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Thread: COOPER DISCOVERER - Overland Challenge Series, our first trip to the Ozarks!

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
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    TX
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    Default COOPER DISCOVERER - Overland Challenge Series, our first trip to the Ozarks!

    Let's just start by saying we are by no means, experienced overlanders, we are a group of off-road enthusiasts. So when I stumbled across the Overland Challenge Series we had a grand plan, we would enter, and take our love of everything big, including our trucks, from the great state of Texas to the Ozark National Forest. Selection time came for the teams and placed us in the 7th spot on the standby list. It did not look promising so we planned a trip to BBRSP instead. Fast forward to March and I get a call from the challenge series, enough teams had dropped out and we were in! Now this puts us just 6 weeks out to prepare including one truck that is not operational in 4 wheel drive....yet.


    Working day in and day out, including repairing some mishaps from our shakedown run (spinning an axle tube in the housing), we were loaded up and on our way from central Texas at 6am on April 13th. Of course a road trip for Texans would not be without a stop at Buccee's (the greatest travel center on the planet).


    Arkansas state line, see you soon Texas!


    My grandfather was from Russellville Arkansas so it was an emotional trip for me to go back to his hometown some 21 years later since he passed away. We got in to town early enough that my Great Aunt was able to take us to dinner for some excellent catfish and she even baked us the best chocolate cake I've ever had!


    We had our group meeting at 10:30 am on thursday, we recieved our checkpoint coordinates and spent a couple hours planning the route, then we were off! At first glance down our first dirt road we thought this might be a cake walk, boy were we mistaken.....


    The trail dropped into a very tight section littered with trees, lots and lots of tall, body damage inflicting trees. Progress was made very slow as we spotted each other and made multiple point turns and very smart decisions.


    As we made our way through one of the hard optional checkpoints time was ticking away. We knew that we were not going to make good time on this trail but speeding up would mean certain body damage.


    We slowly made out way to our first water crossing. We knew that we would not have any problems with water depth since both trucks were on 37" tires with significant ground clearance. However most of the crossing encountered we were struck with beauty, the crystal clear, fast moving water had our jaws dropped.


    The water crossings were easy, we could give a glance from the shore to make sure no deep holes were in our path and motor on.


    However the trees were relentless, this next photo does not show the tree on the other side of the truck that the front tire is pushed up against. Careful spotting and taking our time were key elements in this phase.
    03 Silverado Z71 - D60/Sterling/5.3/241C/40s/Shortened frame/tube bed http://www.expeditionportal.com/foru...lid-axle-build
    Instagram @damnbluechevy @mccustomize

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    TX
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    503
    As we continued down the trails, weaving in and out of trees, we came upon a very old cemetery, we hopped out for a welcome break and to check out some of the dates. The oldest legible date of death we could read was 1894, we had to wonder what it must have been like for the people of this era to travel these mountains with horse and buggy, not all the fancy equipment and 4 wheel drives we had.


    We also encountered a fair amount of mud on day one, not thick mud like we are used to in Texas. 10,080 pounds is a workout to get through the mud however and the Toyos did not work as well as we hoped.


    The Cooper STT Pro however were amazing, the road noise is minimal, the forward and side traction, wet or dry, is amazing. I am more than impressed.


    After the trail started to clear up I lost a little bit of concentration and didn't pay close attention to my line, whoops! Slid right in to a deep mud hole, sadly centered on the diffs those awesome Coopers weren't going to pull me out of this one. A quick tug from my 10,000# winch and we were back on the trail.


    I should make sure that I make mention of the weight of our trucks, we weighed them at a CAT scale on the trip up with full tanks, the solid axle swapped duramax weighed in at 10,080 lbs without passenger, my blue 1500 weighed in at 7400 with passenger, but it was split perfect 50/50! With trucks that heavy we made sure to bring plenty of tools, including an onboard welder, which we hoped we wouldn't need but due to my lack of prep I did not test the new driveshaft I picked up from the local parts house the night before the trip. So in our Marriot Hotel parking lot the night before the challenge we shortened my front driveshaft by 4 inches. I'd say we did a great job considering it has no vibrations up to 50mph!


    Day 1 left us getting to camp late, exhausted, and hungry, we set up camp, ate pork chops, green beans and mashed potatoes and crashed for the night trying to get a good nights sleep.


    Day 2 was much easier on the trucks to start with, most of our day was spent on forestry service roads taking it easy.


    We made sure to take in some scenic stops along the way and enjoy our trip without making it a hardcore competition. The scenery was unreal as we climbed up and down the mountains. The trucks made the climbs effortless, even at a pretty significant weight.


