ZookiMelt 2003with Bill Johnston Photos by Bill Johnston, Steve Schilling and Mike Kirn The ZookiMelt is unquestionably one of the largest (if not THE largest) Suzuki vehicle oriented event in all of North America. It is a time when Suzuki enthusiasts get together from all over the continent to share the trails - and their experiences with each other. It is also a chance to see what kind of inventive changes folks have made to their rigs. But there are lots of things that go on before an event like this can happen, so let's start at a point -before- the gates opened on Friday morning.The staff started to gather at Steam Corner Campground on Tuesday and Wednesday in preparation for the event. This was home sweet home for the better part of a week. But, believe it or not, they weren't the first to arrive! The zooksters had already started to gather. On Wednesday afternoon the weather started getting ugly. There were tornado warnings coming closer and storms swirling all around us. The rain swelled the creeks and streams, causing the river to rise above the bridges in some areas. To top it all off, the area north of us was declared a disaster area because of the flooding. We kept our fingers crossed and watched for new arrivals. There were microbursts that relocated a few awnings and a few tables, but no one was hurt, thanks goodness. Here you can see Tim Tackett of North Coast Off Road retrieving his bent and broken awning from clear across the campground.
On Thursday the skies started to clear and it looked like it was going to be a good weekend for wheeling. The rain made a few of the trails a bit more challenging and the creeks a bit deeper to ford. Things were looking up.The weather made some changes to the trails, so there had to be some trail trimming to make things passable again. Thursday became a cleanup day. But with the help of the volunteers, everything was ready for the event the next morning. We knew things were getting back to normal when the 'UPS Guy' showed up to bring Tim a delivery. Yes, they will deliver to a campground!
The Beanco Boys had a large spread of parts and equipment. There were many others that brought parts to sell or trade, but none had as large a selection.Once the participants hit the campground, the first order of business (after setting up camp) was to prepare the rigs for the trails. Sometimes it is easier to transport the vehicles with smaller tires and just change them when you get there. 'Trail' Walker put on his new treads at the campground and it made a huge difference in the way the rig looked and performed.