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SMORR - AO represented in Southern Missouri
Black Friday morning I got up at 6, left my Dad’s house outside of Kansas City, and headed toward SMORR, (Southern Missouri Off Road Ranch.)  After a stop by Walmart in Springfield, MO to grab some supplies (and Bacon) it was another 30 or so minutes to the ranch.  Got checked in eventually (debit cards not accepted, had to run back 5 miles to Seymour to an ATM, but they let me park Skitzo and trailer first.)

Got back and set up camp not knowing how late I’d be on the trails.  So about 2 PM I headed out, trying to decipher the trail map and which direction I wanted to go.   Decided that since this was still a shakedown run I would take an easier trail to start with so I headed toward PeeWee’s crossing – which basically runs down a creek.  To get there I took another trail and the first downhill was steeper than I thought but no worries, headed up the other side only to realize I was in 2wd.  Backed down to the cross trail to lock hubs but then was blocking a UTV coming up the cross trail.  So I just put a little skinny pedal down and got up the hill in 2wd.  Loose softball / volleyball sized rocks resembling part of 55 mile shale hill – but it was a short uphill.  Stopped and locked hubs and headed back down to another trail which was ¼ mile of more of those rocks, a few off camber spots and some larger rocks thrown in.  So far, no problems.  

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Turned around and headed back down that to PeeWee’s and crawled through the creek some.  Passed several UTV trains and a few other trucks.  PeeWee’s is, mostly rated a 2, but one section is a 3.  However, several trails off PeeWees are 5’s and 6’s.  Some super steep hillclimbs with multiple 2’ ledges in the middle of them.  Pulled off to the side and shut it off for a bit to look at the map and it had a little trouble restarting.  Headed up “Puppy-Licker” which wasn’t as steep as some of the others with boulders and ledges.  

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As normal, the pictures don't tell the true steepness of these hills!  Got ¾ of the way up the hill and got to a boulder I was having trouble getting past, tried a few different lines and kept sliding toward the center of the trail.  Front right was hitting a second boulder (about the size of the top of a Volkswagen) as my rear tires were hitting the first one.  Noticed temp starting to rise so I backed down.  I had been running without a thermostat so I thought maybe the coolant didn’t have enough time to cool as it passed through the radiator.  Toward the bottom I pulled the front on a hill to get the thermo-housing above the radiator in the back and swapped that out.  Went to restart it and the battery was dead!
Have I mentioned yet that I was by myself?  One of the most nerve racking things about going on this trip was I didn’t have a group to go with me.  AO is incredible in that aspect.  I figured being a park there would be other people around, but who?  Would they want to wheel and not help?  Would I be inconveniencing people I don’t know?  There is great comfort in the attitude of AO members and knowing when we go out as a group we have each other’s back!

While I installed the thermostat several people drove by, looked, hit the brakes – I gave a thumbs up and they continued on.  But now when I could use help, 30+ minutes passed without anyone coming by.  Was about to start walking toward the sound of trucks over the hill when I heard some coming down the creek.  Danny was driving a 4Runner followed by Chris in an XJ, they pulled up and gave me a jumpstart and offered to follow me back to the campground, or that I could wheel with them for a while.  I said if they didn’t mind giving me a jumpstart occasionally I’d like to go play a bit!  Well, not 1/8 mile later I was overheating again!  They stopped and asked if I needed coolant or help or?  I didn’t want to further hold them up, so I told them I’d let it cool down, check things out, and asked if they could come back and check on me in 45 minutes or so.  They agreed and off they went.  Found that someone who replaced the thermostat didn’t think to check and refill the radiator… that guy!  Meanwhile, the sunset was great!

An hour and 15 go by and they don’t show.  And after the first 15 minutes there, no one else had come by.  When they returned it was only the XJ.  4runner blew a Birf playing on a hill and they had taken it back to camp, then came to get me.  Jumpstart and headed back but as we were about ¼ mile from camp it was overheating again – it just slowly crept up… Sometimes I hate shakedown runs! 

They towed me back to my campsite and found out we were camped fairly close.  I had camped in the RV slots so as to have electricity available – I hooked up the battery charger and headed over to help them pull the axle shaft. 

Had my electric impact and some other tools that were a help.  Meanwhile their families made chili and brought me a bowl.  Sat around the campfire with them afterwards and discussed plans for fixes.  These two families out wheeling were from north of St Louis, came to this park 8 times a year, and were super friendly and helpful.  We ended up wheeling together all weekend. 

The overheating was more of an electrical issue.  I thought... how do you test thermostats at camp?  Boil them in a pot of water ofver the campfire!  Two new alternators, a new battery, wiring the way I’ve always had it but for some reason this set up will not charge the battery!  Without the battery charging the electric fans weren’t cooling the radiator.  I checked continuity of wiring figuring maybe the fuse-able link had burnt out – it was good.  Baffling.  Finally found a wiring diagram that said to run the exciter wire to the alternator light.  But it didn’t show exactly how, nor a ground, nor does Skitzo have an “Alternator light.”  Would any 12v lightbulb work?  Guy at the parts store said he wired his to an ignition on switch without a light, that it simply needed to read the voltage to know when it needed to charge.  Simple fix!  Did that, started it up and drove around to their campsite and it wouldn’t shut off!  Had to pull the plug from the alternator!  Grrr.  Danny asked if I had a toggle switch I could run it to, which I did – so it wasn’t “right” but it worked, after starting it I flipped the toggle, the battery charged, and now it was a 2 switch shutdown .  That I could deal with to wheel!

