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2015 West Coast JK Experience, Day 1: Checking In to Check Out

To some people, the automobile is as critical to their existence as food and water. While no one technically needs a vehicle to live, owning the right one is one of the best ways to feel alive. Amongst all the brands, one could argue that Jeep has the most passionate and dedicated owners. In terms of aftermarket support, the Jeep Wrangler is second to none. Since the launch of the Jeep Wrangler JK platform in 2007, the Jeep and off-road community as a whole has expanded greatly. In fact, we dare say that the launch of the four-door Wrangler Unlimited JK may go down as one of the most impactful vehicles of our lifetime. Much like the muscle car era of the 1970s, the enthusiast auto market has been tightly grasped by the Jeep brand for the first half of the 21st century. While Jeep provided a more versatile platform with the JK and JK Unlimited, it was the aftermarket that truly unleashed the performance potential of the vehicle.

It’s with the success of the JK platform that we find ourselves at the start of NITTO'S 2015 West Coast JK Experience presented by Discount Tire. Now in its sixth year, this is the third and final JKX of the 2015 calendar year. Backed by the title sponsor Nitto Tire, a company whose passion and support for the off-road enthusiast runs far beyond the racing circuit, the JK Experience has been come the premier JK event in the U.S. So, what is the JK Experience? It’s a trip for those who love ‘wheeling and are up for a real American adventure. From ghost towns and back roads of America to metal mashing boulders and exhilarating trails, the week-long trip brings together sponsors and ‘wheelers from around the globe.

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The most basic and absolute requirement needed to come on JKX is a 2007-to-present Jeep Wrangler JK. Why only JKs? Trip founder Mel Wade created the event to showcase versatility of the JK platform. By guiding the group of participants over extreme terrain and twisty highways, the trip amplifies the fact that with a little aftermarket support, your daily driver and hardcore wheeler can be one in the same. It’s a test of man and machine that is intended to bring out the best in both. The West Coast leg of the trip kicked off this year in Deadwood, South Dakota. While day two (Sunday) is when we get our tires in the dirt, each Experience begins with the housekeeping must-dos at check in.

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Rolling into Deadwood, South Dakota, is like taking a trip back in time. Erected as a result of finding gold in the northern Black Hills, this small town is littered with a rich history of the Gold Rush era.

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This life-sized statue belongs to one of the town’s most famous residents, Wild Bill Hickok. Despite only living in Deadwood for just a few weeks, Hickok’s killing is one of the most widely known. The story goes that Wild Bill was shot from behind during a poker game. At the time, Hickok was holding a pair of aces and eights. That series of cards is known around the poker world today as the dead man’s hand.

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Before participants were let loose to enjoy the town, each one had to check in for vehicle inspection and registration. While there is a sizable list of requirements needed for each rig, safety is the number one priority on the trip. Each rig is checked out for important items such as a rollcage, fire extinguisher, recovery gear and even trail clean-up supplies.

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Everybody loves swag and on JKX, there is plenty handed out on the first day. Much of this comes from the gracious event sponsors.

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This year, participants drove in from all other North America. Chris Achey and his girlfriend Leah Gustafson made the trek out in their 2012 Wrangler all the way from Atlanta, Georgia.

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Check out more action from Day 2 of the 2015 West Coast JK Experience where we get mixed up with some rocky terrain.

To find out more about the JK Experience visit, and see more from Day 1 in the photo gallery below.

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