I just got back from the Niagara Rim Poker Run and wanted to share some of the lessons this newbie learned. But first a thank you to all the blue shirts for running such a wonderful event.
If there is a social, try and make it I got there late (my bad), so missed a good chance to meet my fellow drivers.
If most people are going to camp I strongly suggest camping. Again, a chance to socialize and allows you to relax after the run, at the socials or dinner without having to worry about driving. It also would have saved me time in the morning as I could have aired down the night before and not faced an hour’s drive. I stayed at a hotel, which had its bennies: a bed and a hot shower vs an inflatable mattress (unless Jackie decided otherwise sharp claws) and a cold shower if any. Maybe next time will investigate renting a trailer.
Don’t be afraid to approach people and ask about their rigs. I ran into one of the drivers this morning while I was getting coffee. He had seen me looking at his rig the night before and asked me if I had any questions and also asked why I didn’t come up and talk the night before. He said he hadn’t met a wheeler yet who didn’t want to talk about their rig. Good way to meet people. Lesson learned too late this time, but learned.
While I did not try this, I was informed a six pack is the universal invitation to talk (wine only works at events in Napa).
Be sure you have all the appropriate equipment. While the safety list is a good place to start, don’t forget items like an air compressor or other means to re-inflate tires, a CB radio, bandana for covering mouth, and check the washer fluid — it gets dusty. Also chairs for socials, dinner etc. Ask what will be provided, in this case a dry camp and porta-potties. A cooler with water or other drinks for during the run and beer when you’re finished. Note: no bathrooms on the trail so come prepared.
If you bring a pet on the run, make sure they are secured or seasoned off-roaders. Nothing like 30 lbs. of dog deciding they want to drive and climbing on your lap.
Now the run itself.
We own a 2010 Jeep Rubicon that, except for a light bar, is still in stock running condition. I did the run alone as my partner (normally the driver) had another engagement pop up (thanks for making me go). Her only piece of advice was “Remember It’s a Jeep”. The only change to the set up for the run was 15 lbs. air pressure in the tires, OD off, sway bar disengaged, then a combination of 4-hi/4-low and front and rear lockers.
Kick off meeting was at 8:30. Try to be early to get a better spot, in my case second in line (not holding everyone up is a big incentive).
Also stay close so you can see the previous Jeep's line (also lets you know which rocks not to drive over).
The trail definitely matches the video’s I’ve seen. And while our group (blue) started at “You’re Kidding right” (No-Way out Hill) which according to our lead (the Broberg's) was the second hardest part of the course and it got easier from there. This was followed by “Hmmmmmmmm easier, please define easier” (Heartbreak Hill), “OOOOOOOOkay” (Sideways), “Why is there a big rock with a bull’s eye on it at the bottom” (Shale Hill), “My Ass I will” (Lion’s Butt) with a couple of WTF’s interspersed just to make it interesting and ended with “The Jeep says go but I say NO!!!!! (Rock Pile).
So, one will ask how this newbie got through all this. Well, 4X4 in Motion provided really good spotters. They pointed, and I tried to drive there and while my left foot braking is non-existent, causing me to drop off a few rocks and I have some dents on the undercarriage, I’m sure (afraid to look) we made it. The key was follow the spotter's direction and not to hesitate (It’s A Jeep). As for Shale hill, they will drive or winch you down. (Note: if they ask if the “E brake” works they mean the emergency brake.)
What did I take away?
So, to sum it up, thanks to good organization (Kudo’s Mary), great cooks, group leaders Middles' and Donkey's encouragement and spotters of the Blue Shirts, I made it. It's that important. This afternoon I came across a Pink Jeep that had done the run. I stopped and said hello and asked him if he had had a good time he looked at the Hat sticker in my window and asked me if I had. Of course, I replied and meant it then asked him about his rig and how he took the second turn at No-way out.
So as the bumper sticker says, “Paddle faster, I hear Banjo’s.”