Well I took a couple of days to recover but maybe I am finally over this nasty bug that has bothered so many of us. The final count of vehicles repaired was 198!
I guess I will start from the start and just let it flow. I know I will miss somebody or something so I will say sorry now if I forget and edit it later...
- Wenesday, Feb 1
We finally got out of the shop after a very long day of both normal work and loading the 2 trailers. We brought our 38' race trailer and a 40' gooseneck trailer and both were very full. We left after midnite and planned on stopping somewhere on the way for a nap. The nap spot turned out to be Fresno at about 4am, we found a construction site that we could block in so they would wake us up to get the hell out of the way! After an early wake up call we were back on the road and it was pretty uneventful, the trucks (2 Dodge Duallies) ran great and we were on the lakebed by 2:30pm.
- Thursday, Feb 2
Before we were unloaded we had a line of rigs needing help. Our work tent wasn't even set up yet so we went to work in the dirt in front of where the tent would end up. Jay took charge of the repairs, sometimes doing the work himself, sometimes showing Perry (our Machinist) what he wanted done, and sometimes setting up the team with the tools so they could do their own work. Throughout the entire event I acted as the go between to keep the crowd off Jay's back so we could keep working. At this point there were 5 of us down there. Myself, Ramsey, Jay, Perry, and my son Zack. We worked until about midnite and since there wasn't a race the next day we called it an early night.
- Friday, Feb 3
We were told by the tent people ours would be up by 9am so we left that area free and Chris & JD from FOA worked in our tent attached to the trailer. It didn't actually get set up til about 5:30pm so it was good we set them up with the alternate workspace.
Friday was a very busy day and we worked on at least 35 cars that day. We worked on both racers and spectators rigs alike, of course we set some priorities if someone was racing or had tech the next day but everyone got repaired. At many times during the day we were working on 6 rigs at the same time. I even did some welding Friday!
At about 6pm the rest of my crew arrived with Ty, JD, Brian, Bill, TJ, & Kami for a total of 11 bodies from Ruffstuff on the lakebed! Zack made a chicken stir fry and that was the first and only time we all got to take a break and eat together...
- Saturday, Feb 4
On Saturday we had a ton of Stock & Stock Mod cars needing something done to pass tech and a couple of major jobs in the tent, one of them was the entire rear half of a chassis that had broken off. We were swamped so I was relieved that team had the skills to do the work themselves if we could provide the space and tools.
Over the 12 days we did 8 of what I would call major repairs, repairs that if we did not have the Open Pit set up would likely have kept them from racing. I am very happy to say every one of those repaired rigs raced but one. That one had a major roll at speed 3 days later and just needed to be completey rebuilt and time had run out.
On Saturday my guys were getting sick, everyone was showing the signs. There had been a nasty flu/cold bug going around Sacramento and the weather in Johnson Valley didn't make recovery any easier.
Saturday Night we loaded the 3 Dodges we had brought for the remote pits for Sundays race. It was sure nice to have Lincoln Electric as a sponsor. No more tiny generators powering a 110 box in the pits. We had 300amp 10.5KW generator powered welders in each truck, nobody was going to get a questionable weld!
- Sunday, Feb 5
We were all up early and out to the remote pits, Bill, Perry and I took on #1 and I was right, the long desert stretch took its toll on more than a few of the rigs coming by but I was almost suprised when the KOH volunteer said there were no more coming by noon. As we were loading up a desert truck limped in and we welded up his shock tower that had torn loose so we did at least one non KOH related repair while we were there!
We got back to the main pit and had 5 cars waiting for us as the other remote crews trickled in throughout the afternoon. The afternoon progressed and we started replacing two rear axle housings, they were planned ahead of time but definately major jobs. Perry took on Doug Bigelows and Jay did In the Pinks. While that was going on Bill and I took on all of the rest while they were busy.
I have to say Perry did a great job all week, machinists are welders & fabricators but he really had very little hands on experience but I couldn't tell. Jay just kept pounding away at whatever he looked at and I am convinced he is one of the best in the business!
I cannot say enough about Torchmate and the help they provided to us (and anyone else that asked) with on the spot custom parts to match up the two housing replacements and anything else we needed. Lincoln Electric definately made a good decision buying Torchmate! They are two great companies supporting our sport.
- Monday, Feb 6
Another busy day with the LCQ/Qualifing loop the next day. I know this is getting a tad boring but we simply didn't have any time when we were not busy.
Monday afternoon we flew Ramsey home because he was too sick and not getting better. Jay was also getting pretty bad and Zack had been off and on for the week so far. I was pretty determined I wasn't going back but I was sicker that all of them!
