When a group of regulars on the Pirates of the Rubicon bulletin board (www.pirate4x4.com) got a little carried away with their bragging, a challenge quickly emerged. And it grew bigger and bigger until it turned into all-out rockcrawling carnage.
The idea? Bring together four California 4WD clubs for a rockcrawling contest to settle up and find out just who the gnarliest, most-skilled rock jockeys really were. The clubs involved in the battle were the Tin Benders (TB), the Pirates of the Rubicon (POR), the Sierra Rock Crawlers (SRC), and the Rock Zombies (RZ). We're not talking camping clubs here. Each club agreed to bring five vehicles of their choice, with drivers and spotters, for a flagged-and-ruled-trials rockcrawling course through the infamous Little Sluice on the Rubicon trail.
Each team put up $100 to compete, and the winning team would have the honor of donating the $400 in winnings to Tread Lightly! in their club's name. The three losing teams would all have to take a 3-minute swim -- in snow-fed Spider Lake.With the date set for a Saturday morning in July, the smack-talking commenced. The clubs continued their banter and bragging across the networks on the Internet, and the bulletin boards were afire with talk of who was going to outdrive whom.
The fateful day finally arrived, and the competitors, at least most of them, arrived at the Little Sluice Box on the Rubicon Trail ready to compete. Fifteen drivers and their vehicles were out to defend the honor of their clubs. The rules were simple: The lowest score won. The course required drivers to enter the Sluice Box by climbing a 3-foot rock ledge on the left side of the box. Bypassing this gauntlet and driving over the angled rock slab to the right of the entrance cost the driver 10 points. A second mandatory obstacle was a huge 4-foot boulder right next to the angled slab. Drivers had to get over this boulder or suffer another 10-point penalty. Finally, a third 10-point obstacle lay at the exit of the Sluice. Drivers had to squeeze their way between a large boulder and the left-side wall of the box to cross the finish line.
Further points were added for stopping for more than a few seconds (1 point), backing up (2 points), winching (20 points), and running over the allotted 10-minute time limit (40 points). Each driver could use a spotter to help him negotiate the course.
With a crowd numbering well into the hundreds, the competitors lined up and began their assault on the box. With the wide variety of vehicles, ranging from Samurais to Jeeps to Toyotas, the lines the drivers took and the methods they used to traverse the obstacles varied greatly. Most competitors were running tires in the 38-inch range, with the smallest being 35s.
With gears spinning and Erik Linker of the Tin Benders scoring the runs, the contest was on. Each competitor had his chance at the three obstacles plus the interim challenges the Sluice had to offer. Amazingly, there was very little body damage. However, the course was by no means easy. Each contestant struggled with at least some portion of the Sluice. And the lack of damage only spoke of incredible driver skill and the engineering of their vehicles.
A few of the drivers suffered broken axle components, but most survived the complete run intact. Two of the more memorable moments included Pirates Bob Roggy and Lance Clifford. Bob was the only competitor to exit the box with a score of zero, while Lance stood his Cruiser up vertical for the crowd.When the dust settled and the cheers from the crowd had subsided, the scores were tallied. The Pirates of the Rubicon emerged as masters of the Sluice Box with an overall team score of 28 points. Following the Pirates, the Tin Benders came in with a respectable score of 98. Playing with less than full teams, the Sierra Rock Crawlers and Rock Zombies tied for Third Place.
The Pirates won the right to donate the prize money in their name. The rest of the teams were supposed to take a cold swim in the lake. But it seems that some of the defeated left and headed for Buck Island Lake before taking their obligatory dip. That's a score that still needs to be settled.
Sitting behind a computer monitor, it's all too easy to do some serious virtual four-wheeling. Regardless of what you have sitting in your garage, the Internet allows you to pretend to drive whatever you want and be as hard-core as you want.