The King of the Hammers – on par with the Mint 400 in terms of fanfare and spectatorship, this blowout off-road race is the highlight of every froader’s February. People come from miles around to a place that would otherwise be just another desert in the Southwest, but the folks at Ultra4 Racing (along with Nitto Tire, Griffin Radiators, Smittybilt, and a number of other sponsors) have always provided a spectacle that can’t be missed.
But that spectacle doesn’t arrive until the second Friday of the month. Given this event runs a full week, that leaves people with a lot of downtime if they’re not interested in the day’s event, whether it be King of the Motos, the Everyman Challenge, or another course du jour.
The sad fact of life is that no matter where we go, boredom looms. A YouTube channel favorite of mine is Vsauce, presented by lifelong entertainer Michael Stevens. He did a great little 12-minute video back in 2013 all about the sensation of boredom and how it affects our lives and minds.
In a nutshell, we all get bored sometimes, and it comes from a lack of significant stimulus – a movie with nothing exciting happening on-screen, an inauguration speech being delivered in a monotonous voice. Our brains are wired to constantly seek stimulus where we can find it, and at King of the Hammers, that can happen often when racers seem to take forever to reach your viewing spot.
What I found was that bringing along a few items to this year’s KOH significantly helped with keeping me from feeling bored more than usual. So too did other people. Here are a few ways to stave off the boredom.
The expanse of Johnson Valley OHV makes it ideal for camping out, something that Ultra4 has promoted with its weeklong lead-up to the main event (and therefore enticing people to stay for several nights). Finding oneself in a secluded location is where you want to be if you brought an R/C car like I did.
For this trip, I brought along a trusty Traxxas Slash, just your normal, run-of-the-mill 1/10-scale 2WD. Armed with three lithium-polymer batteries, I was able to stretch out the playtime I could get with the Slash and check out more areas to play around in.
Motorcycles And UTVs
If you’ve got the money and the fuel, then you’re sailing smooth if you bring a motorcycle or UTV. Park Rangers and BLM officers might bring a damper on the fun if you get too crazy (or decide to drive through the race course or into the Marine Corps Testing Area), but for the most part, Johnson Valley is your oyster – a dusty, mountainous oyster, if that makes any sense.
One particular spot that attracted many UTV and motorcycle enthusiasts was a sandy stretch that led toward Big Johnson. A good distance from the race course and spectator spots, the recreational riders had their run of the place, while heavier 4x4s slogged to crawl up a gentle, nearby incline.
Poke Around In Hammertown
If all of that gets to be too much, then there’s no better place to chill out than right in the middle of Hammertown. With a large fire pit and gargantuan Jumbotron and sound system, all you need is your favorite beer, a folding chair, and a sweatshirt to keep the cold at bay. With those things squared away, you’re able to enjoy the scene a lot better.
Hammertown, however, is a giant sprawling town in its own right. You can walk around and see what all of the vendors have on display, or just do some good ol’ people-watching if that’s more your speed.
The actual race, as you see, is just one aspect of what can be done while you’re out there in the SoCal desert. What sort of stuff have you done out there to keep your boredom at bay? Leave a comment below.