Written by Luana Schneider, Photos by Tom Schneider and Melanie Sauer
Four Wheelin’ with Feelin’ for the March of Dimes was uncertain for 2008 with the gas prices soaring upward and upward. There is a fine line on how much return you need in order to justify the cost and work involved in putting on an event like this. The last thing we want is to have the March of Dimes lose money when the purpose is to raise funds for healthier babies.
With much soul searching and the realization that this would be the 30th year for this event, it was decided to go for it and cut as many corners as we could without jeopardizing the pizzazz of the event too much. In searching for a new site, we approached a brand new offroad park, Northwoods Overland, about headquartering out of their site. This would be a very good exposure for them and many participants were asking us to find a new place for the rally, since part of the fun of the rally is seeing new places and going on new routes. After about so many times in one area, it becomes quite difficult to do that. After Rod & I met with the land owners (Jeremy and Annie Van Camp) and Jeremy gave us a tour of not only the park but the area, it was decided the site would definitely work. Even though Jeremy was shocked on how much of the adjacent county land that he grew up driving in had recently been gated off! We discussed what the rally was all about and what it entailed and Jeremy & Annie were more than willing to accommodate our needs.
The first thing we decided to do was to have a one extra long week (8 days) work week rather than three long work weekends. This alone would cut costs significantly for both the volunteers and the March of Dimes, but meant giving up more vacation time to do it. Also it was something that would have to be done late in the summer due to all the trail development that was going on at the park. There was significant risk in doing this since there wasn’t much room for problems that might need to be resolved.
Two of our head committee members (Dave & Cindy) went up to the park in the early summer to get a handle on the park and some of the nearby area. Then with additional input from them, by the time we got to the work week, Jeremy had developed an initial route for the rally that we could work off of. This was a major step in putting together the rally!!
Due to the offroad park being a “work in progress” there wasn’t as much offroad area as we like to have and all the areas we found gated off, we had to offset with as many interesting sites as possible. Jeremy had already included among other things a beautiful flowage area, a pristine old growth park with a short walking trail, and the highest point in Wisconsin (Timm’s Hill). When we got there we took the park map and familiarized ourselves with the park while Jeremy was at work. Then on Saturday Jeremy took us on some of his route he hadn’t gotten out to look at just to find more closed gates (private and county) and no success in getting them open. It seemed every which way we turned there were more closed gates which created more gravel and paved roads. The next couple of days we drove the route and modified it as we went to improve it, etc. When Jeremy got back we went out in another area that ended up being mostly an ATV path and found it to be just too narrow and rough and would need some real work to bring it up to be usable for the rally which draws many vehicles not up to that type of terrain without an alternative. We did find a great windy and twisty narrow gravel road that had some great scenery and also found a road that went pass an old mink farm that had a tower with the largest eagle’s nest on top of it any of us had ever seen!
By the middle of the week we had a pretty decent route and with some support from Plum Creek Timberlands was able to get rid of at least a little more paved and graveled roads. It was now on to writing the clues and going out and testing them and making corrections where things just didn’t seem to piece together right.
You say Clues? What do you mean by clues? That is how this rally works, a route is established and then tricky clues are written up that have to be figured out in order to find your way through the route that is set up, ex. Gee @ T(gee is right in horse driving and T is a T intersection). There are checkpoints and poker stops along the way that a participant has to find in order to qualify for prizes. The committee is quite a group of characters especially when coming up with clues start flowing. As an example, we turned down one road called Lucia Road and two of the committee got on the CB and started singing “Santa Lucia”---we did not ask for an encore! By the end of the week we had ourselves a route with clues!
That whole week we were there the leaves were changing more and more and we were wondering what would be left by the rally!
On rally week, we got there on Thursday and setup all the normal event type stuff and a tent next to the garage doors as an extension for the registration, etc. Then on Friday we went out for a last test of the route and found a few changes and the colors were even better than on work week!
The park has at this point only 10 electrical and 10 non-electrical sites, but all sorts of area for just parking or setting up your tent. The area started filling up and many folks who were staying in the filled motels, cabins and bed & breakfasts in the area stopped in to say hi and help fill goodie bags. The temperatures got really cold that night and we woke up to heavy frost. One person had left their sweatshirt outside and it was covered with ice. Our grandson’s bicycle was covered with ice. Someone had driven across the open field to look over the ridge at the sunrise and then drove back and he left a set of tracks on the brittle trodden grass.
However, the sun came out and it turned out to be a gorgeous day!! The fall colors had peaked out and gave everyone a real paradise to run the rally in!! The many lookouts, the flowage and other areas were absolutely breathtaking!
The rally started out on the park trails and ended on the park trails. There was time allowed to play on the various obstacles in the play areas in the park such as driving over some boulders, driving through a tire pit, log pit etc. The off road park has easy and hard routes so at times a participant would have a choice to take the alternative hard route if they wished. One of those alternatives was so narrow, we called it the Isuzu trail—it took some real finesse to get through and not ding up your vehicle. There also was a narrow covered bridge that the owners made for the park (initially for dog sledding in the winter). If you weren’t too wide you could drive through. This became quite the photo op!
