Camp Jeep 2000

Greetings! Alan here. It's been awhile since we've posted anything, and even longer since I've done the writing. Heidi and I recently visited the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia for CAMP JEEP 2000. Before I get to the write-up for that, I have to tell you about the latest addition to the Wagoner household. 

No, it's not a baby! It's not a dog, a cat, or even a bird. It's a JEEP! Yep, a Wrangler. I've always liked Jeeps. I know a guy (named Guy) who had a Jeep when I was in high school. Cool guy, cool Jeep!

Some History:
When Heidi and I had been in San Jose for awhile, we (mainly ME) decided that I needed a new car. The teeny-tiny car that I'd been using for transportation was literally hurting my back, and it was tiny! It was a Suzuki, like Heidi's. Heidi even named it: Shorty. 

It was around December that we started looking. Initially, we were looking at cars, and not having much luck (due to my size). I don't know what got me thinking about the Jeep (it was me- heidi), but once I had a test drive, it was only a matter of time before I got one. The next decision was what model. There are 3 models to choose from (low to high): SE, Sport, Sahara. Obviously, I went with the best: Sahara. I also got the dual top model. Not only do I have a hard top, but I have a soft top too! Next choice: color. I had seen red ones, yellow ones, and even some nice brown looking ones. But in the end, I really liked the look of a white body/white hard top. The nice thing about this combo is that they're rare. I've only seen 3 since I've had mine. It looks like a big version of Heidi's Samurai.

None of the local dealers had the exact model that I wanted, so the dealer that we went to drove to Sacramento to pick it up. We ordered the Jeep on December 29, and on the 30th, We had ourselves a new car, er, Jeep.  Now I have to tell you that I was not prepared for how much I love this car! 

A couple of months after I had the Jeep, I got something in the mail about a Camp Jeep Event. I didn't know what it was, but after reading the mail, I wanted to go. You see, it's a HUGE get together with other Jeep owners. Just Jeeps. Jeep puts it on as a show of "Thanks" to their customers. It was going to be held in Virginia. By that time, we already knew that we were moving to North Carolina, so I explained it to Heidi. She liked the idea, so I signed us up.

Back to the Present (sort of):
So where back in North Carolina, and Camp Jeep is a month away. The Jeep is a great machine from the dealer, but when I signed up for Camp Jeep, I was informed that I would need some "skid protection". What's this, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. It's basically armor (thick metal plate) for the Jeep. When you're driving on a trail, and you hit a rock, you don't want said rock to penetrate the steering box, gas tank, or anything like that. See, a cracked leaking oil case on a trail miles away from civilization is a BAD thing! A VERY bad thing.

That said, I ordered up some armor. I purchased a steering box skid plate, and a gas tank skid plate. Heidi and I installed the steering box skid plate ourselves (don't even get me started on that  story). I didn't have the proper tools to install the skid plate for the gas tank, so I had a shop do it for me.

Unfortunately, it's one of those installs that you can't say, "Wow! That skid plate looks awesome!"
You can't really see the stuff, but it gives you piece of mind knowing it's there. I had also ordered some side nerf bars to protect the rocker panels, but they didn't arrive in time. Oh well.

OK, so now the Jeep is outfitted, and we're getting ready. What are going to be doing at Camp Jeep? Well, we've signed up for an "Engineering Roundtable Discussion", some River Tubing, and a 4X4 Trail. There's also a myriad of other events to see, ranging from product demonstrations to physical activities like riding ATVs, or going on an military like "confidence course".

Heidi and I both took the day off (Camp Jeep was scheduled for Thursday to Saturday), so we could take our time getting up there. The drive up was very nice. No tickets (knock on wood), and very scenic. It took us about 2.5 hours to get up to the hotel which was in Lynchburg. It was great once we got there, because we started to see Jeeps with their Camp Jeep 2000 flags. I was expecting to see mainly Wrangler/CJ type of Jeeps, but I was surprised at how many Cherokees/Grand Cherokees I saw.

