Trip Report – King of the Hammers 2013 – Johnson Valley

February 10th, 2013 • Written by david grubman.

Trip Report – King of the Hammers 2013 – Johnson Valley

This year would make our third trip down to Johnson Valley for the King of the Hammers race. Have been down there twice before we had a pretty good idea of what to expect, but mother nature had a slightly different plan….

Our crew was a little bigger than in previous years. This year we had myself, CJ, John, Andy, Tom, Kara, CJ’s buddy Dan from LA, CJ’s other friend Darrell from San Jose and 60,000 of our closest offroad racing fan friends.

We all headed out of the bay area Wednesday morning, afternoon and connected up in camp Wednesday night and Thursday morning. As with past years Thursday was spent setting up camp, tooling around Hammertown and running out to the trails. This year the Every Man Challenge was on Thursday so we got to see a couple of the rigs out on Jack Hammer and Chocolate Thunder.

Scrambler hitting Jack Hammer int he EMC Scrambler hitting Jack Hammer int he EMC


This year the organizers did some different stuff. As with last year, they had a bunch of activity around the jumbotron in downtown Hammertown. They also broadcast that feed on FM 102.5 and on a UHV channel. No matter where you were in the valley, you could follow the details of the race (at least as the announcers understood them. They did not always have the information). In addition to the jumbotron in Hammertown, they also added a jumbotron at chocolate thunder. This year the options to watch the race in person were extremely curtailed. The start finish was hard to see. The viewable areas around Backdoor were almost gone. The main area to watch the racers on the course was Chocolate Thunder… and it was packed. Thousands of people were out there watching the racers flip, pound and break their shit.

View down Chocolate Thunder
View down Chocolate Thunder




We watched the racers start and hung out there while the top cars came through the pits after the first lap then spent a few hours at Chocolate Thunder and then came back to the finish line to watch Randy Slawson (#4448) come in to take his first place finish.

At the drivers meeting on Thursday night there were questions about how the incoming storm would affect the race. Thursday nights forecast called for wind gusts up to 60 mph and snow down to 2200 ft elevation (Hammertown is at 2250 ft.)  David Cole was suggesting that this year might have the first white KOH race. By morning the wind was strong, but no snow in the valley (there was snow on the peaks around the valley). Generally the wind was good for the drivers, it takes the dust out of the equation. The wind however is tough on the spectators. At one point with the dust storm coming across the valley the visibility at Chocolate thunder was down to a couple of dozen feet.

On Friday night the cars started coming in. top three finishers were Randy Slawson (#4448) and his brother David, Shannon Campbell (#5) and Chicky Barton (#144). It took 12 hours to get the first 11 cars into the finish. Of the 128 cars that started the race, only 28 finished within the time limit.

#4448 Randy Slawson Ripping through the start finish after the first lap

#4448 Randy Slawson Ripping through the start finish after the first lap

We hung around after the racers came in on Friday night and folks headed home Saturday morning.


Drone – At the start of the race (Friday morning at 8:00am) there were two media helicopters in the air capturing the action. Few people noticed another visitor in our airspace. As everyone knows, the 29 Palms military base is next to Johnson Valley. The 29 Palms base is home to the Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 (VMU-1) the “Watchdogs”. They had a white drone flying in circles over the starting action for the race. It was a big white drone that was quietly circling overhead watching the action. Would love to see their footage.

Wayland Campbell – We all know Shannon Campbell. (two time winner of KOH and this year’s second place finisher). While Shannon runs a fabrication shop he is also the proud father of 16 year old Wayland. Wayland qualified for the race this year and finished in 23rd place. Not bad for a young driver. We had the chance to watch Wayland on Chocolate Thunder. He drives a little bit like his dad. I call it an aggressive finesse. He hits the skinny peddle but with a certain elegance.

Cody (#4680) – You remember Cody from 2012 KOH, he was internet darling from last year. Last year he qualified for the main event by his performance in the Every Man Challenge. He did it in a stock leaf spring sprung Toyota pickup. He was such the darling of the event that David gave him a spot in the 2013 main event. This year they made some adjustments to the truck and started in the back of the pack. They had some hard breaks and dropped out at mile 105. They limped back into camp (under their own power) about 8:00pm. Bobby Gordon with his professional pit crew, semis of equipment and $250,000 rig did no better than Cody and his $8k Toy!

