Extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope
are few, if any, four wheel drive events that bring the word epic
to mind, save for Tierra del Sol's Annual Desert Safari. With
an incredible 1,223 registered vehicles and an amazing 850 of
those pre-registered, it is certainly one of the largest four
wheel drive events in the world, if not the largest. On top of
the enormous registered vehicle count, there are an additional
4-500 unregistered vehicles that do not participate in the raffle
or the main run, with the total number of trucks approaching roughly
1,800 and the total number of people in attendance somewhere in
the neighborhood of 5-6,000! If you were to look at Truckhaven
from the sky at night, you could easily mistake it for a small
of coordinating an event such as this is almost incomprehensible,
and the TDS club deserves all the praise that we can give. Every
aspect of a huge sporting event is covered; registration, shirt
sales, food, toilets, trash bins, an enormous vendor row, an on-site
doctor, paramedics, sheriffs, maps, and checkpoints. They even
have an ambulance on standby. You name it - every base has been
covered. They are setup to handle just about anything that can
(and does) happen.
Mike Duncan (FourXDoctor) showing off
his Raceline Monster 17" wheels and his prototype BFG
long and winding road
The terrain in the desert of the Truckhaven hills where the Desert
Safari is held is quite varied and makes it possible for every
type of four-wheeler to have fun. The official run will take you
through places that will range from twisty suspension workouts
to wide-open throttle hill climbs.
main run is divided into three difficulty levels through the use
of stakes that have green, red and blue arrows on them. The green
arrows point towards the trail that ranges from easy to medium
difficulty, one that most stock vehicles can finesse while the
red flagged trails are difficult, requiring more driving experience
and a better equipped vehicle. The blue trails are in their own
category, with some of them requiring an extremely twisty suspension
and super-high clearance, while others require the ability to
deal with very off-camber situations without losing your cool.
starts Friday with registration and safety check beginning promptly
at 2PM. People start arriving for this event as early as the weekend
before with most showing up at some point on Friday. The official
run takes place on Saturday morning at 8 a.m. and runs until the
course has been completed by every driver, but the action isn't
just on the main course. Although it is a coordinated trip with
a designated run, the desert has much to offer as far as diversity
is concerned. For the desert racer there are sand washes that
run for miles letting you get up some pretty serious speed. For
the rockcrawler there are very twisty and off-camber canyons.
For the throttle jockeys there are twisty, dusty hill climbs that
take not just lockers front and rear, but a heavy foot to boot.
With as many
drivers as there are, there is a lot of off-roading aside from
the main run. Friday is spent four-wheeling by day and night with
the many side day runs Saturday consisting of drivers splitting
off from the main run only to jump back into it later on in the
day. With the action running all day Friday and Saturday late
into the night, this event will have you doing more four-wheeling
in three days than some people can get in a whole year.
does he get those wonderful toys?
Not only do you see just about every possible clever innovation
you could homebrew for an off-road vehicle, an event of this magnitude
also brings out all the big names with their featured products.
Just about every west coast four wheel drive company has representatives
there in a booth or out on the trail.
wanted to meet the Curries? Swing by and get advice from the Four
X Doctor. Maybe go chat with Dynatrac about their axles or talk
with Kilby Enterprises about your onboard air. This is the place
to be. With vendor booths galore, the main concourse is essentially
a toy store for adults.
And the vendor
row isn't the only way you can bring home goodies for your truck.
The Saturday night raffle held at 7PM rivals any other. With a
total value of $63,000 in prizes from over 100 vendors
and the fact that the only way to get a raffle ticket is to register,
your odds of winning something are relatively high. The prizes
are much more than just off-road videos and t-shirts. When you're
talking $63k in prizes you get the toys to help you run with the
big dogs. We're talking tire sets, winches, axles, welders, onboard
air and more.
Mike Duncan works on his carnage.
and they will come
Maybe it's the fact that to get to the event you're on a freeway
named 86 South. Maybe the fact that you forgot to bring socks
was a bad omen. Perhaps it was the scent of the Salton Sea as
you approached Truckhaven that had you distracted. Or maybe one
too many people just got a little heavy on the go pedal.
got over 1500 off-roaders in one place, you're bound to have some
carnage. Everything from yokes to u-joints, axle shafts to transfer
cases, you name it, just about anything that can break, did. And
it wasn't just the stockers breaking those little Dana 30 u-joints.
Even the big dogs have to pay to play eventually, as seen here
by Mike Duncan's (Four X Doctor) broken yoke.
is on my side
One of the great things about the TDS Desert Safari is that it
isn't just about coordinating a huge four wheel drive event. It
brings the people closer to the companies, and it reminds us how
small the four wheel drive industry really is. You realize that
the same guys selling you products are out there wheeling right
along side you year after year. And beyond simply bringing you
closer to the industry, the Desert Safari actually goes a step
further by assisting the Blue Ribbon coalition.
To help preserve
our rights, the event also raised $3,628.83 for the Blue Ribbon
Coalition legal defense fund, which is helping to keep our lands
open for us to have this great sport. To quote the coalition,
they work hard "preserving our natural resources for the
public, instead of from the public." The TDS Desert Safari
is helping make sure they have the money they need to keep defending
us. For more information on the Blue Ribbon Coalition please visit
their website at www.sharetrails.org.
you're close enough to make it to next year's event, I highly
encourage you to do so. Do the main run, go to the raffle and
cross your fingers hoping for a welder, and get in some good night-wheeling
with your friends or the new ones you'll make on the trail. The
Annual TDS Desert Safari is truly an epic four wheel drive event
that I think everyone should experience at least once.
For more information
on the TDS Desert Safari and future events, please visit their
website at www.tds4x4.com.
On a few final
notes, if you're wondering what a Tierra del Sol is, it means
"land of the sun," which is quite appropriate for the
Truckhaven desert area.
I would also
like to personally thank John Stewart from TDS for his continued
assistance throughout the weekend. I was in good hands.
now, on to the
[ PHOTO GALLERY
is a photojournalist for rockcrawler.com and resides in Los Angeles
California. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.