I still have my California plates on the Jeep, so when other Camp Jeepers saw our car, they were amazed that we had driven all the way from California to attend. We did. We just had a four month lay over in North Carolina.

We got into our room in the early afternoon, then did some driving around the town. Nothing too memorable to be honest, but we didn't really look too hard. We did the standard shopping thing. You know, drinks and snacks and stuff. Tomorrow: Camp Jeep!  We did watch a fantastic lightning storm out our hotel window most of the evening.

camp jeep Yippee! It's Camp Jeep day! We get all of clothes packed, our cooler filled with ice, and check to make sure we've got our tickets. Double-check to make sure we have our tickets, and we're off. The Camp Jeep festivities are located about 35 miles away from the hotel in the mountains, so we leave early, and grab a bite to eat on the way.

As we're getting closer, we see more and more Jeeps. It's fantastic! Everybody's waving, and there's a happy mood in the air. We're a bit closer, and it turns into a Jeep Convoy. Nothing but Jeeps as far as you can see. Finally, we see the "Welcome to Camp Jeep" sign, and we're there! Both of us are a bit nervous, and want to see/do everything. We get parked, grab our tickets and liability waivers (what function would be without those), and head in. FREE GIFT BAG

Prior to going in, I saw a Jeep with the same rack that I have. I noticed that the guy had put lights on the rack, so I asked him if he had any tips. He showed me a couple of things, and said goodbye.

Once "inside", the whole layout is huge. It's like a mini amusement park, in that there's something there for all ages. We had some time before our first scheduled event (Engineering Roundtable Discussion), so we signed up for "Jeep 101", then looked around.

After getting the lay of the land, we head off to the Engineering Roundtable Discussion. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with this. I was expecting the Jeep Engineers to be a bit more involved in the discussion. It was mostly the Jeep owners just saying what they liked/disliked about the car.
Heidi and I left early to attend the "Jeep 101" event that we signed up for.

jeep agility course Jeep 101 is a big obstacle course for Jeeps. You get the opportunity to drive the Jeep of your choice (they have 20 vehicles ranging from the Wrangler to the top-of-the-line Grand Cherokee). It's billed as a "learning" event, but I didn't get anything out of it. You basically just drive the car around the course. That's it. I guess if I was interested in purchasing a Cherokee or something, I would have been able to see how they drive "off-road", but it didn't really float my boat. (heidi here- I really liked this. The obstacles they have you drive through are up and down extremely steep hills and driving on the side of the hill as well, it felt like I was going to tip the jeep over. They also have you drive across 2 2x8 planks of wood about 12 feet long, that doesn't sound so bad, but they are over a little ditch that is about 5 feet deep. Anyway, I liked it.)

We did some more roaming around the area. Here are some of the activities at Camp Jeep
* Gabrielle Reese (world renowned volleyball player) giving clinics.
* Walking stick carving
* Arcade games
* Survival discussions
* Hiking
* Mountain Biking
* Tours of the Mansion
* Golf clinics
* Martha Stewart cookie decorating
* Juggling lessons

All of this roaming was making us hungry, so we went over to the food tent, and grabbed some quick grub before heading out to our next event. Inner-tubing! The burgers and dogs were pretty good. We went back to the Jeep, and got changed into our swimming trunks. Once changed, we went to the sign-up location to let them know we were ready to get wet. They bussed us to the river location (which was about an hour away), and then we were told about the tubing. Basically, we were going to be bussed (a different set of buses) 3 miles up river, and then we'd have two hours to get back, so that the bus could take us back to the Camp Jeep location. So it gets me thinking? Three miles in two hours. Initially, I can't do the math. I'm used to counting if not in the hundreds, at least a lot of dozens whenever there's a couple of hours involved. So I finally work out that it's "1.5 miles per hour". Not exactly a raging river.