Cody heading off at the start line for KOH 2013

Cody heading off at the start line for KOH 2013

Crowds – I can’t count. I have computers that do that for me. I can tell you that there were some big crowds this year. Might I be so bold to say that there were 5 times the number of people out there this year than last? 60,000 people? I don’t know but there were a lot of people there.

Watching from home – The race coverage was shown on the jumbotrons as well as broadcast on the radio. As in past years it was also streamed online to more than half a million followers!!! That is more eyeballs then some major network events get!!!

Our photo album:

Nice write up:

Full results:

Petition to keep KOH open to the public:

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First Timers Guide – King of the Hammers

January 7th, 2013 • Written by david grubman.

First Timers Guide – King of the Hammers

: The King of the Hammers is an offroad race that takes place in February from Means Dry Lake bed in Johnson Valley, California. This race week includes events for UTV, modified stock and Ultra 4 rigs. The highlight of the week is the main event held on Friday (Ultra4 racers). The King of the Hammers events combine open desert racing with hard core rock crawling. The main event is 140 miles of racing around the valley floor with something like 60 race teams.
King of the Hammers was started in 2007 and has grown in popularity and sophistication. The first year it was run with 13 vehicles in complete obscurity. In 2012 there were qualifying races across the country and 25,000 people on the valley floor to share in the live experience with real-time internet feeds and helicopters filming the action for the world to witness.

When: Historically it has been held the first week of February. Check out the official King of the Hammers site for this year’s schedule. Official Site. During the week are qualifiers, everyman’s race and UTV race. The main event is on Friday with the Ultra4 rigs.

Where:  The race activity is held throughout different obstacles in Johnson Valley. The base for all of the activity is in “Hammer Town”. Hammer Town is the collection of vendors, race pits and guests that collect on Means Dry Lake bed in the heart of Johnson Valley.
Johnson Valley is straight east of Los Angeles, southeast of Barstow, north of Joshua Tree National Park.

 Expect typical desert weather.  Daytime highs can reach the 70’s in the sun, but chills quickly in the shade. Evenings can get into the low 20s, high teens. The racers kick up tons of dust, so be prepared to get dirty.

Plan for dry camping. Bring your own water, pack out what you bring in. Most people coming out for the races are in motor homes or campers. The road into Hammer Town is well graded and the floor of the lake bed is suitable for large campers and trailers as long as you stay out of the soft sand. In past years the company that maintains the portable potties offered tank service on RVs.

If you are going to tent camp then expect some wind and cold overnight temperatures. The wind is not as bad as Pismo or Panamint, but any time you are in the desert wind, can be present. Gain some shelter by ringing your vehicles.

In past years there have been vendors selling firewood. Bring what you can, if you need more, you can buy it there.

The event planners provide portable potties in downtown Hammer Town as well as several food vendors. Including an ice cream truck (or two). You can bring your own food or “eat out” for every meal.

In some years there has been an RV company that lets you rent RVs on the lake bed. Check with the official KOH site for more information.

If 20 degrees in a tent is not your idea of fun, then there are some hotel choices 25 miles away in Yucca (Joshua Tree). Accommodations are limited and advanced reservations are recommended.

Plan ahead by bringing extra tanks. Fill up in Lucerne Valley (28 miles to the west) or Yucca Valley (15 miles to the south).

Following the Race

The race takes off from Hammer town and ends (for the folks who finish) at Hammer Town. That is the place to see the lineup and the start of the race. Once the race gets going you will want to head out to the obstacles to see the crawling part of the competition. Always be mindful that while you are on the desert floor you are on an active race way. Look out for fast moving vehicles with lights flashing. Best places to watch the race are from Backdoor, Aftershock, Chocolate Thunder or on the jumbo-tron in downtown Hammer town. Obstacles are accessible via motor bike, quad, car or rig. As long as you stay on the beaten path, anything works. Do not try to walk. They are much farther than you think they are. Get a program when you get on site. It will highlight the race route and where spectators are allowed.

