Impressions, from Ouachita Jeep Jamboree Rookies
With the camper loaded and our Wrangler (Rubi) in tow, Alan, Scout (our Labrador retriever), and I headed for Hot Springs, Arkansas and the Ouachita 2007 Jeep Jamboree. A short seven hours later, we pulled into the Superlift ORV Park in Hot Springs. This beautiful park has all the amenities. With a full service repair area and a small gear and sundries store, they have left eager off-roaders nothing to want. The park has a large modern restroom and bathing facility so those who decide to do the tent thing don't have to rough it quite so much. They also have a large pavilion which easily held our 180+ group. The draw (of course) is the miles and miles of off-road trails with levels from beginner to extreme. We couldn't wait to get started.
The park staff had reserved us a spot close enough to the action to stay involved, but not so close as to be disturbed by all the Jeeps arriving throughout the night. After settling in, we headed over to the pavilion to check in and sign up for the different trails. There we met up with the Jeep Jamboree representatives, Clint Rounsavall and Shawn Gulling. Both of these guys worked long and hard all weekend to make sure all the little details were in place to run an event of this size. From Thursday evening to the Saturday night giveaways, Clint and Shawn seemed to be all over the place. We can't say enough good things about those two. As the rain started up, we quickly scurried back to the RV. A set of earplugs and the light rain assured us a good nights sleep.
Saturday morning we woke to the sound of traffic. A peak out the door confirmed the masses were already lining up for the ride. The sky was overcast and the temperature was in the low forties. Alan hurried off to pull the Jeep into the Orange group and we gulped down our breakfast eager to get in on the action. The beauty of the RV parking is we were able to simply walk across the road to get to the staging area where four different trail groups waited. With Scoutie on his leash, we made our way to where Rubi was about halfway down a line of twenty-or-so assorted jeeps, including modified old rigs, new JKs, and even a stock Grand Cherokee. Our first encounter with our day's trail guide, Mike McGee, was when he walked up to our Jeep and started rubbing dirt on the Armor-All shiny tires. I knew I was going to like him. With a quick word of advice about airing down our tires, he headed off to the front of the group to an old highly modified Jeep. It had what looked like a deer stand on the back holding a cooler full of bottled water. After a brief driver's meeting in the pavilion, we were back in our Jeeps ready to go. Our CB radios tuned to channel eleven, we all followed Mike and his buddy Norm across the main road to the West off-roading area.
This was our first off-roading event; we were pleasantly surprised with the level of off-roading we were guided through. It was challenging enough to give Alan and his Rubi some experience, but not so challenging that it couldn't be done safely by the inexperienced. Some of the more interesting events of the day were watching some of the less equipped Jeeps maneuver through some of the more difficult problems. Stopping to watch the other drivers allowed all of us time to get to know our fellow trail riders. In the afternoon we headed back across to the South side and larger area of the park and briefly rode through some of those trails. Mike and Norman did a great job that day and we enjoyed listening to his CB antics. We headed in about five o'clock and were well ready for our barbeque dinner when it was served at six. After a brief discussion, Alan and I decided to switch groups and hit some different areas for the next day of off-roading. So after signing up with the Purple group and with the temperatures dipping into the forties, we didn't linger long in the pavilion, and happily called it a day.
Saturday morning dawned bright and clear. We met up with our new trail guide, Don Felgate, and his sons Donnie and John. They are the some of the driving forces behind the Jeep Jamboree at the ORV Park at Hot Springs. Watching Don drive a fairly stock Jeep Grand Cherokee, it became quickly obvious that it is not necessarily vehicle capability, but more the skill of the driver. I probably learned as much about off-roading in the hours I spent with Don as I have in the five years or so I have been driving a four-wheel drive vehicles. Don's trail tour wasn't quite as difficult as the previous day, but he was good about taking us to places where there was more than one way to get from point A to point B. If you wanted, you could give you and your Jeep a workout or you could take the path of least resistance and give your Jeep a rest. Either way, Don, John, and Donnie did a great job showing us the some of the many great trails of the Superlift ORV Park. At the end of the day, we all rushed over to air up our tires, then headed back to camp for some much needed refreshments.
The evening meal was a fantastic, a catfish dinner with all the fixings. Alan and I hastily wolfed down our food under the JeepTales.com banner while many of the trail riders came by to say hello and drop off their photo cards. We watched while Clint and Shawn gave away some awesome prizes to our fellow trail riders, then spent the rest of the evening talking to some great people from all over the country. It was after dark by the time we got all the photos downloaded and everything put away, and we headed back to the camper for an early bedtime and equally early start the next morning.
We didn't know what to expect from our first Jeep Jamboree. Turns out that it was as much fun as fun gets. The Superlift ORV Park is a premier off-roading destination, and the Jeep Jamboree is a great way to see it. From everyone who attended, thanks to Clint, Shawn, all the trail guides, and the ORV staff for a great weekend and great Jamboree. We'll see you next year!
See you again on the trail soon,
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