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story and photos by Ray Alexander
This was the fifth annual event hosted by the dealer, Airpark Jeep. It has grown from 85 people to over 500 registering this year. The day was extremely hot, which likely reduced the actual attendance.
Having no preconceived notions of what this should or should not be, I was surprised to see two vendors with NASCAR style trailers and several other vendors setting up in the parking lot. Later in the day I overheard one vendor remark, “coming to the event was worth their effort.”
Is it popular? One guy flew from New York but didn’t bring his Jeep. Others drove 150 miles to get here realizing they were leaving cool mountain air to draop into a sauna.
Is there going to be a sixth annual event? That answer is yes, but it will be held later in the year for a better opportunity at cool weather. There are six tubs filled with ice, soft drinks and water. When the crowd peaked, I had to search for a bottle of water that had been on ice long enough to be cold. When all of the ice melted the water was dumped into a kids’ pool for the attendant dogs. For one fleeting moment I wanted to get in the pool.
The day starts early with most of the Jeeps leaving at 7:30 on a 130-mile poker run. At one of the stops there was contest for the longest golf ball drive. The poker run took more time than usual due to one Jeep suffering a malfunction. We have some time before the last Jeep comes in so, let’s stroll around this establishment.
The 74th Street Band is setting up on the front veranda; luckily this is in the shade. They have some good Lynard Skynard sounds. Later, one of the Airpark employees, Fred Nielson, plugged in his guitar and jams with them, leading them toward the blues. Another of the employees, Meredith Rice, did an awesome job of singing our National Anthem. Later she belted out “Old Time Rock and Roll.” I wonder if this was planned because the only car on the veranda was a Porsche. (In the movie Risky Business, the Porsche that failed to swim Lake Michigan was a 928, but this one is a 911.)
I would classify this as a large dealer; they have many offices for sales. My two local dealers each have three service writers; this place has spaces for nine. It is a normal day for the service department. I need the front air diffuser for my ’06 Charger; the parts department is far more efficient at telling me they don’t have it than my local dealers are. (This will be the third one for this car and I didn’t damage any of them. The dealer that I bought it from did it once by running the front wheels all the way to a parking stop after an oil change.) Later in the day the parts department gets very busy.
They had a large inflatable play area formed by air pressure; a generator was running three squirrel cage fans and just as I walked by, the generator quit running, and the thing began a very slow collapse. There were kids playing inside, so I signalled to an employee to come over. Since the gas gauge was pointing to E we collectively decided it is out of gas. A gas can was sitting beside the generator but was also empty. She got more help to get some gas from the service department. The generator was restarted and I am happy to say no kids were lost.
I saw two Vipers on the lot. Hey, what is that Mustang doing driving through here? The car was taken as a trade-in, the guy decided to move up to the Challenger. A couple was selling $20 raffle tickets with a Brilliant Black SRT8 Challenger being first place and a 4X4 Dodge truck second place. This was a charity promotion for the Arizona State Sun Devils Hockey program. I was informed of two Plum Crazy and Stone White Challengers were here but I didn’t see them.
The Jeeps keep rolling in, making parking anywhere perfectly acceptable. The last of Jeeps arrived and in a few minutes Jason De Monto, the guy who spearheads this event, awarded some prizes for the poker run and raffle prizes. The guy hitting the longest drive, Jeffery Rogers, got $700. The best poker hand, Jason Brayer’s, was awarded $1,000; these were paid in greenbacks. The guy winning the grand must trust Jason because he didn’t count it.
Several of the raffle prizes had values in the $200 to $300. The wife of the guy that had the winning poker hand wins a raffle prize.
Next up was the ramp-climbing contest, line up in the second lane if you want to compete. The band went back to work. The Jeeps began to line up. I hear all kinds of strategy; high air pressure in this tire, low air in this tire, I am not changing air pressure. This thing was slow to get started, where was the other ramp? An older Jeep came to the end of the line. It is far different from the others, I have been to Moab and I would call this a dedicated rock crawler. I have a feeling that this Jeep will win.
Every thing about the vehicle says I have not had an easy life. This CJ 5 is owned by David Cessena. When I arrive he is telling another guy that he rolled it a couple of months ago and cracked the windshield in two places. The exhaust was unmistakable V8 and I ask about the engine.
In his words, “It is a tired old Chevy 350.” I took a close up of his left front tire showing the loss of several knobs.
Only when the first Jeep moved did it become clear, they climbed one ramp. They tried to hang two to three inches of the left front tire on the rack. Low air pressure in that tire will reduce the vehicle angle. High air pressure in the right rear also works to reduce the angle. It becomes obvious that the driver wants the back tire to miss the ramp. The average Jeep with only a few thousand spent in modifications seems to be limited by wheelbase. When the rear tire approaches the bottom of the ramp the vehicle is ready to roll taking weight off the left rear and they are done. A couple of slabs of lead over the left rear tire would help. Gold bars would be even better, after all, this is Scottsdale.
A great day of clean family fun involving dirt.
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