The temptation to reference a certain Lynyrd Skynyrd song with a fairly obvious tie- in to this article is difficult to resist. But hey, some of us here at Jp have been told that we are a “Simple Man” with simple interests…interests in Jeeps and off-roading (and apparently Southern rock). Sometimes people ask us: “What’s your name?” or “What’s that smell?” This happens more frequently when we are on trips such as the recent one we took to Alabama for the Spring Fling at Gray Rock ORV Park in Gardendale, Alabama. We packed our bags, camera, Lynyrd Skynyrd tapes, stashed the “Saturday Night Special” (cause we know the TSA would not like it in our carry-on), and boarded a plane like those lucky fellas who are “Working For MCA.” Now it’s probably time to fly back on topic like a “Free Bird.” Please “Gimme Three Steps” to get back on track. Oops! Sorry about that, but hey, we somehow avoided using “Sweet Home Alabama” as our story title. Check out the action in Gray Rock ORV Park (grayrockorv.com
), where big tires, slick rocks, strong axles and high horsepower meet for some real down home fun! Special thanks goes out to Keith Bailey of the Off Road Connection, Tony and Myra Cousins, Sam Gillis, and everyone else we met for their help and their Southern hospitality…oh yeah, and for picking us up from the airport, too.
Southern Wheelin’ Translator
Smoke ’em if you’ve got em!...
Smoke ’em if you’ve got em! Did we mention high horsepower, big tires, and beefy axles are the norm here? There was a theme in what worked at Gray Rock. Chad Coulombe is shown here “stretchin’ the rods” on the healthy Vortec 350 with a Kenne Bell Supercharger in this TJ buggy. Chad’s rig gets power to the “tons” with help of a TH350 and an Atlas II.
Feature Editor Simons was raised-up in the South—which is to say that he grew up there. Sometimes when he talks on a phone with friends from home the drawl comes out. Here is a brief translator to prepare you for wheeling in the South.
Try really hard to get farther up the trail
Revving the engine
Gitting a bite:
Rock rash/tree rash on your Jeep or a tree
Using the winch
A small river or ditch
Chunk or hogs-head:
Roll your tires into the rock and then mash it
“He’s just out there wipin’ the new off it.”:
The trail known as Cable Hill...
The trail known as Cable Hill is intimidating. There is a high price for failure if you tip or roll. It’s a looong way down. Several people had attempted to climb the trail while we were there, but no one had made it when Sam Gillis, with Keith Bailey riding shotgun, showed us how it’s done. His Liberty makes plenty of power and is well bolted together with a 5.7L LS1 GM V-8, TH350, an Atlas II, 35-spline Dana 60 front, and a shaved 14-bolt rear. The trick seems to be to use the tires and power to dry off the rocks, roll back and hop up a ledge then repeat until you are at the top. Oh and you have to have a lack of fear for your life cause it’s steep and a looong way down.
He’s scratching his new Jeep.
“My Jeep’s sittin’ on tons.”:
My Jeep has one-ton axles.
“Ya on ya chunk.”:
Hey guy/gal, you are hung up on your differential.
“Now roll back and bump it a little.”:
You are not hitting it hard enough. Move back and hit it with more throttle.
“Gitcha some Second!”:
You are not hitting it hard enough. Move back and hit it with more throttle in Second gear low range.
“Pour on the the coal!”:
You are not hitting it hard enough. Move way back and hit it with a lot more throttle in Third gear low range.
“Ya’lmost had it that time.”:
Something is broken.
“Dang, he nearly turned over.”:
Gosh, that guy nearly rolled his Jeep over.
“Wahoo!, yehaww!, hell yeah!”:
Whatever you are doing, you are doing it correctly. Keep it up.
You are broke or about to turn over…er, I mean, roll.
If you break, and trust us...
If you break, and trust us it’s likely, there is almost always someone close by to lend a hand at Gray Rock ORV Park. Also parts from The Off Road Connection in Gardendale, Alabama, were run out to the park for repairs more than once over the few days we were there. Just ask for Keith Bailey if you are in need, and he’ll be happy to help.
Did we mention that there...
Did we mention that there were some muddy rocks in Alabama? Tommy Glen’s YJ runs a Chevy TBI 350 bolted to an SM465 transmission, NP205 T-case, and a Dana 60 front and 14-bolt rear axles. Chrome-moly shafts spin mud and those 42-inch IROKs on Poison Spider Rock trail.
A new trail had just been...
A new trail had just been open called Skint’ n’ Bent. It was down a small holler with a mostly dry crick and some big ol’ rocks. The toughest spot seemed to be the first big rock. The rock would force the Jeep either into the tree on the right or hang the front “chunk” on the left. The tree took a couple of windshield frames and added a dent or two to people’s cowls while we were there snapping photos. This is James Crumpton in a ’95 YJ running a Vortec V-8, four-speed, 1-tons, and an NP205 givin’ it hell.
We loved the look of Travis...
We loved the look of Travis and Jessica Bennett’s ’87 Wagoneer. It looks simple, but there are lots of well thought out parts here. The recipe is: Take one Wagoneer with a 360, add a Howell TBI, one-ton axles, full-hydro steering, four-link front and rear, put the hefty Waggy on a diet, add a custom cage from VJs Welding and Fab, stir, and wheel with impunity. We had a hard time meeting up with Travis and Jessica on the trails and when we finally did, few seconds after this shot was taken—baaam! The Dana 300 rear output proved to be the weak link after lots of hard wheeling. Time to upgrade.
Gray Rock is a private park...
Gray Rock is a private park that is only open to wheeling for certain events. There is a fee for entry, wheeling, and camping. There are lots of trails that vary from mild to wild, as did the Jeeps we saw at the annual Spring Fling. We only saw part of the park because of large-scale strip mining had cut off access to some trails. It’s too bad, but coal is important to the local economy, and the trails are still amazing for the relatively small area.
This guy in a mild YJ deserves...
This guy in a mild YJ deserves a pat on the back for working hard and getting his Jeep this far up a tough and slick trail. The bad news is he eventually broke a front U-joint and the ears popped the ball joints out of the Dana 30’s knuckle. Poop. Also we understand wheeling on a budget, and occasionally, we too overlook some aspects of vehicle maintenance, but we noticed that the Jeep had only three loose lug nuts on more than one of the wheels. That’s bad.