    Day 2 still had a few technical sections that required 4 wheel drive, which we were glad to oblige but overall we just covered a lot of miles on day 2. We made it to Oark General store and were glad to take a break.
    03 Silverado Z71 - D60/Sterling/5.3/241C/40s/Shortened frame/tube bed http://www.expeditionportal.com/foru...lid-axle-build
    Instagram @damnbluechevy @mccustomize

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
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    TX
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    Upon inspecting the trucks in Oark we noticed the dana 60 under the duramax had thrown a u-joint cap in the drivers side axle shaft. Not good. Having only WiFi available from the General Store I facetimed my wife and gave her the part number for a u-joint, then she called the closest auto parts store, 18 miles one way, and they confirmed to have the $50 part in stock. Being a mileage based challenge we had a huge dilemma, how do we get to the parts store without putting the extra miles on either truck? Ask the waitress! We each ponied up a $20 bill and a local was off to the parts store for us, in the meantime we got busy getting the bad u-joint out, which is a decent task in itself. Thanks to all the tools we brought along with a wilton hitch mounted vise we had it out in no time. Once the part arrived we put it back together and we were back on our way.


    Of course more scenic views along the easy route of day 2 we just soaked it all in.


    The single lane bridges were amazing feats to engineer and execute in the mountains, we made sure to take notice.


    My truck was probably the dirtiest it's ever been since my solid axle swap, it made me cringe at times, but the battle scars are part of the experience and things I will remember many years from now.




    As we climbed on our way to camp for the second night we came across an amazing valley overlook, photo op? Of course!


    Day 2 left us ending in a wrong turn, ripping off a fuel tank crossmember, back tracking to find it, getting turned around and headed in the right direction all to finally hit camp about midnight. Exhausted, without light, we quickly set up camp and hit the sack.

    Day 3 arrived with a little wind, a LOT of fog and a hot breakfast. We made haste to get down the mountain and to the very last checkpoint, we had completed our last optional checkpoint the night before and were excited to get to the finish!


    We were the second team to arrive at the finish line! Never would we have thought that would happen with how slow we had to go in the tight sections of trails. Our navigator did excellent and we only had to back track a very small amount twice for the entire trip. Tired, but feeling anxious to see the mileage results we rested and had some small talk with the other team. It was a good while before the rest of the teams started to show up.

    Once we were on the ranch for the challenge tasks we went to put my front driveshaft back in, we took it out so we could do about 20 miles of highway driving, but sadly we misplaced one of the u-joint straps. Thankfully with our mileage already counted at the finish line gate we hopped in the truck and ran to the closest town, 21 miles away, to get some hardware and have 4 wheel drive for the challenge tasks. FYI if you ever need parts in Fayetteville Arkansas Jake at O'Reilley's by MLK blvd is the man!

    We got a hardware kit and got back to the ranch just in time to compete in the challenge tasks. There was some pretty fun wheeling along the route from task to task as well!


    A great hillclimb almost at the end of the trail as well.


    Here is where it gets very interesting, the last challenge, the obstacle course, was set up with a small, short wheelbase vehicle in mind, not a 10,000 pound crew cab 3/4 ton truck. A little tire shake, LOTS of torque and a front locker contributed to this....


    While one half of our team stayed to stabilize the truck and start taking it apart, another run to the parts store and we acquired two new ball joints, a brake line, speed sensor and banjo bolt. Once we got back we assembled everything, pulled the stub shaft and winched our way back to the top of the hill to get out of the pasture and back to camp. We arrived in camp at exactly 1am, the breakage occurred at about 6:30pm. Once again tired, frustrated, we set up camp and went to bed.

    The wind was INSANE on the top of the mountain where our camp was, it ripped the rainfly on my Tepui Gran Sabana and tossed several camp chairs. I did wake up to an amazing view out of my tent window.
    03 Silverado Z71 - D60/Sterling/5.3/241C/40s/Shortened frame/tube bed http://www.expeditionportal.com/foru...lid-axle-build
    Instagram @damnbluechevy @mccustomize

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
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    We got up, took in the view, then went to the awards meeting where we as no surprise, received the "hard luck" trophy. Not the one we wanted, but we had accomplished something, something more than a trophy could ever measure. We took 2 fullsize trucks down trails people thought we couldn't, walked away with NO dents in either pickup, and finished under our own power, on time, and with decent mileage.


    After the awards we packed up and hit the road! We did cheat a bit on our meal plan and stopped at a Mazzio's pizza buffet and nearly put ourselves in a food coma. We were relieved to see that good ol Texas state line sign and knew our trip was almost over.


