Rough Country 4 Wheelers, Inc. has reached a milestone in its history. 30 years is a feat accomplished by very few 4WD clubs anywhere in the country. We celebrated the event on September 9th, 2006 with a big show and reunion at Uncle Charlie's. It was a huge success. It had it all. By all measures it validated RC4W, who we are, where we've been and where we're going. It hasn't always been easy but it sure has been a good time. I have had the unique experience of having been around for all of it.
RC4W has taught me a lot about people and human behavior. When the dust settles that's what it is really all about, people having fun and enjoying each other's company. Last year, as we prepared for the 30th anniversary celebration, it gave me a chance to reflect on what it has all really meant and to reconnect with many old friends all of whom are the reason this has happened. Hindsight is an amazing thing, you never even see it coming!
In 1976 I was an immature youngster with a passion for Jeeps and a heavy right foot. Now, I'm just an immature oldster ! As all people do in life, I gravitated towards others who shared my interests and who I got along with. I was also into hot rods and drag racing and made many friends in that venue. My '68 'Cuda was on the cover of last month's Drag Magazine. That car is now in Illinois (going 9's) and owned by the nephew of a friend of mine who wheeled with the Club in the early '80's. I played competitive basketball for 25 years and made many friends who were into sports. All of it has had one thing in common-People! Friends are what get you through life.
For 30 years of RC4W I have watched our members as they have gotten married, and divorced, had their kids and raised their families. I've even had to see some of our members die. That was tough. One died of cancer at age 28, one was killed in a tornado at age 35 and another, along with his girlfriend, was killed in a Jeep rollover at age 22. I've watched our member's kids grow up and become adults themselves. I was there on Slaughterhouse Gulch the night John Bundy had decided to go 4 wheelin' instead of staying home with his "due at anytime" wife. HE broke HIS rig and WE spent the night on Slaughterhouse. This was all before cell phones and John was a nervous wreck. Travis Bundy graduated from high school last year!
I knew Kevin McFadden for years before his son Drew was even born. Drew is now 23 years old, married and divorced, and working in a hot rod shop in Wisconsin. He was only 2 when we tried to "hang" him. We were on a Club run to Gold Hill. Kevin was riding with me in my old Power Wagon. We had strapped Drew into the middle seat belt, were drinking beer, and hadn't noticed that Drew had fallen asleep and slid down on the seat to the point where the seat belt was tight around his little neck. Have I ever mentioned that the Club was a rolling party in those days? You have to keep in mind, this was all before "Political Correctness", when society still allowed "FUN" to happen! Kevin and I met at Walden at the first Beer Race in '79. Try running a beer race up there now on Memorial Day weekend! We partnered up for 3 beer races and never lost! Kevin brought Tracy (I'll NEVER own a stinking Jeep) McLane into the Club in 1986. Tracy's Jeep won 1st place in the street 4x4 class at our show last year! Tracy met his wife Lisa through RC4W. Lisa is John Bundy's wife Stacy's sister. Tracy and Lisa are now raising three teenagers.
I met Dave Hardin in the early '90's at the Easter Jeep Safari Sand Hill Climb at Moab. Dave's now been in the Club for over 10 years, and served as President 3 years in a row. At the time Dave had a Blazer which later became Mike Hixon's. Mike swapped in 1-ton axles and then later parted the whole thing out. Those axles are now under George Brook's Jeep! And the "Merry" just keeps "going 'round"! Dewey Williams' uncle, Tom Williams, was one of the original 3 that started the Club. Tom's big red Ford (Highbumper) won the Rat Rig trophy at our show. It's the same truck he put together in the late '70's. It's a '72 F250 with military Dodge Dana 70's, 42" TSL's, a Donny Sands 455 Olds and a 4-speed! Is that "RAT" enough?
Current member, Joe Huston, is the son of former member Dick Biggerstaff. Joe and his brother were just little guys when they started wheelin' with the Club back in the '80's. Dick now owns my old Power Wagon. It was also at the show. It was in that truck that Dick and I and former member Shawn Franzen made the infamous Cody road trip in 1985, but that's a whole other story! Shawn brought his V8 powered XJ down to our show from his home in Worland.
