Being from the east coast we have a lot of wheeling opportunities available to us. We have rocks, mud, hill climbs, tight wooded trails, and more mud. However, one thing we definitely do not have a lot of is wide-open areas to run at high speeds.
While the east coast is where I call home one of the greatest things about my job is that I get to have the experience of traveling around and trying many types of off-roading. I also get to meet some really great people.
Our rides for the weekend included Gordon Browns orange prerunner and Scott Goodwin's purpose-built F150.
One of those is Gordon Brown of Expedition X OffRoad (EXO), who I was lucky enough to meet at a recent event in Ohio. Because of that meeting, I found myself in the deserts of California and Nevada taking part in a 400-mile off-road adventure from the Black Rock desert to Bodie, CA with EXO.
Who Is EXO?
Jeremiah Evans and Gordon Brown, two of the owners of EXO, on the dry lake bed in the Black Rock desert.
EXO was founded in 2014 by a group of like-minded off-road enthusiasts. The owners wanted to provide the experience of west coast style off-roading to both those on the west coast and those from other areas of the country. They do numerous runs throughout the year that includes various parts of the desert, Mexico, and more.
EXO runs always include plenty of tools and extra parts so fixing a truck on the trail is not an issue.
One of the best things about EXO is that they provide a very high level of organization and support to all participants on their runs, medical equipment in case of emergency, as well as recovery gear. GPS coordinates and radio communications are also handled prior to the start of all runs. They even have a chase truck with trailer, tools, and spare parts for common breakage are standard equipment on all EXO runs.
An Adventure Through The California Desert
As an east coaster, one of the most interesting and enjoyable parts of this experience was the actual style of off-roading on the west coast. The east coast offers a lot of varying terrains, weather, and wheeling opportunities, but the west coast also offers this kind of variety with the addition of elevation changes, interesting geological features, and most importantly vast tracts of land that are available for public use. Most of these lands are managed by the Bureau of Land Management and are available to use at no cost.
The terrain included jumps and some hill climbs.
While most of those interested in off-road racing are familiar with events like the Baja 1000 unless you have experienced this kind of high-speed off-roading you can’t truly understand what its like. “I like the wide open desert and the amazing unobstructed views,” Gordon Brown explained. “I think it’s different because of the speeds the trucks are capable of maintaining through very rough terrain. Other types of runs usually travel at a much slower pace.”
Wide open areas allowed the trucks to get some good speed.
Being a first-time desert runner, my initial perception was that with all this space we could just hammer down and really cover some ground. It is not uncommon for groups like EXO to cover 200-300 miles off-road in a day.
However, the perception that off-road areas out west are flat and wide open is very much false. Event participant and owner of Raw Horsepower Robert Nimocks said it best, “The desert offers a sense of confidence with its wide-open spaces while its unforgiving terrain reveals hidden surprises without warning.”
This is something quickly discovered as the rush of being able t0 open up a vehicle over a long distance off-road gives way to plenty of pucker moments. Obstacles can appear from anywhere and some that could seriously damage a truck or its occupants.
The flat California desert lead us to various hill climbs, some that were a little softer than others.
The experience proved that there are defiantly times when it’s best to take a slower more methodical approach and there are times to let it rip. “I am always happy at the end of the run,” Brown said. “We moved 25 trucks through challenging long days, fixed whatever mechanical issues we had, and were able to get everyone to the destination safely.”
Sometimes you get stuck in a hole, whether you like it or not.
It’s more than just the wheeling that makes desert off-roading so much fun. “There is a collection of veteran off-road experienced people sharing the skills of driving and camaraderie of helping each other,” Brown continued. “That is what continues to keep the desert off-road community friendly and fun.”
With up to 200 miles to travel in a day, it's always nice to stop and take a break on the trail.
That willingness to share and support each other came through on this trip and really made me want to stick around. There is a large meaning to being in the off-road community on the west coast and it could be seen on a trip like this.
On the east coast vehicles are set up for big mud, speed at short bursts, and being able to handle a variety of terrain from rocky hill climbs to deep mud. On the west coast set-ups like bypass and remote reservoir shocks, and long travel suspensions are the order of the day.
Robert Nimocks said, “Flying through the desert at a high rate of speed is one of the best experiences ever,” and we couldn’t agree more.
Many vehicles on the west coast are two-wheel drive, while on the east coast four-wheel drive is king. This is a direct reflection of the style of wheeling that is available for enthusiasts. You build for what you run after all.
As we finished up our run I was struck by the fact that when this article publishes I would be back on the east coast looking for mountains to climb. This resulted in a strong desire to immediately turn right around and catch the next flight back to the California desert to hit more trails.