    Most of our drive was uneventful, except pushing into the leading edge of a storm my mileage dropped into the single digits. The drive home was full of laughter on the CB channel, and good spirits.


    We will be back to the Ozarks, and the Overland Challenge Series, Jayston, Dave, and the rest of the volunteers were amazing and put together an event we will continue to sign up for as long as they still have it. The locals and people we encountered along our trip made it all that much more enjoyable. We pulled off something that people were saying couldn't be done, and I feel did it very well, learned a lot, and yes next time we will be back in smaller rigs (we own jeeps as well, ironic I know). Until next time Ozarks! We will meet again, and thanks Cooper Tire for the amazing shoes that powered me through 1230 miles of everything you could think of!
    03 Silverado Z71 - D60/Sterling/5.3/241C/40s/Shortened frame/tube bed http://www.expeditionportal.com/foru...lid-axle-build
    Instagram @damnbluechevy @mccustomize

  5. #5
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    Mar 2016
    Location
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Awesome write-up, thank you!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Vancouver BC
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    Fantastic write up and it sounds like a great trip! Glad to see you got out with only minor issues. Pretty smooth sailing for some freshly built rigs.

    Thanks for the report!
    -Pete
    Ford Diesel Tech - RSE

    Don't take life too seriously, no one gets out alive.

    05 Ranger Edge

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Alta Loma, California
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    1,170
    Nice work, great write up, beautiful pictures!
    I got to hand it to you, making it through that is a testament to the modifications you've made on your 10 bolt.
    Any plans to change anything on the truck after this trip? Seems like it is pretty close to being dialed in.
    I love driving home in the rain after a trip like that, it gets so much of the mud off the undercarriage that cleanup is a piece of cake!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Champaign, IL
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    45
    This looks like an awesome event. I would love to participate next year if it's still going on.

    Sucks to see about the breakage to the Duramax, but it sounds like you guys had a good handle on things and got it patched up in a decent amount of time.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Campsite Pro View Post
    Awesome write-up, thank you!
    Quote Originally Posted by thethePete View Post
    Fantastic write up and it sounds like a great trip! Glad to see you got out with only minor issues. Pretty smooth sailing for some freshly built rigs.

    Thanks for the report!
    Thank you guys!

    Quote Originally Posted by justcuz View Post
    Nice work, great write up, beautiful pictures!
    I got to hand it to you, making it through that is a testament to the modifications you've made on your 10 bolt.
    Any plans to change anything on the truck after this trip? Seems like it is pretty close to being dialed in.
    I love driving home in the rain after a trip like that, it gets so much of the mud off the undercarriage that cleanup is a piece of cake!
    I haven't even unpacked the truck, it's been storming here and I'm pretty tired. I should have taken monday off work. I think it is pretty dialed for what I want to do, but I am about to order coilovers for the front. It's the one biggest regret I have. I still have plans to get shackle hangers for the rear to eliminate the blocks and do a U bolt flip, my shock mounts hang down in the rear too far, I need to fix my E-brake, and a set of custom alcans and FOA shocks are on the agenda for the rear. Rock sliders and a Tire carrier are on the list as well. A new toolbox and re-working a little bit of the tent rack. Then more power, but I want more power in the 2000-3500 range, so that's a tough one.

    Geez it's never ending.

    Quote Originally Posted by dmanbluesfreak View Post
    This looks like an awesome event. I would love to participate next year if it's still going on.

    Sucks to see about the breakage to the Duramax, but it sounds like you guys had a good handle on things and got it patched up in a decent amount of time.
    If you plan on competing to win, you can't do it in a fullsize truck unless they change the structure of the event a little bit. The trails that gave the biggest mileage deductions were impossible to fit a fullsize down, I feel like we could have completed those trails no problem, if we could have fit the trucks down the trail.
    03 Silverado Z71 - D60/Sterling/5.3/241C/40s/Shortened frame/tube bed http://www.expeditionportal.com/foru...lid-axle-build
    Instagram @damnbluechevy @mccustomize

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Champaign, IL
    Posts
    45
    Quote Originally Posted by mccustomize View Post
    If you plan on competing to win, you can't do it in a fullsize truck unless they change the structure of the event a little bit. The trails that gave the biggest mileage deductions were impossible to fit a fullsize down, I feel like we could have completed those trails no problem, if we could have fit the trucks down the trail.
    You haven't seen my truck up close :P

    But I wouldn't compete to win. It seems like just a super fun overall experience. Would be awesome to work as a team and make my way across the Ozark hills. Are all the teams limited to 2 trucks?

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