Fun on the rocks, or in the mud

A portion of the Eagle Valley Off Roaders’ mission statement is “Our membership unites to help ensure our off-roading way of life will be protected and not forgotten.”

Its members wholeheartedly back this ideal.

Some gathered recently just outside of Snow Shoe while preparing for one of the group’s big events.

They worked together, putting in hours of labor to create a course for 4x4ers and their families to enjoy during the EVOR 4×4 Adventure, which was held the first weekend in May.

They stopped for a break to talk but, once all the talking was over, the fun started.

Mud-covered 4x4s dug their way through a 5-foot deep mud hole while members – both adults and kids – cheered them on.

The club’s leaders said it has about 58 members from all over Pennsylvania and even out of state.

Eagle Valley Off Roaders welcomes 4x4ers of all walks of life, especially families.

Changing the face of 4x4ing

“It takes a team to do it efficiently and creates family bonds … like father-son, father-daughter, mother-son, mother-daughter and even husband-wife. Whoever is driving, there is a lot of trust and you have to trust and respect that,” club President Jim Neidrich, of Beech Creek, said about 4x4ing in the club.

The club is committed to promoting stronger family bonds. Getting children involved will cement a future not just for the club, but for the enjoyment of 4x4ing.

“Pretty much every one of us that started the club has kids and we wouldn’t be doing our job to teach our kids to be responsible or they won’t have any of this to do when they get older. That was the purpose behind it,” said member Chuck Bloom, of Lock Haven.

The club’s mission statement speaks of the environment and conservation – two words usually not associated with 4x4ing.

Eagle Valley Off Roaders has worked through the years to change that idea by working with agencies such as the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources on many issues regarding the trails and roads often used for club rides.

“A lot of work we do with DCNR is to change the public’s misconception of what four-wheeling is all about,” Neidrich said.

“Things … have happened in the past decade. We have lost a lot of trails. They tend to close land as soon as someone tears anything up,” he added.

The club has made it a goal to present a better face to the average 4×4 enthusiast, through efforts such as trail cleanups and cuttings. These measures, members hope, will ensure that future generations can enjoy the sport.

“We show that we are willing to do projects to control erosion and sedimentation,” he said.

Club members said people often see 4×4 clubs and may think members are out ripping and tearing up tracts of land, trails and roads.

“We are not about going out and doing that,” Neidrich said, “as horrible as it looks standing here next to a mud-covered Jeep, playing in the mud. That is not what we are all about.”

His Jeep had just finished traversing through a course the club created as part of a annual family-oriented event, done on private land set up for that kind of event.

Eventually, through their work with certain agencies, the club hopes to gain more access to public lands and open more trails to responsible riders.

“We grew up going places and doing things that were always open to us and now the majority of that is closed because of people that do not care,” Bloom said, “Like (those who) destroy stuff and leave trash everywhere.”

With every ride, club members keep the environment and conservation in mind.

Those who don’t fully understand the club and its membership’s commitment to the environment may have a tough time believing that they can “do what we do and … still have fun,” Neidrich said.

The club also volunteers its time at other 4×4 events, running booths, spotting courses and handling registration.

“We spread the word (of 4x4ing) and help other clubs get started. We work well together,” said member Jonni Neidrich.

“It’s very much …” Jim began to say, but Jonni, his wife, finished his sentence: “A family.”

“Our extended wheel family,” Jim added.

“You always hear the motto, ‘It’s a Jeep thing.’ Well, I say it’s a family thing,” Jonni said.

Many events

“We do a lot of things for charitable organizations,” Neidrich said.

One is a annual ride in the Bald Eagle State Forest called “Wheelin’ 4 Wishes” and all proceeds go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The event is scheduled for Aug. 17 and will be the club’s third annual ride.

One of the club’s big events – the 4×4 Adventure – recently was held on the private grounds of the Snow Shoe Volunteer Fire Co. Club members built a playground of sorts for 4x4s, drivers, families and spectators.

The club leases the land from the fire company.

For the event, Bloom was in charge of creating the obstacles, mud holes and trails.

“The fire company used to hold the mud races here until the early ’90s,” he said.

After talking to the fire company, the club put in many hours of hard labor to create an event he described as “fun for everyone.” It was designed for drivers who wanted to run a variety of vehicles, from stock up to modified.

Drivers and passengers bounced and slid through a log crawl, boulder field and a pit that was filled to the brim with 5 feet of soupy mud.

“We have a tire crawl. It’s a bunch of equipment tires from the big equipment that was left up here from the coal-mining days. We stood them up on end and you drive across those,” Bloom said.

A trail around the outside of the course is made for stock vehicles and a trail around the property is designed more for modifieds.

The event was sponsored by Truck Stuff and More, of Bellefonte, which works with the club and its members.

“It’s all set up for families to come out and enjoy the day,” Bloom said.

All vehicles welcome

Any four-wheel drive vehicle, Neidrich said, from stock to heavily modified, is welcome in the ranks of Eagle Valley Off Roaders.

Stock refers to what comes off the dealer’s lot.

In contrast, modified have lifts, bigger tires and other modifications to their bodies, bases and motors.

It seems that Jeeps are the predominate vehicle of choice, but any make and model is welcome.

Members pay dues and can attend club meetings and trail rides.

“The day we normally do a trail ride, we meet at a point, like a big parking lot,” Neidrich said. “We take off using driveable trails. Most monthly runs go on state and public access.”

The group usually stops for lunch and takes a break.

“We always try to take in overlooks like Hyner View, Lebo Vista … just as an example,” he said.

They try to keep it fun for everyone, he added.

First-time trail riders are welcomed. Members are willing to take them under their wings and help them maneuver trails.

“Especially those that are new members,” Neidrich said. “We will take them out on something very easy until they get more confident.”

One thing that the club takes to heart is its policy on alcoholic beverages.

The club’s by-laws state: “EVOR has a zero-tolerance policy against the possession or use of any illegal substances during any club events or activities.”

Instead, the group focuses on wholesome entertainment in the great outdoors.

“It’s about family values,”?Jonni Neidrich said. “We teach them they do not have to have an adult beverage while out … (they) can enjoy it (riding) without drinking.”

For more information on the club, visit its website at