This past weekend the Jeep Rocks and Road Tour visited Minneapolis. The tour is supposed to let people experience the capabilities of Jeep’s legendary vehicles. There is both on-road and off-road demonstrations provided, along with other fun-filled activities.
The tour in Minneapolis took over and transformed a vacant parking lot across from the Mall of America. The end result? A mud pit. Well it wasn’t a mud pit on Friday and Saturday. However, when I arrived on Sunday morning it was, due to rainfall Saturday night.
Though that did not make the event any less fun. The first thing I took part in was the Jeep Owner’s Playground. This was a course set up exclusively for current Jeep owners. If you brought your own Jeep you could take it through this course. The course had everything from a few high banked sand hills and rock trail, to a large hill with three humps to climb.
I was the first to hit the Owners Playground for the day. After about four runs, the large hill started to get too slick and the sides started to let me slide just a bit too much. The issue was all the rain from the night before. The entire course was becoming a sloppy mess. For safety, they shut down the large hill not long after my fourth run.
They also had plenty to do for non-Jeep owners. The main attraction was clearly the ability to drive the current line up of Jeeps on the main off-road course. Unfortunately the course had become so slick due to the rain that consumers were not allowed to drive.
Instead you were taken on the course with a professional driver. I was told a consumer did go first thing in the morning and walked away with eyes wide open. I took that to mean: “we could’ve had a problem, but we had the right staff on hand.” I was glad to see safety was the first priority.
I went for a ride in the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited (Unlimited means four door). Naturally, the course was nothing this Jeep couldn’t handle – it took each obstacle in stride. Though the large 20 foot mountain was closed due to being too slick, I was told the Jeeps could make it up the mountain just fine. However, due to being so slick they might come down with more speed then they felt was safe.
Next up I visited the on-road course. This time I chose the new 2011 Grand Cherokee Laredo for the drive. The new Grand Cherokee handled the washboard section much better then my current 1999 Grand Cherokee would have, mainly due to the new suspension. The vehicle also had a decent turning radius. The steering was on center, though maybe too light? I would need more seat time to give that statement without a question mark.
For the kids Jeep had both a climbing wall and Jeep branded Power Wheels mini vehicles. This set up satisfied the different age groups. No matter what, families had something to do for the kids. Also on hand was a Jeep Wrangler Islander edition. The task was to see who could unlatch and take down the soft top the fastest. The last station/task was essentially a balancing act, literally.
They had a Jeep Compass on a wooden platform that was set on a log. The goal was to balance the Compass on the platform so either side of the platform was not touching the ground. I was informed only a few people have achieved the task, and it really is almost luck. I tried for over ten minutes, only to get severely frustrated. I failed, though for the record, I came close. Finally I gave up, but only because another person wanted a try.
Of course, other things were on hand to look at. The new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland was in a tent to sit in and play with. A very old Jeep Willys (?) was on hand, though no touching was allowed. Also on site were quite a few modified Jeep Wranglers, one with a regular 5.7 liter HEMI and another with a 6.7 liter HEMI. Both were quite beastly.
Overall the Jeep Road and Rock Tour was a very entertaining way to spend my Sunday morning. Even with some drizzling rain and the course turned to a mud pit, it was a blast.
Everyone there seemed to be enjoying themselves, even the staff! You can tell many of the staff are true enthusiasts themselves. That really does add to the experience and energy level. Until the Jeep Rocks and Road Tour rolls through town again, drive safe and clean the mud off your undercarriage.
Photography- Alex Bellus