Spotter Fodder

By Jake Koetting

7:00 AM day two came very early but we were welcomed with what promised to be a nicer day. I wouldn't have to don my "little man" jacket again after all. We would be running course A today and from the gossip of the night before, we knew that it would be easier than course B, but the time limits were going to be harder to meet.

Team AGRTo begin our turn on the first obstacle, I crossed the start line and ran up to the ledge and began throwing rocks into a hole that had been carved out by the previous competitors' right rear tires. Then, I set up a cedar tree trunk for the right front tire to climb up the ledge. Matt pulled up, but when the Chicken's right front tire came into contact with the cedar, it just pushed the trail aid out of the way. Instead of taking backup points to reposition the trunk, he pulled up against the ledge. The left front tire was already on top, and when the right side hit, it grabbed. Matt gave it some gas, and the front end was up. I was amazed. He gassed it again and up came the rear. The crowd cheered. With an adrenaline rush, I ran down the trail to the hairpin left turn that required a back up. We wanted to try something different. Matt exited the course, and attempted a technique that he had practiced the day before. He used a line lock on his rear brakes to lock the rear tires, moved the transfer case shifter for the rear axle to neutral, and tried to spin around. This worked great in other areas, mostly on rock surfaces and in our active imaginations. This was reality though, and this wasn't rock. It didn't work here. He had to take the backup points to finish the turn. But, that amounted to only two points on the entire run. We were off to a good start again.

On to the second obstacle. We had been warned the previous evening to steer clear of any of the trees that were marked with orange ribbon or there would be a ten-point penalty. The Jeep sailed up the first part, requiring only two points for a back up. We then continued down, made a turn and went back up different part of the obstacle. It didn't look too bad but at the top you had to turn left and go between two flagged trees. Matt thought he could make it through without hitting either tree and gassed it. His right front grazed that tree (kaCHING). And when the rear came up, the left corner barely touched a couple of needles on the tree on that side (kaCHING kaCHING). Twenty points. Oh well.

Obstacle Three posed no real problem for us and we completed it with zero points. Four came and went without incurring any points. Then came Five. Again, we pulled a zero. We were on a 4x4 high. However, the Jeep was experiencing some technical difficulty.

Team AGRAs Matt drove through the end gates of number Five someone pointed out that we were leaking transmission fluid. Upon crawling under the Jeep, we quickly surmised that the Chicken had sustained a potentially competition ending wound. The bolts that were holding the transfer case adapter to the transmission had backed out about an inch. I pulled one out and found the aluminum threads from the transmission housing on the bolt -not a good sign. We decided that if we could find some longer bolts, we might be able to finish the event. A frantic search amongst our fellow competitors for hardware ensued. Matt was able to come up with one bolt that was a little longer than the stripped ones. Shortly after, the official gleefully informed us we had to go now or take the 50 no-show points. I frantically put the borrowed bolt in and carefully tightened it. We were on our way, with our fingers crossed.

The sixth obtacle looked to be a cinch if we could keep the Jeep running. We started out down the hill, doing OK. We came upon a little point that we had to go up and over. Matt navigated that, and then the Chicken decided enough was enough. We tried adding fluid into the Jeep's thirsty transmission to no avail. We were done. As it turns out, even with all that went wrong, we ended up finishing in the top 30.

Later, after the disappointment had worn off and the excitement of being around fellow 4x4 enthusiasts returned, we attended the banquet. I was hoping there would at least be an award for the worst dressed spotter but was soon just as content to recount our adventures with the other competitors. Tall tales of the events of the past two days grew taller with each telling. It seemed everyone had a bigger and better story to add. After enjoying the festivities, the Chicken crew headed back to the hotel for a short night's sleep. We woke early the next morning and made the 800-mile trek back to Texas.

All of the officials and other people working the event were very courteous and helpful. I met many great people, competitors and otherwise. I look forward to seeing them again next year in February. My hat is off to the spotters. These are some very hard working, dedicated people that have a knack for the proper placement of vehicles in hard-core four-wheeling situations. And, they don't seem to mind sacrificing themselves for a good score and a good time.


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