Anyway, we got our inner tubes, got onto another old school bus, and finally got our feet wet. The river was a great temperature, even if it was a bit slow. We headed out into the middle where I can still easily touch bottom, hop on, and float. Initially, I was a bit put off, then I got into the relaxation thing. You just lay your head back, and you don't have to worry about much. At least until you hit a shallow spot where the river grass is growing like crazy. A lot of the other people had brought little footballs, and were throwing them around, and having a good time.

There was one part where if you went over to the far right hand side of the river, there were some rapids. I raced through the rapids at about 5 miles per hour (not exactly breaking the sound barrier, huh?), and that was pretty fun. Heidi "ran the rapids" too.

About an hour into our tubing, Heidi looks up ahead, and says that we're close to the end, because she can see people standing up. Another fifteen minutes goes by, and she says the same thing. This happens a couple more times, and it dawns on us that people are standing up, because there are parts where the river is too shallow to float.

Besides the "rapids", there was another thing that was phenomenal! You'll think it's weird, but here goes. It was mating season for the dragonflies, and as Heidi and I were drifting, she would count the pairs that were on me. At one point, she counted 20+ pairs of dragonflies doing their thing. It was a regular Dragonfly Orgy. Hey, I was glad I could do my thing for Mother Nature, and let them have a place to hang out.

Anyway, it's getting close to the time that the buses are going to start departing, so we started kicking. We finally get to the dock, and get out. Both of us are completely pruned! We also got a fair amount of sun. By the time we get back to the Camp Jeep locale, we decide to head back to the hotel. After all, we've got our 4X4 trail tomorrow, and it's EARLY!

Once we got back to Lynchburg, we had a nice steak dinner and then sacked out!

5:00. It's early. Real early. Too early! I suddenly remember: It's 4X4 Trail Day! Months ago, I signed us up for an intermediate trail (they had scenic, intermediate, and advanced). The trail ride is supposed to be around 3-4 hours. I'm a bit nervous. Thoughts of rolling my Jeep, or breaking an axle fill my head. This is my daily driver, and if it gets thrashed, I'll be quite upset.

We both get up, get outfitted for the day, and head out. It's still dark, and that adds to the spooky mood. Neither of us know exactly what to expect. Once we're about 10 miles away, the only cars we see on the road are Jeeps. When we pull into the staging area, we see hundreds of Jeeps in a huge field. All the Jeeps are lined up like corn rows. (There were a total 12 trails of 20-30 jeeps each) We've been assigned to Trail 6, so we head for that row. We met our Trail Guide, and he asked me to put the Jeep in 4-Low, second gear. I complied, and drove a little bit. He was checking to make sure that our 4-Low system actually worked. No problem. He then told me to put it in 2-Hi, and move on. After the quick little check, we stop behind a brand spanking new Grand Cherokee, and get out. I was hoping to be behind a Wrangler type vehicle, so I could see its "attitude" while on the trail. Oh well. 

Check in for the 4x4 trail ride We walk around, do some filming, and talk to a few Jeep owners. I noticed a guy who had a bumper that I've been thinking of purchasing, so I go over to talk to him. Nice guy. It's great seeing all of these Jeeps, and none of them look alike. That's another great benefit to owning a Jeep. You can customize it, and make it your own.

After about 15 minutes, people are starting to head towards the front of the staging area. It's starting. One of the Trail Guides stood on his Jeep, and welcomed everyone. He explained the do's and don'ts, and then told us to get back into our cars. The way the trail would work is that there would be a Trail Guide at the front, middle, and end of the pack. We were to keep the person behind us in our rear view mirror, in the event of a problem, the lead Trail Guide would know to stop.

After a few minutes, we see row 1 moving, then row 2. Finally, we start moving. We drive about 3 miles to the Trail head. We're told to put our Jeeps in 4-Low, second gear again, then we head out! Another thing that we had been told about the trails is that due to the rain storm we had (Wednesday), the trails level of difficulty had increased somewhat. Scenic became intermediate, intermediate turned into advanced, and advanced became, well, more advanced. We drove a little bit, then we hit our first obstacle.

