So Cal Rally IV presented by ToyHauler Magazine returned to the Spangler Hills OHV Area on Veterans Day weekend 2007. Spangler Hills, located in the Western Mojave Desert about three hours north of Los Angeles, offers an off-road playground of over 57,000 acres. The Rally began four years ago as the brainchild of Dave Guymon and Eric Durkee, regulars on a popular RV internet chat forum. Sure, all the internet debating over GCVWR was mildly entertaining but Dave and Eric were looking to take things to another level and a group camping trip sounded like fun and would put some real names and faces with all those internet “User Names.” As you can imagine, there was quite a bit of skepticism when significant others were informed, “Honey, we’ll be heading out to the middle of the desert to meet some people I’ve been talking to on the Internet.” Trepidation aside, that first event did come together and from those humble beginnings the Rally has grown each and every year to become a popular annual family event and fund-raiser.
Upon arrival for this year’s Rally, we were greeted by the sight of nearly 100 toyhaulers lined up in a large “circle- the-wagons” configuration reminiscent of a scene from the Wild West pioneer days. After driving through the desolate landscape that leads to Spangler Hills, you just can’t help but smile at the sight of all those toyhaulers. We found our spot in the circle, got ourselves situated, then headed over to the ToyHauler Magazine booth where we had a visit with our very own editor Terry Gluckman who was busy meeting, greeting and handing out welcome packets. Each packet included an itinerary for the weekend, a ToyHauler Magazine, fliers and information from our many sponsors, as well as an official Rally sticker. This year a large tent donated by the Toy Hauln Hooligans was erected in the middle of camp to provide shelter for various group activities. A large vendor area also shared center stage. The area included Fabtech Motorsports who brought out their company semitruck, long travel Rhinos, a new Polaris RZR and long travel suspension displays, while Livewire Whips had a storefront where attendees could purchase whips, poles and holders, camp markers, and more.
Proceeds from this year’s So Cal Rally went directly to CORVA (California Off-Road Vehicle Association) and their fund to protect riding areas and our privilege to use them. Dave Edmiston also organized a fund-raiser very close to our hearts, The Lauren Lokken College Fund. Lauren’s father Chris, aka “Mr Nibbles,” passed away while participating in the 2007 Baja 500 off-road race. With collection boxes set up at the host trailer, attendees also donated unwrapped toys to the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program. While everyone was out to have a good time, we were able to give back to some very worthy causes as well.
The Rally’s itinerary included several children’s activities. A scavenger hunt was held Friday evening for kids 2-12 who made their way from trailer to trailer in search of items on a list that included common and not-so-common things you might find in a toyhauler. It was a great opportunity for the kids to get to know each other early during the Rally and there were prizes and gift bags for every team that participated. The main tent became “arts and crafts central” when Amy Corneau, Amy Carson, and several other helpful mothers gathered many of the younger children there for some artistic endeavors. The moms provided guidance as many a masterpiece was created, including wreaths and windsocks with a Veteran’s Day theme. The kids also had their own ATV/Motorcycle races based on age and OHV type. Saturday morning arrived, sunny and brisk, providing a perfect backdrop as the racers got in some great bar-to-bar racing action. For the most part, the rubber side stayed down and a great time was had by racers and spectators alike.
Several great group rides also took place over the Rally weekend. One ride destination was a trip to the Trona Pinnacles, which are one of the strangest geological formations you will ever see. Over 500 tufa spires project out from the desert floor, some to a height of more than 140 feet. These protrusions, some formed as many as 100,000 years ago, are recognizable as the backdrop from dozens of movies scenes including Star Trek, Lost in Space, Planet of the Apes, and several classic westerns. The Trona loop combined miles of fast sand wash twisting across the desert floor with trails that skirted mountainsides surrounding the valley for an excellent ride to a truly unique destination. A nighttime group ride became quite an adventure when the back half of the group ended up in the cold desert night uncertain of the direction back to camp. Eventually we found some railroad tracks we hoped went near our main camp and followed trails that ran along those tracks. Just when the Rhino in front of me began sputtering from lack of gas, off in the distance we saw the welcome glow of Livewire marker lights set atop our toyhauler flag poles. Everyone finally made it back to base camp in one piece.
The Poker Run, which has always been one of the Rally’s most popular events, was laid out this year by Dave Edmiston. It was an excellent trail ride accessible to all yet not boring for the more experienced riders. Several “semi- hidden” stops were designated along the way for riders to collect stamps to prove they had been to each stop. At the end of the run, the stamps would be turned in for a poker hand, the highest of which were rewarded with prizes. One of the highlights of the poker run was a stop at the Major Michael James Adams crash site memorial. Eerily, 40 years earlier almost to the day on November 15th 1967, Major Adams, an American aviator and USAF/NASA astronaut, gave his life during a test flight of the X-15 aircraft. There was a poignant moment when one of the young ladies riding in the poker run called for a moment of silence for Major Adams and all of our armed forces around the globe defending our freedom. Having collected all of our stamps, we rolled back into camp with high hopes of drawing that winning poker hand.
A cold Saturday evening began with everyone crowded around the host trailer for the Rally Raffle. The first order of business to take care of was the announcement of the Poker Run winners and a big cheer went out when five-year-old Jake Stevenson took home the grand prize. The raffle began with ticket numbers being called out while ToyHauler Magazine T-shirts flew through the air as people scrambled to grab shirts flung in their direction. The ticket numbers kept coming as winners collected the goods to hoots and hollers from the crowd. It was amazing to see the amount of great swag Rally sponsors stepped up to donate for this year’s raffle. As the crowd dispersed, it wasn’t long before the line for the potluck was snaking well beyond the confines of the main Rally tent. Table after table of scrumptious fare satisfied the appetites of all who made their way through the buffet lines. The potluck left everyone satiated and primed for an evening celebration around the warmth of a huge bonfire.
On the Rally’s final night campfire entertainment took a bit of a twist when Jerri Manthey of the television reality series “Survivor--Fame” treated those around the campfire to a fantastic interpretation of an ancient “Maori Poi Spinning Fire Dance.” With a chain in each hand attached to a ball of fire, Jerri danced rhythmically, swinging the fireballs around her body. Round and round they flew in a dizzying array of circular flame all timed to a thumping beat. The music piped from a custom golf cart that had been reincarnated into a crazy rolling wall of sound. It certainly was quite a sight to see. As the night drew to a close, I sat mesmerized by campfire flames reflecting on what the So Cal Rally had become in a relatively short period of time. The friendship, camaraderie, and family atmosphere are palpable along with the diverse age groups able to comfortably share the Rally’s experience. A large part of what makes the toyhauler lifestyle so attractive is its ability to bridge those wide divides in the generation gap like precious few other things can. Once experienced, it really comes as no surprise that the So Cal Rally has become such a popular event.
Of course an event like this takes quite a bit of planning and preparation. Huge thanks go out to Eric and Wendy Durkee who carry the majority of that load. Special thanks to the events pro level sponsors, ToyHauler Magazine, Chaparral Glass, CORVA, Desert Toys, Desertworks Fabrication, Durkee Racing, Fabtech Motorsports, Livewire Whips, RB Components, Santa Cruz Mountains, and the Toy Hauln Hooligans. Also, thank you to the Ridgecrest BLM office for assisting with the permit process, Bruce Epstein for the Rally website design, and all of the other sponsors and volunteers who helped make this event possible. We can’t wait til next year.