A favorite event for kids and adults alike is the duck race. Participants are asked to decorate their team duck. Loud cheers erupt as the ducks come across the finish line.
Ten Year's after Sportsmobile's first 4WD rally, nearly 100 vans converged on Utah's Summit County and the High Star Ranch. Starting with the first rally held in 1998 at Lake Isabelle, CA, these events have been all about adventure, with a heavy dose of education and training. Alan and Liz Feld, who operate Sportsmobile West, coordinate these events for their customers, and have bounced around North America, holding rallies in Moab, Baja, Silverton and Hollister. The events have become so popular that the number of registrants must now be limited.
Saturday Afternoon marked the opening of registration, and the vans began to line up, turning into a 400-yard-long procession of 35-inch tires, Atlas transfer cases, and excited participants. It was easy to see how this gathering has become a family event that participants look forward to year after year. From registration, the van owners picked out a campsite from 250 acres of lush pasture land, then started to reconnect with friends and check out the new modifications other owners had installed.
The next morning started early, with a catered breakfast and announcements from Alan and his team. The day would be filled with activities for the "Olympic Challenge," a multi-stage competition including a technical 4WD course called the Slow Drag and a series of worse-case scenarios in which the van owners are scored on such tasks as fixing a broken hub, repairing a relay problem, or recovering a stuck vehicle. There was also a tire repair challenge and seminar led by George Carousos from Extreme Outback Products. George provided tire-plugging instruction and a review of tire safety and inspection. The day ended with a great dinner and happy hour, where Stephanie and I heard more fantastic stories of adventure and exploration from this eclectic and well-traveled group.
Day two included more "Olympic Challenge" activities. Jim McGean from Dynatrac scored the participants on repairing a broken Warn hub. Bonus points were awarded to the team that could sing The Star-Spangled Banner and get Jim choked up. Great fun and fitting to the 4th of July holiday. A final challenge included a road rally and navigation event, in which teams used identical GPS units to find specific locations, which held clues to a problem-solving workbook.
On the final night, Alan pulled a surprise challenge: Each team had to prepare a mobile "happy hour." The teams pulled out all the stops and began blending margaritas, pouring shots and mixing drinks. Some of the judges couldn't walk by the third vehicle and only a few made it to the end. Team 11, led by Pat Blewett, proved victorious with each winning van fitted with a new set of BFGoodrich tires.
The Sportsmobile Rally was a fun and informative adventure, run by company staff and van owners intent on having a great time with their overland-equipped vans. Preparations for the 2008 event are already underway, during which 100 Sportsmobiles will take on the deserts of Baja for an awesome expedition. We are looking forward to the adventure, and the sound of margarita blenders over the crashing waves of the Sea of Cortez.