TRAIL RIDE THROUGH OCALA. ONF
How long have you been Jeeping? For me it has been a long time. I had the opportunity to drive off road as a kid and that gave me a chance to try stuff, you know that kind of stuff you do before you have enough sense to follow that gut feeling that tells you NOT to do it. Like when you drive down a 50 foot wide ditch and treat it like a skateboard ramp. Or drive through tall grass not knowing there is a stump that will bring you to a complete stop. I had my learners on my 15th birthday and my first car on my 16th. It was 11 years till I had my first Jeep. There were plenty of places to drive off road and hang out with friends as a teenager. So let’s just say I cut my teeth off road.
In the mid 90s I did the SOUTHERN OFF ROAD CHALLENGE in Ocala. The event was sponsored by Southern off road. It started in Deland and was composed of 140 mile of trails to ride. It was a three day event that included 10 miles of canoeing and a round of skeet shooting. No GPS back then, you just followed directions. Drive down this trail at 15mph for ten minutes and turn right. Mess up and your off course. Points were accumulated based on each event area and how well you followed directions. I rode with a friend, David Essig, in his CJ5. It was a lifted bright blue Jeep with a hot pink fade on the hood. “Ticked Pink” Rocking 44” swampers made for easy work of most trails. There were blindfolded driving courses, hill climbs, mud holes, and clay pits. Good times. It is events like this that are made possible by Jeep clubs. Jeeptoberfest by Ocala Jeep club. Jeepin with Judd with the Orlando Jeep club. Krawlin for the Fallen in November. All great events, but if you want to spend some time actually riding trails then a Jeep club would be a good rout.
We just joined the ORLANDO JEEP CLUB and went on the first trail ride through Ocala. It was a good ride with diverse environments. There were different levels of Jeeps from stock, to big builds. In Florida we have a whole new set of issues to deal with then the rock crawlers and desert riders do. Not too many rocks in Florida, some lime rock and broken up man made concrete courses. But what we lack in rocks and hills we make up for with mud, sand, and water covered trails. Oh let’s not forget ample opportunities for some custom pen striping by Florida’s brush. You have to make a choice, have fun with your Jeep, or become a mallcrawler. This Saturday we took a 40 mile trails ride with the club and it did not disappoint. We have only had the JK for 2 weeks and decided to take it out for a spin. So far the only thing done to it was a new bumper. Recovery points are a must. No winch yet, that will be here in a day or two. The tires are stock Sahara 18” rims with 31” tries… like street tires. Not too good in the way of traction in mud. It is also not lifted, yet. We followed behind Keith in his 92 YJ that had around the same lift and tire size as us. If he made it we should too. Half tire water for someone with 35s or 37s means up to the tub for us. At one point Randy asked why the camera bag as all wet. Hmmmm it looks like we took on some water at some point. Water was also getting in the engine area making some steam rise that resembled a blown radiator. At the next stop it all checked out and the temp gauge stayed where it should. Still it was a bit discomforting seeing steam coming from the front of your hood.
One of the best reasons to join a club is the trails rides. We had a trail leader (Rich Hardway) who has scoped out the trails and knows what we are in for. He leads the pack and someone else is the designated tail gunner. With 26 Jeeps on this ride there were times that we had to wait for recovery of stuck people. When you are with a pack there is always help to get you out, if you fall in the ruts. It is also good to watch a person in front of you so you know what to expect. It was a dusty ride for most of the day and we finished up around 3:40 in the afternoon. It was a good day for the ride with nice temps and no rain. The Jeep did well and we did not get stuck or break anything. That’s a good day for any Jeep ride. With a quick thank you to Rich for the ride we were off to clean up for the day. Some of the group headed out for dinner at a nearby restaurant. Us we headed up through DeLand and back to Kissimmee.
If you live in the Orlando Area and have a Jeep look up the club at www.orlandojeepclub.com they are welcoming and don’t judge what you drive. I have been to some clubs and pulled up in the YJ and could not get the time of day. This club is not made up of a bunch of mall crawlers, it real jeepers that know what “The Jeep” life is about. Let’s just say they get the Jeep wave thing. Watch the video of the trail ride and please remember to subscribe.
Matt N Randy
Jeep Enthusiast, Pastor, Photographer, Artist, A husband and wife team that loves going out and seeing God's Creations.