Obstacle Number One
It's hard to explain, but look at some of the pics, and you'll hopefully get a good idea. This is a stream crossing. We're 8th in line, and the only thing we can see is that some of the cars pull forward in a tight left turn, then backup, and then go forward again. Even when we're next, we can't see what the obstacle looks like. Finally, it's our turn. Both Heidi and I are very nervous. Like everyone else, we pull forward, reverse, and go forward. This obstacle has 3 parts: 

1. The Down Part
2. The Water Part
3. The Up Part

Obstacle number 1 going down At first glance, I don't like the look of The Down Part. It's steep smooth rocks, that are wet. The guide tells me to go slow. He not only gets my Jeep positioned right going down, but also tells me to use first gear. I lock the brakes on the way down, and we slide down the rocks about 5 feet. That's some scary 5 feet. Now another guide leads us through The Water Part in preparation for The Up Part. As we go along the water, we hear a few clunks. We've hit rocks, and I am oh so glad that I put those skid plates on. About halfway through the water, the guide tells me to drive straight up The Up Part. I head up, but don't have enough speed, so I get stuck at the top. The lead Trail Guide is there, and he says to back down to the middle of the stream, then punch it. I do as he says, and we make it up The Up Part! We pull all the way forward, then get out and walk down to see others go through the obstacle.

Obstacle number 1 watching others going down It's actually pretty cool seeing other Jeeps go through what you just did. Some of them did better than others. One of the Wrangler-type vehicles practically flew down the rocky part, and ran into a tree log. All of the Cherokee type vehicles made it up no problem, but some of them did some damage to their running boards on the way down the rocks. Ouch! After the last of the Jeeps was through, we all got back into our vehicles and continued down the path.

Down the trail a bit, the Grand Cherokee ahead of me hits a long patch of thick mud. I slow down, and let him get to the other side. When he's through, I follow behind him. It looks like the path he's laid down is fairly deep, so I'm worried about the center part of the trail. It appears that I may drag on the center, so I decide to go to the right a bit. WRONG! About halfway through, we start slipping right of the trail. I'm turning left, but we're still slipping right. I panic, and slow down, and loose my momentum. Can you spell S-T-U-C-K? I can. Now. 

The guy ahead of me waited for me to get through the obstacle, and when he saw I was stuck, he got out. "Do you have a tow rope?" he asks. 
"Uhhhh. No." I reply.

So we wait for a trail guide either ahead or behind us to assess the situation, and come up with some suggestions. We waited awhile, and finally Joe (who was behind us 5 cars) came up, and asked if anyone had a tow rope. Luckily, somebody did. The guy in front hooked it up, and pulled us out. Hooray! I have since learned that my tires are CRAP in thick mud. OK, so the everyone's going again, and we're headed up some nice trails. Very green, and the vegetation is very thick.

Obstacle number 2 the rocks After a little bit, I notice that there's a line of Jeeps forming ahead of me. Uh-oh. Another obstacle. I don't get out, but I see everyone has to back up a bit before completing the obstacle. Finally, it's my turn, and I see some good sized rocks after a very sharp turn. Like everyone ahead of me, I try to turn wide first, then cut it left real hard, but I still have to backup. SHOOT! Anyway, Heidi gets out so she can video tape me. The guide motions to me with hand signals. LEFT. RIGHT a bit. STRAIGHT ON. It didn't seem like much when I was going over it, but after I was through, I got out and watched other people. If you didn't do the trail just right, either the rocks would bang your Jeep pretty hard, or you'd hit the trees. I did neither, so I was a happy camper. Once everyone was through, everyone got out, and the head guide talked to us about the area, the habitat, and other stuff. The area used to be home to a head-hunting group of Indians that practiced cannibalism, shamanism, and pretty much any other kind of ism you can think of. Actually, I joking. Man you're gullible. I don't even remember any of what he said, so if YOU'RE interested, I'm sure Heidi has a web site that she can point you too.

