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My 1st Melt

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On The Trail!

A Beginner's Look at Zookimelt with Jim Zalipski Editors Note: We at iZook.com have many things to thank Jim and his wife for. One for sure is him taking the time to come to the the ZookiMelt in his stone stock truck and even more for taking the time to write about his experience. We also would like to thank him for his using his cooking talents at the iZook dinner Saturday evening. Thanks Jim and Mary, can not wait to wheel with you again next year! Rae. My wife and I had never been off-roading before, so we had no idea what to expect. We had been to car shows before, where we saw people unloading their trailed treasures, with a spotter on each side, backing inch by inch down the ramps. We were setting up our tent at Summers when a pickup rolled in pulling a trailer with a Samurai on it. The driver took the tie down straps off the Samurai, got in, started it up, threw it into reverse, and drove it straight off the back of the trailer. It was our first clue that there was a totally different mindset at work here. We checked in at The Badlands, and found our way to the meeting point for the easy trail, after all, we were driving a box-stock Tracker with street tires. There we met a character with snail trails shaved into his pink hair and a really gnarly looking set of teeth who introduced himself as our trail guide. "Now, this inspires confidence..." I thought to myself. When the fake teeth came out, "Billy-Bob" became Lewis, who started us out by showing us the finer points of airing down the tires, and taking us back to the quarry to give us a feel for off-camber driving through the ditches. While we were in the quarry, we stopped to watch someone drive a Samurai down what looked to us to be a ridiculously steep incline that had an eight foot boulder dangerously close to the track at the bottom. Lewis and Murph, the tailgunner, convinced me that I should try it, and the next thing I knew we were sitting at the top looking out over the hood at air. Just as I was ready to release the clutch, Murph said, "Oh! One very important thing!" "What?" "Try not to hit the rock!" I think I had already figured that one out... After mastering the "driving off the cliff trick," we hit the trail, the first part of which was a leisurely drive up the creek. It sounded like the Tracker was taking a real beating from the rocks we were driving over, but I was soon distracted from that concern when I noticed that the water was getting rather deep. I'm thinking, "Ooh, guys, we're at stock height here..." But, I guess the water just seemed deep, because we drove right through, and clambered out of the creek to face the hill climb. Lewis explained that 4WD-Lo should take us right up, but we had to go off-camber to avoid the rock, because if you hit the rock it would bounce you into the tree... OK... Being right behind the trail guide may or may not be a good thing. It doesn't give you much of a point of reference when he is driving a trail prepared Samurai, and you're driving something totally different. But I found that his advice was sound, and although my wife did yell "tree!!!" and pulled her arm inside the window just as I cut left to narrowly avoid it, we made it to the top on the first try. After the first few harrowing experiences, I figured out that it really wasn't going to hurt the truck any, and I started to settle down and really enjoy it. My favorites were the double mud pits and the hills. We learned a lot that weekend, and had a lot of fun playing in the mud and the sand and the gravel. I was surprised what a tough and capable truck the Tracker was, even in stock trim. The only damage we picked up was a cracked plastic rocker panel cover, and a few "pinstripes." It took a full day with a high pressure washer to get the little weekend warrior back into driving to work mode, but life will never be the same. Now, I look at an embankment or a ditch and think, "I can drive through that," and even after a few weeks, there is still some Indiana on my driveway. So, in spite of my wife's broken toe (Hint for next time: Don't wear sandals on the trail...), we both had a really good time. We plan on coming back next year, maybe still stock, but then again... Maybe a little lift, and some bigger tires. Ummmm... What I really need are a pair of those rock rails...  

08/11/10 15:30

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