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MDA - Offroad for Hope III

Ocotillo Wells, CA  Feb 2001

By Bill Cooke

With the beating off-roaders have been getting from the government and in the media lately it's great to see events like this one. This is was the third year for the event and it's growing every year. They were expecting around 1,000 vehicle to be registered and I'd say that was a safe estimate. The location was the Main Street Campground in the Ocotillo Wells OHV area out in sunny So. Cal. What a great location for a February event. There is varied terrain from sand to rocks, hill climbs to desert washes. Something for every type of 4x4 and every type of driver. They even had plenty of stuff for the bikes and quads. The other great thing is the weather. While much of the nation is still in a the dead of winter, California was basking in the sun. Good people, good trails, good weather and all for a great cause. We need more events like this one all over the country, a  lot more. This is a fun event and is getting better every year. This year was the first time they had a Rock Crawling Challenge, sponsored by ARB and Goodyear. It was a lot of fun and had the spectators really cheering. If you can, try to attend next years event. You'll be glad you did and the MDA kids will be glad too.

While the obvious vehicle of choice for most in attendance was a Jeep of some sort, we decided to go in Project Powerwagon. That meant that we were limited to one of the two full-size runs. One was a sight seeing tour and the other was a little more challenging. Which one do you think we chose? This took us out to a few springs,  bubbling mud pots and other interesting features but did so on some fun roads. Nothing too crazy but it wasn't altogether boring either. 

We snaked through the washes and around the hills all day and saw some pretty interesting sights. One of the more interesting sights out there was our trail leader, Frenchie La Chance (pointing at the camera). He brought us to all the good spots and dished out a wealth of knowledge about the area. It's never boring with Frenchie around. He's also one of the organizers of the event. His personal brand of humor was not lost on this group and we all had a great time. Thanks again Frenchie!

While the full-size run was fairly tame there were the occasional offshoots that allowed for a bit more fun for those that dared. The sand was soft and the hill was steep. That always makes for good photos and this was no exception. 

This  Superduty was more than up for the challenge of this little hill. That massive Powerstroke diesel made quick work of the hill but the quick right hander at the top made it pretty tight for a crewcab. Most tried, almost all succeeded and everyone had fun. That's what it's all about!

Here's the other big play area on the Saturday full-size run. you had two options with this hill, up or down. Up was more challenging but down was just as scary. Loose sand and deep hole made it fun to watch these big trucks hit it either way.

If you spent enough time in the desert you'll see just about anything. Some say you might even run into yourself out there. Let's just hope you aren't driving a 4x4 Pinto.


Sunday was all about the rocks! ARB and Goodyear teamed up for the Rock Crawling Challenge. It was a short course but challenging. There were three distinct driving techniques employed on the course, the full out boogie, slow and methodical and both eyes closed. All were fun to watch and no one made it out without some rock rash.

Big tires, big motors and big cajones are the key to success on a rock course. There were only bragging rights on the line here but that didn't stop most from throwing all caution to the wind and going full out. It really kept the officials on their toes as they tallied penalties for gates missed, hit and fully stomped!

So much for the big cajones factor. This is the winner of the whole thing, a woman! All the ladies really cleaned up out there and ended up beating most of the men. The winning time was just over 1 minute while the longest time was over 30.

There were even a few daring souls that brought full-sizes into the canyon. This was no ordinary Blazer though. he made quick work of the course and actually left a few of the gates still standing when he was done. Sure was fun to watch too!

And the loser is... This poor Jeep Comando got a flat just before the top of the canyon. After spending nearly 20 minutes changing the tire (always carry your own spare!) they finally got it back on track, only to blow two more tires in the next 10 feet. When Murphy's out to get you there's just no getting around it. Sometimes you bite the hill, sometimes the hill bites you.

Who knew that Ocotillo Wells had such great rocks? Here's our Jeep editor Chris Baffico running the Rock Challenge course after everyone had left. While his '92 YJ made it look easy for the most part, the rock under the skidplate had it's own agenda. Too bad he didn't enter into the event or he just might have won. Maybe next year.

A huge thanks has to go out the the whole crew that set this event up. If you get a chance to make next years event, by all means do. It's a great event for a great cause. The money helps the kids and the exposure helps the off-road community. It's a win-win situation! Speaking of winning, the raffle was out of this world this year. With over 50 prize groups valued from $350 to $1,200 and 80% of them worth over $850 there was a good chance you were coming out with something great. If that isn't reason enough to make the next one I don't know what is. See you there in 2002!


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