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The 16th Annual Mid-Atlantic Early Bronco Roundup – Just Livin’ the Dream!

Posted by on July 15, 2014

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This was my 4th MEB Roundup, and the best one yet!  Hopefully this hits home if you were there, or if you’ve attended anything similar.  The real challenge is connecting with my readers who’ve never done anything like this. My goal is to give you a taste and wet the appetite.  I want to create some excitement. I want to make YOU want to get involved and check it out!

In a couple of words, the Mid-Atlantic Early Bronco Roundup was 100% pure adrenaline pumping adventure from beginning to end. It was thrilling, entertaining, downright scary at times, part learning experience, part “marriage builder”, and maybe even a little bit relaxing.

OK, so what exactly is it?

The Mid-Atlantic Early Bronco Roundup is a first-rate, family friendly, volunteer event celebrating the Ford Bronco.  One of the best, most capable 4×4’s ever made.  As the name implies, the MEB Roundup is typically dominated by 1966 – 1977 (Early or Classic) Broncos, though this year brought a good number of Big (1978 – 79), and OJ style (1980 – 1996) Broncos, which were great to see.  And, YES, your friends driving brand X are also welcome.

For 2014 the venue was changed from a private location in Virginia to Rausch Creek Off-Road Park for wheeling, and Twin Grove RV Resort & Cottages for base camp and all other events.  In typical fashion, the Roundup featured:

  • The obligatory bag of “freebies”, “steekers” and a very useful member gift.

  • Dinner Friday & Saturday nights.

  • The Group Photo.

  • Three days of trail rides at Rausch Creek Off-Road Park, a street cruise and the Show-n-Shine.

  • A Chinese auction style raffle with $$$$ in prizes.

  • Fun kids’ activities.

  • Heroes and Celebrities of the Bronco World. The Roundup always brings out top Bronco vendors, like James Duff Inc., from Tennessee, Bailie Bilt from Oklahoma, and sometimes Wild Horses 4×4 all the way from California. They showcase products, show off amazing rigs, wheel the trails, provide parts for the raffle, and just hang out with the crowd. Get your orders in early enough, and you’re usually treated with free delivery, which is always appreciated!!

  • A Rock Crawling Competition on the “RCRocs” course instead of the traditional ramp challenge, slow race, and blindfolded driver competitions.  Little orange cones. Scoring. Judges. Rollovers. Just like the pro’s…

  • Finally, the MEB Roundup always brings out great people.  It’s a chance to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Whether it’s on the trails, the street cruise, back at camp, or even in the parking lot, there are always people to help, and no one gets left behind.

So, how’d we do? In a word, GREAT!

Those who know me may agree I have a tendency to go overboard. (“When was the last time I over-did anything, Russ?!?”) So, while I could have been ALL BRONCOS and OFF-ROAD, ALL WEEKEND, I balanced my addiction with the wants of the family. It was a small price to pay for having them along, and since the event fell on our wedding anniversary, a little balance seemed only fair. Isn’t my wife the BEST!!

Compromise meant easier trails and shorter trail days than I would have otherwise chosen, but it allowed my family to enjoy the pools and refresh a bit before evening events, which they greatly appreciated.  It also meant a comfy, air-conditioned room at the Pine Grove Hampton Inn instead of a tent at the campground, and it meant exploring the local fare to appease my picky eaters. (Payback for my own high-maintenance, non-condiment eating habits I’m sure…)

IMG_1995On the trails we ran mostly green (easy) and blue (intermediate) trails with lots of off-camber shoots, rocks, ruts, some steep hills, and a few black obstacles (very difficult) to keep the pucker factor high.    We also played on the comp course where even without “stickies,” we experienced unbelievable traction on the “srpaycrete.”  Now I know how Spider-Man feels!DSC_0413As usual, there were a few screams from my passengers.  “We are NOT going to roll!” became my mantra until they settled-in (So much for faith in my driving abilities! “I’m an excellent driver. Dad let’s me drive slow in the driveway.”) IMG_3626

All of my pre-trip Bronco prep (The 6 P’s), and the upgrades I’ve made paid off. Whether we were finessing the trails, or runnin’ flat-out on the backroads, Ole 351 Stroker did great.  A gear reduction box would have helped on certain sections of the trail, like Rock Creek, and bigger tires always seem like a good idea.  As long as I did my part it was pretty much a point and shoot affair.  351 Stroker flat-out worked!  I do have some new, minor character marks to show for the trip, but just like my others, they are personal reminders of where I was, who I was with, and the great times we were having.  I’m not sure that’s something you fix.

