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Driving Off-Road From Vegas to Reno for Roco Adventure Week

Vegas to Reno via the Rubicon

Many off-road shops host events for their customers and suppliers. Maybe they throw a barbeque lunch at their shop, or put on a car show, or have an RTI ramp. By contrast, Roco 4x4's annual Roco Adventure Week (RAW) started with skydiving and only got more interesting from there.

Roco 4x4 staff, customers, and suppliers—such as JKS Manufacturing, Dana Crate Axle, and BDS Suspension—converged in Las Vegas for a week of wheeling, camping, and, like the name says, adventure. After skydiving in Jean, Nevada, and making high-speed runs across some dry lakebeds, the group of nine Jeeps visited the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame exhibit within the Terrible's Casino in Jean. From there they turned north to play in the sand at Amargosa Sand Dunes before traveling through Titus Canyon in Death Valley National Park. And that was just the first day!

If the premise sounds familiar, it isn't that different from our own Ultimate Adventure, which Roco 4x4 founder Ricardo Olaverrieta attended back in 2011. The idea is to wheel every day, cover some beautiful scenery, and drive your rig the entire way.

The Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame has an exceptional exhibit within Terrible's Casino in Jean, Nevada. Vehicles rotate through the exhibit on a regular basis. During our visit we saw Mickey Thompson's Challenger buggy, Rod Hall's Hummer H1, and Walker Evans' Campbell Enterprises moon buggy.

From Death Valley they traveled through Panamint Valley to the ghost town of Cerro Gordo, where Carlos Flores of Roco 4x4 arranged for us to camp for the night. After a tour of the town's saloon and assay office, we continued to Lone Pine and Alabama Hills, at the foot of Mount Whitney. From there the group made a very rewarding visit to the Reward Mine before continuing up the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Range to Topaz Lake.

After the hectic schedule of the first couple of days, things slowed way down as RAW shifted into low range on the Rubicon Trail. The Rubicon is a bucket list trail for any off-roader, and there was no way the Roco 4x4 crew was going to come all the way from Miami and not hit the Rubicon. Much of the group had 1-ton axles and 40-inch tires, which they finally got to put to use on the 'Con. Fortunately, there were no issues, as we rushed through the trail in order to get to Lake Tahoe by Friday night to beat the rush from the Marlin Crawler Roundup, where hundreds of Toyota pickups descend on to the Rubicon.

Beating the traffic, we were able to play for another day, so we went to Moon Rocks OHV Area north of Reno. This small recreational area has challenges just as demanding (and sometimes even more so) than the Rubicon, but without the pressure of being miles from help with no phone service. The proximity to tow rigs and knowledge that it was the last day allowed people to really push the limits of their vehicles and their driving. That is just one of the many factors that makes Roco Adventure Week so special.

