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Trip Report – King of the Hammers 2013 – Johnson Valley

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

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

 

oops

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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.

Highlights:

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.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VMU-1

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: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151223497411971.436533.151869041970&type=1&l=376c981cbc

Nice write up: http://www.autoblog.com/2013/02/09/autoblog-goes-to-thunderdome-2013-griffin-king-o/

Full results: http://ultra4racing.com/the-inside-line/2013-griffin-king-of-the-hammers-presented-by-nitto-tire/

Petition to keep KOH open to the public: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/save-johnson-valley-ohv-area-be-fiscally-responsible-stop-29-palms-marine-base-expansion-keep-public/5r0C7Xw4

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Easter Jeep Safari 2012 – Trip Report

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Easter Jeep Safari 2012 – Trip Report

 

This is my second year attending the Easter Jeep Safari out in Moab. Last year I flew out to Denver and rode with my friend Mike. After experiencing the adventure as a passenger I decided to bring my rig out and try my hand behind the wheel. As an added bonus my oldest daughter Lexi wanted to join me.

I spent months getting the Jeep ready; tuning, tweeking, tightening, adjusting and replacing stuff to be ready. I have to say that I don’t know the Jeep has ever been this dialed in and ready to go.

 

Travel

Lexi and I headed out of San Jose early on Saturday with the intention of stopping in Vegas for two nights. It’s the perfect half way stay over and we wanted to do some sight seeing. We saw the sights and caught a show (Mystre at Treasure Island) on Sunday night. Vegas is not the best place for a 15 year old young lady. Looking forward to bringing her back for her 21st birthday. Monday morning we headed out to Moab.

 

Tuesday – Wheeling with Warn

We won a Facebook drawing to go wheeling with the Warn crew. The run was on Tuesday for Sevenmile canyon with 20 other winners. The Warn crew included their spokesperson Jessi Combs.  Jessi was driving the Warn Jeep dragging a Warn trailer. The trail is scenic and not terribly challenging. Some tight squeezes, some interesting obstacles, some crazy off camber stuff and a couple of challenging water falls to traverse. As with the other rim runs there is a crazy view of the valley from the top of the rim.

Warn provided lunch and that gave me an opportunity to introduce Lexi to Jessi. Jessi was very approachable and was so cool to talk to. She is a strong confident articulate independent capable woman. Just the type of person that I want Lexi to get exposure to. We talked about Jessi’s projects and her passion in female empowerment through the programs she supports. My favorite quote from her: “I love my life”.

After lunch we continued on the trail and hit some intense water falls. We took the bypass but some of the rigs were playing around.  Jessi tried to take the Jeep/Trailer up the falls. The Warn guys stopped her. They did not want her dragging the trailer up the obstacle. Personally I was too scared to take the Jeep up the falls. Jessi wanted to play so I gave her the keys to my Jeep. She took the Scrambler (with my daughter) up the Falls. It was kinda crazy to see her confidence and what my Jeep is capable of.

(Jessi even commented on our FB post…. link)

Wednesday – Metal Masher

My buddy Mike from Colorado Springs rolled in on Tuesday night to join the adventure. Wednesday we did Metal Masher as a registered event. We were the 39th and 40th rigs in the group of 40 rigs. Not the place you want to be in an open jeep with no top or doors. It was dusty and dirty and the going was unbelievable slow. A beautiful Bronco in the middle of the group lost their rear end and needed help getting through the trail in front wheel drive. We had some time to play on some side trails and had lunch looking over the valley. I love that view.

We bailed on the trail group at the evacuation exit. We were tired of the dust. We headed over to Fins and Things, baby lions back and potato salad hill. It was a great end to the day.

 

Thursday – BFE

Thursday we had an open day and planned to check out BFE and take product shots for the web site.  BFE is a big drive from town. We headed out there and tooled around on some obstacles; pretty intense obstacles. They were prepping the grounds for a competition event on Saturday.  We started to do Heldorado falls. I got through the first part but could not make it through the squeeze. Mike went on without me. That is where Lexi shot this video.
 

