The day before the wheeling adventure started was the most nerve-racking for Rich Conlon.

It was late June, and Conlon was about to embark on a 1,500-mile off-road trek through several southeastern states.

"I honestly had no idea what to expect," said Conlon, owner of Dubuque-based Complete Off Road. "I didn't know what terrain we were getting into, didn't know if we built the vehicle right.


"All we knew was we're leaving Oxford (Alabama) and we're ending up in South Carolina."

The trip was part of Petersen Media Group's Ultimate Adventure, an annual trek planned by the off-road magazine. Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine editor Rick Pewe determines the trip course, shunning technological tools to lay everything out on paper maps.

"Nobody's going to steal it from him," said Conlon, who said the trip is lined out turn-for turn.

The adventure is the cornerstone event for the magazine, which picks a vehicle every year then chronicles the build, in addition to a write-up of the trek.

"The Ultimate Adventure trip is a bucket-list trip for everyone in the wheeling world," Conlon said. "It's a very select group of people that get to go, it's kind of the who's who of the off-road world.

"To meet these guys and hang out with them was really a lot of fun."

Complete Off Road was contracted by Florida-based Bubba Rope to build a vehicle. Conlon had met members of the recovery rope company previously, so when he heard they were an Ultimate Adventure sponsor looking for someone to build them a vehicle, the connection proved helpful.

Conlon's shop covered the cost of the vehicle build as well as the transport south. Lodging, food and fuel during the adventure week were covered by event sponsors.

His shop didn't learn until a month before the trip where it would begin.

"We knew it was Florida, that there was going to be mud," said Conlon, who said many of the parts ordered by the Complete Off Road team did not arrive until a week before the adventure began.

"That last week was crunch time. We had more overtime hours that week than normal work hours trying to get the thing together," Conlon said. "We got it done, got it out there."

The trip, which Conlon described as "test of man and machine," was designed so the vehicles traveled on an absolute minimum of paved highways.

Each day, Conlon said the group would travel 200 to 300 miles.

"You don't know if you'll end up in an off-road park or somebody's backyard," he said. "It really adds to the excitement of it."

Complete Off Road documented the completed Bubba Rope Jeep's journey on the business Facebook page.

And despite his apprehension beforehand, Conlon said a sense of camaraderie quickly was established among the Ultimate Adventure participants, not unlike the groups he wheels with in the tri-state area.

Conlon said the Complete Off Road Jeep performed well and survived the adventure. He also enjoyed seeing how other vehicles built for off-roading in different parts of the country held up.

The Complete Off Road Jeep will continue to be housed at the business, and might be used for next year's Ultimate Adventure, which Conlon said his shop has been invited to participate in again.

The adventure has been held in different locations in each of its 13 years, and Conlon said the only states the adventure has not winded through are Alaska and Iowa.

The difficulty with having an off-road adventure locally is not the terrain, but that all of the land in the region is privately owned.

Like this year, the location will not be announced until a little less than a month before the start date.

But if the journey is similar to this year, Conlon has a lot to look forward to.

"It really was a lot of fun," he said.