On May 14th-16th, 2004 my husband,
Rick and I competed in the 2nd Annual “PA on/off road rally.”
The idea of the rally is a mix of concepts of off-road driving and “The
Amazing Race”. Below is an
account of what we went through over the course of
Our Jeep - 1985 CJ7
All the competitors met up at where the starting line would be the next morning for a “meet and greet” and to receive the door prize “goody bags”, and pick for the starting order. The participants drove:
White CJ7, Isuzu Rodeo, Ford Bronco, Ford Ranger, Dodge Ram charger, Geo Tracker, Jeep Cherokee, Toyota truck, ourselves (CJ7) and a Hummer H1 that was participating in the event, but was not in the running for the standings, as it was the sponsors vehicle. We were picked to be #8.
We were instructed that night of some basic rules and were
told that there were two additional tasks not included in the clues we would be
given. These were that for day #1
– we had to take a picture (we were instructed to bring our own polariod
camera & film) of a “in transit” Amish horse and buggie. The second task would be that before the end of the race, we
would have to provide a copy of our drivers licenses, registration &
In our goody bags, we received some Maxxis tire
water bottles and a mini-tool kit along with some stickers.
Most of the competitors were staying at the Hampton Inn, and we headed up
there - a few of us went and had a couple of beers - and then got some shut-eye.
We had been instructed the night before to be at the starting line at 7:00 AM – and we had a drivers meeting shortly thereafter. They sent us on our way in 1 minute intervals, and the first clue lead us to a sports complex where there was a climbing wall. They had two lines setup, so you and your team-mate could climb the wall simultaneously. We were required to climb up.. touch the top and be tethered back down. I watched as one other competitor slipped off the wall (and was held there by the tether line), he got right back to it though and made it up the wall. One side of the wall was straight up and down and the other had a slight outcropping which made it tricky. I told Rick that he had to take the tricky side, and when it was our turn, we both made short work of the task and clawed our way up. We got our clue when we got down and headed back for the Jeep.
From the wall, we headed along the prescribed route to a
canoe outfitter. Our time was
checked in, and we waited for all the teams to arrive and the outfitter to be
prepared. Once everything was set,
we were instructed that we had to row our canoes about ½ mile upstream to a
certain point, turn around and return. We
then left in the intervals which we had arrived at the outfitters.
The first few teams got off without a hitch.
One team had no canoe experience and had quite a trip up the river,
another team had a tough time getting into the canoe and ended up taking a bath
there. Our trip up the river was
rather uneventful, but very tedious. We
both had never canoed upstream, and it was basically 40 minutes of working our
arms to the limit to stay caught up with the pack, at one point in time, we
became beached in some shallow water and I hopped out to get us unstuck.. making
for some very wet shoes for the rest of the day.
We made it back in decent time, though and headed out.
The next clue directed us along some roads and instructed
us to take a picture of the “Longwood Gardens” gate. Once we did that we headed on out and followed the specified
route on the sheet of paper to a hot-dog restaurant where we were instructed to
eat one of their famous hot-dogs (loaded with sauerkraut) and
find and take a picture of a plaque and toy train that were within the
restaurant, but in another room.
After downing the dogs and getting the picture, we were
handed another clue and headed out. This
clue took us in the direction of Amish country.
At this point everyone was still relatively bunched together.
As we headed down the road, we knew to keep an eye out for a horse &
buggy. Our clue to the next spot
also included taking a picture of a “clock tower” along the way. Rick & I got to a certain point and realized we might
have passed up the clock tower, so we turned around, and about a ½ mile back,
there it was on the other side of the road, it was not really visible when we
were driving the other direction. Luckily,
it only took us that long to find it doubling back, a few of the other teams had
more trouble locating it. From the
clock tower, we headed up to “genes garage” where there were 3 old vehicles
on display, our clue said to write them down (they had signs in their windows)
and give them to the rally checkpoint person who was there, and we got our next
clue and were on our way.
From that point, the clue instructed us to go to
“intercourse” (a town) and find the “3 barrels” and take a picture.
From there we were to head onto Rt. 772.
