Dirtbag John goes to KING OF THE HAMMERS – Johnson Valley California
The toughest week of one-day, off-road races in the world, King of The Hammers.
It’s 5AM do you know where the most wicked off road racing event of the year is going on? I DO and I DID! They call it KING OF THE HAMMERS --and to the veterans, it’s just “KOH”
A few years back, our buddies Jason and Chris from Wheeling Wine and Whiskey said I had to go check out what was going on in Johnson Valley, California as it’s a place for fellow DIRTBAGS. I came, I saw.. I was HOOKED!
To me, it’s a little Mad Max meets Jackass meets Evel Knievel meets NASA -- all to race high powered 4x4s on trails you look at and go NO WAY. The technology needed to drive these trails is nuts, and the people driving them must be nuts as well. To me, that’s the epitome of the DIRTBAG way. This entire way of racing, combining rock trails with high-speed desert sections started with just 13 the “OG 13” in Johnson Valley, California and now it’s gone worldwide. KOH 2023 is now a 3-week affair covering motorcycles, trophy trucks, UTV’s, stock and modified classes and the Main Event Ultra 4 -4400 Unlimited class which only has safety rules .. other than that, if you can dream it, you can race it.
I missed the first week of the Motorcycles and popped in on weekend #2, bringing crew shirts we made for Megan Miller Racing. Her class is the 4600 stock class, which is for the everyperson who loves off-roading and is kicking it up a notch to express themselves LOUDLY. (spoiler alert she DNF’d after a breakdown).
Upon returning the next Wednesday for the last four days of KOH. I picked up some much-needed parts for our fellow DIRTBAG Amber Turner and her stock class Suzuki Samurai -- a true fan favorite.
To get the true KOH experience, I volunteered to support the races going on that Thursday and Friday. This means I was up at 5:30AM to go out to a portion of the race course to make sure non-racers stay off the course and support the racers if they need. This is the best way to get up close and personal to the race and spend 12 hours in nature to the sound of high-powered V8’s roaring by. 5:30AM in Johnson valley is usually COLD and this time it did not disappoint so I wore my pullover DIRTBAG hoodie, my zip-up DIRTBAG hoodie, my DIRTBAG Beanie, and a full set of thermal underwear.
We kept the course clear and thank goodness we only had one breakdown on Friday, so I got to truly enjoy the race from only feet away from them climbing up a rock trail. You really must see it to believe it, as the pictures don’t truly show how BIG these rocks are, or how steep the trail is.
After a full day of racing, we head back to camp. The fellas at Wheeling Wine and Whiskey sure do know how to do things right. They call their camp Hammertown Heights Estate. They have a Kitchen tent that cranks out hot food for over 70 people a night. Folks will sign up for a night to cook for everyone, then the rest of the time, just feast as their job is done. This really makes for a great time of eating, drinking and talking about the day’s events to new friends from far and wide. Austin from IRATE4x4 is a new friend and now a fellow DIRTBAG!
They also had LIVE MUSIC on the Monster Energy Stage – Chayce Beckham, Sublime w/ Rome, Matt Farris, Guttermouth, just to name a few. Again, this is all out in the middle of the dry lakebed and I would bet it’s one of the most random places any of these bands have ever played.
KOH 2023 is now in the books, and I can say for sure, I’ll be back in 2024 and I look forward to meeting all our fellow DIRTBAGS out there to enjoy the racing, dust, wind, cold, hot and more dust. More importantly, hanging with great people and meeting new friends. We were at King of the Hammers and now we can just call it KOH!
A true DIRTBAG experience for sure!