After the brief talk, everyone got back into their Jeeps, and we headed back down. We hit a few minor bumps, steep hills and stream crossings here and there. Nothing too memorable, but the scenery was sure beautiful. Finally, we come to a bunch of stopped Jeeps. You know what that means? Yep. Obstacle Number 3.

We both get out of the Jeep and walk expectantly up to the next obstacle. A bunch of people are looking down a pretty big drop. It's pretty scary actually. So like Obstacle Number One, there's:

1. The Down Part
2. The Water Part
3. The Up Part

This Down Part looks pretty bad, the Water Part looks OK, and the Up Part looks pretty fearsome. This time, the Third Part has a very steep part, then a steep sharp turn to the left, and another steep turn to the right.

So the guide is reassuring everyone that it's not so bad. We watch a few people go, and it's pretty funny. The looks on people's faces is a riot. Their eyes are huge, and they're hanging on tight with both hands. Finally, it's our turn. We ease up, and the guide tells us what to do. The key is to put in first (4L), and don't touch the gas or the clutch. The engine compression will slow us down. We inch forward, and it feels like when you're on a roller-coaster, and it's going up up up. You can't see DOWN yet, but you know it's coming. You still climbing, and you can't see the DOWN, but you're at the top going going going DOWN. Ahhhhhhh!! OK, it wasn't that bad, but there was definitely a lump in my throat. We made it down, and we're in the shallow water looking back. Pretty cool.

The next guide is telling us to floor it up the hill. We're ready, and I gun it. Nobody has gotten stuck on this obstacle, and I don't intend to be the first. The first turn was a bit of a nail-biter, since you have to make it up, and get prepared for the right that's coming. Once we made that right, it was all downhill, so to speak.

Luckily, everyone made it without any major injury to limb or Jeep. I for one was sad to see the end of the trail. It was a kick in the butt!

Afterwards, we went back to the Camp Jeep campground, and looked at the booths some more. There was a map of the United States with dots all over it. The dots represented where people had came from to attend the event. People had come from all over the world. There were dots that where from Spain, Russia, Israel, you name it.

Further down, there was Kiddy Land. On one booth, kids were putting on these velcro suits, and then they'd bounce on this trampoline, and stick to a wall. It was pretty funny. Another booth had a kid standing in the middle of a padded platform with a rope strapped to the back of his waist. On the other side of the rope was another kid, with a rubber wall in between them. When the gun went off, they fought against each other trying to get to the opposite side. The last stop in Kiddy Land was for the bigger kids. 

It was pugil sticks (I think that's what they're called). Essentially, it's a staff with padded ends, and participants wear helmets while trying to bash each other off these circular platforms. It looked like fun, so I got Heidi to fight me. Heh, heh. This was going to be fun. We got on the platforms, which turned out to be wobbly, and started ducking it out. A left, a right, an uppercut. Actually, there wasn't much technique, and I'll admit, I cheated a bit. You see I'm tall, therefore, I've got long arms. Long arms means reach, and that's a good thing. Unless you're name happens to be Heidi. After hitting on each other, I used my reach, and basically pushed her off the platform. Married or not, when it comes down to it, I'm in it for the win! Actually Heidi did a good job of fending me off.

After battling in manly way with manly sticks, what do real men do to unwind? Manly men go get tattoos! OK, so they weren't real, but they looked really good. They were way better than those tiny tattoos you used to get in Cracker Jacks, which by the way they don't give out anymore. We were feeling extra manly, so we both got two. They were the Camp Jeep 2000 logo.

After our manly tattoos where on, we looked at the Jeep Museum. They had some old military Jeeps that were used in WWII which was pretty cool. After that, we were both pretty tired, so we called it a day, and went back to the hotel for a meal, and some good rest.

Our activities didn't start early, so we got to sleep in late. Our first activity was kayaking at a nice lake, not to far from Walton's Mountain. At the lake, they had one of the Olympic kayak gold medal winners who was one of the guides. He brought his gold medal, and it was pretty cool. I had never seen one before, so it was a novelty to actually hold one.

