You’ve seen the rock-pounding, axle-busting coverage we do every year during the King Of The Hammers. This off-road racing event is considered by many, especially those who attempt to finish it, to be the “world’s toughest one-day desert race.” Held in Johnson Valley, California (pretty much the heart of the Mojave Desert) every year at the beginning of February, the racecourse covers about 200 miles of open desert as well as a dozen or so of the nastiest, boulder-strewn canyons these eyes have seen. Sometimes the racers are throttling up them, other times they are climbing down them, but either way it’s in a hurry. The racing is some of the most challenging in the world, and the mechanical carnage that ensues is legendary.
The day after the race the valley seems oddly quiet and clear. Gone are the reverberations off the canyon walls of roaring high-powered engines. Settled is the fog-bank-like cloud of dust that hovers over the valley as more than 40,000 spectators move about looking for the best seat from which to watch 100 or so racecars thunder across the desert landscape.
This is the day that GenRight holds its KOH (King Of The Hammers) Experience, a chance for anybody with a capable 4x4, many of them Jeeps, to enjoy a guided trail ride on the very same trails that 24 hours earlier were being traversed by racecars. We joined them this year for the KOH Experience, and have to say it’s definitely worth sticking around for. You not only get to miss the hour-long traffic jam on Boone Road getting out of Johnson Valley the night after of the race, but you can see and feel first-hand what the rugged race course was like in your own Jeep.
For the 2016 KOH Experience, there were about 30 to 40 Jeeps being led by Terremoto (one of Tony Pellegrino’s finest recreational Jeeping creations) as it drove through several portions of the actual KOH course, including a chance to drive through the official KOH start/finish line in the central pit area. Later in the day, the group gathered up for a lunch provided by Rockstar Garage. That is also when the drawing for the winner of the Vision X Sweepstakes occurred and one lucky winner got some great new lights.
The trail ride began a little after 10 a.m. (delayed slightly while Tony attended the awards ceremony to see his son Jordan receive the Second Place trophy for his performance in the Smittybilt Everyman Challenge race that occurred the day before Friday’s KOH main event) and finished up back in Hammertown around 4 p.m. Tony narrated the ride over race radio and CB to keep the pack informed of where they were and what to expect. All but a few vehicles were modified to some degree, and drivers of the few bone-stock rigs found themselves tasked to keep up. It is not an easy trail ride, but then this is the King Of The Hammers, it’s not supposed to be easy.