Rick & I got a little tripped up because I took us to Rt. 772 first,
but weren’t too far out of the way, and quickly headed back to intercourse,
and asked some local tourists where there are 3 large barrels.
We found them and took the picture and headed out.
Our route was specified to go along Rt. 772 to Rt. 238 then to Rt. 230
into Steelton, PA. Where we were to
find a clock on a bank and take a picture.
After this – we were to head to “Clarks Ferry” and provide this
picture to the Rally checkpoint person. Unfortunately
for us, the two maps that we had showed “Clarks Ferry”, PA to be located on
one side of the Susquehanna river, and the checkpoint was actually across the
bridge on the other side of the river at the “Clarks Ferry Truck stop”
after driving around where “Clarks Ferry” is on the map for a while
and seeing other competitors that were equally confused, we decided to head over
the bridge and did find the checkpoint.
At the checkpoint we received our next clue, which
instructed us to head out Rt. 322 and keep an eye open for “Clem” as he had
food for us. This was the longest
driving stretch that we had during that rally, as we headed out along 322 around
State College, PA and eventually to Clems Barbeque, which was near Port Matilda, PA.
Along the way there was a storm with heavy downpours, which was a steep
departure from earlier in the day when is was 80+ degrees and sunny.
Along with bad weather, we ran into several construction sites which
caused for major traffic backups since it was a Friday afternoon, and a bad car
accident that had Rt. 322 completely shut-down for a period of time.
Some of the teams made it through the section of Rt. 322 before the
accident, but us and several other teams did not.
Once we got to Clems, “Clem” himself was awaiting us with a ½ rack
of ribs and a pint of his special beans. We
were instructed to eat this, along with a glass of water before being on our
way. The beans were tasty, but a pint of them was a large amount.
They sat like a lead balloon in my stomach for the rest of the day.
We got fed, and got our envelope with the clue and were on
our way. We were instructed to go
on Rt. 220 south to Tyrone, PA and to “Camp Anderson” a boy scout camp.
Rick & I stopped once near Tyrone, and asked for directions to the
camp. We had no trouble finding it
and when we got there three other teams had already arrived.
The Rodeo, the tracker & the Toyota truck.
We were timed out at the scout camp and were shown where to
set up camp. The scout camp had a
nice setup where they had wooden pallets to put your tent up on, which was
we setup camp, we went back to the main scout camp building where the
scouts taught each team some basic ropes and orienteering.
We were also treated to a nice buffet dinner of great Barbeque chicken
and pulled pork sandwiches and coleslaw from Clems (no beans, lol!)
During dinner, the coordinator collected our timecards and photos and
went over them. He then announced
that the Rodeo was in first place, the Tracker in second, the Toyota and third,
and we were in fourth. The Rodeo
won a $200 gift certificate to Advance Adapters for winning that stage of the
The coordinator informed us that we would be heading out at 8:00 AM the next morning. Rick & I went to the gas station, gassed up for the next day, and got back to camp and went to bed.
Saturday we loaded up our gear again on the jeep, and at
around 8:00 AM the participants left again in the order by numbers in 1 minute
intervals. Our first task was to
drive to Clearfield, PA and get a picture of the courthouse.
We headed out and because it was all two lane road between Tyrone and
Clearfield, almost all of the participants were in a line behind each other as
we headed into Clearfield. The
group pulled up beside a brick building where an older woman was walking, the
first vehicle in line rolled down their window and asked where the courthouse
was, and she pointed to the building that was behind her.
She then got the shock of her life as all the passenger side doors flew
open and everyone ran toward her and past her to the front of the building to
get a picture. According to the
clue, we were then to head to “Dennys” with our picture.
The group got split up some at this point, as some people felt they might
know where “Dennys” is, and others asked for directions.
