The greatest thing about the off road world is just that, the off road. The machines we ride will go virtually anywhere off road, and in the semi flat areas of eastern Texas the king of off road involves a lot of mud! In the late days of early spring, Jacksonville Texas becomes alive and well with tourists as well as racing action. The High Lifter Mud Nationals event comes to town and brings with it over 15,000 people with the knarliest mud racing and riding machines in the industry.
Starting as a big gathering of friends, the event known around the world has brought a Shreveport Louisiana company to the forefront. Scott Smiths dream of simply lifting his Utility ATV to get in the deep stuff has exploded and with it has formed a following that Twitter could only dream of! We had the chance to attend the High Lifter Mud Nationals and we have good news, it was muddy!
Starting the week off right we rolled into town to see and hear the sights and sounds of Mud Nationals coming to life. The showcase of extreme machines in the vendor area kept us in amazement for a few hours. There were big UTVs and small UTVs as well as some ATVs but one thing they all had in common was the individual fabrications and craftsmanship. Starting with High Lifters own mad creations we starred into the fender wells of the giant Polaris Crew. This behemoth has long been a staple in the arsenal of company rigs to be seen at the event and with one other Polaris as its possible trump card. The machine affectionately known as “Teeter Totter” is the fabricated high riding mini monster truck that is powered by a dirt track race car engine. When this beast fires off you can hear its distinct rumble and quite frankly it is chilling to watch the big footed monster roll past.
However these two machines are not in the contest of “show and shine” as that might be a little bit of a disadvantage for others in the contest. The real contestants were treated to an S3 Power sports build dubbed the “Show Stopper” as well as a second S3 machine built from a Polaris Ranger Crew with a diesel power plant and militarized clothing. Other entrants included a couple of hijacked SXS machines that seemed to have more hydraulics than a crab boat. The Maverick by Can-Am seemed to be a favorite starting point for most home fabricators and one more deep orange and black machine was also worth a second look. It wasn’t long before the contest had closed for votes on the best machine and even though we didn’t find out the real winner in each class until Saturday we can let you in on the actual UTV class winner. It was a very colorful LSU themed carriage built from the popular Can-Am Maverick four-seat machine. This bright tiger striped purple and yellow Can-Am took the top prize of five hundred dollars. Then it was on to the sounds of High Lifters Mud Nationals!
The Audio Formz sound system contest woke up every thing with ears and bounced the decibel limits to the tune of 120 plus. Many different styles of sound could be seen here but it was the more unlimited classes that really gave us an ear full. With the requirement of roll cages in the industry there were plenty of places to mount the big well-illuminated speakers. Each entrant had a chance to back into the “sound booth” to give the best mix of musical noise they could muster and it was worth the price of earplugs to keep our sanity. These machines basically had a complete automotive style audio system installed into their side by sides to jam out with. Obviously you really needed to have a couple of different classes as money could out compete design and so High Lifter split these guys into UTV and Unlimited classes. Taking home the top prize for the UTV class was Cody Alvey and the unlimited award would go to a very excited Michael Sharp. This is one contest that seems to grow each year and with a mix of country, rap and some blues blaring in the wind at Mud Nationals there will no doubt always be something to listen too!
High Lifters Mud Nationals event as a whole has been evolving every year with promoters mixing in something new every few years. The Massimo Obstacle course was born into the list of competitions last year and is quickly becoming a favorite. This trip around a spot of land about an acre in size gives the best of the riders a chance to show their diversity in skill. The obstacles range from huge logs to rocks, a tire garden, mud bog and even crushed cars. This adds excitement to the show and what a show it is. Although it seemed there were more ATVs competing, there had been a couple of adventurous UTV owners taking a shot at the track. Speed and agility can be considered key in this race as each contestant needs to at least try the obstacle for it to be counted. Seth Russell finished on top riding his Can-Am ATV but one guy in his Polaris RZR gave it one heck of a charge despite the thunderous storms that had moved in as the event got underway.
They say rain makes mud and this is true, but it also almost caused a panic in Jacksonville Texas during this particular HLMN, as it became apparent that it was a serious downpour that even Dorothy would have had to call home about. Strolling around the grounds (almost 4000 acres or there about) you never know what you will see and it was no surprise to find stuck machines all over the park. Most would pack it in for the night as the winds began to really pick up.
Racing is a big part of the festivities at the High Lifter Mud Nationals and for Friday morning the skies had cleared to allow the show to go on. It was time for the buddy run down the eight-mile long course known as the High Line. This course has been named the Caleb Moore Memorial high line to help remember a racer who had been taken from this earth in a snowmobile stunt gone wrong during the X-Games.
The race lay’s out like this, two bodies and two machines or two riders on one machine. However it shakes out, you and a riding partner have to make it back to the start/finish line together on at least one machine. You would think a big side by side would have the advantage but what most didn’t realize was there were serious deep holes out through the pit. After the racing had ended here racers stacked back into their rigs and headed to make any repairs needed to get ready for the straight line bog. This test pitted two and three UTVs next to each other and with a flash of the green light the gas pedal hits the floor and it is all on at that point! Some of these big UTVs even use nitrous oxide and lots of it. The engines can be heard ripping up and down violently and some event shut off with a loud bang to prove the destruction inside the cases. Serious money goes into these engines and it doesn’t take but one to many pushes to the go juice to expose the crank and rods. Racers like Steve Hittle with Team Gorilla Axle powered by Can-Am had good luck in the deep muddy pit. The three top positions were held by non other than the Can-Am Maverick. Final racing resumed on Saturday in the Mudda Cross race. This is a circle of deep water and mud that allows drivers to practice going left. Even though some went right. Making up to three trips around the big course gave each racer a chance to pass or be passed and with the final race the top three were awarded cash and trophies. Shane Dowden made it known that he was going to be hard to beat and took the top honors for the Polaris Mudda Cross. Steve Hittle would be right there in second and Brian Haughton made a solid third.
It was now time to settle in for some music and crawfish as the week was almost over. Saturday night was full of good tunes and good food with friends. So if you are ever out in the Jacksonville Texas area about the end of March, make your way out to the Mud Creek Off road park and get to know what serious muddin’ is all about. Heck, you may even run into a famous celebrity as they are known to wonder in unannounced from time to time.
For more information on the High Lifter Mud Nationals, www.atvmudnationals.com