ATV/UTV: On the Trail with Discount Tire - Johnson Valley, CA
Johnson Valley, CA - KING OF THE HAMMERS
WOW!!! What an awesome quad trip for my 2nd time at Johnson Valley (King of the Hammers). I was lucky enough to have my agent Jeff arraign for me to have a couple of days off to go to the Hammers. Bob was nice enough to offer me a ride and a place to stay in his camper as well.
As we were all saying our hello’s in the morning I handed out some Discount Tire goodies to everyone. A hat, tire gauge, chap stick and discount coupons. I got to meet Carl’s new awesome puppy Bandit. I was also surprised to see Susie; Jim’s wife came along for the trip as well.
We all lined up for a group photo before taking off on the days ride. Dave pointed the way we were going to head off and said spread out. There had been some major rain storms a couple of days prior so there was no dust. I had to run to get my extra camera battery out of the camper so I was late taking off as was Steve and Wayne. "No problem," I thought to myself as we were headed for the flats towards a mountain range. Well that didn’t work out so well as we could not see the group. I saw Wayne turn right so I headed that way as well. When I looked back he and Steve were gone. Wow, now I was riding alone. After a couple of miles I looked back and to my right and there was part of the group. Our leader Dave was nowhere in sight. As it turned out we used cell phones and GPS to find the other part of the group. Jeff told me he came across Dave who was stopped by himself in the desert. He asked Dave where his group was since he was the leader and Dave just shook his head. What a HOOT!!!
We started out on a tight off camber boulder trail we did last year but we did it in reverse this time. What a great warm up. There was one scary incident when Dave tried to hop straight up a rock. I happened to be there to spot him when he stood his quad straight up with me hanging on to the front rack begging him to let go of the throttle. Just as I was about to go over with the quad he let go and it rolled back down the face. The crew was yelling in amazement at the show unfortunately no one got any photos of the event. Here's a photo of Bob going up the same spot.
From here we made our way up some washes where we had fun playing on some obstacles heading to the ridge tops. Bob was showing us how he could stand his quad up on end without going over. I think he was just trying to show off.
There was another real fun spot where we had to go down a very steep loose hill that Dave did not like. Steve took us to some mines along our way back where some of the group were lucky enough to see a large owl in one of the mine shafts.
On our way back to camp Bob wanted to go by the trail we saw a Jeep winch down last year so he could winch up it. We finally found the correct wash and Bob got ready. This is about 20 feet almost straight up. There is a winch point at the top of the rock to hook up to. Bob’s 50 foot winch cable could not reach the winch point so we added a rope. What fun watching Bob winch up the face. He was having a ball as he was yelling Yeaaaaaaa!!!!! To get back down there is a nasty go around where he was able to make it back to the group.
As he reached the bottom he exclaimed anyone else? I didn’t have a winch but Bob said take my quad up if you want. He didn’t have to ask me twice. I jumped on his quad and lined up. As I started up the rock face his quad stalled about 3 feet up the wall. He was out of gas. Crap!! I had to come back down and fill up. Back to the rock face I started up. Near the top the right rear wheel lifted up as I saw it do with Bob. That is a weird feeling for sure. His winch made it to the top with ease. It was quiet a rush!
The next morning the sunrise was awesome. The sky was on fire and made a great start to the day.
Just before the group got together Katt and I headed off the the dry lake bed to have some fun. Katt almost cart wheeled his RZR and I happened to catch it on camera.
Time to go for another full days ride. We headed up a wash that Dave and Steve had been up a few times before. The wash got narrow and we came to a small waterfall. There was a bad pointy rock in the middle so we had to pile some boulders around to help us get up the narrow rock face. There was about 1 inch of clearance on each side to make it up or you would fall off to the left into a hole. Everyone that tried it made it up. There was a couple that went around. Carl came to us and asked if anyone saw his camera. Oh my. Wayne was last in line so he went back to where we entered the wash to see if he could find Carl’s camera. As it turns out Carl found his camera in another pocket. (He's getting old) As Wayne came back he tried to go up the waterfall again but did not make it. He fell off the side into the 3 foot deep hole but was ok. Zane helped him get his quad back to the wash and he tried again but fell in the hole again. One more time Zane helped and Wayne hit it again with the same results. OUCH! This time he said to Zane “please ride this pig up this rock pile for me”. Zane did but almost fell in the hole as well.
The next obstacle in the wash was where Zane showed us how his Visco Loc doesn't work very well when rock crawling. If you really need a locked front diff the Visco Loc comes up short. No matter what Zane rides, he will make it work. What happens is if you put one wheel up against a boulder and try to climb up the rock face the wheel without traction will spin. When it finally engages it will throw you one way or the other.
This part of the trail was quite narrow for Katt in his RZR but he gave it a go. Unfortunately he dropped a rear wheel into a hole and snapped his rear axle. Jerry was good enough to hook his winch on him to pull him backwards off the rocks. Wayne volunteered to follow him back to camp where he could pick up Jeff’s spare quad and meet us at the sand dunes.
Along the way to the dunes we found some jumps to play on in the wash.
A short time later as we were all spread out going across a dry lake bed Jim had a bad crash. He was in the back of the group and did not see a dip in the ground. When he hit the dip at 50MPH it threw him about 20 feet through the air. We think he came down on his left front tire and his quad pitched him to the ground. Jim did the old tuck and roll. Jeff was the 1st to arrive and was scared to death. Jim was moving but very slowly. His quad was about 60 yards away on its wheels still running. (It's a Honda) Thankfully Jim was shaken but not badly hurt. If he wasn’t wearing a helmet it could have been a different story. Even the best riders can have something bad happen in the blink of an eye. Now was a good time to stop to let Jim catch his breath. After lunch he decided to go back to camp as we headed to the dunes.
What a blast at the dunes running all over the coral colored sand. This is one place where Zane’s Visco Loc did great. Chris was flying up the sand on his motorcycle along with Bob, Carl and Jerry. It was fun watching the guys cutting up the sand. I asked Zane if I could ride his Can Am. Of course he said yes. When I finally brought his quad back to him he was giggling saying I looked like an ant running all over the dunes. I have to say that was a blast. His 800 has amazing power and the Pit Bull Rocker tires made climbing to the top of the biggest dune a breeze.
Bob had to make an unscheduled stop to change out a belt on his Polaris. I was amazed how fast he changed it.
From here we went off to the Hammers to take a peek at the area Johnson Valley is famous for. A few of us rode a ways on one of the Hammer trails and back.
Now for the mad 10 mile dash back to camp. It seems everyone took a different way back. If you have never been there you don’t know how all the flat areas are full of huge whoops. I was whooped by the whoops by the time I made it back to camp and I couldn’t wait to get off my quad. Just as I was about to turn into camp I saw a motorcycle rider down with a bunch of people working on them. Out of the blue there was a CPS helicopter circling so I went back to the area that the rider was down. It was a girl that hit a whoop wrong and crashed. She was in and out of conscientiousness so she got an air lift. At lease she had all her safety gear on.
Now was the time for the feast. Dave was making some monster burgers from London broil along with his special blend of secret ingredients. His wife Julie and Jim's wife Susie made them up while we were out riding. What a great ending to a nearly perfect (except for the crash) weekend.
A big Thank You to everyone that made it out for the ride. I still have a smile on my face as I am writing this. What fun with great people that you can trust with your life if need be.
The sunrises this year were Outstanding!!!
Article by: Don McNeilly
Photos by: Don McNeilly and Jeff Christ.