ZookiMelt 2004with Rae Champoux
Ah, sweet summer is here. For many of us that means more time outside enjoying family and friends as well as the weather. That is definitely what it means to the Champoux family, well that and ZookiMelt! This year we had some major changes in our melt plans. Our son, Jakoby, was coming with us, and so were my In-laws, Jim and Darlene Champoux. After changing plans like twenty times, we all ended up coming into town on Wednesday afternoon, us towing the Tracker on a trailer with our Dakota and the in-laws borrowed my brother in-laws Jeep Grand Cherokee and his camping trailer which we all stayed in. Within a few hours of arriving, the campground started to fill in with people.
Larry and Terrina Harris were there already with their granddaughter Kayla. Then Murph and Brandi showed up, along with Ray from Canada EH!, Billybob, Bill Johnston and his whole family and a bunch of other is I tried to name out right now I am sure that Id brain fade and forget someone. J We all finished setting up camp and by early evening, we were chompin away on chicken fajitas prepared by my husband Mitch, some wonderful frijoles provided by the Johnstons and the most yummy fruit salsa that Brandi had made with homemade chips!! We filled our bellies and caught up with old friends we only see every now and again. It is sooo nice to see everyone. That is one of the things we miss most during the year is the relationships that we have with all of these great people from around the US and Canada. A bit of time around the campfire and we called it a day.Thursday, we all awoke to the sweet smell of sausage cooking on the grill. Billybob gets up early and starts breakfast before most of us even think about moving out of the sleeping bag. Biscuits and gravy with sausage and eggs were for breakfast. You never eat as good as you do when Billybob is cooking for you. That is a statement you can take to the bank too. Freshly fed, showered and ready to wheel we all head out for the Badlands for double check the trails making sure they were marked well and do some wheeling together, for the most part this is something we dont get to do, since we are running registration and making sure that things are going smoothly, we end up with limited time to hit trails as a group. He hit the blue/yellow trail with the Johnstons, the Harris, and a few others. We all in all had a great time except for Larry, who after the weekend finally figured out that you should always listen to your wife. Larry took the wrong line in the trail and went up on a log, and right down on top of it smackin his unprotected t-case. There he was with his mad wife and scared grand daughter in the truck waiting for him to get the truck off the log. It wasnt long before we got them off the log and out of the trail. A parking lot fix had Larrys truck up and running again in no time at all. We spent a bit more time on the trails before packing it in and heading back to the campground to clean up and eat. Thursday nights dinner was cooked by Billybob fried chicken, with tater cakes and green beans. I dont know who ever said that you dont eat good when your camping, because we eat like royalty. After dinner we opened up a registration table at the campground to help cut down on the long lines at the Badlands. It was very cool seeing some of the regulars as they got in line. Terrina, my mother in law, Darlene, and I had our hands full for a while there, but we got a ton of people registered! I spent the rest of the evening being hauled around in Murphs Zuk and a half (his Zuk and the half of a truck he made into a trailer). Bill Johnston drove with Murphs girlfriend Brandi riding shotgun, Lisa Ellsworth was standing in the back of the Zuk selling raffle tickets for the 'Buy In' Raffle and Murph, Ray and I were in the trailer getting people signed up for the night run. Talk about a fun time! Riding from campsite to campsite talking to folks, checkin out the trucks and getting free beers (except for the driver...). One of the reasons we all enjoy the Melt is the friendly people. After some more campfire time, we called it a night. Friday morning we awoke again to the smell of breakfast by gas grill. We thru some food down the pipe and headed into Attica bound for the Badlands. My father in law and my son were our very special passengers for the weekend. It was hard to gauge whos smile was bigger, my sons or my father in laws! They both love wheeling! I spent some time at the registration tent helping out and then it was time for the trails! I took a turn riding shotgun with Ranger Rick Hall, what a privilege! He is one of the most interesting people there! If you have never met the man, I highly suggest that you seek him out when you come next year. We hit the trails taking turns driving my Tracker thru the trails. The only body damage of the weekend was caused by my father in law Jim, a newbie of sorts, he has always been into wheeling, but never really got out and done it behind the wheel, let alone behind the wheel of my Tracker, he dragged a downed tree against my passengers door, leaving some nice natures pin striping. We had a blast, my son slept almost thru every trail, there is just something about being outside in the heat with the top back and the low rumble of the 1.6 and the Swampers that is like Nyquil to the boy. Heading out of Attica bound for the campground, things turned for the worse as a storm began to rumble over head. We got dumped on back at camp! There were sheets of water falling, I remember someone saying the next day that we had gotten three inches of rain in a few hours. What a mess that was to try to cook and serve over 200 people the iZook sponsored dinner! But somehow, we managed and I think that a lot of people were grateful for some warm food to eat. A handful of folks headed to near by towns due to water logged tents and soaking wet gear. The rain stopped by evening and we sat up around the fire for a few more hours listening to Johnny Cash from RayEhs truck and swigging on some interesting campfire drinks. Saturday, was the BIG day, it is the one day that EVERYONE is there. Some people cant make it during the week like we do, but come Saturday, everyone is there. We ate breakfast and drove into the Badlands. We hit the trails hard on Saturday. Mitch and I took turns driving and we let his dad take the wheel too. We had a great time. A whole weekend of wheeling my Tracker and no major damage. That is a beautiful thing! Some folks werent so lucky Tim Tackett flooded his truck going thru the left tube in the river with my father in law riding shotgun. Gotta love Tims spirit! He went for it and drowned the truck! Poor Scott Yach, forgot how to ramp his truck and flopped it over on the RTI ramp in the parking lot. There were also some major breakages being repaired as always. When we got back to camp the Izook Family had smoked BBQd ribs, courtesy of my father in law Jim and these wonderful potato and onion pockets that Murph and Brandi provided. Ahh, then it was raffle time. While the prize list wasnt as long as it had been in years past, we had a ton of great prizes to give away. There were a few parts I wouldnt have minded getting myself! After the raffle and awards were finished we ended up around the campfire again. Swappin stories with the Bedford boys. Talking about trucks and piccolos until the wee hours of the morning. I dont think I have ever laughed as hard as I did that night. There is a group of folks that I am very happy to say that I have gotten to know a lot better this year than in years past. Smitty and Adam, Brent and Heather, Grumpy, Jim and Mary Z., Geoff and Julie Carlson, Andy and Cristal were great! I know there were a ton more but I just could go on and on and on and this poor article would never get published. J This year was a special year for the Champoux family, it marked a lot of firsts for all of us. My sons first camping trip. The first time he was in the Tracker in the trails. It was also full of firsts for my father in law, Jim. It was hard to figure out if he was having as much fun as we were or if he was having more. I dont think I have ever seen him more in his element, talking with people hed only heard about for three years. He was making small talk with anyone and everyone around, I bet by the weekends end everyone knew my lovely in laws. You definitely couldnt ask for better ones! He has helped us out working on our projects, whether it be with ideas and insight or plain old brute strength he has always been there. It was only fitting that he got a chance to share in all the fun that wheelin at ZookiMelt is all about. I have said this before but I will say it again IF you didnt make it this year, you missed out! You need to mark it on your calendar for ZM 2005 and start wrenchin, cause we are and we will be there!!