Once off the park there were many scenic areas and dirt roads to run and just about the time the paved road was getting to be too much, there was Jeremy’s father-in-law’s corn field to turn into with a path right through the standing corn and then a fence line with rocks to crawl over and a woods to go through and back through another trail of standing corn. That trail in the cornfield was cut by Jeremy who when he saw the corn still standing took a chainsaw and cut down some rows. We piled the stalks up so when the farmer came to harvest it he could just run it through the corn picker. I have manually cut down corn before, but I have never seen it done with a chainsaw!!—it actually worked pretty slick!
When people came back there was all sorts of talk not only of the clues, the park trails and play areas, but the beautiful scenery, the cornfield, the old growth trail and that “big honkin’” eagle’s nest! However, there were those that never even got out of the park without breaking down. One individual who has participated for years when he came back, slapped me on the shoulder and said—nice area, hope it’s here next year!
From the survey we handed out the three things that were consistent as their favorite three were New Area, The People, The Scenery. Ages ranged from 16 to 67. Some of the comments were how much they enjoyed the clues, well organized, it’s like an adventure hunt and (my favorite) I got my wife to come along and she enjoyed it so much she can’t wait for next year’s event!
Also, when the participants got back there were hayrides waiting for those who wanted a ride. This was a big hit by both the young and the young at heart! Jeremy drove the wagon through some of the park and over to various overlooks. Even the main committee took time out for a hayride!
About a month or so before the rally, one of our committee members was approached about whether there was any mud hole in the park. The individual wanted to get stuck in a mud hole and then ask his girlfriend to marry him. So the plot was set up and even a large banner saying “Engagement Mud Hole” was hung by the hole. It was late in the day and there was quite a line up of folks who wanted to try their hand at the mud hole. However, when this individual hit the mud hole, he must have hit it just right and made it through and the committee member waved him on to try it again and he finally got stuck. The potential fiancé got out to help hook up and he got out and knelt down in the mud and asked her to marry him. She responded favorably and they were hugging and kissing and rolling in the mud! Those in line did not know what was going on until over the CB they heard “She said yes” and those in line were cheering and honking their horns! Can you imagine that story going down through the family….”back in 2008 my great-grandpa…….”
At one point, Jeremy’s father-in-law was talking to me about the nice group of people and how it was like one big family. And, yes, this year even more so than ever it seemed so much that way. It’s amazing how many of the people who participate in this event participate year after year and it becomes almost a reunion of sorts with losing some each year but gaining others—this year there were only 86 vehicles. Maybe the possibility of this not occurring this year made it seem more that way.
That evening was our usual program with winners in the Poker Rally, Timed Rally, High Pledges and Club with the Highest Pledges. The one that stole the show this year was our high pledge person raising $3,705, Dan Sippola, when he came up with his daughter who was carrying his four month old granddaughter wearing a four wheel drive shirt. Also, for having the highest pledges he won the PS Seasonings grill!
The folks who won the Warn Winch had left for home and so we entrusted the winch presentation to one of their club members. I guess they were ecstatic when they found out they won once they realized that it wasn’t some sort of a joke!
A talking Sponge Bob was presented to one of the Tech Inspectors. Apparently when having a few brewskies in town with some of the crew a couple of nights before, some of the folks in the bar found out they had Jeeps and had to go outside and look at them. His was the only one with SQUARE headlights and, therefore, got dubbed with the name Sponge Bob. When the story was told the audience started chanting “Sponge Bob Square Pants”.
Plaques and a big thanks went out to the land owners of Northwoods Overland and also to Plum Creek Timberlands. Thanks also went out to our many supporters with special plaques going out to WARN Industries and Swiss Colony & PS Seasoning for their large continuous contributions. A plaque was also presented to “Tiny Bits of Silver” who has been a continual supporter of this event for years!
We also had a bar & grill called Halder’s Bridge donate can coolers for all the participants with the rally info on one side of the can cooler and their info on the other side.
Plaques were also presented to the six “kids” (I can get away in saying that, I hope). This group of “kids” has grown up with this rally being at it as babies, working it and/or participating in it with their folks as they grew up, now participate in it and/or work it with some of them taking on important segments of the rally!! I fully believe that being part of the four wheelin’ family has played a part in them becoming the fine adults they all are!
I also presented the special plaque for continual support of the rally this year to Roy Schachtschneider & Betty Taft who are always ready and willing to take on whatever task is asked of them and can be relied on to get it done right. I also snuck in another award to someone who has been involved since this event started 30 years ago in putting this event together, packing up many of the supplies needed and putting up with me during all of the rally anxiety and that is my husband Rod.
After the program the DJ started playing and there was a great bonfire outside to enjoy! Yes, our lovebirds were there all cleaned up and dancing up a storm!
All in all it was another successful event both in wheelin’, dollars for the March of Dimes raising over $21,000, seeing old friends and making new friends and all in Wisconsin showing its ultimate Fall colors!
NOTE: We are currently planning to have the rally October 3 & 4 at the same site with hopes of more off-road trails and the economy and gas prices not hurting us too bad.