We asked for directions, and made it to “Dennys Beer Barrel Pub”
Once we entered Denny's we clocked in and showed him our picture of the courthouse. We then sat down (at about 9:00 AM, keep in mind) and waited for the food. To everyone's surprise the waitress started hauling out FOUR pound cheeseburgers. These things were mammoth. They were on huge buns and loaded with ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, relish, lettuce and an ungodly amount of onions. The burger was cut in half and we were told that we had to finish the burger as a team. To put things into perspective…. The four pound burger was based after cooking.. it was more like 6 pounds before cooking….so – this burger would be the equivalent of equal 24 “Whoppers” We were instructed that no utensils could be used, we would have to eat the burger with our hands. So, at 9:00 AM – Rick & I looked at each other with a look of shock as to the overwhelming task that was given us. I started into my half.. first eating a small portion of the bun, but then remembering that that would take up more space in my stomach. I then just picked up the meat like a huge meatball and started on that. Rick started with his bun, and picked at the meat. Several of the teams at that point had taken the shock that Rick & I shared and externalized it and wanted to skip the task altogether. This lead to a few heated words, and then a resolution that there would be a specific time assessed if you couldn’t finish the burger. About 3 of the teams left at that point. We stuck around and attempted to eat our burger, figuring that if we were going to be assessed a certain time, then we should just take the time to attempt to eat it, and have an opportunity to use the facilities also. I got about ¾ of my half of the actual meat eaten, and I ran out of room. Rick got most of his top bun and about ½ of the meat from his half. We gave up, got our clue, and headed out.
Here is a picture of the 6 pound burger I found on Denny's website:
From Denny's it we headed south. The clue told us specific roads to follow and said that we would be headed to what was once know as the "gateway to the west" and we should look for the "Burger Hut" to turn at on Rt. 36. At that point, I thought we were going to Altoona, PA - which I thought probably could have been known as the "gateway to the west".. in actuality - we were 'supposed' to be going to the Horseshoe Curve museum parking lot. Unfortunately, we passed right by the "Burger Hut" and missed the turn - the sign for the burger hut had an ice cream cone on it and the words were in yellow script writing.... we ended up in Altoona looking for the Burger Hut and the "Big Ole' Sign" where we were to be taking a picture.... we drove around, asked people if they knew if Altoona was the "gateway to the west" and if there was a "big sign" in Altoona - none of them knew. I even called information to find out where the burger hut was, and they said it was in Asheville, PA - which was where our last turn was - so then we assumed that we had just missed the burger hut on the corner of Rt. 53 & 36 and had actually made the turn that was prescribed on the clue. Finally.. I 'called' the burger hut & asked where they were, and they were not in Asheville, they were in between Altoona & Asheville - wayyyyyyyyy up on the mountain - by the horseshoe curve.... So, after over 2 hours of driving around, we went back past the Burger Hut to the horseshoe curve where we had to get a tourist to take our picture next to the sign. Luckily a rally checkpoint person was still there - they were almost ready to give up on us, and couldn't reach us on a cellphone as they were prohibited from the rally.
Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for the other teams, the next section was an off road section just outside of Altoona. A few of the teams were having some severe issues and this was leading to a big backup on the trails.. allowing us to make up a significant amount of time lost driving around Altoona. After following the clue directions, we arrived at the trailhead just as the first few vehicles were exiting. They told us the trails were tight & rocky and would take us about 2 hours to complete. We decided to air down our tires, since 3 or 4 minutes wouldn't make a huge difference when we had to make up way more than that, and it would help on the rocks. Our jeep headed out on the trails and we were haulin' down the rocky, tight trails. We could see where the larger and longer wheelbase vehicles would have had problems because the trails were winding through forest. About a quarter of the way through the trail we came upon the Cherokee and it was broken down. Even though we were behind, and we could get around them, we stopped to help out. It appeared that their CPS had gone bad, and they had a spare, but they did not have enough extensions to reach it. We got out our toolbox and lent them our extension that we had, and just as we were getting things buttoned up, the trail guides came up from behind. At that point, there was nothing we could do to help, so we went around the Cherokee, and started haulin' down the trails again. (The burger was starting to haunt me at that point) Through the rocky, foresty trails, we flew and got back to the end point in a total of 1 hour, 13 minutes - we figured we had about 10 minutes in stopping and helping the Cherokee... so - we made some pretty good time. We aired back our tires quickly, got our clue, and hit the road.
