Smoky Mountain Venture '99
By: [unknown]

Smoky Mountain Venture Ď99 was just that, a venture, with the letters Ďadí on the front.

The people in our group were Paul, Bill P., Bill G., Tom, Mark, Joe, and Michelle. The people that rode on the trails with their trucks/jeeps were Bill, Bill, Tom and Mark. The rest were passengers.

We left in two different groups. One group left from Farmington Hills and the other left from Milford. We met up at the McDonalds in Bowling Green, had breakfast and then continued on our way. Well, we tried to continue on our way. Someone in the group, and I wonít mentioned any names, had something to eat the night before that didnít agree with them. It seemed that we stopped at lot for rest areas!

The drive down was fairly uneventful. Mother Nature washed our trucks for us several times on the drive. Rain-x works ok, but not in a heavy downpour. We arrived at the campground around 7:30 p.m. Rick was there; he was in the first group that went down for the first weekend. He had a couple of campsites reserved for the second group. We set up camp and had dinner.

On Thursday everyone was busy getting their truck/jeep ready for the trails. It had rained on Wednesday night and we knew the trails would be slick and muddy. We got to the trails and moms decided that our trucks still needed washing and that the trails werenít wet or muddy enough for us. It rained all day Thursday. Tomís bronco must of thought that it needed washing on the inside too, he had a leak over the passengerís legs that dripped on to the floor mat.

Bill lead the group, followed by Mark, then Tom, then Bill P. This order would soon change. Bill almost rolled his jeep going into a trench; the only thing that stopped him was the bank. He could rest his arm out the window and be level with the top of the bank. Next was Markís turn. Then Tomís turn. Bill P. was spotting Tom and his tires were gripping pretty well. Then all of a sudden they slipped and down he went. Tom needed a winch cable to get out.

First we hooked up a strap to the back of Markís jeep to Tomís full size bronco. Now hooking up a strap to Tom wasnít that easy. I was in a mud hole and Paul had to climb on top of the Bronco and reach down to hook up the strap. We had the video camera rolling waiting for Paul to slide of the hood and into the mud hole. Paul was able to hook up the strap with out sliding of the hood. Mark wasnít able to move Tom at all. Bill G. got turned around and hooked up the winch. Bill was moving more than Tom was! Bill finally got behind a rock to hold himself there while the winch did the work. About forty minutes later Tom was free and a dollar lighter in the wallet. The first of many on this trip for Tom. Next was Bill Pís turn. He made it through with out the help of a cable.

From there it will down hill for Tom. We came to quite a few areas that he needed a winch, or a Hi-Lift to get him off the rocks. A little bit of body damage and a bent skid plate on the first day. A lot of rain too.

We went for ice cream at six thirty and then back for dinner in camp. The rain didnít let up. Back in camp around eight and dinner, beef stew and biscuits.

Sometime during the night on Thursday the rain had stopped. Joe and Tom discovered that their tents leaked. Tom had a new tent and had seam sealed it, guess that he didnít do a very good job on that! His clothes were wet that were packed inside his duffel bag. Joe faired much better. Later that day the sun came out and dried out the camp. In fact we didnít get any more rain the rest of the time we were there.

Friday we went out and did some Ďeasyí trails that we all could do. Tom did better on Friday and we had to turn around on one of the trails so he wouldnít do any more body damage to his truck. We went to one spot to watch others come up a trench that you difinetly would need a winch to make it up. This was also our lunch stop.

Back in camp early on Friday night. Being back early meant an early dinner. Paul, our chef for the weekend, grilled chicken breasts with fried potatoes, and a salad.

On Saturday we left the bronco in camp and rode to the river crossing to watch some people cross the river. Bill P tried it and couldnít make it up the other side. Mark tried it and he couldnít make it up either. Then we watched a young kid in a Samari get winched up the other side. That kid is a whole other story.

Saturday afternoon we broke camp. Got a motel room and went to the banquet. Dinner consisted of prime rib, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, and desert. The food was good.

After dinner they had their awards. Bill P got one for not having a tree saver. Joe P won the 50/50 drawing and was nice enough to buy breakfast for the group on Sunday. We were back to the motel by nine and those who wanted to go swimming went swimming. Tom was wiped out and he went to bed.

The drive back was a long one. We left the motel around six in the morning. We made it out of North Carolina and into Tennessee with no problems. Stopped for breakfast and then were on our way again. Lunched in Kentucky, gassed up, and as soon as we were on the expressway Tom almost lost control of his bronco. He managed to pull over to the side of the road safely, although shaking badly got out of his truck. His A.P.F. was quite high! (If you donít know what A.P.F. means ask someone. It can replace a tilt meter!)

We discovered that his right front wheel bearing was shot. That is what it looked like, buckshot! This happened around 2:30. We were able to repair the truck enough to get back home. Oh, we were back on the road at 6:30!

In Ohio Bill P got pulled over by the state police for not having his taillights working on his truck or on his tow dolly. The cop was nice, rare for Ohio, and told him to stop at the next gas station and repair it. We stopped but couldnít repair the problem. So we rode the rest of the way with the four way flashers on.

Mark couldnít stay awake any longer so Paul drove his truck. The group was back home anywhere from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. Long day to say the least.

All in the entire trip was good. The weather finally co-operated and we made it down and back all in one piece. Tom found out what the bronco could and couldnít do.

The mileage from South Lyon to the campsite is 659. This is broken down as follows:
0 Ė 1.7 gas station to Tomís house
13 Markís house
659 camp site.

From 659 to 794 was going to and from the campground to the trails, playing on the trails and going to town and back. From 794 back to Tomís house was 1,486 miles.

In less than a year we will do it all again. Hopefully, with not as many problems as we had this year.

I am already looking forward to the trip!