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50 Years Of The Tierra Del Sol Desert Safari

Posted in Events on July 1, 2012
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In the world of wheeling, 50 years is a long time. From a sport that found its legs in military surplus Jeeps after WWII, only the true originals can tout a history that dates back half a century. Amongst those early adopters are the very magazine you are reading right now and a small San Diego–based club known as Tierra Del Sol (TDS), which celebrated its 50th annual Desert Safari in March.

TDS, incorporated as a not-for-profit club in 1962, sprang up from a small group of search and rescue volunteers who patrolled the recently established Anza Borrego State Park with CB radios and an intimate knowledge of the terrain. Two of the volunteers, Roy Pruitt and Bozzy Willis, started to focus more on adventure and exploration, ultimately forming the nucleus of the club they named Tierra Del Sol, and with it the creation of the annual Desert Safari.

Run in and around an area of the Southern California desert known as Truckhaven Hills, the Desert Safari is used as a tool to fund and support land use initiatives, protecting and preserving this wheeler’s paradise for future generations to enjoy. Today, the TDS membership roster contains family names that date back to the founding fathers of the club, demonstrating its success in accomplishing that mission.

Four Wheeler first wrote about Tierra Del Sol’s Desert Safari in 1968:

This time it was the 6th annual Desert Safari, sponsored by the Tierra Del Sol 4wd club of San Diego, California. The 1967 edition had hosted some 500 vehicles and this year no one anticipated any difficulty with the more than half a thousand that were expected. But instead of the group that showed last year there were nearly 600 vehicles registered and a head count of four wheelers resulted in a total figure of more than 2500. These were guests—there were probably at least 100 rigs from the San Diego club plus another couple of hundred or so four wheelers there in official capacity. Add them up in any direction and it spells a big crowd.

A lot has changed in 50 years, but you wouldn’t know it looking at this photo from the Aug. ’68 issue of Four Wheeler.

For those who remember the early times it was a far cry from the “Ridgerunner” days. It was exactly ten years ago that about 50 rigs and about 150 people took part in this early-day cavalcade over almost the same territory.

Fortunately, a lot had changed, if the San Diegans had tried to run their Desert Safari under the same rules, it would have been utter chaos. Today’s four-wheel drive club is a far more sophisticated operation. With five cavalcades under their belt, the Tierra Del Sol group handled this one with the precision of a well organized parade.

Sounds to us like not much has changed in 50 years.

Since those early days, covering TDS has been a tradition in the pages of Four Wheeler magazine. Fast-forward five decades and this year’s event was clearly one of the most successful, with 1,768 registered vehicles and thousands more not officially in attendance but participating in the festivities. Trails and obstacles were set up for all skill levels, with friendly volunteers braving the desert elements to guide and spot participants. Despite a long line of rigs, wherever we went people were genuinely enjoying the great weather and camaraderie that comes with spending time amongst likeminded friends. Even those we happened by with an inevitable breakdown looked to be having a good time.

Truckhaven’s unique topography has made it a popular wheeling destination since the ’50s.

Jeep, recognizing the contribution TDS has made to our sport and to land use issues, announced a donation of a new Jeep Wrangler to the club. This Wrangler, outfitted by Mopar and other industry leaders, will be used to raise awareness and raffled off later this year at the San Diego International Auto Show. Thanks to generous donations by many industry sponsors, TDS was able to give away an astounding $165,000 in prizes to those in attendance, capping off the event with a spectacular fireworks show that got the crowd of thousands cheering.

TDS has been as much about the Southern California wheeling culture over the last 50 years as our magazine has been, and we are proud to be associated with such a fantastic event. We wish the club another 50 wonderful years and look forward to wheeling at Truckhaven with our own future generations.

For more information on TDS and the 50th Annual Desert Safari, check out

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