Roughriders Rendezvous
June 5-7, 1998
Badlands, North Dakota
By Micheal Knorr

Well this trail report has been a little slow in coming for one reason or another. Not to say these trails don't merit a write because they most certainly do. So onto the story as I can best remember it. If I left you out or get your name wrong you will have to forgive as it has been over a month since the event. Thursday morning saw us pulling out of Minneapolis at sunrise and heading west on I-94. We were making good time but the fuel gauge was showing the signs of the new speed limits. Just for the heck of it the night before while we were at the truck stop topping off for the next day I decided to weigh my truck, trailer, camper, and Jeep combination. I had always thought the combination was heavy but even I was a little surprised at the 19,080 lbs that it weighed in at. All that weight and new speed limits led to an all time low fuel mileage for the trip. Just a shade over seven was the average. My F-250 turbo diesel has dual tanks so we were stopping about every three hours. Which seem to work out perfect with the tire we had that was losing air. We would stop fuel up, air up, get some grub and head back out on the highway. The trip from Minneapolis took us just over ten hours and we pulled into Watford City at around 4:30. Amazingly the tire made the whole trip there, key word there, much to our amazement. We got into the campground and started to get settled in, I went around and said my hello's to many of the Cliffhangers, the hosting club, as I had wheeled with many of the folks at the Dakota Territory Challenge held in South Dakota each labor day. After quick hellos they ask everyone to take there rigs downtown as they have an opening night truck show. The townsfolk turn out to see the trucks and they have hot dogs and pop available. This is followed by a dance at the local civic center. Later that night they had the Ramp Travel out and many trucks flexed their suspension for the onlookers. Pat Hegleson with his 76 CJ-7 put on a show by easily ramping in the 1200's. Pat has a welding shop just down the road in Williston, ND and you can see much of his handiwork on many of the trucks in the club. His workmanship is first rate and the trucks in the club have tons of neat tricks. Cliff has a bright orange full-size Blazer that is just beautiful, and unfortunately I didn't get a picture of it, but he is a painter by trade and he shoots many of the trucks in the club. Talk about a club to be in. These guys are great and really make you feel welcome. Friday morning started with a drivers meeting and getting everyone signed up for the trails. All the land this event takes place on is private land so they ask that we treat the land with respect and be sure to put gates as we found them. We decided to head out with Shawn Wyse on Walker as it was one of the more challenging trails offered that day. From the campground you drive about 30 minutes to the trailhead, where you air down and lock in. The whole drive in you see the hills getting larger and closer and you start to get excited about the day to come. The first thing we did was to drop over the edge of the plains and drop into the valley below. But you just don't drop over the edge and head straight down, you sidehill and criss-cross your way down the side of the valley until you get to the bottom. Crossing many washouts and ridges in the process. It soon becomes apparent why a club from ND has trucks that flex so well. The next few obstacles takes us up and down the sidehills with varying degrees of off camber and drop offs to keep it interesting. Then suddenly we are faced with a large hill that is nearly vertical. They call this Sphincter. Shawn is the first over and it is obvious were it gets its name. As tires grab on the dirt they squeal their protest and near they top the passenger front decides it has had enough and reaches for the sky. But the front settles down and Shawn crest the hill on his second try. John Campbell follows in his YJ and puts on quite a show before the front end finally settles down when he rolls backwards. John makes a second attempt and makes it to the top but then just as he is about to crest it he backs off. He gets stuck right on the ridge as his four cylinder just won't pull him over. Then Pat is up and over no problem except right before the crest were he gets stopped. As a gesture of friendliness he ruts up the hill for me. Then it is my turn, I try my first attempt at crawling speed but it is just to steep. My second attempt I use a little more momentum and get nearly to the top but I get hung in Pat's ruts. The only alternative is to power bump over the ruts. My first attempt is met with failure and somebody mentioning some rubber flying out from under the truck. The second attempt I stay in it and crest the hill only to be greeted by a nasty fan hitting something sound. I shut it off and get out to access the damage, Sphincter claimed its first victim, two motor mounts. So as I made a trail repair with the help of Chad, Frank and John everyone else eats lunch. We get it fixed and now my motor is mounted solid, two towhook bolts, two drive flanges, and two new holes drilled. The rest of the group came up fairly effortlessly so I was told. After lunch the trail continues to wind in and out the crevices. One crack in particular reminded me of pictures I have seen of Golden Crack in Moab. This forces several people to be winched over. A CJ5 had a good shot at going over but he saved that for another day. The trail