Onamia Mud Runs, Memorial Day Weekend, 2001

If you have read up on our short year in 2000, or have checked the front page of the web site any time during the last year or so, then you know that the Blazer frame that Highlander was built with went soft last Memorial weekend.  If you don't know about it yet, check it out here!

This spring, a new, MUCH stronger frame was built for the Highlander in a six week weld-a-thon.  You can check out the new frame's construction, and some of the design points at the 2001 Improvements page.  The culmination of all of this work, of course, was the Memorial Weekend mud runs.

The name of the Memorial weekend runs that we attended this year was "Muddi-Gras", and boy, did it ever live up to it's name!  I can honestly say that this event was the muddiest ANYTHING that I have ever attended.  The week prior to the event dumped probably more than 5 inches of rain on much of central Minnesota, and left almost everything soaked.  On top of a larger than usual winter snowfall total, and a generally wet spring, that was enough to make life a soggy mess.

On top of the rain that we had gotten the entire week before, we were racing the rain the whole way up to the event.  We didn't quite win though...  the rain overtook us 15-20 minutes before making it to the event.  The next sign of things to come was revealed when we pulled into the event.  The event organizers requested that we off-load the trucks before driving into the campground, so that when we pulled the trailers in, we were less likely to sink.  No problem...  We unloaded and picked our campsite.  It wasn't quite where we wanted, but then again, where we had originally wanted was under water!  Once we finished setting up camp, we looked up and realized that not only were the new arrivals unloading their trucks before pulling into the campground, but they were also hooking up, and pulling their tow rigs into the campground with their mud trucks!  By the end of Friday night, some of the heavy rigs were being pulled by TWO trucks!

The pits were open on Friday when we arrived, though there weren't any takers at the time.  Before the end of the day though, we had to get out and play...

Here is the very first run on the new frame.  Not that anything was expected to go wrong, but Murphy has a habit of dropping in unannounced.  Luckily though, not for me today.

Here is the very first run on the new frame.  Not that anything was expected to go wrong, but Murphy has a habit of dropping in unannounced.

Luckily though, I didn't see him on Friday.

Of course, I couldn't resist the first time getting stuck with the new frame either :)

All of the steam will take a little getting used to.  With the coolant running through the frame like it is now, the whole truck steams when it gets wet.  Though that isn't entirely bad...  The more steam, the more heat removed from the coolant, and the less the chance of overheating!

Jeff's new truck is a little tractor tire'd Ford coupe.  Considering the size, it is probably the lightest tractor tire rig I have ever seen.  That fact makes it rather quick though.

Now if only that long pedal stayed down long enough....

One of the benefits to being one of the first ones out in the pit is that you get to do a little landscaping.  This tree must have needed some trimming, and I'm not going to complain about using a rig with 6' deep lug tractor tires to do it with!
On the trip back in I managed to get a little too wet.  One of the things I didn't get enough time to finish before Memorial was the splash shields for the front inner fenders.  When I hit the water hole, I washed the motor a bit and stalled out.  The smoke rings out of the pass. side header always makes a guy a little nervous, but it wasn't anything a little drying time wouldn't take care of.

Nick rolled out American Made on Friday too.  I think he even managed to keep from getting stuck before we wrapped up our truck's warm-up exercises before the big day Saturday.

Unfortunately for me though, Highlander apparently hadn't stretched out well enough, because Saturday saw me spit out two rear driveshafts, and I exploded the front differential, which blew a 1" x 2" hole in the top of the case when it went!

For those of you keeping score, that's more drivetrain damage than I had managed in the previous four years...  combined!

Luckily, I bring along almost everything I could ever need - including the old open front diff. that we replaced back in 1998.  With a few hours of work, and a borrowed rear driveshaft yoke, I was back to 4 wheel drive, but stayed on the sidelines until Monday.

Nick was Man of the Day this weekend though.  American Made was running good, and I think he had the time of his life in what was wreaking havoc with many of the rest of us.

Doesn't this just look fun???

Paul even took advantage of the sloppy conditions, and gave the Jeep a bit of a mud bath.  It's a good thing he got out to play on Saturday, because it only kept getting deeper and deeper as the weekend went on.

Things got so sloppy on Saturday, that even the big, tracked log skidder got buried.  We were all amazed that the little skidder actually was able to get him out, though it certainly wasn't easy.  If you look at the pic on the right, you can see that the smaller skidder is pulling it's front wheels off of the ground, it's pulling so hard.
Here's a few shots from around camp that show just how muddy things were.  Hell, the holes in the campground were bigger than the ones in the mud pit.  All of the following shots are from the campground, not the mud pit.
We were all having trouble & fun trying to get around, but this guy had no trouble at all.  I'd say he may have been a little nuts though, as he got close enough that we had to duck to avoid finding ultralight tread marks on our foreheads.
Monday brought the really interesting part...  The Great Escape

As it turned out, the big skidder, which had been pulling people around, got greedy, and decided he wasn't getting paid enough.  He also tried this on Sunday, when he doubled his rate on the event organizers, which they agreed to, as he was running a lot more than they had anticipated.  On Monday, when he wanted 5x his original fee, they told him to piss off.  And he deserved it too!

The original route that we had taken to get to our camping spot was torn up very badly, to the point that there were some areas that the mud trucks would have a bit of a challenge making it through.  We thought that the ditch looked a little better, so that's where we headed.  The only thing that we knew wouldn't be able to be pulled up it was the camper.

And away we go...

We started out pulling with one truck, but wound up for the 2wd pull vehicles pulling with two trucks.  Even at that, I managed to spit out another rear driveshaft during the process when I got a little too bouncy going up the slope.

Now the only thing left was the camper.  We pulled the camper up with the 2wd Dodge diesel, which pulls well, but doesn't have any good hook points in the front, which is why we pulled it out earlier on it's own.  We couldn't chance trying to pull the 2wd truck AND camper without anything good to hook to.  Instead, we hooked the camper to the U-Haul, which was a challenge as well, as it wasn't able to maneuver on it's own, and had to be pulled and winched around until they were connected.  Finally though, we were ready to set sail, and got the pulling crew together and connected.  We wound up pulling out with both Nick's and my truck, as well as the behemoth of a Jeep that Jim brought to the event.  The Jeep was huge - with 6' deep lug tractor tires & a big block.  If you combine all four vehicles - 3 pullers, and the old U-Haul, we must have had well over 1500 HP and 16 driven tires clamoring to get out of the campground.

The pull went as smooth as we had all hoped, but I got a really good sense of the forces involved, when I looked back as the front of the U-Haul was crossing the small ditch just before getting onto the road.  The front left tire actually came off of the ground as it went OVER the ditch.  We normally load the front axle with probably around 4000 lb.  I was quite surprised.

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