Ty, JD, Bill, & TJ really stepped it up and filled in wherever needed and the four of them never got sick at all. Joe, one of my computer guys had flown in from North Carolina and was also filling in wherever possible. We also had one of our long-term customers jump in where needed, Travis Roarke from Kentucky and Roarke Fabrications (The guy that developed the Altas support ring). Travis welded for us for a day and a half or so when we were the sickest. We also had AJ Gardella from Bent Up with us a couple of days helping out wherever he was needed but mostly with a MIG gun in hand.
- Tuesday, Feb 7
On Tuesday I sent Zack home on a plane, he was almost over the flu when we left Sacramento but Johnson Valley just isn't the best place to recover in February and he still hadn't.
It slowed during the qualifier as so many people went out to see it or were in it but it picked right back up later in the day as people were needing to fix what broke during their run. We did fix 9 or 10 spectators rigs during the lull.
- Wenesday, Feb 8
Wenesday was more of the same but starting to get some urgency involved. We had a hand in helping many of the bigger names this year and I think I have figured it out. Last year was our first doing this and many teams still brought everything to be able to do it themselves. They simply were not sure we could do what we had promised. After last year and after the addition of Lincoln Electric to our sponsor list they knew we were ready and able to help AND we had better equipment than they did! Those guys did almost all of the work themselves but they were very happy to have some power in the welding machine they were able to use. I was not going to tell Jesse Haines or Adam Scherer we could do it better, they are both as good as any welder I know! But it is nice to have them ask if I would do something different, they were both open to any ideas we may have had.
- Thursday, Feb 9
With tech and all the last minute repairs we were swamped again.
We had one particular problem that was an all day PITA but should have been 2 hours. Heavy Metal Concepts had blown out the front R&P on one of their camera cars and needed it replaced. It was a Cherokee D30, pretty simple right? Well nobody on the lakebed had the 1 7/16″ socket required for a D30. Jay had brought his entire gearset toolkit but he dosen't ever work on D30's so he didn't have one and nobody was racing on one so it simply didn't exist! In the end, with Torchmates assistance we made one. It added several hours to the job but we were able to do it and now Jay has a very strange and unique 1 7/16″ socket in his toolkit.
- Friday, Feb 10, Raceday!
We were up early again for the remote pits. This time Jay was at #1 with Ty & JD, I was at Main with Perry & Joe, and Bill & TJ were at #2.
We all had relatively uneventful days, Jay welded on 2 cars and we welded on 2 also at main. Bill was busier at #2 welding on 6 and there til midnite helping make sure everyone got out. We were done at 6pm and Jay 8pm.
We worked on 7 or 8 more that evening to help get them home and that was that, another year in the bag! We spent most of Saturday loading the trailers and got a room in Yucca Valley and drove home Sunday, we were just too tired to make the drive Saturday.
After proofreading this I see I have missed 2 very important people from my crew. Brian & Kami, Brian was racing co dog for Travis Carpenter so he was pretty involved with him most of the week but he found the time to work in our booth in the vender tent. Kami arranged all of our food and worked in the vender tent when she could. They are the heart of our shipping department and a major part of Ruffstuff Specialties!
I also cannot forget all the other sponsors we had to make this happen the way it did. I am going to list them and explain a little about what they did to help both us and the cars that needed us.
Lincoln Electric - I have had a few days to really think about our time down there and I have to say we could not have done what we did this year without Lincoln Electric. They were the cornerstone of our operation and I am very excited at the prospects for the future for Lincoln in offroad racing of all kinds. Lincoln Provided us with over $30,000 worth of equipmant to work on your rigs with, all shiny and new!
Team Tube (West Coast Tubing Supplier) - Jon at Team Tube in Sacramento provided 26 sticks of tube in all sizes at no cost, over $3,000 worth at wholesale. Jon helped us last year also but when I called him this year all he asked was how much!
Rugged Radios - Greg at Rugged Radios helped us again this year too, last year we got 3 hand helds and this year he provided 3 base station radios, you couldn't ask for a better company to deal with!
Powertank - Steve at Powertank has also helped us 2 years in a row with the best air supply you could ask for. We ran all our impacts for 12 days off 3 large tanks!
Harris Welding (Northern Cal Welding Supply) - Ernie at Harris gave me 16 bottles of various gasses at no charge and without question. Harris is headquartered in Sacramento and they understand just how big the Rock Crawling market is and they support it!
D&D Metals (One of our lazer cutters) - I told Dave we needed some plate for custom parts and he delivered me 5 sheets of various sizes to fill the need, again at no charge!
And of course FOA, a company that has certainly had plenty of challenges lately with their factory burning down. Without the support and encouragement of Chris at FOA I would have never taken this on in the first place! I am also happy to report that they are back in production at their new base of operations!
These companies support you so you should support them! Talk is cheap, these companies actually do something, that is reality!