In a convoy, six vehicles strong, we made our way through South Carolina and Georgia. There were no hiccups along the way and it was smooth sailing until reaching Atlanta. This put the brakes on for an hour or so while we slowly snaked through traffic lurching one at a time like an off road equipped centipede of 4runners.
Once making our way through Atlanta, the pace quickly picked up again and we were underway for the final leg of our trip to Talladega. Night fell just before we arrived at Lake Side Park in Pell City Alabama. Upon arrival, we were surprised by the location, but once we got over the fact we were all about to camp at a public park, we quickly organized and setup camp. As I was working on setting up my “instant pop up” tent, I glance over at Greg’s tent building endeavor, and to my surprise he was apparently building a small apartment complex rather than a tent. It had to be a 15-person tent with more sticks and supports than I think anyone knew what to do with. After many tongue in cheek comments and half-baked attempts to help him construct his tent, we fired up the grille and prepared dinner.
Around the grille over snacks and drinks, we had a chance to mingle and meet the rest of our team along with the competition. We chatted and traded stories long into the night. After a cold damp night, we woke to the sound of roosters in the distance along with the cold crisp Alabama sunrise just before 7am.
Moments after waking up we began to break down camp and get ready to find out what this Overland Challenge had in store for us. About an hour after breaking down camp, we all met at a primitive outdoor chapel on site complete with a brown painted PVC pipe cross.
The Southern Expeditions filled everyone in on the events to come and we chose the order we would compete in using... well... darts... That morning consisted of a series of team building exercises including taking six wooden sticks and about seven feet of rope and working as a team to construct the tallest freestanding structure we could within 15 minutes. Our structure was by far the most stable and within a few inches of the competition for height, but unfortunately build quality was not one of the qualities being judged for the event. I am certain if they were to leave them erect for a few hours, our structure would be one of the few still standing. Some of the opposing team structures failed during the judging process.
The following challenge was a relay race between all the teams. This included a walking plank race with three team members on the boards, along with a kayak race once the team plank walk was completed. Team LFD took fourth in the construction task and second to Apex Overland for the relay race.
The teams then packed up and began our journey to Morris Mountain ORV Park just outside of Delta Alabama with a quick detour through the Talladega National Forrest. After a quick lunch in the Forrest then a thirty-minute drive, we arrived eagerly awaiting our next series of challenges.
Once we arrived we were greeted with a more interesting challenge… a blind driving test. We were tasked with guiding our drivers, who were blind folded, through a taped off driving course. This proved to be a difficult task for most of the teams.
The following challenges were GPS waypoint based and this is how the majority of the off roading over the next two days took place. The third day of the event was located at Choccolocco Mountain Off Road Park with more GPS based challenges, and three team challenges including a log balance, archery, and more blind driving.
At one point Pete slid into a large downed tree and got hung up for a few hours on the root system of that tree. Those few hours tested the recovery skills of the entire LFD team. Luckily the damage was not serious with only some minor body damage and no injuries to anyone on the team.
Pete was not done though… Pete felt that after avoiding serious damage to his vehicle, he needed to risk life and limb yet again. Once we returned to base camp, Pete spotted a group of fellow Overlanders eyeing up the “Jump Track” The other trucks that jumped the track earlier had long travel suspension with fully adjustable shocks designed for such tomfoolery. Pete, now named “Send It Pete” decided that he wanted to see what his rig could do… He backed up into the starting position, eyed up the jump, and hit the gas. The onlookers cheered as he sped towards the jump, hitting the first jump and getting a good amount of air. Everyone jumped in excitement as his rig clunked down on the ground again, but Pete wasn’t finished…. His eyes were on the second and much larger jump the whole time. There was some miscommunication between Pete and the guys who already made this jump… Pete never realized that the big secondary jump was NOT the one everyone was hitting. At this point there was no turning back. Pete sent it with no return address…
Nobody expected Pete to hit the large jump and most people recording him had already stopped recording before he hit the second jump. As his 4runner flew about 4 feet off the ground covering more than 20 feet of distance, everyone lost their minds. Pete returned to earth shortly after with a loud bang almost like a gunshot… nobody expected his vehicle to be okay… to everyone’s amazement there was little to no damage! (other than cosmetic things such as fenders being pushed out, bumpers being slightly bend due to the shock, etc.) But his vehicle was fine! No air bags, no blown suspension, no broken control arms or tie rods!
That jump was the talk of the town for the next few days and Pete forever earned his name of “Send It Pete”. The man is now a Legend.
That evening we had to prepare a meal with provided ingredients and partake in a primitive taste test as our meals were judged by the organizers. Team LFD prepared a “Southwestern bacon and avocado burger” complete with caramelized peppers and onions and a potato salad. We were quite proud of our achievements, but we soon heard that we had some stiff competition in the cooking department. Some of the teams resorted to creating an impromptu seating arrangement complete with a “waiter” with towel over the arm and wrapped cutlery for added atmosphere. Everyone definitely brought their A game that night. Everyone’s attempts to persuade the judges with everything other than their cooking was absolutely hilarious. There were even rumors of a Cuban cigar trading hands as a bribe.
After many miles off road, numerous recoveries, and coming together as an element, we managed to take the third place slot to everyone’s delight on the team. We all met up after the event at a local brewery to hand out the awards and reflect on the event. We were so glad to be part of this fantastic event. Southern Expeditions and Team Overland both played a huge part in making Overland Challenge the success it was. Thank you for inviting Team LFD Off Road to take part in this adventure.