Apparently we had missed all the *action* on the trail, the white CJ had the U-joint caps come off and their T-176 shifter was coming apart, the ranger blew up his rear ring & pinion, the rodeo and Toyota truck both had exhaust damage, the Hummer broke off a mirror on the trees. The Bronco had dropped out earlier in the day due to an extremely leaky gas tank.
The next clue informed us that we were headed to the boy scout camp "camp seph mack.". We were very familiar with the route the clue told us to go, so we headed out, on Rt. 220 then down to Rt. 22 then across 422. Along 422, we caught up with the white CJ7 who was stopped and asking for directions to the camp. We got the directions and headed out. When we got to camp, we were instructed that we had to take a picture of the totem pole and have our tent set-up before we would be timed back in. I sent Rick out to go take the picture of the totem pole, and I set up the tent. After we got timed out, we went and got re-fueled for the next day. When we got back the pizza for the group were just showing up, and the coordinator informed us that we were going to be leaving the next morning at 5:00 AM and to not pack up camp before we leave. After the food, the Boy Scouts did a sample "Order of the Arrow" ceremony for us and spoke about the history of the order of the arrow. We had been instructed that paying attention to this ceremony would be a very good idea. Following that - I hit the shower house - and the scout camp we stayed at "Camp Seph Mack" had absolutely the nicest campground shower house I had ever been to, better than any pay campground even. We came back, someone had made a fire, and we sat by the fire for a little bit, then we headed to bed.
Sunday morning was very difficult to get up for. The rally was starting to wear on us, and it was still dark outside. Just a few minutes past 5:00 AM, the competitors started out on their way in one minute intervals. On the way out of the parking lot, we saw our sponsor (who was along to take video, but could not support us at all) who had driven his Grand Cherokee into a ditch. When we came up on him, the Toyota in front of us was tow-strapping him out. We went along then and found a farm that was only a few miles away. When we got in the farm there were dairy cows in their stalls and some of the competitors were starting to milk. It was a nicely set up barn with a bit to stand in so we were about shoulder level with the cows udder. Of course, I picked the cow that had the one bad udder in the bunch. This did not deter Rick & I though, I took a udder in my right hand and held the cup with my left. Rick stood to my left and had to grab a udder through the cows back legs. I had remembered seeing people on TV milking cows and saying that you had to squeeze and work the milk down & out. They had given us a liter plastic cup to fill up, and Rick & I were off filling the cup really quickly. We got done with this task before any of the other teams. After we filled the cup up, we took it out to the barn office, where they had some 8 ounce plastic cups. We had to fill a cup for each of us and drink the 'fresh-from-the-cow' milk. I chugged mine down as if it was a beer drinking contest. It tasted like warm milk you would get as a child, only much, much thicker. Rick had no problem getting his milk down either, so we got our next clue and were on our way.
Our next clue envelope had two pieces of paper in it, one larger than the other. The small sheet of paper said something to the effect of "and now aren't you glad you didn't stay out late - head back to camp and pack up your gear". The larger sheet of paper had more writing and two clues on it, so we assumed we were to complete it first. We also had been informed the night before at dinner that Campbell's Salvage was donating breakfast to us as a courtesy, and we were to stop at the "McDonalds on Wayne Ave." to redeem it, one of the competitors said (loudly) "that is in Indiana". We had gotten the slip to give to the McDonalds folks along with the clue envelope.
Off we went to solve the first clue on the large sheet of paper, it said to take a picture of the the "Star of Harvey" - who I knew was Jimmy Stewart and that there was a statue of him on the main drag in Indiana, PA. We got into town with no problem, took our picture (at just before 6:00 AM) and asked a gentleman who was putting out newspapers where "Wayne Ave." was. It was just nearby, so we headed down and the McDonalds wasn't far. Unfortunately, it wasn't open, I tried the door - and it was locked and the boy cleaning the parking lot informed us it didn't open until 7:00 AM - my watch said 6:03. We decided to head on to the 2nd part of our clue on the large sheet of paper. It lead us to Campbell's Salvage where we were given a note card that said "any GM dome light". A cavalier was sitting very close by and Rick was getting out our toolbox while I got the note, and we hopped in the car. Mr. Campbell said to us that we could get it out anyway we wanted, so Rick took a long screwdriver & just pried it off. We handed him the dome light and he handed us our next clue, which I found a little bit strange since we still had the "small" piece of paper to complete.