Saturday we hit a trail called Larry’s hill, again reminded me of parts of 55 mile.  

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They were amazed at how easy Skitzo made it look.  I was actually amazed at how well it climbed over the ledges.  Not terribly steep, and the rock ledges were under 2’ and weren’t right after one another.  With SMORR being a private park like, where there are hills there are multiple lines up with varying levels of difficulty. While you aren’t supposed to create new trails, obviously over the years people have gone left or right and now many hill-climbs have several paths up – like the play hill on Banner – except with more rocks than dirt.  I didn’t hit the hardest spot at the top of Larry’s hill, but did take the more difficult line up to that point.  

We had a few minor issues while out and I ended up having the supplies / tools to help them.  Bailing wire for clanking exhaust, duct tape for a torn intake boot, (Yes, bailing wire and duct tape!)  But I also used the ready-welder Sat night at camp to weld back a shock mount.  (Guess who is now pricing ready welders!) I think Stampede was the last time I used the ready-welder!  We went down a trail called “Rocker Knocker” Saturday after dark.  Just past the entrance there was a rock ledge to the left that went up the hill with a boulder on the right, with running water to make everything slippery.  XJ went first with a bit of difficulty, had to re-aim a few times after sliding.  Then I went up with little difficulty, except that the rear slid into the boulder denting the side of my rim pretty good.  It held air still so on we trucked.  The 4Runner had a bit more sliding issues but made it even with 3 wheel drive, yet did rip his shock mount off at that spot.  The rest of the trail was loose rocks, hillclimbs, creeks, a few spots that I had to pick my way through but nothing to really worry about. 

They knew the park so I followed them on who knows how many trails.  We pulled up to watch some people play at “Double-Whammy” but we were the only ones there.  The XJ has open diffs but Chris was able to make it go about wherever he wanted.  He took the left line and got up the side of the hardest part of d-w.  Then threw the gauntlet and I walked up it with only one little problematic ledge. 

Sunday morning started out right:

Coffee by the fire and ... Bacon - on a stick!

After breakfast we headed out to what they called “Punisher hill.” It’s a play hill where last year a Jeep with a punisher logo sat broken all weekend – thus the name.  As well, Danny said that every time they try to go up it, it punishes their rigs.  Just a side trail, really.  With three very distinct 2’ ledges that catch just about any wheelbase hitting at least 2 at a time.  

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Had to use the skinny pedal – bounced a bit.  Skitzo is not a bouncer!  Like a bucking horse at moments.  Got my drivers front up the third and tallest ledge but heard a pop – tried to move a bit and couldn’t turn.  Popped the drivers’ side front spring center pin, then drove the axle 6 inches forward of center.  Loosened the u-bolts, used a strap to pull the axle back to center, tightened her down but without George (or my toolbox sitting in my garage that had the part) I backed slowly down and headed for the trailer.  

The weather (especially for late November) was incredible with highs in the upper 60’s and lows around 25.  There were so many rigs at the “Ranch” (it really is a ranch – they also have horses!) I thought that the trails would be super crowded.  I was wrong.  There are so many trails in the 940 acre park that very rarely did it seem crowded.  There were bouncers, tube buggies, very well built wheelers, stock vehicles, and millions of dollars of UTV’s.  Everyone was friendly on the trails.  Several times people stopped to look at other rigs or ask if help was needed.  I will go back.  Danny and Chris and I are planning to meet up again at Disney, OK (not far from me) as well as future trips to SMORR.  I didn’t get to do as much trail riding as I’d hoped due to mechanical issues, but it was a great weekend. 

I did learn / remember a few things:

Wheeling with good people who you can depend on is important - Thanks AO for all the great years!

Boggers are not the best tire for rocks.  Great in the mud - just ok in the rocks.

While I brought a lot of things, I didn't bring enough!  Always be more prepared than you think necessary.
(cough cough - center pins!)

Rigs are never done!  There will always be something to tinker with.

A bad day on the trail is better than ... wait, is there such a thing?

(More photos are in the past rides 2017 gallery)
Sounds like a great trip. Glad you ran into folks who are like minded and look out for others. Wheeling alone has never been as fun as being out with a few folks. Look forward to some write ups and pictures in the future.
Cool. Someday it would be nice to make it down and hit some parks.
So, I had interspersed all the pics I posted in the gallery throughout the post, but it limited me to 5!
When did this happen? We used to be able to add more than 5 pics... strange!
I'll try to look into that. Still going through the new software and learning it all. Arin had to basically rebuild the website.
Nice! Since you are having to play with your spring packs to replace center pins, maybe remove a leaf or two to soften the ride up a little.

Just a thought, since those springs were probably designed for a 6-8k rig..... Smile
(28 Nov 17, 09:48 am)AKMark Wrote: Nice!  Since you are having to play with your spring packs to replace center pins, maybe remove a leaf or two to soften the ride up a little.  

Just a thought, since those springs were probably designed for a 6-8k rig..... Smile

Righto!  Have thought about removing a leaf since taking it back to trail from racing.
(28 Nov 17, 04:53 am)ChevyKev Wrote: So, I had interspersed all the pics I posted in the gallery throughout the post, but it limited me to 5!  
When did this happen?  We used to be able to add more than 5 pics...  strange!

I fixed it, finally.
I moved your pictures into their own category under the 2017(new) folder.

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