then starts to head towards higher ground and suddenly you make a drop back into the valley. The drop is a ridge that goes vertical and then you crest it and it goes down just as fast. The only thing you can see is sky for quite sometime. Then we race across the plains to play in the North Dakota rocks, those would be old semi tires for those not in the know. Everyone crosses these effortlessly except for the CJ5 who says the heck with crawling and shoots across the tire pit. The rest of the day is pretty leisurely and allows us to take in some of the breathtaking scenery the Badlands affords. Except for one hill climb that puts you hard on your passenger side and led for some exciting moments for some. If you had low gears and a good line it was a nice steady crawl up the hill. If you had to use momentum it could get nasty. On our way back to camp most of the group stops in a little town for a burger cook out that a local legion is hosting. We head back to camp to get a shower as we are pretty grimy from changing out the motor mounts. That night the Cliffhangers got a large central campfire going and everyone talks over the days exploits. It appears as if their wasn't a bad trail ride to go on and everyone had stories to tell. A new TJ up from Grand Forks suffered the worst breakage for the day as he snapped his output shaft on his transfer case. The camp activities saw people playing on the ramp some more and trying the see-saw with their trucks. For those of you who haven't seen a see-saw just think of the one at the playground only make it big enough to drive your truck on. The point is to get your truck to balance in the middle. It may sound easy but trust me it isn't. The second day saw festivities starting the same and two trails were combined into one so that we would have enough people to run both. That meant we would start the day running the same trail as the day before but when it turned leisurely the day before it would turn nasty today. I won't repeat a description of the first part of the day because nothing too exciting happened. After lunch we headed over to the new section of trail. Dennis Harob was leading us in his nice Scout 80, along were several of his family members in Scout II's, and his brother Linden in his CJ5. With the new trail we headed back to the top of the valley and then made a drop straight down into the valley, this was the longest straight drop of the day. The loose surface meant care had to be taken while heading down and halfway down you made a ninety degree turn just to keep things interesting. Then it was up to the next obstacle that should be called Trophy Hill. It is a little washout that takes you up about twenty feet has you do a small turn at the top and then head back down. If you have clearance this hill isn't bad, but if you drive a stock Commando you become a Trophy Mount, which we could see from all the way across the valley. The next major obstacle is called Table Top, this obstacle leads you up a narrow ravine which puts the top close to the ledges several times, then at the top you take a sharp right and a faced with a shelf ledge 36-40 inches above you. The key is to get your left front tire up on top and then turn into it to bring your other front up and then turn back right bringing the left rear up and then the right. Once on top you then straddle a ravine and go up over the top of a small ridge and down a steep little hill into a ravine, don't touch your brakes here. Once in the ravine you make a sharp left turn and down the chute you go. Sounds easy don't it. On this series of obstacles the carnage mounted up so heavily that many of the group ended up bypassing the obstacle. On the Table Top Chad Keen did his best to roll his CJ5 as he couldn't quite get the rear to bump up and over and he put on a spectacular air show. Shawn Wyse managed to snap his ring and pinion when he overloaded the front Dana 30 when trying to get his CJ7's back tires up on top. One of the Harob's in a Scout II lost a bead in the ravine that required a surgical strike force to get reseated. Then I went into the ravine and managed to blow my steering box apart trying to make the tough left hand turn. Which forced me into the sidehill so hard I also lost a bead. We quickly had mine aired up and the wheels pointed down hill. I was able to drive it enough to get it off the trail and back to camp. Due to the delays and causalities suffered in The Chute we called it a day and headed back to camp. That night in camp was followed by more of the previous night except with more wrenching taking place. The next morning several of the group up from Minnesota decide to head home due to kids catching cold from the subnormal temperatures of the weekend. We decide due to the power steering being out that we would also tag along. Hated to leave early but figured it would be nice to have someone you knew on the interstate with you. Talked to Pat Helgeson after we got backed in really regretted leaving early. It seems the last day extracted it's heaviest toll on the trucks yet. Sphincter claimed its biggest prize to date by rolling a new TJ onto its side. Another trail also claimed the CJ5 that had almost rolled several days early, I believe the trail was called New Testament. These truck were extremely well set up and lay testament to the challenge that is offered at the Roughrider Rendezvous . If you get a chance get up and check out this great trail ride. It happens the first weekend in June and is hosted by the Cliffhangers 4x4 Club based out of Williston, North Dakota.