We got into our groups, and we chose our kayaks, and went into the water. My kayak must have been broken, because 20 seconds in the water, and I tip over. Yeah. Definitely broken. Anyway, I choose another granny kayak, and I'm cruising. It's actually pretty cool once you get the rhythm down, it seems effortless. Heidi was doing really well (she was dry after all), and cruising around the lake. We actually got close enough for a quick smooch, without dumping ourselves into the water.

After about 30 minutes of kayaking, it was time to head in. We collected our stuff, and went to find some sustenance. We drove to the town that was closest to Camp Jeep, and found a nice little cafe. The food was very good, and we had a nice leisurely lunch.

Since our next activity at Camp Jeep was the dinner, we decided to go back to the hotel for some relaxation. If they ever have an Olympic event for napping, I'm definitely grab the gold. Heidi went down to the jacuzzi in the hotel and visited with some other jeep owners and then came up for her nap. Once we were both up and refreshed, we headed back to the campground. It was time for dinner, so we went to the tent that had the dinner boxes. We grabbed our food, and went to the amphitheater to eat and get prepared for the show. We were surprised at how many people were already there. We decided on a nice spot on the left side of the stage.

While waiting for the show, there were Jeep reps throwing out candy and prizes and stuff. I grabbed a bunch of candy, and even managed to get two Jeep watches. Heidi got a couple of the glowing necklaces. Score! I noticed there were a bunch of people juggling, so I went over. While I was messing around with juggling balls and pins, I recognized a guy. At first I couldn't place him, then it hit me. That was Dave Finnigan. For most of you who don't know, he's a world famous juggler, and his book was one of the first juggling books I owned. I still have it, and it's well-worn. He looked a lot older in real life, and that's what initially threw me. He was also much shorter than I expected.
I talked to him for a bit, and he was very pleased that someone knew him and had his book. Very cool. I went back to Heidi who was wondering where I had gone. I told her about Dave, and she thought that was pretty "Cool". 

Finally, the lights came up, and the Head Jeep Dude came on the stage and welcomed everyone. There was a bunch of yelling and clapping. He mentioned that there were over 6000 Jeeps in attendance making it the biggest Camp Jeep ever. He also gave us a preview of the upcoming Jeep commercials. These were commercials that the dealerships hadn't even seen. They were all pretty good. We especially like the one with the dirty Jeep Grand Cherokee that shakes like a dog to get all the mud off. You've probably seen it.

Next on the program was a bunch of dancing and singing skits. There was a 60's theme, and they had The Supremes, The Four Tops, and The Temptations. For the most part, these were the real band members, which was pretty cool.

After all the singing and dancing, they had the finale. Fireworks. It was great. I've never been so close to fireworks show. There were times that the fireworks were going off above us. Of course the crowd's "Ooohhhs and Ahhhhs" was fantastic. After that, it was all over. There was this major stampede to the parking lot, and after 15 minutes we got to the Jeep. Then it was another 10 minute wait before we started moving. Finally we got onto the freeway about midnight, and the place is just covered with Jeeps. Everyone's honking and waving at each other. Getting back to the hotel took much longer and by that time, we were tired. It had been a long three days.

So, Will we do it again next year? For all the activities and what-not it the price was reasonable. However the part that Heidi and I liked the best was the trail ride. If it were just us, we probably wouldn't do it again, unless we had guests. Don't get me wrong. It was a lot of fun, and we had a great time, but we could probably find a local Jeep group, and do the trail thing on a monthly basis. Who knows. Once we see next year's Camp Jeep brochure, we may change our mind.

The End

So what happened to Shorty? When we were selling it, a man from a local carnival came by to look. He was looking for a car for some of his midget friends, but said it was too small! OK. Bad joke. Anyway, we sold it to some guy who was new to the Bay Area. He hasn't called and demanded his money back, so I guess it's working out for him.