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Johnson Valley Off Road - Extreme Heat

Posted in Features on November 1, 2004
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Extreme rockcrawlers recently battled for the top position at Cougar Buttes in the Johnson Valley OHV area near Barstow, California, during the second of four events in UROC's Western Regional series. In addition to the Western Regional and Eastern Regional series, UROC also runs the International series. These three events feed the six events in the Pro Nationals, with the top dogs from the Pro National series going to Supercrawl - the Super Bowl of extreme rockcrawling. This year, the Supercrawl competition is slated for October 14-16 and will most likely be staged in Farmington, New Mexico.

After an abundance of carnage at the first 2004 Western Extreme Nationals in St. George, Utah, the teams put a little heat on UROC to tone down the obstacles. Ranch Pratt at United Rockcrawling & Off Road Challenge (UROC), who plays an integral part in designing the courses, had already recognized the problem. Since most of the vehicles suffered damage, some of it major, UROC agreed. Needless to say, the teams were apprehensive going into the second event.

Cougar Buttes saw only 15 rollovers, with more than 40 vehicles needing assistance to get off the course. That was an improvement compared with St. George and was considered acceptable. Loose rocks were an added challenge at Cougar Buttes. The rocks would reposition with each passing vehicle, thereby changing the best line through the obstacle. The changing lines, combined with scorching desert daytime temperatures, added another dimension to the competition.

The in-the-shade temperature reached 112 degrees F on Friday and dropped to 106 F degrees on the second day. To ease the pain, UROC brought in a cool-down box for spectators and teams to escape the blistering heat. You've never heard of a cool-down box? It's simply a refrigerated semi-truck trailer. The word on the course was that just 10 minutes inside the cool-down box would bring your body temperature down to normal. After climbing into the box through the rear doors, the cold air took your breath away. As you walked to the front of the trailer, where the refrigeration unit was running, the temperature dropped to 60 degrees. We found that five minutes inside the cool-down box revitalized the body.

In addition to vehicle carnage, there was the expected human carnage in the form of overheated spectators and kids with cactus thorns. As for injuries, one competitor was burned when a hose clamp on a return line worked loose on a hydraulic steering hose. As a result, UROC is considering a rule change that would require hydraulic controls to be outside of the driver's compartment, which sounds like a good idea.

In the heat of the California desert, 40 vehicles battled for the top positions in two classes. Thirteen vehicles competed in the Modified class and 27 vehicles fought for top rankings in the Super Modified class. Both classes ran the same 10-obstacle course, with one exception: One half of the obstacles had an easier-route option marked for the Modified class. The Modified teams faced a dilemma at those obstacles. If they ran the more difficult Super Modified route, they were awarded 10 bonus points. However, the odds of touching a cone or timing out were great.

Each obstacle started at a designated gate, with cones marking the path to the finish line. The timed obstacles are similar to rockcrawling events of the past in which points are deducted for backing up, stopping, touching a cone, or using rear steer. Unlike rockcrawling competitions in the past, points are not accumulated from one competition to the next. Instead, at the end of the event, a ranking list is posted and 140 points are awarded to the First Place winner in both classes. Each position below that is awarded two points less for each place. For example, Second Place receives 138 points, Third Place earns 136 points, and so on. Points are then tallied from all the series events to determine the series standings. The top competitors from the East and West Nationals will be given the opportunity to compete in the Supercrawl held in late fall to determine the Extreme National-series winner.

Place Team # Team Friday Saturday Total
1st 232 Lovell, Brad 113 42 155
2nd 170 Burau / Burau 68 120 188
3rd 469 Jaffee, Jet 53 137 190
4th 163 Hanks, Ben 123 115 238
5th 50 Kemp, Braden {{{100}}} 190 290
6th {{{90}}} Egan, Clay 161 147 308
7th 522 Beard, Kinsey 198 117 315
8th 202 McNearney, Shawn 198 122 320
9th 19 Bucher, Sheldon 193 155 348
10th 303 Adams, Linda {{{200}}} 153 353
Place Team # Team Friday Saturday Total
1st 415 Mazzoni, Peter 74 19 93
2nd 39 Lunn, Adam 40 67 107
3rd 252 Garrett, Parker 94 35 129
4th 835 Kasabasich, Tony 103 30 133
5th 181 Zeller, Bruce 87 52 139
6th 555 Brown, RJ 90 51 141
7th 113 Scherer, Jason 91 54 145
8th 55 Clifford, Kelly 140 18 158
9th 66 Dusenbury / Hensel 74 98 172
10th 133 Johnson, Brandon 121 90 211
Place Team # Team Event 1 Event 2 Event 3 Event 4 Total
1st 232 Lovell, Brad 140 140 -- -- 280
2nd 170 Burau, Josh 136 138 -- -- 274
3rd 163 Hanks, Ben 138 134 -- -- 272
4th 50 Kemp, Braden 128 132 -- -- 260
5th 19 Bucher, Sheldon 126 124 -- -- 250
5th 90 Egan, Clay 120 130 -- -- 250
7th 325 Dawson, Brandon 132 116 -- -- 248
7th 522 Beard, Kinsey 120 128 -- -- 248
9th 202 McNearney, Shawn 120 126 -- -- 246
10th 444 Mecham, Jake 124 120 -- -- 244
10th 469 Jaffee, Jet 108 136 -- -- 244
Place Team # Team Event 1 Event 2 Event 3 Event 4 Total
1st 415 Mazzoni, Peter 140 140 -- -- 280
2nd 252 Garrett, Parker 134 136 -- -- 270
3rd 113 Scherer, Jason 132 128 -- -- 260
4th {{{57}}} Chiddix, Shane 138 120 -- -- 258
5th 835 Kasabasich, Tony 122 134 -- -- 256
5th 181 Zeller, Bruce 124 132 -- -- 256
7th 133 Johnson, Brandon 130 122 -- -- 252
7th 3 Hallenbeck, Jake 136 116 -- -- 252
9th 555 Brown, RJ 108 130 -- -- 238
10th 66 Dusenbury / Hensel 110 124 -- -- 234

Cougar Buttes is located in the 188,000-acre Johnson Valley OHV Area. Rockcrawling competitions are just one of many activities that take place in Johnson Valley. There are two designated courses for high-speed off-road racing. Spectators can reach both courses by graded dirt roads or through remote areas with four-wheel drive. If you prefer extreme trail rides, Johnson Valley is home to the Sledgehammer, Jackhammer, Sunbonnet, and Wrecking Ball 4x4 trails. These and many other rocky trails are located in the Hartwell Hills at the east end of Johnson Valley.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the official land manager of the Johnson Valley OHV. The department maintains signs at a few major intersections, enforces the laws, and keeps the access roads graded. Since the area is designated as an open area, you can drive a 4x4 or ride your ATV anywhere within its boundaries. Set up camp behind one of the many hills or out on a dry lake bed, but remember: Johnson Valley is a remote area. Since cell-phone service ranges from nonexistent to spotty, visitors are encouraged to travel with buddy vehicles or riders.

Johnson Valley is a great place for off-road recreation. To make your trip a pleasurable experience, keep in mind where you are. The California desert will consistently reach temperatures in excess of 100 degrees F during summer days and drop below freezing in the winter months. Rattlesnakes search for food during the day; scorpions and coyotes prowl the nights.

For information on the Johnson Valley OHV Area, contact: BLM, (760) 252-6000, To purchase a Johnson Valley map, contact: (877) 628-7227

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