Throughout last year as I worked on the 30th anniversary show I realized that all of my best and/or funniest memories were of all the people who have been in the Club over the course of 30 years. There have been some real characters . I also realized that nearly all of the best and funniest memories were non-4 wheeling related. It was always sitting around a campfire, or in-camp, or a work trip, or a party, or a meeting (Mike Flynn "watering" the Christmas tree at Uncle Charlie's, 2 years in a row!) I've never understood why anyone would miss a work trip, they have been some of the best times. Rocking Jerry Young's camper in the middle of the night until it spilled kool-aid and milk all over the interior. The alcohol fueled volleyball games in the rain at Bobbie Thompson campground. Richard and Cindy Cisco's milk can dinners. Listening to Dave Addington's endless and hilarious campfire stories about Goto, his grandma's really mean goat down on the farm, or Ball Peen, the ugliest girl he ever went out with, or his grandma's REALLY FAST whippet dog. Dewey Williams' BIG BLAST at the '05 work trip. Also at the '05 work trip we had the mysterious Cinnebar Park Self-Propelled Portable Outhouse incident.
Mike Ulmaniec easily takes up a whole chapter in RC4W history and he was only around for 4 or 5 years in the late '80's, early '90's. A born comic genius, Mike was more fun than you can even imagine. His years in the Club were never short on laughs! Mark Padgett riding his "imaginary motorcycle" into "The Creek" at Walden, when The Creek was still a serious deal, at the 1988 RC4W sponsored Memorial Day Sand Hills Rally. The '98 Montrose trip when we stayed at the KOA campground. After wheeling we partied at the campground and raced their big wheeled trikes around the campground. Ronnie Spencer could never make the first corner and ended up in the ditch every time. John Stone and Chris Ladd had a demolition derby during their race. We broke both trikes! Larry Vincent turned his campsite into "Goober's Garage". When that fun was over we loaded ourselves into lawn chairs on Ronnie's trailer and went through town to the steakhouse for dinner. At the end of the weekend KOA management informed us that we were no longer welcome at their campground. We did fix their trikes for crying out loud!
There have been some legendary Christmas and Northern District parties at the now closed Bruce's Bar in Severance, Co. It was a fitting end having our last Bruce's Christmas party in 2006. The Blair-Wallis Club picnics where we played tackle football in a cow pie strewn field (use your imagination!) The old tubing trips to Happy Jack. The '86 camping trip to Battle Lake where we had a rolled Blazer, a drunk cocker spaniel, Dick Biggerstaff caught snoring on tape, and a 125 lb Doberman trying to have sex with the aforementioned drunk cocker spaniel. The '01 Boy's Night Out camping trip to the Sierra Madre where we got to meet the "Mayor of Dixon !) A 3 year old Drew McFadden grabbing the aforementioned 125 lb Doberman by the "jewels" from behind at Walden. He was my dog "Joshua" who whipped around (after he arched his back so hard I thought he broke it) and looked down at Drew like he couldn't even believe what had just happened. "Little Man's got a GRIP !"
I could go on for about, oh, 30 years worth. The point is RC4W has always been about the people. Check out the "Blasts from the Past" on our website. It tells the story. I get a little frustrated when I hear that someone doesn't think they can be a part of RC4W because they "can't keep up". Keep up with what? Do you own a 4wd vehicle? Do you have a pulse? Do you like to have fun? Bingo! That's it, unless you are a COMPLETE idiot and then you probably won't get along anywhere.
RC4W has been going to all the same wheeling spots for 30 years. There are only so many places to go and trails to run on the northern front range that are within a days run from Cheyenne, period. I think after 30 years we have found most of them. Our monthly club runs are all only one day (or at least they start out that way!) We've ran them all with STOCK vehicles. We've ran them all with what we had 30 years ago! Today's off the showroom floor Jeep is better than ANYTHING we had 30 years ago. Yes, we are a hardcore snowbashing club, but that hasn't changed either. What else are you gonna do when your wheeling spots are buried in snow 10 month's out of the year? We are the Moab of Snow Bashing! Snow bashing in the mountains is like legal street racing, a thrill a minute! Nothing has changed. There were rigs 30 years ago that worked better in the snow than others. Bear in mind also that 4 wheeling (like most all motorsports) is 80% driver. No amount of vehicle will ever make up for lack of driver. If you are a good driver, you already have a leg up.
