52nd Tierra del Sol Desert Safari
The 52nd Tierra Del Sol Desert Safari took place in Ocotillo Wells on February 28 through March 2 under stormy skies and high winds, but even heavy rain and flooding throughout much of Southern California couldn’t keep the crowds away. I thought we were crazy as we drove through torrential rain and flooded roads past several overturned vehicles on our way out to the desert, but Ocotillo Wells stayed dry throughout the weekend and we even saw the sun (and a rainbow) for a bit during the trail run. TDS Desert Safari began in 1962 and is one of the largest gatherings of the off road community in Southern California. The annual event helps raise money for charitable organizations and to help fight public land closures. Over 1,500 vehicles registered for the trail run and raffle this year, but even more come out just to socialize in camp, ride the trails and play at the Truckhaven 4x4 Training Facility. Coming just a few weeks after King of the Hammers, one can’t help but think that Truckhaven is like a scaled down version of Hammertown during the event. After running through the Safety Check and Registration we took a quick spin through Vendor Row, where we spotted a sobering reminder of the dangers of wheeling out in the desert during a storm. That night was very windy and we hoped the weather would hold out. Most TDS veterans skip the organized trail run, opting instead to play at the infamous Notches or go on runs with friends, but there were still close to 200 Jeeps and other off road rigs lined up Saturday morning. The wind had died down and the clouds started to clear. The run started in the Arroyo Salada Wash and wandered through the Borrego Badlands, into the canyons and washes and up into the mud hills. In certain spots it would split into a Green trail for the easier line and Red for the more difficult section. Even the Green trail had some seriously off-camber flexy sections that proved challenging for some stock vehicles, long wheel base vehicles and vehicles with street tires. If you were near the back of the line it was slow going at times, but a slow day on the trail is still better than not being on the trail at all, especially when the weather is beautiful. One of the best things about coming to a large event like this is checking out all the rigs, like this fun open air Chevy Task Force Apache... …and this Jeep M-677. Rick Mooneyham even had had his Ultra4 race car out there! And of course my favorite, the Jeeps - After the trail run we visited Vendor Row and the 4x4 Training Facility back at Truckhaven. The wind kicked up fierce dust storms that afternoon and we had white out conditions at times. It didn’t put a damper on the fun, but some of the vendors were having a tough time with it and had to close their booths (or at least store everything inside their trailer). This guy did have some damper put on his fun when he snapped both his front and rear axles on the Get Tired obstacle! The winds calmed down again for a while during the evening raffle, and the evening ended with a fantastic fireworks show. Over $100,000 in prizes were given out during the raffle... but unfortunately I never have any luck. The next morning we joined the breakfast at the Salton City Senior Center. They make enough money from this one day to provide their operation budget for the entire year! Despite the high winds and sand storms it was a great weekend of fun and camaraderie - I feel sorry for anyone who decided not to brave the weather to come out!