Its no question that BDS Suspension knows how to use and abuse their rigs to push them to the limit and see what they're capable of. With the COVID-19 pandemic, our team has had to put a hold on all the events and several wheeling trips that we had planned for the year. Now that we're getting into Fall, and nearly an entire show season gone the team had a case of cabin fever and devised a plan to break out for a few days touring around our home state of Michigan for a Fall color tour, done our way with group of lifted trucks and Jeeps. The plan was to head up to the iconic Silver Lake Sand Dunes, from there hit the Tunnel of Trees, and finally cross the Mackinac Bridge and explore the UP (which is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for all you non-Michiganders out there). This 3-day adventure took us through several different terrains to test out our rigs around the mitten state.
Joining us on this trip we have a few invited friends and co-workers from FOX, Zone Offroad, JKS Manufacturing, and RMT Overland to take in some of what Michigan has to offer. We opted for a mid-week trip and with everyone meeting up at our home offices in Coldwater, MI we formed a plan and with (7) 4x4s prepped and ready we hit the road for the dunes.
Day 1 | The Silver Lake Sand Dunes
The Silver Lake Sand Dunes is not what most people think of when they hear the words sand dunes. Often people think of a few sandy hills that you can climb up and run down. Well, that is certainly not the case with these dunes. There are about 2000 acres of dunes in total, with 450 of those used for motorized vehicles. These dunes are massive and constantly changing with the winds coming off Lake Michigan. Photos and videos can try to do it justice, but ultimately seeing them in person you get a feel for how large these sand hills truly are.
With our group, we had people who had been coming to the dunes for 30+ years, and others who this was there very first time. It was entertaining to watch the people who had never been there before as their eyes lit up as they saw them for the first time. They're like a kid on Christmas. That said, the dunes are no joke and they can be a little tricky to conquer, however with a little guidance everyone was able to get the hang of it and have a great day. A few tips to take away from wheeling in the dunes (1) constantly read the terrain for changes, whether that changing winds and weather causing drop offs, wash outs, standing water or steep peaks. (2) Mind the "puddles", some of them will swallow you up. Oftentimes these are deeper than they look and ware like quick sand once you get in them. (3) Keep an eye out for others on the dunes. Everyone is required to run a front mount flag, but if you're planning to huck your ride over a blind jump you'll want to have a spotter.
This place is packed every single weekend of the summer with trucks, Jeeps, sand rails, UTVs and motos out ripping around. We were lucky enough to have been there in the middle of the week, so we practically had the place to ourselves. That said, when you show up with a group of lifted trucks all with promotional branding you tend to stick out. Between lending a hand towing a few stuck/broken rigs out there and stopping to chat with others throughout the day, we made a few friends along the way. Among them a stock 2020 Chevy HD, which made for a nice comparison to our 2020 HD that was out there testing out the BDS 6.5" C/O System on 38s.
While it was a blast ripping around in our trucks, for most of us the highlight of the day was the thrill-packed joyride in the boss's sand car, a purpose-built Tatum Motorsports Black Widow chassis with a 600+ horsepower LS engine, coilover & bypass shocks at each corner designed specifically for this terrain. At the end of they day we had that thing ripping through the dunes catching as much air as possible at every hill. Talk about a blast!
As this was our first stop of the trip, we sure got started off on a high note. By the end of the day we were all ready to wind down and relax with some food, drinks, and a little campfire entertainment.
Day 2 | The Tunnel of Trees & Mackinac Bridge
On day two we headed north to our next iconic destinations: Tunnel of Trees and the Mackinac Bridge. Being that it was the start of the fall colors in Michigan we were hoping to catch those at the Tunnel of Trees, but it seems we were a little too early for that along with intermittent rain throughout the day. Nevertheless it was still a scenic drive through the 27-miles of windy, tree-covered road that runs alongside Lake Michigan. From there we headed further north to the Mackinac Bridge. As is tradition for many of us, a quick pitstop in Mackinaw City for a hot dog and photo op at Wienerlicious and we crossed the Mackinac Bridge, a 5-mile long bridge is the 5th largest suspension bridge in the world [Learn More] to cross over from the main (lower) portion of Michigan to the upper part of Michigan. The UP (Upper Peninsula) is where we explored on backroads and two tracks, which is the Michigan way of saying driving on rugged dirt roads.
The colors were in full swing as we ventured further north, which made for some outstanding photo ops. Since we got to the UP pretty late, we decided to grab dinner and get some rest before a full day out on the trails.
Day 3 | Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Its funny how many people outside of the Midwest don't realize that Michigan has a whole upper peninsula, which, in fact, is 16,377 square miles and about 29% of the land area of the state [Fact Check]. We had a full day of photo and video shoots all planned out for the morning as we explored around. The rain was hit or miss, and it was a crisp 43 degrees out. "Welcome to the North" we kept telling our friends from the warmer climates.
The trails we hit were scenic, rugged, and filled with water spots, which we had WAY too much fun splashing through at every opportunity. We had no fear of getting dirty. We found a lake that had some great scenery that we used for more photo/video opportunities. Once we got through that, it was time to get some action shots! We had a great time drifting through dirt, flinging mud around, and making sure we got it all on camera. We then traveled up to Grand Marais for lunch and fuel before hopping on the trails and making our way back to the Mighty Mac, and thus headed home.
While the underlying goal for this trip was to gather media and do some team building within our FOX Factory marketing family, we left with so much more than that. For some people, this was their very first time wheeling, for others this was the first time out in months. This created such a great dynamic in our group that made everything we did that much better. For those who have been doing this a long time, seeing the excitement in a first timers face is something you don't forget as we all encouraged each other and worked together. Finally, we made some memories. The experiences are great, but the memories last a lifetime. The best part is we get to take these experiences and apply them to the way we do business. Keep an eye out for more content from the trip to surface, but for now enjoy these...