COAL MINE CRUISER CLASSIC

---PARAGON ADVENTURE PARK------------------------

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By Harry Wagner

A Cruiser loses a bead Crawling through Pick Your Poison Mike Fox enters Pick Your Poison

Paragon- June 22-24 2001

Four wheeling enthusiasts from all over the East Coast descended upon Paragon Off-Road Park the weekend of June 22-24 for the third annual Coal Mine Cruiser Classic. Fog, wind, and thundershowers didn't discourage the nearly sixty vehicles and over 100 people who showed up for the Gotham City Land Cruisers sponsored event. Despite the weather, Paragon is an easy choice for the event, offering some of the East Coast's premiere four wheeling on 15,000 privately owned acres.

CAZ gets a little off-camber

Saturday morning I caught a ride with Mike Fox to the trailhead. The staging area looked paved it was so black, but upon closer inspection it was just the color of the dirt, reminding me of the area's coal mining heritage. There the rigs split into six or seven groups based on modifications and driver desire and headed out to their chosen trails. The bulk of the vehicles present were Land Cruisers of the FJ-40s, FJ-60 and FJ-80 variety, however several Jeeps and a few Toyota pickups and 4Runners were also present (the CMCC is open to all types of vehicles). We were running with the "hard core" group, which was made up of seven vehicles, including two V8 powered FJ-40s and two YJ Wranglers (all equipped with V8s), a 2000 model TJ Wrangler, and two 4Runners. All of the vehicles had at least a rear locker and 35-inch tires.

Our chosen trail for the morning was Voodoo, which is rated a 4 out of 5 on Paragon's scale. It was on the way to the start of the trail, several miles away from the staging area that I began to realize just how large Paragon is. This is a welcome change from most of the other popular 'wheeling areas along the East Coast! This trail is short (approximately mile) loop containing tight trees, some loose soil and granite deposited in the Poconos by glaciers approximately 20,000 years ago. Everyone made it through the tight, twisting trees and large rock slabs of the trail without winching or damage, but don't take that to mean that Voodoo is an easy trail. As previously mentioned, our group was small and comprised of well-equipped vehicles and experienced drivers. The two 4Runners looked like an advertisement for Alcan Springs or Marlin Crawler (with which they were both equipped), flexing and crawling their way through the rocks.

Bud R. crests a large rock

After eating a trailside lunch our group ventured back across to the other side of the off-road park to run Pick your Poison. This trail is rated a five by the folks at Paragon, making it one of the most difficult trails in the park. Like Voodoo, Pick your Poison is a short, looping trail made up of large slabs of decomposing granite. The emphasis is on the word "large" here, as several vehicles in our group became high centered and stuck at the entrance to the trail. Luckily no serious damage was incurred, and after picking a different line and stacking a few rocks, all of the vehicles made it through the first section of Pick your Poison with most of their bodywork intact.

The Saturday morning lineup

Beyond the first series of boulders the trail eases up until the midpoint, where a large "shark's tooth" rock stick up from the middle of trail, surrounded by slippery mud (you do remember the thunder showers, right?). This is actually an optional obstacle, but most of the vehicles on the trail that day attempted it. By the time Andy Zook attempted the obstacle the rocks and surrounding area were covered with the slick mud. Lacking a front locker, Andy was unable to crest the rock. The dual transfer cases were not producing the right results, so it was thought that progress could be made with more throttle. Unfortunately this just resulted in the rear driveshaft getting beached on the shark's tooth and some healthy body damage to the driver's side quarter panel. One of the FJ-40s had separated a steering shaft up ahead so no one was in too big of a hurry to continue on. Mike Fox managed to winch Andy free, but not before Andy's 4Runner nearly rolled and a tow strap broke, sending a snatch block flying into a tree. Luckily no one was hurt. From this point the rest of the trail continued with similar obstacles before joining the rest of the trail system at Paragon. Once back to paved roads everyone aired and gassed up before heading back to camp for the evening.

In addition to numerous trail rides Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the Gotham City Land Cruisers provide a barbeque, swap meet, and raffle during the weekend back at the Red Ridge Lake campground, making this a very complete event. The grand prize at the raffle was a check for $1000! Other prizes included Hi-Lift jacks, recovery straps, and gift certificates from 25 vendors.

Next year's Coal Mine Cruiser Classic is certain to be even bigger and better, so if you live on the East Coast be sure to mark down your calendars and sign up early.

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