To get the most out of your race experience consider buying or bringing your race radio. By following the action on a race radio you will better be able to understand who the leaders are and where they are. If you don’t get one, then stand next to someone who has one.

Please follow the direction of the race volunteers and BLM. The event is on BLM land and if spectators are jerks and don’t follow direction then it puts the whole race in jeopardy. The rules are for your safety and those of the racers.

Cal4 collects a donation at the entrance to the grounds. In the past it has been $20. All money collected has gone to Cal4 legal fund to fight to keep lands open to vehicle recreation. This has to be the best value for your offroad dollars.

More information



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Happy New Year 2013… and Thank You

January 1st, 2013 • Written by david grubman.


Happy New Year !!!

As we close out 2012 and look to 2013 we have a bunch to be thankful for and so much to look forward to. Thank you to YOU. Thank you for trusting us with your Jeep Christmas presents and Jeep birthday presents, and Jeep anniversary presents. Thank you for thinking of us when you were ready for that new Jeep shirt or Life is Good tire cover. Thank you for following us on Facebook. Thank you for your contributions of time and money to keep our trails open and safe. Thank you for letting us help support offroad events across the country. Thank you for telling your Jeep friends about us.

Thank you for being part of our 2012. Its because of you that we are able to carry on the business of California Jeep Authority and for that we are grateful.

From all of us at California Jeep Authority we want to wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year. We hope you play hard and have a great year.

Karen, David, Lexi, Sammy, Hannah and Ivy

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Trip Report: Panamint Valley Days 2012 (PVD)

November 16th, 2012 • Written by david grubman.

Panamint Valley Days – 2012

Our trip to Panamint Valley Days 2012 actually started years ago when we first heard the reports back from Richard Beard and his numerous trips out there and his great pictures. Thankfully this year we were able to make the trek.

We started out of San Jose early afternoon on Thursday. The drive took a good eight hours with some stops for customer and vendor calls. We rolled into base camp after 11:00 on Thursday night. Wow it was dark out there. Instead of hunting through camp to find the crew we just grabbed a flat spot and parked. It was still 60 degrees but the wind was whipping through camp. I curled up in the back of the truck. The wind was loud and strong.

In the morning I hooked up with Chris, Richard & Mike, Howard & Sue and Loro, Alpine and Anton. We lined up and headed out to Jail Canyon. Dave Ryan was the trail lead for our group of 26 rigs. We were all in the same trail group and we had the pleasure of Del Albright in our group. Its interesting being out in the desert like that. The learning for me was the impact water has on the desert as it comes out of the canyons and the amount of mining equipment/debris that is out there. We drove up Jail canyon through some rutted washes that were interesting to drive through. At the top of the canyon there was a cabin that you can stay in along with an open air outhouse. Further up the canyon from the cabin is the left over mining equipment at Gem Mine. Really cool to climb around on the site. All the mine openings were sealed, but a bunch of machinery, tracks, etc were still there.

Howard and Sue in Jail Canyon

It was a short run and we made it back to camp by 2:00. We got Alpine some water and potty break and headed back out. Our little group took off on our own and headed out for Jackpot Canyon and Pleasant Canyon where we found another mine. Great views along the way including to beautiful wild burros (we knew they were there because of the piles everywhere). These were the only ones we saw. So cute.

Friday night we did dinner over the camp fire and hung out. Was a nice evening. Thankfully the wind was not an issue on Saturday night. The only issue was the parade of incoming traffic (we camped close to the main entrance) and the inconsiderate people with electric generators.

Saturday started with lining up for Defense Mine. Again, we kept our group together and again Del was in our group. We also had a couple of rigs from T&T Customs. They are sponsors for the event and came in from Wyoming. The road to Defense mine is generally uninteresting so the trail leaders brought us through a winding trail up one of the washes. Modestly challenging for some of the less modified rigs. Funny story… we stopped to gather the group on a spot in the open desert. As we gathered a young Canadian goose landed in the middle of us… alone in the middle of the desert. Somehow the little guys was lost. He hung around for pictures and then flew off. I am guessing he is now in the belly of some local canine. Just guessing.

