Windrock ATV Park:
This past weekend we had a group of four ride at Windrock ATV Park, located near Oliver Springs, Tennessee, just northwest of Knoxville. The park is located on 72,000 acres of old coal mining property and consists of over 350 miles of trails and service roads running across several mountain ranges.
We camped at Windrock Park Campgrounds, which is co-located with the ATV park. The campground has sites and utilities for campers, small rental cabins, and sights for tent camping. The campsite is very family friendly. The staff goes out of their way to help you have a great time. Usually there is an off-duty Deputy Sheriff that roams the camp at night to keep the noise and craziness to a minimum. The camp has two bath houses which they make an attempt to keep very clean. They do not have any firewood within the campground, so bring your own if you plan on having a campfire. There is a place that sells firewood less than five miles away.
Two of us rode Can-Am 4-wheelers, and one rode a Yamaha 250 cc dirt bike. I rented a Polaris RZR 570 from Scott at Windrock ATV Rentals. I can not speak highly enough for Scott. Great guy to work with. I will definitely do business with him again.
In two days we rode over 135 miles. An equal amount of time was spent high-speed on logging and fire roads, as well as technical climbs and descents.
Rain, and More Rain:
It rained the entire weekend so everything was very muddy and slick. Many of the trails were reduced to ponds, or flowing creeks and streams.
Mud, and More Mud:
A few flooded out trails were as much as hip deep as we drove through them. Only a few places were deep enough that they were impassable. There were only a couple of times when the wench on one of the 4-wheelers was needed: once to pull the motorcycle through an area of a flooded out trail, and once to pull the RZR that got high-sided with all four wheels off the ground on some deep ruts that were dug out by Jeeps.
All of the vehicles were equipped with lighting for night ops. We did a considerable amount of night riding. Much of the night riding was done high up in the mountains that were enveloped in the low clouds. Sometimes visibility was a little as ten or fifteen feet.
Around midnight, almost ten miles from camp, I popped two tires on some sharp shale. By the time I realized that the tires were flat I had driven one tire completely off its rim. What to do? As I have done many times while in peril, I remembered the four letters, W.W.J.D. I have no doubt that Jesus kept up safe that weekend, however in this particular case I asked myself, What Would Jon Do? The answer: plug ’em and roll on.
Fortunately we had the enough people to get the job done, the skillsets to make it happen, and the assets (lights, tools, and air compressor) to remove the tires, plug them, get them sealed back on the rim, pump them up, and mount them back on the vehicle. Three of us lifted the RZR off of the flat tire side while the forth person piled up rocks to act as a jack. We used the tool set to remove tires. Jon always insists that everyone have two sources of light. The LED Q-Beam that I had in a backpack came in handy to illuminate the work area. We used a bunch of tire plugs to seal the numerous holes in the two tires. We placed a ratchet strap snugly around the tire that was off its bead and torqued it down tight. Someone poured water on the rim of the tire and on the wheel, both to help clean it so as to provide a solid seal, and also to lubricate it so that the tire could pop back into place when pressurized. With the ratchet strap snug around the tire, the air compressor was used to bring the tire pressure up to 20 p.s.i. rather than the much lower 9 p.s.i. that the tire is normally run. We bounced the over-pressurized tire on the ground like a basketball. Because of the ratchet strap compressing the tire, the only place on the tire that could expand on the bounce were the sides of the tire. After two bounces the edges of the tires popped out and sealed the bead of the rim of the wheel.
PFM! (Pure F-ing Magic)
We dropped the tire pressure back down to 9 p.s.i., remounted it, and continued mission.
- Never, never, never go out by yourself. If you wreck, or break down by yourself, then you will be in a world of shit.
- Never go out without a complete set of tools (sockets, wrenches, screwdrivers, cable ties, duct tape, etc.). Make sure that you have the appropriate sockets or tire tool to remove a wheel.
- Take a light set of jumper cables. Out on the trail we had one vehicle with what we thought was a bad battery. We had to jump it off to get it running again. Fortunately, back at camp we discovered that it was simply a loose connection.
- Someone needs to carry an extra can of gasoline. It adds peace of mind and an added safety margin should someone misjudge their fuel supply.
- Take a ratchet strap. It works great for securing a tool kit or extra fuel can to a vehicle. It will be invaluable when trying to get a tire bead reset.
- Never go out at night without at least two sources of light, per person.
- You could have a problem during the daytime, but what if night falls before you can fix it? You don’t want to be caught in the dark without any light. Carry two sources of light, per person, even in the daytime.
- Someone in the group needs to have a first-aid kit and a basic survival kit in case you have to spend the night in the woods.
- If none of the vehicles have a winch, make sure to take a tow-strap so that one vehicle can pull another out of the mud.
- Have at least one tire plug kit and LOTS of tire plugs. If you think that you have enough tire plugs, then you don’t. Get some more. You might take a can of Fix-A-Flat too.
- Having a map of the area is an absolute necessity. Having a GPS to verify your position comes in handy too. I left mine running in my pack so that it would leave “breadcrumbs” wherever we rode. It made it easy to see where we had gone, easy to find our way back, and easy to keep up with out mileage.
- If you are out riding deep in banjo-playing M&M country (meth & marijuana), then it make sense for everyone to equip themselves with whatever gear that they might need to see them safely through the trip.
- When driving a side-by-side (SxS) or 4-wheeler you can forget wearing your cute little “waterproof” boots that you bought at Cabella’s. Your feet will get wet. Instead, buy a pair of $20 rubber “janitor’s boots” from Wal-Mart. They will keep your feet dry, unless you ride / drive through water that is deeper than just below your knee. Buy yourself some shoe pads to go in the boots. Your feet will be much more comfortable. Buy yourself a heavy-duty Coleman rain-suit from Wal-Mart. They are durable enough that they should survive a couple of days of riding, but if they don’t survive the ride then you won’t be out of very much money. Stay away from the Frogg Toggs brand Tyvek rain suits. They won’t survive very long on a 4-wheeler or motorcycle. It took lots of duct-tape to keep them going throughout the weekend. You might consider duct-tapping the bottom of your pants leg to your boots to make your outfit waterproof. Leave enough room for your knees to bend. If you are riding a motorcycle then the rubber boots may or may not be appropriate for riding. You will have to do your homework and figure out for yourself. Keep a roll of duct-tape handy to patch holes in your rain suit.
- Obviously you will be wearing a helmet and goggles regardless of what kind of vehicle you drive. If the trails are dry and dusty then you will want a bandana to wear over your nose and mouth (bandit style) to keep the dust out.
- Wear a pair of Mechanix brand work gloves. They will protect your hands and give you extra grip on the steering wheel (especially when wet), and will really save your paws during roadside repairs.
- Surround yourself with people that know more than you. They will teach you a bunch, and get your ass out of trouble.