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We Visit the 2018 Tierra Del Sol Annual Safari! Or, the Experienced Idiot’s Guide on How to go Off-Roading

by Steve Rockwood

 

When the MotoIQ guys went on their rookie tour of Johnson Valley at the 2018 King of the Hammers race, I was supposed to be their tour guide to show them the ropes, keep them out of trouble, and act as chauffer in my appropriately equipped 1997 Jeep Cherokee. Due to a complete lack of comms in the valley and differing arrival times, this never panned out. While they were nearly getting stuck, breathing dust and probably continually trying to keep Project Tundra clean (sorry Mike, no amount of Quick Detailer is gonna fix Johnson Valley’s silt), I was enjoying the race, timing the leaders at the big hills, and otherwise having a relaxing day.

 

Fast-forward a couple of weeks and I get a message from Jeff Naeyaert asking about the 56th Annual Tierra Del Sol (TDS) Desert Safari. Since it’d been years since I’d done anything vehicle-related with the MotoIQ crew, and I failed them at KOH, I jumped on the opportunity to show him around the local desert playground. Where KOH is driving around a mostly closed Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Park and watching big dollar off-road, er, things(?) smash through the desert terrain at breakneck speed, TDS is driving around a completely open OHV Park and watching (or participating) as idiots smash their trucks, Jeeps, UTVs or buggies through the desert terrain at breakneck speeds. Think LA street races back in the day, except what little police there might be is usually sitting back watching the hoonage and helping scrape your mangled carcass off the rocks should you run out of talent. 

 

They don’t even bother calling them Jeeps anymore. “Truggies” , “Juggies” , or “4400 cars” dominate the landscape through brute force and cubic dollars. 

While TDS is a great introduction for people new to off-roading, it’s more about organized rides, vendor shows, and registration fees while we prefer a more "seat of the pants" approach to these trips. We skipped the whole registration thing and used the weekend as a chance to watch the crowds do stupid things and a convenient time for everyone to meet.

So, why did I abandon my life of go-fast track racing for a life of redneckery? We all get old. We get married, we have kids and some of us stop racing and move on to other sports or other more family-friendly versions of vehicular recreation. For me, it was the natural choice, as off-roading is something that can be experienced by the whole family, and was something both of our families did growing up. My wife and kids ride with me in the Jeep, there aren’t pissed off weekend warrior racing douchebags throwing fuel jugs around the pits in a hissy fit over an unnecessary meatball flag, and the only competition is the usual member-measuring hoonery that happens whenever men (and some women) and vehicles are involved. Off-road trips aren’t about winning, but hanging out with good friends and having fun in cars doing something other than staring at the license plate in front of you in endless traffic. That being said- it’s not without its dangers, and like many things in life, the second you stop respecting it is the second you get bitten.

 

More on this later.

Enough preaching, on to the trip.  Comb your mullets, don your Van Halen tank top, crack open a nice Coors (pronounced Coo-errs), Banquet and enjoy. 

 

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Comments
Tinker
Tinkerlink
Tuesday, April 17, 2018 7:47 AM
Love this! I’m looking into putting together an overland setup for the reasons you mention — the wife and kids coming along is a huge one for me. Could you explain more about your suspension geometry, or link to a good article about it? It seems like there’s a lot of different viewpoints out there but I figure MotoIQ=accurate.
Rockwood
Rockwoodlink
Tuesday, April 17, 2018 3:30 PM
In short: keep it low, keep control arm angles minimal, and don’t go long arm unless you keep it linked. Radius arms make great flex, but the axle chattering on unloaded climbs like this and whacky anti-dive values make for less traction. You do get a nice ride at insane lift heights, but it’s not really worth it.
Tinker
Tinkerlink
Friday, April 20, 2018 6:10 AM
Thanks! Any articles you’d recommend as well? Or perhaps MotoIQ could write one about off-road geometry?
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