many new car dealers out there that openly embrace the sport of
four-wheeling. However, this is beginning to change with the increasing
popularity of the sport utility vehicle. Now dealers that promote
offroad use of their vehicles are beginning to pop up all across
All American Jeep,
in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, is a dealership that not only sells brand
new Jeep vehicles, but they also introduce new Jeep owners to the
sport of organized four-wheeling. We have seen this "introduction
to jeeping" before, in the form of Jeep Jamboree USA, but All
American Jeep performs similar services on a more personal level.
Somewhere in the process of selling you a new Jeep vehicle, the folks
at All American Jeep become your friends. When you enter their showroom,
it is not uncommon to see pictures, or a video of their last outing
on display for all to see. Naturally, this makes one curious, so customers
come in and inquires about the images set before them, and they end
their visit with a seemingly insatiable thirst for offroad adventure.
The question, "When are you guys having your next trailride?"
arises, and the new Jeeper eagerly signs himself or herself up, eagerly
anticipating an organized off-road event that the whole family can
seen the future, and no longer does it involve explaining to your
service technician that your vehicle has never been offroad, despite
obvious rock-rash and bent skidplates."
No longer is
recreational four-wheeling a rich and colorful advertisement in
a new 4x4 vehicle brochure. It is now something tangible that manufacturers
have been implying for years that it was something we could do with
our vehicles. All American Jeep offers the experience with open
arms to its customers. Learning to operate a four-wheel drive vehicle
on varied terrain in a safe and controlled environment is the opportunity
they are presenting to the general public. The event participants
are seperated into several different groups depending on vehicle
modifications, trail difficulty, and driver experience. It is made
clear by staff and employees of All-American Jeep that four-wheeling
is a slow stroll through the woods, as opposed to dashing through
mud and bouncing off of trees. (as the misinformed have regretfully
stereotyped it) To minimize risk of injury, or damage to the environment,
experienced trail guides appointed by All American Jeep see to it
that all event participants have working knowledge of their vehicles,
are informed of necessary off-roading techniques, and are helped
through difficult offroad situations.
The last All
American Jeep Trail Ride was held on April 30th, 2000, at Paragon
Adventure Park in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Paragon is a private four-wheel
drive park in eastern Pennsylvania that has been made popular by
four-wheelers from all over the country. All American utilizes Paragon
Adventure Park to offer their customers a good selection of terrain
of varying difficulties.
American's one day four-wheeling extravaganza a "trail ride"
really doesn't properly describe the event. The event began at a
catering establishment with a ballroom located within the city of
Hazleton. This was the spot where participants arrived in the morning.
I had arrived before any of the participants, and the All American
Team was just setting up. "Jeep" flags were hung at the
entrance of the parking lot to help people coming in find their
way. Outside the entrance to the ballroom building was a large orange
full-size Jeep pickup, restored and built-up by All American. I
found my way past the pickup, and enterred the lobby, which contained
a member of the All American Team accompanied by a roster, a sign-up
sheet, and door prize tickets. It was at this point where the story
of All American's Trail Ride unfolded.
I had driven
two hours that morning from Lancaster County to attend All-American's
event, requiring me to get up at 4:30 AM in order to arrive comfortably
around 7:00 AM. Making my way through the lobby and into the dimly
lit ballroom, I inspected a table full of door prizes. The variety
of items was impressive, ranging from Jeep parts to apparel. The
smell of breakfast wafted through the spacious ballroom, as my empty
stomach churned with desire for sustinance. It was still early,
and there was plenty of time to mill around while folks were rolling
in and breakfast was being prepared. I wandered back out into the
parking lot as more participants were coming in. Despite it being
a little cold outside, checking out the new arrivals' vehicles is
one of the most interesting things to do while waiting for a wheelin'
event to begin.
Jeeps of all
shapes and sizes arrived. TJs seemed to be the rig-of-choice, but
Cherokees, Commanches, ZJs, full-sizes, and even a couple of WJs
were present. The whole event was hardly geared toward modified
vehicles, but many showed up anyway, just for the variety of terrain
that the day had to offer.
Most of the
arrivals went right into the ballroom area where they signed up
and took a seat for breakfast. Not many formalities took place once
everyone was crowded together in the ballroom. People just socialized,
discussing their vehicles, and where they were from. Folks from
distant states showed up because they had heard about the event
on the Internet. Many locals native to Tamaqua and Hazleton were
also present. You did not have to be an All American Jeep customer
to participate, although the majority of the attendees were.
buffet style breakfast was served, and my hunger was remedied as I
dove into the scrambled eggs, orange juice, and bacon. You can never
have too much meat before four-wheeling. Everyone seemed to finish
breakfast simultaneously, and like grazing cattle, the crowd shifted
to the parking-lot as if driven by some unseen force. I believe that
"unseen force" was the desire for four-wheeling adventure.
John Sanzi Sr., owner of All American Jeep, addressed the crowd on
the steps in front of the ballroom pertaining to the day's events.
With a "Thanks, and have a good time..." from John, everyone
went to their vehicles and lined up in their predetermined groups.
throng of vehicles exited the parking-lot of the catering facility
as a convoy embarked through Hazleton on its way to the trail-head.
Fifteen minutes later, after being part of an unscheduled parade through
town, we found ourselves at the start of the trail.