10th Annual Wheelin’ for Hope

Wheelin’ for Hope is a special event for Cherie and I every year. It’s one of the most difficult wheeling events we attend annually but also one of the most rewarding. This year was the 10th year of the event and I’m guessing once all the dollars are tallied that the total donated over the last decade will approach $150k donated to cancer research! The event is hosted by the Woodland Wildfires for the Relay for Life of Nelson County at the Oak Ridge Estate. The event is one of only two events annually where you can gain access to over 40 miles of off road trails on the Oak Ridge Estate including everything from steep and muddy hill climbs, big rocks, and water crossings 2+ feet deep at times. We had a small group that coordinated to attend together that included:

  • Andrew and Cherie Taylor – Silver Nissan Xterra
  • Shannon Emery – Green Lexus LX450
  • ‘J’ Stoll and Margery – Jurassic Park Jeep Wrangler YJ

J’s vehicle deserves some extra recognition. It looks straight out of the movie and he even cast a large mosquito looking bug into a amber colored resin globe which he installed as his shifter knob. The execution was spectacular! It’s hard to tell this is a vehicle that has been wheeling for years (it’s a 1994 model after all!) and was painted in a makeshift paint booth at home under a deck. We weren’t the only ones that thought it looked great. J was a celebrity of sorts as people stopped by to talk to him about the Jurassic Park Jeep all weekend!

While our small group consisted of just 3 vehicles we inevitably knew other attendees. This year AK Whatley of Chaos Off Road attended with his new Optimus Prime inspired tow rig hauling his sweet JKU. We also bumped into former CORE Member Paul Woscek who tackled the trails in his Ram Power Wagon!

The event got exciting before we even hit the trails. This year the camping location moved from our normal camping spot in a field a few miles away to camping within the horse race track at Oak Ridge Estates. While the track provided a great surface for driving and parking vehicles, RV’s, and trailers, we quickly realized that the large expanse had one major disadvantage compared to our old campsite. There was nothing to stop the wind. Friday a cold front blew through, causing Tornado Warnings at home, and the 25+ mile per hour gusts into the evening snapped 2 of our 3 main tent poles before we even went to bed! By midnight though it appeared to have quieted down. We ziptied the broken poles to reduce further damage and went to bed.

At 3am we were awakened by a series of additional 25+ mph wind gusts. J and Margery’s tent partially collapsed but they were able to re-assemble it without damage. J had to adjust the rainfly on the outside in the wind, but otherwise they got away unscathed. Cherie and I’s tent on the other hand collapsed on us shortly after 3am. Finding it impossible to sleep and especially loud we made the decision to move to the back of the Xterra for the remainder of the night. We collapsed the tent, put a cooler and unassembled popup on top of the tent, and camped in the Xterra. Shannon was the only one to get out unscathed, rocking and rolling in his popup RV.

Saturday, slightly groggy and not super well rested, we lined up in Group 1 behind our guide Drew from Off Camber Crawlers (OCC). It turned out OCC had a large presence at the event and was the majority of both Groups 1 and 2. The event is limited to 200 vehicles and all makes and models were represented. This year included at least 2 Xterra’s, 4 HMMWV’s, and I even spotted the Jeep Scrambler that Adams Clarke drove in the 2018 Ultimate Adventure (now for sale!).

We started the day off fairly low key. Crossing the main road we did a series of trails that I had never done before that were mostly rolling lazy paths through the woods. The day would slowly get more exciting with various trails including larger and larger obstacles. This years group was arguably less exciting than last years, which is just to say there way less liberal application of the skinny pedal.

Shannon had a spectacular recovery at the bottom of the hill with a quick shift into reverse that stopped what could have been a sideways rollover

Sometime before lunch on the first day I lost my radio antenna. Must have knocked it off on a low hanging branch, probably on the first trail of the day. That would be the only damage we received on day one. The other small excitement for our group specifically was when J got hung up in an especially rutted section of trail and Shannon snatch strapped him up through the obstacle. We ended the day tackling V-notch. I’m not sure if anyone in our group actually tackled the hardest obstacle (V-notch) at the top of the hill, but Shannon had a spectacular recovery at the bottom of the hill with a quick shift into reverse that stopped what could have been a sideways rollover as he attempted the obstacle at the bottom of the hill. I later saw video of AK tackling V-notch which was impressive!

We got back to camp at 4pm, right on schedule. Cherie and I decided we’d grab a quick bite to eat when dinner started at 5 and then head out to Walmart for a new tent. The rest of the group would enjoy dinner and the raffle and so we gave Shannon $20 to spend on tickets for us. The ticket sales are the main money maker for the Relay for Life team hosting this event, so it was important to support it even if we wouldn’t be attending.

A woman saw us airing up Saturday afternoon and asked if we were heading to town. Turned out her Jeep had been abandoned for the day two miles from camp, in the woods, with a bad crankshaft position sensor! The part she needed was at an Advanced Auto just half a mile from the Walmart we planned to get a tent at in nearby Lynchburg. After getting a quick bite to eat (thanks again Tiny’s Catering!) we headed off to Lynchburg. We bought the most wind resistant tent they had, which also only cost $35. Then we grabbed the crankshaft position sensor, topped off on fuel, and headed back to camp. We delivered the part and finished setting up our tent as the raffle ended and the sun set.

Sunday morning always sees a much lower turnout. I’m guessing about 30% don’t return for the 2nd day due to exhaustion, breakage, and sometimes the weather. But those that do have another day of hard trails ahead of them! Shannon and Paul were among the group that decided to head home after one day for various reasons.

I managed to smash my passenger mirror against a tree! Oops.

I kept better track of the trails we hit on day two. First we did the trail where J’s brake lines failed 2 years ago! This time it went much better. We started off tackling the Skinny Rock trail. Next was Z-ditch which I tried and conquered for the first time this year! Next was a deep creek crossing and a long trail toward Round Rock. The trail to Round Rock is long and windy through close trees for miles and miles. J would get hung up again on an especially rutted out section. This time we were the recovery vehicle and quickly snatched him past the offending obstacle. Shortly after I managed to smash my passenger mirror against a tree! Oops. We ended the day on a high note tackling CJ-5 hill. Cherie and I made it up without issue. J and Margery would eventually need winched up. It’s a difficult obstacle! But they probably looked the coolest tackling it in the Jurassic Park Jeep!

About half the group decided to call it a day after CJ-5 hill with us being among them. It was 1pm and we were ready to get packed up and head home. We thanked our guides and headed back to camp to pack up. The excitement didn’t end there though. The drive home can also be brutal. Two hours from camp we would pass Paul on the side of the road just moments after his wife showed up with the parts he needed to repair a seized pulley that occurred on the drive home. Another member of our group in Group 1 would post pictures Sunday night of his now totaled trail rig after getting in a wreck on the way home. We count ourselves fortunate to have come home only missing an antenna and mirror.

Thanks again to all those that make Wheelin’ for Hope possible. It’s a super memorable event each year and such a great way to support such an important cause. We can’t wait until next year!

Photo Album: 04/27/2019 Wheelin for Hope

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Trail Report by Andrew Taylor. Pictures provided by Andrew & Cherie Taylor. YouTube video provided by Andrew Taylor.

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