We continued on to Defense Mine. To get there we had to climb “waterfall zero”. Not a huge obstacle but challenging for some of the rigs. Next to that was a little “tub”climb where you have to climb a tricky obstacle with your rig held onto the side by the sidewalls. Two rigs attempted and made the climb. Fun to watch.

At the top we made it to Defense Mine. All the mines we encountered were sealed shut. This one is open. Not sure how safe that is, but its open. The mine is amazing. Equipment is still all over the place and the mine is huge inside. It is one passage way after another. They lead in all directions including up and down. From the main level we headed up three sets of stairs into great rooms after rooms. Headed up another set of ladders and eventually found our way out of the mountain hundreds of feet higher than where we started. It was awesome running around with Chris through the mine. I could not have had a better adventure partner.,4.95,15.0

Saturday night we enjoyed the catered dinner. Good food and we were hungry. After dinner the temp really started dropping. The raffle was cold cold cold. Ad with many Cal4 events there were all kinds of items included in the raffle. Warn donated a winch, Cal4 donated a set of wheels and there was also a set of tires donated. California Jeep Authority donated a Jeep Gift Basket and a bunch of Jeep shirts and Jeep gift certificates. It was cool to be there when the stuff was given away. The night ended with another camp fire and early bed time.

Sunday we headed home early in the morning. We drove back through Kern Canyon. Wow was that place pretty. I highly recommend taking that road home as long as its light out. The road is tight and along the side of the canyon wall. Sometimes there is guardrail, sometimes not. We had to pull over a bunch of times to let cars pass. We were not in a rush with the trailer and the curves.


  • Panamint is a long drive
  • Felt like attendance was down for the event
  • Organizers did a good job. Some of the stuff could have been better, but it was well done overall
  • Trail leaders were excellent
  • It is cold and windy there
  • Thanks for the ride Chris. Was a great weekend.
  • Its neat being out with people who have a shared interest in adventure. I had a great time with Chris exploring stuff and taking pictures. That was fun.
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King of the Hammers – Rise of the East DVD Review (2012)

October 31st, 2012 • Written by david grubman.

Shame on me for not getting my hands on “King of the Hammers – Rise of the East” (2012 KOH DVD) sooner. As you know, the King of the Hammers is perhaps the most insane offroad event today. Its cooler than the BAJA 1000. The King of the Hammers race is a combination of open desert racing and torturous rock crawling. The Ultra4 racing class was created to support events like this. The King of the Hammers event is held in Johnson Valley California each February.

Hammerking productions, and Heavymetal Concepts put out the 2012 KOH DVD and they did an outstanding job. We had the opportunity to be in Johnson Valley for the race again this year so we knew the story well. It’s a blast being out there but honestly it is kind of hard to follow the action across a 187 mile race course while you are out there. Generally we were able to follow the action, but this DVD filled in the gaps that we did not grasp while we were out there. Heavymetal Concepts told a great story through emotional narrative and outstanding camera footage. They know how to tell a story. As you watch the DVD you can feel the grit in your teeth as the racers fly by.

When we drove out of Hammertown at the end of the event this year there were three stories that stuck in our minds…
– This Erik Miller kid winning the event. Such a young kid so excited to be there and genuinely appreciative for the win. It was great to see him take first place.
– The organizers opening up the field to all of the drivers who attempted to qualify. Classy thing to do. The race teams were off the hook excited.
– Robby Gordon qualifying for the main event with a huge performance, and blowing his engine right out of the gate
– Cody Adington and Justin Foxworthy in their home built 1980 Toyota pickup that finished the race (missing the 14 hours cut off). No breathers. No GPS. Radio failed after 7 hours. No power steering. Frickin hats off to those dudes. What a great story.

Those and a bunch of other stories are all on the DVD. A word of warning on the DVD. If you watch it then you are going to be hooked. You may as well make your reservations to get our to Johnson Valley to watch it in person next year.

See you in Hammertown Feb 2013

Congratulations to Erik Miller.

Great job Heavymetal Concepts

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