We headed back to camp - as the "small" note instructed us to, and there was a note by the entrance saying that we had needed to stop there before going to Indiana. This would have been much more convenient for us, because we had ended up doubling back to get back to camp. The directions hadn't been clear though, and I thought that we had possibly another task at camp. No matter, we packed up our tent quickly, and we had our clue, and we headed out. Unfortunately, the doubling back allowed almost every team to get ahead of us, and the remaining team that was behind us quickly passed us along Rt. 219 because the 6 cylinder just doesn't have a lot of pick-up with the 37" tires.
The next clue lead us to a trail head. When we got there, all the teams were stopped at the trailhead and we got timed in. A few minutes later, we all hit the trails in 1 minute intervals. Once again - it was "Baja" 4-Wheelin' - we were going along as fast as we could along those trails. These trails weren't as rocky as the previous days trails, but included more mud puddles, so oftentimes, the windshield wipers were on. We passed the Rodeo on the side of the trail overheating and asked if they needed water as we went by, but they waved us on. The trails were broken up into two sections, with a small section of road in between - of course, I directed us on a wrong turn in the one little road section - but it was quickly fixed and we were back flying down the trails. Near the end of the trails the coordinator was there and waved and yelled at us to stop, which we did. He informed us that the teams had run the trails too fast, and that we all would be too soon to the finish line if we headed out (there was still more on our clue card). We were told to go to the end of the road and turn around and we would head out on the trails in the order we came out.
The White CJ, the Toyota (which had a bad transmission and was broken down there), the Hummer and the Power Wagon were at the end of the trail. They informed us that the Rodeo hadn't had a chance to hear what the coordinator said about stopping and that they continued on. I had heard them trying to reach the Rodeo on the CB radio, but to no avail - they tried to contact them via cell phone - but to no avail (cell phones were prohibited to be used during the race anyway) We waited there, and the Tracker came out, missing his rear shocks that had broken on the trail. The coordinator and sponsor arrived and it was decided that we would wait for the Rodeo to return before starting back into the trails. The Rodeo called from the finish line a little bit later wondering what was going on. The group then decided that when the Rodeo returns that they should have back the 3rd spot in line which they exited the trails from. Once everyone was back together - we headed back onto the trails in 1 minute intervals again.
We were having a good time at this point, because we were behind the Hummer. At one point the Hummer was too large to make a tight corner and we slid past them on the inside. It was a strange feeling to have a HUGE Hummer haulin' fast down the trail right behind us. All I could see what the gigantic front grill-guard. We popped out of the woods in a large section full of mud puddles and the sponsors H2 Hummer was sitting in the middle of a large mud-puddle. We went to the left of it, and the H1 Hummer went to the right of it and we gave the H2 a simultaneous bath. The H1 passed us, and we went through a few more puddles and found that the rest of the group was stopped.
At this point, it seemed strange that we had stopped and grouped up for the second time on the trail (and weren't clocked in or out). I was unsure as to what was going on, but a few of the other participants were irate about the situation, as any lead they had while flying along the trails were lost by these stoppages and they had pushed their vehicles to the limits by choosing to run that fast. This lead to a debate between a few participants and the sponsors, and after a lengthy discussion, it was decided that the only time that would be counted is when we entered the trails at the first time, and that the remaining participants would go out to Rt. 219 as a group. After enjoying (at a slower pace) the trails in the area, we met up at the entrance to Rt. 219, and decided that we would ride the rest of the route as a group - so we could make a grand entrance to the finish line. The Rodeo had attempted a hill climb on our way out, and had overheated again, and was not with our group at that time.
We headed down Rt. 219 and stopped at a grocery store so
any participants that still needed photocopies of their drivers license and
registrations could complete that before getting to the finish line. After
that we continued to following the clues that would eventually lead us to the
finish line. The one clue said as we went along a particular road to "Keep
Clint Eastwood in mind". We came upon a large sign near a trail entrance
that read "RIGHT TURN CLYDE" and we turned right there and ran the miles of
trails through there as a group at a leisurely pace. Once through
that section of trail, we crossed the road into another small section of trails
that eventually lead to the finish line. As we pulled through the woods,
there was a large crowd of spectators to greet us and were clapping and
cheering. The Rodeo had gotten back running again, and had caught up to
our group and came into the finish line also.
