Ah ZookiMelt, a spectacular event held the weekend after July 4th. Many of you that visit this website have invested time and energy to travel to west central Indiana to the famed Badlands Off-Road Park in Attica, Indiana. If youve been one of the attendees, you probably have fond memories of a hot summer sun, a hot, humid breeze, a hot sticky tent, a bottle of sun screen labeled liquid shirt and if not a sunburn that in a week will qualify you to join the carnival side show as alligator-boy. And lets not forget the dust! You, your tent, your sleeping bag, your truck all have a weight increase of 10% just from the layers and layers of dust.
Fast forward to February 17, 2007. The weatherman blessed us with a snow storm of well not quite epic proportions the Tuesday before. I had sent emails weeks earlier to bolster attendance and received the usual excuses my grandmother died, I have to take her to get a root canal and the dog ate the Sunday comics you know granny always enjoyed the Sunday comics.
A hearty crew showed up, TD Graham (ZookiMelt pioneer), his sister-in-law Jane, my daughter Jayma and yours truly. As soon as the staff at the Badlands stopped laughing and belaboring the fact they thought we were crazy for showing up to wheel with 17 of snow on the ground, we signed in and paid our money.
I find it easier to deal with severe elements like cold and snow if you have a battle cry. The one chosen for today was the mountain pass has been snowed in, but somebodys got to get the small pox serum to the village. Thats why they called us two guys, two girls, two Suzuki Samurais.
TD leads the way, twenty yards out of the parking lot, he grinds to a halt. I drive past another 10 yards, same result. A casual glance at each other with the holy crap we traveled all this way and spent all this money, just to drive around the parking lot! expression on our faces. I managed to head down the hill, made a loop through the lower parking lot (noting that the snack bar was NOT open) and then headed back up the hill. Once you were in existing wheel tracks the going wasnt too bad. Momentum was the name of the game. TD wasnt going to follow me down hill until he knew we could make it back up. We worked our way back to the parking lot and tried the area where the 100cc motorcycles usually ride. Stuck again, tow strap recovery, then off to the sand bowl north of the office. I figured wed try and go uphill first and then we might be somewhat assured with gravity, we could make it back down. Got stuck! Tow strap once more and at this point were thinking the chances of a small pox epidemic are pretty good.
Then our luck changed. Four trucks, members of the Purdue Off-Road club showed up in the parking lot. They had spent two hours busting a trail to the quarry. You could almost hear the villagers cheer in the distance.
Off we went, joined by the guys from Purdue in a jeep and another Sami. The existing tracks made it possible to maintain a little bit of speed. You might get bogged down and have to back up and get a little momentum to get through a drift. We ended up forging a trail to the tubes and messed around on the plateau southwest of the tubes and finally to the quarry.
Again, it was time to marvel at the capabilities of our little friend, the Suzuki Samurai. Just like when you drove your stocker for the first time off road (with bald street tires) or when you take a first-time buddy along and they just cant believe you can climb a wall with this thing. A quick calculation shows with 235/75 tires at 29 tall, the front axle becomes a snow plow. Oh for a set of 35-9.50s. With spending a whole day in that much snow, you really began to develop a set of skills. Seemingly, you would get stuck and figure no way out, but just keep working it and the crazy little truck would go.
I know next summer Ill remember how beautiful the landscape at the Badlands looks blanketed in snow. Where the delightful sound of a Sami engine at 4000 rpm wasnt interrupted by 2 stroke quads, and best of all .no dust.