"I Cruised Barnwell Mountain", ICBM 2002
I had been looking forward to ICBM for a little over a year. Our first Texas statewide Land Cruiser run had materialized a little over 13 months ago into what would be called "I Cruised Barnwell Mountain" 2001. We shortened the name to ICBM. Kinda catchy, huh?
Barnwell Mountain is not really a mountain. It is an old Iron Ore Mine that is located on top of a large wooded hill in North East Texas just outside of the town of Gilmer. We chose this location to host our statewide meet for a number of reasons. First, the place is fun! The members of the Texas Motorized Trail Coalition own Barnwell Mountain. The land was purchased with a grant from the state of Texas and it is operated and maintained by yearly memberships and daily fees. The trails at Barnwell Mountain are relatively short and all end up on the main feeder trail that runs on the ridge of the mountain. This is a great advantage when you are wheeling 20-30 year old vehicles. You are never too far away from help and spare parts.
The second reason why we use Barnwell Mountain is that a growing number of our trails in the South are being closed. Supporting Barnwell mountain with this large group helps ensure that we will always have a place to wheel. Finally, Barnwell Mountain is in Texas. Seems kind of silly to have a statewide Land Cruiser meet outside of Texas, don’t you think?
Before I jump into the trail report, you need you know a little about my club. The Lone Star Land Cruisers is one of the largest clubs in the TLCA. We have 3 chapters located in Dallas/Ft Worth, Austin and San Antonio. Last time I looked we had over 100 members in the 3 clubs. We share a common website, a common mailing list and a common charter, but we are separate groups, meeting in separate locations. The thing that stands out the most about our club is that we keep the politics to a minimum and we have a LOT of fun. Land Cruisers, restoration and 4 wheeling are the main focus, and it keeps people coming back month after month.
To say that we are having an organized statewide run 2 years in a row is kind of a stretch for us. We are heavy on Indians and light on chiefs in the LSLC's. We don’t have an entry fee for the ride. We prefer that money to go to TMTC to keep the trails open. We don't have a raffle and we don’t have organized rides at the run. Because of this, we have not asked for ICBM to be sanctioned by the TLCA. I guess the natural progression of a "Club" run that attracts over 50 vehicles is to go nationwide, but that would mean we would have to step up on the politics at our meetings and spend less time in the parking lot drinking Shiner Bock and telling lies. We'll see how ICBM 2003 shapes up and we'll let you guys know.
Friday was the arrival day for most. I was in Dallas and round about 3:00 the Heaven's opened up and the rains began. Folks, this was style GSMTR rain! Those of you that have been to GSMTR can appreciate the description. It rained HARD and LONG for the rest of Friday and all through the night. The one thing that made this different than GSMTR is the soil on Barnwell Mountain has a lot more dirt than rocks, more on that later. I postponed my arrival to Saturday morning, opting to sleep at home instead of pitching a tent in the dark and in the rain. The crew faired well on Friday night, however, due to the fact that Butch had brought the revival tent. Lies were told and great food was cooked by Butch et all and copious quantities of Shiner Bock was polished off.
When I arrived on Saturday morning the trails were wet, yes they were NASTY wet and slippery. I trailered Kate to a parking spot above the Broken Birfield Barn that the LSLC's adopted and packed her full of gear to set up camp. Arriving in camp, I found the beautiful sight of Cruisers galore! There were FJ-80's, FJ-60's, one FJ-55 and a myriad of stock to modified FJ-40's everywhere. As I was pitching my tent, a guy came over with his young wife looking like a drowned rat and asked if I had on-board air. Glancing over at his rig, it was obvious that the muddy trails had taken toil on his BFG MT. It was completely covered in mud and it had popped off the bead. I loaned him my Powertank and gave him some bead setting tips and turned my attention back to setting up camp before it started raining again. A quick glance at the revival tent showed heavy sign of a damn good party that I had missed.
Now that I had pitched my tent, it was time to find the group. I took off in Kate in search of the wild bunch. I found them just as the first of the Wagons were exiting a trail called Clyde’s Ravine. This trail is a rutted trail that is great from catching air in your Cruiser. I watched as a group of stock and modified wagons were the first to exit. The wagon drivers told me that the real action was down below in one particularly rutted section that they had decided to by pass.
When I got to the bottom of the hill, I was greeted by Kyle LePage's modified FJ-40 waving at me with one tire nearly 7 feet in the air! I watched as Kyle gracefully stayed in the throttle and came out of his wheel-stand unscathed. Following Kyle was a progression of about 10 FJ-40's and two modified 60 series wagons. The 40's put on a great show coming through this section of Clyde's ravine. Tires were often off the ground making those without lockers work extra hard to make it through. The FJ-60's made an impressive run through this section as well, putting their rocker protection on overtime.
After getting some great photographs and catching my fair share of jabs for missing the rainy night, we all saddled up for another trail ride. I jumped in behind Jason Keene and we took off on a stocker run on the North side of the mountain. Butch Baker jumped in with me and caught me up on all the things I had missed to date. The group had experienced minimal breakage to date, with the largest problems being blown beads and major stuckage due to the rain. The trail led us up and around the Northeast side of Barnwell Mountain, and dumped us off in front of a rock garden that had been set up on top of the mountain.