The haul road out featured a stop at OK 4WD & Tire, where we talked shop and caught up on the latest 4×4 products.  The trip home featured a stop at Cabela’s, where we may have picked up more “essentials.” If you’re at all into the off-road scene, or the great out of doors, both venues are highly recommended and worthy of a stop.

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 My Conversation with a Legend

Coming off the trails a bit early wasn’t so bad after all.  It gave me the rare opportunity to spend a few minutes with Mr. James Duff himself. We talked about his 3 ½ years racing the Mexican Baja 1000 alongside other greats like Bill Stroppe, Mickey Thompson, Parnelli Jones, James Garner, Rick Mears, Walker Evans, Ivan Stewart, and Rod Hall.  Kicked back in his chair, feet up, relaxed and soft-spoken, this tough as nails racer recounted a few stories from back in the day, and just maybe gave up an old racing secret or two.  Now I just gotta make it into the Baja 1000…!!  GRIM Racing 2015???..

We talked about James Duff and company TV appearances with Stacey David on Gearz and TrucksTV, and all the Duff goodness on projects like Crazy Horse (a major inspiration for my own build), and the Ted Nugent Bronco.

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We also talked about the awesome “Duff Tuff” rigs, like HiHo, Loco and his infamous Pony Express, which I had the pleasure of seeing in person at a previous Roundup.  With a glint in his eyes and the crack of a smile, he told me how he still takes The Pony Express into town on occasion, and how he just might be guilty of lightin’ up the tires, kickin’ the back-end around – and still gettin’ yelled at by the Mrs!  In his own words, “Hey, it just turns you into a kid!!” Yeah, GOBBS of horsepower will do that to a man.

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Around 1967 this racer turned family-four-wheeler created a full-time business out of making high-quality, race-ready parts for friends and enthusiasts around the country, and the rest is history.  Some years ago Jim handed over the reins to his daughter Suzie, who now runs the company.  Not only is she one of the most down to earth, friendliest people you’ll meet, but don’t let her combination of West-Coast-Cool-meets-Sweet-Southern-Charm fool ya, she’s one to watch on the trails! Check em out here: James Duff Inc. 

All In All

An adventurous weekend doesn’t get much better.  Great times in the great outdoors with family and friends, doing amazing things, and creating memories to last a lifetime.  This is exactly what I envisioned when I bought my ’72 Bronco!!  Our cabin is already booked for next year!

If you’re into the Ford Bronco at all – or even just thinkin’ about gettin into the Bronco – then the Mid-Atlantic Early Bronco Roundup is a MUST ATTEND event!  

Sincere thanks to all of the MEB Roundup volunteers and vendors for such a great event!

Please check out the rest of my gallery here.

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Considering your own adventure to this Central PA region, located along Interstate 81, between Routes I-80 & I-78?  Read on…

About Rausch Creek Off-Road Park (aka RC, or just Rausch)

Rausch Creek Off-Road Park is nestled in the woods of Central Pennsylvania in an area predominantly known for coal mining. It is minutes from exits 104 and 107 on Interstate 81. (Take exit 104 to fuel up, grab some food & drink for the trail, and hit the facilities before getting to the park.)  Spread across four different sections, Rausch Creek provides members 3,000 acres of land ripe for wheeling, and with its well marked trails, this 2010 Four Wheeler Ultimate Adventure destination is like a ski resort for your 4×4. It offers terrain for everyone: the novice, the intermediate, the expert – and the insane.

There are wide logging roads perfect for stockers, full-size rigs, and even military 5-tons. There are the tight woods trails better suited to Jeeps, Broncos and buggies – though that won’t stop some full-sizers from trying.  There is a competition area, consisting of both natural and man-made spraycrete.IMG_3613Finally, there are special-use-only, high-speed sections reserved for ‘King of the Hammers’ qualifying races and Ford Raptor events.  One of the park’s main natural features is an 1,800 foot glacial deposit known as “Rock Creek,” that’s a challenge just to cross.

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Most of the trails meander through the woods under a canopy of trees, keeping you in the shade on hot summer days.  Just watch out as some of the trees jump out at ya.

In terms of amenities, Rausch has a number, offering primitive camping, a small selection of commonly used (or broken) accessories and parts, (like u-joints, drive shafts, recovery straps and vehicle tie-downs), vending machines for an ice cold drink or a snack after a long day on the trails, free air for filling up your tires, a welder to help with trail repairs, and a relatively new pavilion for hosting group events.

