, Carol, and Renee and the girls had been busy cooking and preparing the meal. Larry warmed up the briskets that Eric Rachunek’s dad had cooked, plus, cooked sausage, pork chops and ribs! Wow! We were in for a feast! We sat down and ate a fantastic array of food. It was very Tasty, with a capital T! 

Full and happy, it was now Larry’s turn to ‘wheel, since he was Master Chef for the morning. We did pretty much the same loop we did earlier, but played more on the Rock Garden. Larry was ready to ‘wheel, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Tony had a blast with his new blue truck and it worked well on the rocks and in the mud. We crawled over rocks and boulders made of iron ore. We went back to The Hill and Allen Dunbar wanted to try it with his LWB Chevy. He made a good try of it, but with a huge stump in the middle along with huge rocks and loose rock in between and no lockers, he didn’t make it, but it was fun to watch and he had fun trying. 

Next was Cecil in the orange ’42 Willys, he nearly made it before getting stuck on the stump. He made it over, but slid sideways, and got stuck up against a large fallen tree. Allen came around from the top, hooked up to the tree and pulled it away from the front of Cecil’s Jeep. He hammered it and finally scrambled up. This is the rig that Cecil bought from Tony. He has done some work on it; it works very well and could compete in a rockcrawling contest.

Jason had to go back home that night, so we said our goodbyes and headed for the Helicopter Pad. This giant hill has 4 sections, 2 are relatively easy (dry) one pretty hard, and one medium. We played here for a while before leaving back to camp for supper. On the way back, my transfer shifter came off in my hands.  Seemed the rubber connector had wore out. We reattached it, but it was very loose. I called it a day and just chilled. 

After dinner, several of the group wanted to run again and did. They came back muddy and grinning. The rest of us showered, chilled and enjoyed the cool air and good friends. 

The next morning, I packed up to go back, but most everyone stayed on for more ‘wheeling. They don’t get to go real often, but when they do, they make sure they get their money’s worth playing hard.

It was a really fine weekend, a time to celebrate Tony’s accomplishments, High School Graduation, and his building of his Blue Truck. It was Families and Friends, old and new, enjoying themselves immensely 4-wheelin’. Many thanks to Tony for giving us a reason to celebrate, Larry and Carol for inviting us, and for preparing such a wonderful meal, and to all that attended, and to Shiloh Ridge. It was Cool! 

Ken Womack…
(Pictures submitted by several folks…)