The advantage to snow over rocks is that nearly any vehicle can keep up with the group in the snow. Can they run at the front or break trail? Probably not but they can run farther back in line where they still have a challenge just like the guys at the front and they can be part of the group and have a good time all day. And the stock rigs will go farther and have more fun in a day than they would if they were on the trail with all stock rigs. Our "support" rigs are pretty good! We all help each other, and we've ALL had to start somewhere. We were all beginners at some point!
On most hardcore rock trails the guy 10 rigs back has the same trail as the guy in front. You either make it, or you don't. At the "Hammers" in Southern California the trails are so loose that EVERYONE gets a different trail than the guy in front of them. On a hardcore rock trail it really does separate the built rigs from the stock rigs and you CAN'T tow a rig up Die Tryin', even John Stone can't do THAT! Besides, there isn't a hardcore rock trail within 400 miles of Cheyenne! (Penrose is too far to go for too little and Holy Cross is NOT a hardcore trail!)
We ALL get stuck in the snow and we ALL get yanked out, and we ALL break our junk. NO ONE is immune from an occasional spanking! And, we give awards for it. It doesn't matter WHAT your rig is or WHO you are. In 30 years we have NEVER left anyone on the trail, nor would we ever. I think I've probably been towed home broken more than anyone I know! Both me AND my Jeep! A forward endo in Oklahoma broke my neck and destroyed my Jeep, and a nasty backward endo in New Mexico broke just about everything else from the waist up. My friend's Jeep landed on me. I was unconscious and near death when airlifted out of there to the nearest trauma center in Albuquerque. Bad scene. The trail was called "Survivor". I WON'T recommend it to anyone without a LOT of hardcore experience so please don't ask me where it is.
Our website manager, Bill Fowler, recently asked me about the members we lost last year. With all due respect to the few departed members, I don't even consider it a loss. It's only normal. Every year for 30 years we have lost a few members and it's nearly always been one's who hadn't been active anyway. In 30 years we have had two splits, '81 and '87, where we lost almost 50% of the membership each time. It's now 2007, RC4W is still here, still rolling along and still havin' fun! After the '87 split those who left formed another club (hats, jackets, t-shirts, decals etc. etc.) It didn't last more than about a year. More than 60% of our members have been around for 5+ years and more than 40% have been around for more than 10 years. That's dedication and support! We've had many Club vehicles featured in the magazines over the years. The Club itself has been featured several times in the magazines. The last time was just last year in JP. We have an awesome website. By far the best of all the ones I have checked out around the country. RC4W is solid, stable and experienced. We have a long track record of consistency and success.
I disagree with the notion that RC4W is not a good place for new wheelers. It's the ONLY place. Where else can they get the kind of experience , knowledge and stability that we offer? Not to mention the "FUN" factor! It's a no-brainer. RC4W is the BEST place for them to learn all the right ways, and have the support, to do what we do. You can't beat experience and we got it! The advantages to RC4W are we get good new members who we can help, and educate, and maybe keep them out of the illegal Vedauwoo mud holes which ultimately helps US keep OUR trails open so WE can PLAY. Pure and simple! Those new members will further the legend and the future of RC4W by bringing what they have to the party and creating yet another generation of memories for the Club. Who knows? Maybe another Ulmaniec will show up!
As RC4W rolls into the future we need to recognize those who have gotten us here. To our members with less than 5 years, we're glad you're here. You are the future of the Club. The following are the members with more than 5 years who are the backbone of the Club and whose consistent support over a long period of time is the reason for the success of RC4W. Jim Carter- 5 years, Willie Fowler- 5 years, Matt Romero- 5 years, Scott Grimm- 5 years, Marlon Seals- 5 years, Steve Wykoff- 7 years, Dave Hardin- 10 years, Chris Ladd- 10 years, John Stone- 10 years, Howard Segal- 12 years, Dewey Williams- 13 years, Brian Kubal- 16 years, and Richard Cisco- 17 years! "Nuff said!