Not only is Rausch Creek Off-Road Park THE Premier off-road destination for those in the Mid-Atlantic / Northeast, but it’s also a positive influence on, and boon to the local economy.

About Twin Grove Resort and Cottages.

While I’m no Joe Teti or Matt Graham (from Dual Survival), over the past 20 yeas I’ve camped in Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, including a few nights at Phantom Ranch, and the Havasupai Indian Reservation, both at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  Suffice it to say I’m no stranger to camping.  Having now been there twice (I went last year for Trailfest 2013), I can say Twin Grove Resort and Cottages is easily the nicest camp ground I’ve ever visited.

The staff is welcoming, friendly and accommodating.  Everything is clean and well maintained, including the pool, bathrooms & showers, cabins and the overall grounds .  Beyond the usual tent sites, RV hookups and cabins / cottages, there are amenities above and beyond the average camp ground: two pools with water slides, a well stocked general store for all of your camping, hygiene and gift needs, a restaurant, a bar complete with TV to catch you up when you start to feel like you’ve been off the grid too long,  an ice cream parlor, kids rides, mini golf, multiple covered pavilion / picnic areas for large group events, and probably a few more things I’m forgetting.

Whether you’re in the area for an off road event or hitting the local attractions, (like Hershey Park, Knoebels, Cabela’s), or just camping for the weekend, Twin Grove Resort and Cottages is a great place to stay.

Hotel Choices: The Hampton Inn & Comfort Inn at Pine Grove. Exit 100 on Interstate 81.

IMG_1925I like camping. I really do. I’ve already spent 4 nights in a tent this year, and I know we’ll go as a family for at least a couple more.  That said, camping is its own activity for us. After a full, long day on the trails, I’m looking for a nice shower, some crankin’ A/C, room to spread out, and a comfortable bed.  If you’re not lucky enough to snag one of the cabins or cottages at Twin Grove, or if you’re not pulling your deluxe camper, that means a hotel.

I stayed at the Comfort Inn for Trailfest 2013 last August, so this time we tried the Hampton Inn.  Both are immediately off Interstate 81 at ext 100, with dining, fuel and grocery / convenience type shopping (Dollar General) across the street.  Both are equal distance from Rausch Creek and Twin Grove, and you get from the hotel to either without even hitting the Interstate. Both are extremely wheeler friendly and welcoming, offering trailer parking and ‘Rausch Creek’ rates. Both have what I’ve found to be a courteous, helpful staff, and both offer free breakfast.

At around $60 – 70 per night with the Rausch discount, the Comfort Inn is certainly more economical, and shares a parking lot with McDonald’s, which is nice if you’ve got a thing for McGriddles and good coffee in the morning.  I found it perfectly adequate when I stayed for Trailfrest. It’s a good option for those on a tight budget or just looking for a basic hotel room.

While double the price even with the Rausch discount, the Hampton Inn is definitely newer, much nicer and offers the better breakfast. It’s easily my pick, and worth the extra ducats, especially when bringing the wife and kids along.

The Town of Pine Grove

Instead of bypassing town, “just to save 10 minutes of driving,” we traveled Suedberg Rd (rt 443) from the hotel to Rausch Creek, which took us right through the quaint little town of Pine Grove, PA.  Don’t blink.  We were in town for an off-road trip, so I paid attention to things like the coin operated car wash, the auto parts stores (B&S Auto Parts, Napa, Advance, Autozone) and the local junkyards, but I did notice restaurants, a movie theater, a number of package stores, a bar or two, and the usual convenience stops, like 7-Eleven and a Turkey Hill.  One stop I definitely recommend is Buddy’s Family Restaurant.  IMG_1920It’s got character, charm, a friendly staff and some great fried chicken in the basketI even found a florist (Carol’s) in town open at 8am, with a fresh bouquet of roses.  Hey, it was our Anniversary after all!

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Finally, even though Pine Grove is only ~2.5 hours from Manhattan, the area has more of a Midwest, than a Northeast feel so keep that in mind when you stop at Subway to get lunch for the trails.  Get there before the crowd, or you’ll definitely be pacing.  The staff at the Park, the Hotels and the Campground were obviously extremely welcoming and very happy to have our crowd.

Wheel Safe. Wheel Smart.  Have Fun.  Hope to see you on out on the trails.

Copyright The Off Road Reference 2014

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