After we got Rick off the mountain, the cooks led by Butch Baker headed back to camp to fire up dinner, while a large group of mild to wild Cruisers took off for another trail. This time I jumped in behind Edwin Kincaid in his 42" Super Swamper clad FJ-40'ish rig called the Grasshopper. The trail started off fairly easy until we rounded the last corner and began the slow climb out of the basin. In front of us was one very nasty, wet ledge. Edwin was the first one in line. This ledge was pretty nasty looking before the rain, but after nearly 2 days of constant rain and the new moisture that was beginning to fall, it was downright nasty! Edwin made numerous attempts at the right-hand line before he let loose with a might bit too much skinny pedal and he toasted his front output shaft on his transfer case. Mark one for the bad guys!
Since I was able to study the ledge a little while Edwin flopped around on it, I decided the only way I was going to make it up was to get my front tires over and bump it over with a few ponies from my trusty LT-1. The tactic worked and I was up and over. I hurried down to spot Kristy Barlow up the ledge. Kristy literally gave Lil Red hell on her 5 attempts to make it up the ledge, but her 36" tires could not gain enough purchase to get her over the rock. Kristy and the next 3 vehicles took the bypass to the left and exited to the top of the trail.
As I sat there with my camera, I was simply amazed at what stock Cruisers are capable of. In our group were 4 stock cruisers. I say stock, sure they had aftermarket tires on them, but they still ran stock drivetrains, no lockers and little or no lift. These rigs were amazing! I loved watching them shake, bounce and rattle to the top of the hill in the rain. The last rig to make it up the ledge was Jason Keene in his V8J-40. His 38" tires were large enough to carry him over the ledge and up to the top. Jason's wheeling ability with his automatic tranny really is a thing to see. He really works the transmission to his advantage. I am a babe-in-the-woods learning how to wheel with an automatic tranny now and Jason is a great teacher. Where I opted for the easy up/bump it up approach, Jason used finesse and his torque converter to ease up without using too much throttle. It was really cool to watch.
I arrived back at camp and quickly began collecting videotapes and digital pictures for our nightly entertainment. As I set up the projector, Butch and the gang served up some outstanding Texas BBQ on the stove in the center of the revival tent as the rain continued to fall outside. I loaned my semi clean rig to Kristy Barlow and Rick Delisle to fetch an extension cord and I heard them find the rev limiter a couple of times as they headed out on their search**. All had fun as we watched the videos of the day, Cruise Moab video and projected digital shots taken throughout the weekend.
As always, the night cannot come to an end on an ICBM without a full-on night run. As I (smartly) bowed out, about ½ of the gang headed out to the dark woods in their Cruisers. The night run quickly took its first victim when Dusty broke his double steering arm in half. Always willing to pitch in, Edwin Kincaid unloaded his FJ-40 and stitched Dusty's steering arm up with his on-board welder. Edwin failed to tell Dusty that these kinds of trail repairs are to be treated gently until you can get the wounded rig off the trail and on the trailer. I guess ignorance is bliss because Dusty wheeled the hell out of his rig all night and the weld held up beautifully. I heard the gang arrive about 2:30 a.m., and thanked my lucky stars that I had fended off the peer pressure and stayed in camp.
The following morning we were awakened by the smells of a hearty breakfast being cooked up by out TLCA delegate, Nick Stone. He was using the club's new Italian's Officer's Mess Kit to cook up the morning's vittles. It was wonderful! Nick and John Harlow had camped next to the Tornado Alley Cruisers guys at Cruise Moab and had seen their Mess Kit in use. They brought the idea back to us and it sure was a great setup!
Once we got Kristy to the top of the hill, Rick Delisle attempted to drive out of the last section of slippery slope. Rick gave it the ole' college try, but the combination of mud and lack of HP really handicapped him into using the 8274 for the last climb. We then tied Lil Red to Rick's truck and drug it back to the trailer.
By this time it was nearly noon, most people had begun to filter out. We packed Butch’s truck with the wonderful, lifesaving revival tent and said farewell to some of our visitors from Amarillo and Houston. The last show of the day was when the Rogue 360 bunch showed up and gave us a heck of a show trying to climb "DeWoody." This trail is one nasty mother when it is dry, but after the weather we had that weekend, it was impassible. Not that they did not give it a sporting try. The exocage-equipped Mini's banged and bounced their way up the face of this macabre trail. At times, it looked as if one of the trucks was going to take a long roll down, but quick thinking by the driver kept it on all 4's. One of the most exciting things was watching Mike Shannon take his dual tire, Rockwell equipped FJ-62*** DOWN DeWoody! It was nuts to watch.
See you all in 2003!
* Dino Eggs are stuffed peppers that can be found on all LSLC trail runs right along with Shiner Bock in camp. Kristy has a knack for cooking on the top of her 350 in her trusty Land Cruiser, Lil Red.
** The next morning Kate was COVERED in mud from their trips across the Mountain. Rick came back determined to do a V8 swap in his Cruiser.
*** Mike's FJ-62 was featured in the TT article "Why not the FJ-62?" It now sports 2 ½ ton Rockwell axles