Amargosa Sand Dunes (aka Big Dune) is an open BLM area north of Las Vegas. We stopped here for a quick rip through the dunes. Sergio Pinillos is a native of Peru who competes in the Dakar Rally, so he knows his way around sand.
Brad Spearing brought out BDS Suspension's JL equipped with the company's long-arm suspension. Underneath the Jeep has Ultimate Dana 60 axles capped with 40-inch Nitto Trail Grapplers. The eight-speed transmission really helped to keep the 3.6L in the powerband in the sand.
We aired down our tires outside of Beatty, Nevada, as we headed into Death Valley National Park. We were not on the pavement long before turning north into Titus Canyon. Twenty-seven miles of washboard road took us over Red Pass as 5,250 feet before dropping down into the ghost town of Leadfield.
Titus Canyon is only open to one-way traffic, and it is easy to see why. The trail narrows to only a vehicle's width at the western end before it opens up into Death Valley. This definitely isn't someplace you want to be during a flash flood, so check weather conditions before entering the canyon.
The differences in elevation and temperature in Death Valley are astounding. We went from nearly a mile high at Red Pass to below sea level at Badwater, where the temperatures were still in the triple digits as the sun set behind us.
Roco 4x4 arranged for us to camp on the first night at Cerro Gordo, high in the Inyo Mountains. Cerro Gordo is privately owned, mean that permission is required to stay there. As a result, it still has several buildings that are intact, including the general store and the American Hotel.
We could have easily spent all day learning about Cerro Gordo from Robert Desmarais, the town's caretaker. In the saloon alone he told our group about multiple card games, drunken fights, and shootings that characterized the Old West.
A mine you can drive inside?! The Reward Mine, outside of Lone Pine, is large enough that even a JK with Ultimate Dana 60 axles and 40-inch-tall tires can fit inside. We went quite far inside the mine and did not reach the end before concerns about fresh air motivated us to turn around and retreat.
Perhaps no trail is more iconic than the Rubicon. Getting there meant a 3,000-mile road trip for the Miami-based crew from Roco 4x4 before they could even start Roco Adventure Week.
Early JKs are dropping in price, and there is a ton of aftermarket support for them. Ricardo Olavarrieta's JK, dubbed Tegu, has Ultimate Dana 60 crate axles capped with 42-inch Pit Bull Rockers on TrailReady beadlock wheels. The Jeep went everywhere he pointed it on the Rubicon.
Justin Mclean drove the JKS Manufacturing JL all the way from Michigan to the West Coast for Roco Adventure Week. This Wrangler still has factory axles but has been upgraded with every JKS suspension goodie from control arms to track bars.
The Little Sluice isn't the most difficult obstacle on the Rubicon these days, but it is still iconic. Sluice is a mining term for when water is passed through in order to separate precious metals from silt. There are three sluice boxes on the Rubicon: Little Sluice, Old Sluice, and Big Sluice. All but Big Sluice have bypasses.
Rachael Spier from Dana Crate Axle brought a disco light with her to make our camp at Buck Island extra festive. Camping on a Thursday night meant that the trail was not too crowded. Just add some music and a few brews, and a party is certain to break out!
Leaving Buck Island in the morning meant that we were rockcrawling before the engines even reached operating temperature. There are numerous ledges in this section of the trail that are devoid of traction since they are covered with fine silt. Momentum is key, but too much throttle can result in broken parts.
Guillermo Hepburn came from Honduras to pilot Roco 4x4's JL on the trip. This Jeep is a rolling billboard of products that Roco sells, including Rigid Industries LED lights, the Warn winch, and Poison Spyder Customs front bumper.
While the western half of the Rubicon is fairly open, Big Sluice is where the size of the four-door Wranglers started to be an issue. Brad Spearing tried to stuff the BDS Suspension JL through this squeeze but had to back out before caving in the passenger door.
You likely recognize this JK from our 2017 Ultimate Adventure. It is piloted by our friend Randall Spier from Dana Crate Axle. In addition to Ultimate Dana 60s the Jeep has a 525hp LS3 swapped under the hood by Bruiser Conversions.
While many famous obstacles can be found on the Rubicon, there are just as many unnamed obstacles and they can be just as hard. Unlike the terrain parks of the South that Roco 4x4 is accustomed to, the Rubicon was 12 miles of unrelenting challenges.
The last stop on the trip was Moon Rocks OHV Area, just north of Reno. Unlike the Rubicon, tow rigs and trailers can reach Moon Rocks. This, combined with being the last day of the trip, allowed drivers to really push the limits without worrying about how they were going to get home.
Wheelbase was key on this huge climb at Moon Rocks. Ricardo Olavarrieta was the only one who made it to the top, and few even wanted to attempt it. When crawling up didn't work, he used just the right amount of throttle to summit the climb without going over backwards.
The terrain at Moon Rocks is just as you would expect, full of craters and ridges to crawl on, around, and over. Having a supple suspension, like the Fox coilover conversion on Roco 4x4's JL, goes a long way to providing stability and keeping all four tires on the ground.
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