Picture as we came into the finish line:
Once we were checked in, it was time to get some of the
great food that was on hand from the vendors. The Big Rubbers 4x4 club had
put on a car cruise at the finish line at the Mine 42 Citizens Club and there
were a bunch of classic cars and motorcycles and vendors there. Big
Rubbers also put up an RTI ramp, and I decided to take my jeep on it. It
was only a 20 degree ramp, and the articulation on my jeep caused me to have to
jockey around for a while so that the rear tire did not go onto the ramp also.
I finally got up far, and at one point accidentally hit the gas and almost put
the jeep on its side. Nonetheless - the Jeep ramped well enough to win 1st
place in that competition, - which I was very pleased to win - especially since
I didn't realize it was even a competition.
me & my RTI ramp trophy (what a ham.. LOL!)
After we had been there a little while, several scouts came by to each competing team and gave them a quiz to fill out that included questions about the "order of the arrow" ceremony that we had observed the evening before, and questions about scouting in general (we were told to bring, and to study a scout handbook in preparation for the rally). Rick did very well at this quiz, as he had been in the order of the arrow and the boy scouts when he was younger.
In the evening, after the Big Rubbers show, we headed out
to Portage, PA for the awards banquet dinner. It was there that the
coordinator announced the winners, we voted and they awarded the "Pappy"
award - which was for the team with the *hardest luck*. When it was all
said and done the results were:
1st place: Isuzu Rodeo - $1,500 cash prize
2nd place: Geo Tracker - $1,000 cash prize
3rd place: US (CJ7) - $500 cash prize
4th place: Dodge Ram charger - $200 cash prize
5th place: CJ7 - $200 cash prize
The Toyota, Cherokee, ranger and bronco did not finish - and the Hummer was not considered in the standings.
The Toyota won the "Pappy" award, and the Rodeo team decided to donate their Advance Adapters gift certificate that they had won on the first day to be raffled off amongst the teams that did not finish. The team in the ranger won that certificate.
Overall, it was a very interesting and fun journey. I
was thrilled that we finished in 3rd place. I was even more thrilled that
we did not have any damage to our Jeep along the way. I appreciate the
opportunity that I had to run the rally, and I look forward to running it again
Left to right: Me, Jay Stull, my husband- Rick.
I would like to personally thank (no particular
Jay & Jean Stull of "Stull Automotive" for being our sponsor this year, and providing entertainment by driving into a ditch.
Doug of "Wasted Trails.com " for coordinating the event - I know it was a heck of a lot of work
George of "Habsco" for being the title sponsor for the event - without him, there would have been no event
Dwane Campbell of Campbell's Salvage - He is the nicest salvage yard person I've ever met & Im sure the breakfast would have been great if the McDonalds had been open.
The Boy Scouts at Camp Anderson and Camp Seph Mack - both these camps had a a great bunch of scout leaders and campers.
All the other participants for the great feeling that we
were "all in this together".
Denny of Denny's Beer Barrel Pub, he was a really nice guy and the pub is a very nice place - wouldn't mind going back and getting to have a beer this time.
Clem of Clems Barbeque - I swear - if you shook the ribs -
you would be just left with a clean bone... they were that tender.. and the
beans were delicious - there was just A LOT of them.
Ken & Sue Sprouse for driving our tow rig back and being great video tapers and great friends overall.
Kelly Young & Justin Thorpe - who made sure we didn't come
home to 5 p*ssed off dogs, and were there cheering for us at the finish line.
Dave Wall for letting us run the trails up in Altoona, they were awesome, they were well marked and the trail staff you had was great, too.
If you have any questions or comments about this article,
please contact me at:
(please leave all run-on sentence & bad paragraph comments to yourself, I just kinda threw this together)
Click here to see more pictures that were taken by Ken Sprouse