NEITHER 9/11 NOR THE ECONOMIC DOWNFALL COULD DO IT,
BUT MOTHER NATURE DID!!
by Luana Schneider and Photos by Toni Gilbertson
On Labor Day week when the rally committee went up to Northwoods Overland Off Road Park (Northwoods) near Rib Lake, Wisconsin to work on Four Wheelin’ with Feelin’ for the March Dimes we found majorly wet conditions. This created a situation where we knew up front there was no way we could use the county land that is adjacent to Northwoods! The Northwoods was being logged out so there was significant damage to the trails any way so the owner said it was OK to run that, but some private property we call “the cornfield/rock crawl” was iffy. We also had received permission to use another very interesting forty that we were quite excited about having for a nice little ridge trail with permission to cut in a better access trail. We assessed the situation and decided to go forward and cut the trail and came up with a plan for the “cornfield/rock crawl area” where we found a bit more trail. We agreed that these would be usable if it didn’t rain much the next month.
So we went forward and worked the trails, set up a route and wrote clues. The clue writing became somewhat of a challenge since it was quite cold and very windy and we had no real shelter available for a group so we finally packed up our stuff and set up office at one of the bar/restaurants. With 75 cent mugs and excellent food, you can imagine the “sacrifice” that was! We left Northwoods later that week with high hopes that the rains would cease and desist!!
However, this was not the case and it kept raining on and off with a major rainfall one week before the rally was to be held - I was told 12 inches of rain fell in September on an already saturated area from a very wet summer! This created a situation that was not acceptable. The only route we could realistically use was all on road due to potential unacceptable damage and safety issues. As for facilities, there was just no place for all the campers to camp, nor was there a place to even set up the headquarter tent (that spot was essentially under water), and then also there was no realistic parking for all those vehicles and trailers including three semis that usually come! We had no area for tech inspection and starting. Even though the park was mostly mud, the owner was not concerned since it all needed fixing anyhow, but we surely did not want all those muddy vehicles heading for the road and realizing trailers, etc. would have to be parked somewhere else.
The county forest folks helped us out and checked out all the roads we were going to use in the forest and determined the roads would be fine by rally day and even gave us leads on campgrounds etc. in the area that might be used. The Northwoods owner called around trying to find alternative facilities and the Town chair and Road Grader person for the Town assured us the washed out roads we needed would be fixed in time.
However, with all the support and efforts of everyone it just wasn’t realistic to pull everything together on such a short timeframe and we still would not have an acceptable route - all on road. So we cancelled the rally. This created a whole new set of challenges, since we never did anything like that before and this is not an event where folks pre-register. We made the decision on Sunday night and by the end of the day on Monday, the Rally, Wisconsin Four Wheel Drive Association, Midwest Four Wheel Drive Association and IH8Mud websites all had the notices out there and the March of Dimes had a letter out to all those we had addresses for! I can’t express how impressed I was on how all these parties acted so quickly and efficiently!
The first couple of days phone calls and e-mails of disbelief came in. Statements such as “I wait for this event all year!”, “I’m really disappointed, but understand”, “I know how hard it was to cancel, but it was for the right reasons!” and the best “you did the right thing, you need to look at the integrity of the sport and future rallies”.
In cancelling, we invited anyone who still wanted to come up could hand in their pledges and would be given a prize and a set of all only on road clues. We also encouraged others to send their pledges into the March of Dimes and pledge trophies and prizes would still be given - we dubbed it “Virtual Rally for 2010”.
On rally weekend, since the weekend was allotted to go wheeling, some just went wheeling some place else. We and some of the committee left for Northwoods on Friday morning and as we got close it started raining again - which it continued on and off through Saturday! We went up to greet anyone who did not get the message that the event got cancelled, or decided to come up anyhow. The owner of Northwoods came and opened up the park for the few that might come up and also there were some spots available for light camping, such as tents. Four families came up, of which only one family did not know of the cancellation. All four went out on the park and did a bit of wheeling. Then the family who did not know it was cancelled and another family actually ran the only on road route - they had left separately, but hooked up somewhere during the day. They weren’t back by the time we all had supper and were sitting around the campfire. In the dark the two vehicles arrived and came out of their vehicles chattering and laughing - they had a really good time! They enjoyed some fun wheeling and really nice scenery between the raindrops and really couldn’t stop talking about the crazy clues!
Bravo to all those who currently have sent in over $8,500 to the March of Dimes and we are hoping for more. The prize donors we have so far contacted have told us to use their donated prizes for our “Virtual Rally” or told us to save for next year.
So even though in the past 9/11 occurring six days before the rally didn’t stop us and the major economic downfall that occurred didn’t stop us, this year mother nature did - after 32 years we had to cancel the rally!!
2011 is another year and we know that Northwoods is going to need repair, some healing time and the whole area needs some drying out time. We hope to have a new area to run if we can get approval from all the various parties - stay tuned!
The photos below are some taken around the planned route in the build-up to the event.