Sun shines on annual Mountain Mud Festival

Sean C. Morgan

Late Saturday, one man had captured bragging rights for the Mountain Mud Festival obstacle course off Berlin Road near the top of Mark’s Ridge.

Bill Miller of Springfield, attending the event for the first time, tore around the track in a rig he built himself in one minute 12 seconds.

Other drivers consistently finished better than 1:30, but few came closer to catching Miller.

Miller ran the course three times, improving his time on each attempt as the track dried out in the sun.

“I had a race car, and I knew some guys that were running tough truck,” Miller said. “I decided I wanted to build a tough truck.”

Miller took a superstock chassis and built his tough truck with a 1988 Chevy front end, independent suspension and his race car engine, a 60 over 350 running 12.5 to 1 compression on alcohol, which provides more power while running cooler.

“Basically, it’s a four-wheel drive stock car,” Andy Waltman, an event volunteer said.

“For me, it’s just having a wide wheel base and having a lot of power,” Miller said. “I think the independent suspension helps.”

The course was much harder on the straight-axle trucks, Miller said.

He built the rig to play with the tough trucks in competition, Miller said. “I’ve got it for sale, so I can build another one.”

“this year, we made the track less aggressive but faster,” volunteer Marvin Sellers said. The holes were not as deep as last year’s, and the track was less technical, which means fewer drivers were getting stuck.

In the morning, the track was still slick with last week’s rain, Miller said. He finished in 1:34. A second attempt finished at 1:22.

“This morning it was real wet, real slick,” Sellers said. “The track was slower. People couldn’t stay on it. Not it’s getting real tacky and fast.”

“It’s just getting fast,” Miller said. “I’m hoping to beat a minute.”

On the track, Matthew Price of Salem, who had a nice run at 1:27 earlier in the day was changing a tire.

“When we caught air over there, we came down and debeaded,” leaving a collapsed tire, Price, driving for Affordable Autos, said. “It’s our first time here at this one,” but he has been to four-wheeler events in Lebanon and Albany.

Price was driving a 1987 Jeep Cherokee he had just picked up for $400 at a tow yard.

“I figured it’s the perfect trash rig,” Price said. “I bought it just to come here.”

He wasn’t worried about whether he would be able to drive it home.

Most drivers were finishing the obstacle course at about 1:50, Sellers said.

After running the course, Miller happily gave rides to those interested in his rig, and when he heard that folks were taking bets on whether his rig could make it through the deepest hole at the event, he didn’t hesitate to drive it through the hole effortlessly.

After coming out of the hole, he believed something had broken in his rig and sidelined it for awhile to check it out.

Four Sweet Home four-wheelers were covered in mud after driving into the soupy bog at the bottom of a popular hill climb. Doug Baxter was driving the Willie’s Jeep, lifted with super swampers, when it got stuck.

“We got about half way through then we got stuck,” April Baxter said.

The rain helped slicken the site, Mr. Baxter said. “It’s pretty muddy, but it’s drying out.”

Drivers were generally happy with the festival, volunteer Rayden Johnson said as he watched a driver finish dealing with his overturned Jeep from a distance.

“We had the highway clear before 10 o’clock this year,” Johnson said. Generally speaking, the festival was running smoothly, and participants were saying they wanted to have it more than once a year.

“Everybody’s happy,” Sellers said. Rain led up to the event with good, clear weather on Saturday. “Conditions are perfect.”