Day weekend has historically been one of the busiest four wheeling
weekends of the year. With events going on in just about every region
of the US, there's never a shortage of choices when trying to plan
for a 'wheeling trip. This year for us, we had just gotten the Project
TJ out of a long stay in the shop. We weren't quite sure how it
would do on the trails, let alone on the road, so we had made no
plans for a formal run.
up for the G Trail
On the Thursday
prior to the weekend, my phone rang and it was Skyjacker
Suspensions inviting us to their Skyjacker Rocks Tennessee
event up in Chattanooga. Chattanooga is less than a two and a
half hour ride from home for us, which is very doable for a weekend
run. We decided that if the Jeep was ready to go, so were we.
Our good friends at The Off Road Connection in Birmingham, AL
were good enough to put a few finishing touches on our Jeep and
even loan us their trailer for the weekend. We just couldn't say
no to the invitation. There were simply no good excuses left for
us not to go to the event and have some fun!
We headed up Friday night and on Saturday morning
met the Skyjacker gang early at our motel. They had brought several
of their trucks and planned on running both their white with stripes
TJ as well as their red TJ, which was fresh back home from the
event was hosted by Sports
in the Rough and all activities centered around the Raccoon
Mountain Campground, which sits at the base of - you guessed
it - Raccoon Mountain. The campground is at the Lookout Mountain
exit of I-59 and Lookout Mountain is just a short way down the
road. If you're ever in the area, make sure you set aside a few
to go check
out Lookout Mountain. The view is breathtaking and the ride up
the mountain is quite enoyable, as well.
giving me spot on the rocks. |
about all the way over.
is a full-service campground and many event participants brought
RV's, campers, or simple tents. The mess tent was set up in a
field where all-you-can-eat meals were served throughout the weekend
by the Sports in the Rough staff. Skyjacker also had a couple
of their trucks on display and were on-hand before and after the
trails to answer questions and chat with the curious.
was, of course, focused on trail rides, however, there was also
plenty to do at the camp each night after dinner. Activities included
a mud pit, DJ on Saturday night, and a raffle on Sunday. The mud
pit was a great place to find some rowdy, muddy fun until 10pm
on Saturday and Sunday nights.
75 vehicles registered for the event, the Sports in the Rough
staff, with the help of local four-wheelers organized the participants
into trails ranging from easy to very difficult ratings. On both
days, our group was the "G" group, which was the most
difficult group. Large tires, dual lockers, and a lot of ambition
were the main requirements. Our leader both days was Steve Roach
in his Toyota 4 Runner. Steve is no stranger to this system of
trails and was eager to show us all of his favorite spots.
go through private land and then crisscross the power lines that
cover the mountains in several directions. Similar to Tellico,
the way in to the good stuff is over a long, windy, primitive
road, which can mostly be done in two wheel drive. Using our two
wheel drive low in the Atlas II was a great help here, allowing
us to go at a comfortable pace without having to be in 4WD.
ride in takes about a half an hour and is a beautiful, scenic
route, despite being littered with an unusually large amount of
trash. The area is used by both four-wheelers and ATV riders and
it would do the local sportsmen well to host a massive clean up
weekend in the area.
As I mentioned
earlier, the trails here crisscross cross the power lines and
the obstacles are pretty much either offshoots from the main trails
or are the power line cuts themselves. For the most part, the
main trails can be traversed by most any 4x4 and the really tough
stuff can be bypassed. Even many of the power line cuts have several
routes up the hills.
showing me where the line was. |
Our first stop each day was one of the offshoots
from the main trail. The main route was a series of hard rock
shelves and enormous boulders. Steve took his Toyota up an interesting
line and it was up to me to figure out whether a short wheelbase
Jeep could take a similar route. This was pretty much the maiden
voyage for our Project TJ, so we were eager to see how the new
Skyjacker 6" Rock Ready suspension would flex going over
As I approached
the obstacle, Tony Berlingieri from Skyjacker spotted me. The
TJ twisted like crazy as we tried to get up to the top. But even
with the massive amounts of flex the suspension was allowing,
we still could not get our 35" Goodyears over the top. We
tried several lines, with the final one finding me just a degree
or two away from rolling the Jeep over. I decided to back down
and take the bypass, which was, itself, very off-camber and a
long way down if you didn't make it. Once I got to the top, the
Skyjacker gang made me look silly, taking their massive rigs right
up and over the top, proving that sometimes all you need is just
a few more inches of rubber.
spot, the trails ambled on and we wound around the area for a
while. We headed down a very steep, wooded hill and came out at
the bottom of a hill the locals call "Inner Tube." The
hill had two trails going up side by side. As we looked at the
hill Steve told us that he had never seen or heard of a Jeep making
it to the top. That having been said, Lonnie McCurrie, Jr. from
Skyjacker decided that he'd give it a go in the white TJ. Before
we could even think about a good spot for photos, JR was on his
way up with Technical Support & Customer Service Rep., Skip
Tuminello, in the passenger seat.
the hill with ease for the first 100 feet or so until he hit the
first step about half-way up. Giving the Jeep some gas, he made
it over and disappeared around a curve toward the top. Thinking
he had made it, I began slowly making my way back down to the bottom.
Suddenly, we heard the motor surge and then the unmistakeable sound
of a Jeep slowly rolling over. Instinctually, we began running back
up the hill. I couldn't see the Jeep but suddenly, I heard it begin
rolling again...and again. Once the Jeep was rolling again, I was
stunned for a moment until I realized that it was coming over through
the trees and brush separating the two trails and was headed right
for me. Hearing a 5,000 pound Jeep coming your way will get anyone
running, and run I did...fast! I still couldn't see the Jeep but
I could hear it as I ran full-speed down the hill.
it all h had heading up Inner Tube. |
crossing over, JR rolled several times down the hill.
Photo byKen Phillips
Once the Jeep
stopped rolling several times, we all ran back up the hill
as fast as we could to see if JR and Skip were ok. Amazingly,
they were fine. Skip had bonked his head on the roll cage and
had a goose egg starting, but other than that, both of them were
in one piece, albeit quite shook up. It seemed like a miracle
that they somehow rolled into the brush instead of back down the
hill. The brush managed to slow them down and finally brought
them to a stop.
by Ken Phillips |
by Ken Phillips
Once we got
the guys safely out of the Jeep, we all drove our rigs to the
top and began extracting the Jeep. With two winch lines running
down to the Jeep, we got it rolled back onto his wheels and secured.
JR hopped in and got the Jeep started! Through billowing smoke,
we pulled the Jeep to the top to assess the damage. After barrel-rolling
down a power line, you'd expect a Jeep to be pretty contorted
and mangled. However, other than the grill, hood, doors, and top,
the Jeep didn't look too horrible. The Mountain Off Road Enterprises
cage managed to keep the drivers safe and it looked as if the
structure stayed in tact. After a quick check of the Jeep's vital
organs, the Jeep fired right up again and JR drove it for the
rest of the day without any major problems. Amazing!
JR's TJ back onto its feet. |
didn't look too bad having rolled so many times.
SKYJACKER ROCKS TENNESSEE ACTION --->>>