After BFE we checked out the vendors and then went back up to Fins and things for some product shots. Mike and Lexi look like cold, dirty professional models. pi

Friday – Pritchet Canyon

It’s about this time that we realized that we screwed up our trail assignments. While we were screwing around on Thursday we were supposed to have been on the organized Pritchet Canyon run. We screwed up. Since Friday did not have any organized trail runs on Pritchet canyon, we grabbed lunches, topped off the tanks and headed out to tackle it.  It was just the two rigs. After we got started on the trail we hooked up with a couple of guys from Nevada (these dudes know how to wheel) and we were later joined by some Utah kids (they were a lot of fun).  With the big holiday weekend there were a number of rigs out there. There was some traffic but overall we moved at a good clip. The canyon was very pretty. The trail itself was the hardest fricking thing I have ever attempted. The climbs, the ledges, the drops, the waterfalls were crazy. By far I was in over my head. I had never done anything this hard before. Thankfully the group included several outstanding spotters, they were patient and on more than one occasion I threw out the winch line.

 
 
On the long (15 miles of dirt road) drive out of the back of the canyon I lost the bearings in the driver front wheel. Wheel locked up. Wheel barely hanging on, we left the Jeep on the dirt road and retrieved it with the trailer. We ended up missing the raffle drawing that night.

 

Big Saturday

On big Saturday we were supposed to run Hell’s Revenge. By Saturday I was toast. The Jeep was broken and Lexi was ready to be home. We skipped out on our trail run. We shopped and watched the Jeeps head out of downtown on the morning of Big Saturday. Saw some cool Scramblers and hundreds of other cool Jeeps. We packed up and headed home. We made it to the CA/NV state line on our first day. We grabbed a room at some dive hotel. Lexi went to bed while I headed down to the casino to win $1,000 on a video poker machine. I figure that almost pays for gas for the trip. Got home late Easter Sunday, tired, dirty and broken.

 

Overall

It was an amazing adventure. It was so cool to share the time and the adventure with my eldest daughter. I learned more about what I am capable of as a driver and what my Jeep is capable of. It was a hoot meeting Jessi. It was refreshing to meet her and confirm that she is as cool in person as her on-screen persona. Also as the father of two daughters it was great to have Lexi exposed to such a strong, capable positive passionate driven female role-model.

 

Will be looking to book my room for next year in the next month or so. Who’s in?

 

Now I gotta go fix my front end.

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How Crazy is an 800 hp Production Jeep?

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

 

How Crazy is an 800 hp production Jeep

Hennessey has announced limited production of an 805 hp Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 for 2013. Not sure that’s the crazy part. I think the crazy part is the $235,000 expected price tag. So for the $235,000 price tag you get a beefy ass 7.0 liter engine hooked up with twin turbo chargers, lowers the suspension, 20 inch wheels, some carbon finber body work and upgrades the brakes. The resulting performance is 0-60 in 3.1 seconds. That is fast as hell for a Jeep.

They are hoping to produce a couple of dozen for 2013.

Details on their webiste

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Giveaway for Call of Duty Black Ops game

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

Giveaway of 6 copies of Call of Duty Black Ops

Jeep is trying to promote its new blog by giving away 6 copies of Call of Duty Black Ops (for either Xbox 360 or Playstation 3). All you have to do is to swing by their blog and comment on their post. Very cool looking Jeep. Awesome game. Go enter yousrself to win a copy of the game.

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Latest Viral Jeep Video

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

We have to share this video. It has been sent to the California Jeep Authority email box a dozen times this week. Here is an amazing video of a Canadian drill team tearing down and then assembling an old Jeep CJ. If you are a NASCAR fan or a fan of old Willys Jeeps, you should get a kick out of watching this clip. Watch the entire thing. Its pretty cool.

If you liked that one, here is one of the same team competing in the 2009 Nova Scotia International Tattoo Mechanics Competition.

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