The 11th Annual Coal Mine Cruiser Classic (CMCC) run was another great event with more than 80 registered vehicles and close to twice as many participants. The weather this year was a bit less cooperative on the first day of the three-day event, but after a good solid rain Thursday night, the temps and humidity levels evened out a bit. Like the previous year’s Coal Mine run, event participants were a bit more leisurely in their pace. So after registering, inspections and general trail preparations, I decided to roam around and meet some of the early arrivals. Having attended quite a few sponsored events, I recognized many of the faces, however I’m a bit ashamed to say that names almost always escape me. There were also quite a few new faces among the gathering crowd. I introduced myself to members both old and new and we proceeded to chat about a variety of event-related topics while waiting for the late-comers to arrive.
Last year’s Coal Mine run was a bit disorganized but thankfully there were quite a few folks who stepped up to help out. Jeff and Aida, long-time Land Cruiser owners and enthusiasts, were among the group of volunteers, offering to serve as trail guides for event participants. As I roamed about Thursday morning, I was pleasantly surprised to meet up with Jeff and Aida again as they arrived and prepped their FJ-40 for the day’s activities. When I discovered they would once again be leading, I quickly jumped aboard, adding my FJ to their group. After a few last-minute vehicle checks and CB channel assignments we were heading out of the staging area towards the trails.
Due to the lack of recent rainfall, Thursday’s trail ride resulted in a very large collection of dust inside the FJ. The dusty conditions were further exacerbated by the lack of stock doors to block the low-level dust being kicked up by the tires. The tube doors offer great visibility and better air flow, but that increased air flow also means a lot more dust accumulation inside the vehicle – so much so, that by the end of the day the interior of the FJ was slowly disappearing under almost 1/8″ of fine powder. Despite the dust, however, we still had a great day of crawling on a variety of green and blue trails.
Thurdsay night was only forecasting a 30 percent chance of rainfall, so I decided to chance it and leave the tube doors uncovered for the evening. As it turned out, the odds were against me because it decided to downpour at some time during the night. This not only resulted in standing water inside the vehicle and rain-soaked seats, it also created a significant amount of muddy residue throughout the vehicle, turning the once fine dust power into instant brown goo that seeped into all sorts of nooks and crannies. Oops. Lesson learned. Don’t play the odds when it comes to rain.
The number of participants increased significantly on Friday, as more people joined the ranks. Thanks to the previous night’s rain, the weather had calmed down substantially as well, lowering temps to the mid 70’s and almost no dust to speak of. Jeff and Aida resumed their role as group leader and after the normal trail prep, we headed out for a second day of fun and excitement. Friday was a bit more eventful, as we had one group member with a problematic 80-series Land Cruiser – one that suffered from a lack of low gear in 4-wheel-drive, insufficient engine power, fuel flow problems, and a host of other issues. Lunch time came a bit early that day, as this same 80 series managed to bend its tie rod in an attempt to traverse a rocky hillside. Thankfully, we had some mechanically handy group members who stepped up to help out. The faulty piece was eventually removed, bent back to its original state via a nearby tree, and everything was re-assembled in working order.
We spent the remainder of the day on green and blue trails, but did manage to get one good off-shoot into a blue- and black-rated area known as “Yellow Jacket”. I didn’t get much in the way of pictures but thankfully Tony, one of our friends from the New York area, was kind enough to shoot some videos which I’ve included below. The first video is of me heading down the obstacle, requiring only a few minutes to traverse. The second and third videos are also me, but this time I decided to turn around and run the same obstacle from the opposite direction, heading up instead of down. As you can see from the videos, it took quite a few more tries before I was able to successfully top it. After watching the video a few times, it appears as though I could have simply approached the pile of boulders a bit closer to the passenger side and lined up a little better. But hindsight is always 20/20 as they say. Next trip up I plan to try it again now that I have a better plan of action.
Saturday took a slightly different turn as I had invited Dean and Bobby, some Jeeper friends from Virginia, to come up and run trails. Although I had a blast with Jeff, Aida and the rest of the group, Dean decided he wanted to run in a slightly smaller group, so I asked Tony and his wife (and co-pilot) Lupe, if they’d like to join us for the day, which they did. While I served as the overall guide of the group, we remained focused on green and blue trails, but I tried to spend a bit more time in blue areas than in green. At one point Dean and I split off with the intention of running a blue trail known as 12-A, but instead, we accidentally took a wrong turn and ended up running an alternate blue trail known as 12-B, which took a lot longer to complete. After more than 30 minutes of delay we finally re-joined our comrades, sheepish and apologetic. We continued running trails until about 3pm, when we decided to head to the southeast side of the property.
Our intention was to run “Yellow Jacket” again, but I decided to run Trail#8 beforehand where I managed to get hung up on a particularly pointy boulder on the back half of the loop. High-centered with almost zero traction, I ended up having to hi-lift my passenger side and add more rocks before I was able to dislodge the FJ off this pinnacle of immobility. While Bobby and I focused on a hi-lift recovery, Tony was spotting Dean in his JK Unlimited, attempting to get him into a position where he could winch me off the rock. Unfortunately, Dean’s rig was still somewhat lacking in proper skid plates so his progress was much slower than expected. He only made it about halfway back to my location when I managed to successfully dislodge myself. So between the time it took to recover with the hi-lift, spot Dean back to the trail entrance, and crawl my own way out, we had wasted well over an hour of potential trail time. Since it was nearing 4 o’clock at this point, we decided to hit one last section of green trail on the southeast side of the property to round out the day.
All in all, this year’s Coal Mine run was a great time with the usual collection of fun and interesting folks. I’d like to say thanks again to all the organizers. Without you folks, events like this would never take place. In addition, a special thanks goes out to Jeff and Aida (I hope I’m spelling that correctly) for serving as our trail guide and spotter for the first two days. You guys did a great job as always. It was also very nice to meet and wheel with everyone else in the group and I hope to see all of you on future runs. And lastly, thanks to Dean, Bobby, Tony and Lupe for making Saturday just as much fun and being good sports when it comes to my junior trail guiding abilities.
Yellow Jacket (heading down):
Yellow Jacket (heading back up) – Part One:
Yellow Jacket (heading back up) – Part Two: