Winter Fun Festival 2003

Article by: Harry Wagner

Photos by: Mike McAndrews, Kimber Rau, and Harry Wagner

Winter Fun Festival 2003

January is a time for many annual events, such as making (and breaking) New Year's resolutions, the Super Bowl, and for Northern Californians, it means that it is time once again for Cal4Wheel's Winter Fun Festival. The California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs (CA4WDC or Cal4Wheel) hosts events throughout the year all over the Golden State. Winter Fun, like Sierra Trek, Molina Ghost Run, and Panamint Valley Days, is staffed completely by volunteers and helps Cal4Wheel raise funds to promote responsible vehicle oriented outdoor recreation and ensure that our trails are kept open to the public.

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Our fearless leader, always smiling.
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All lined up and ready to run.

Winter Fun Festival started on Friday, January 17th at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. Participants started by registering with event chairs Mike and Pat Bayshore before being served dinner by the California Trail Runners. After dinner was a night run led by the Grass Valley Four Wheelers for the brave of heart. Those who opted to stay in camp instead of battling frigid weather until the early morning enjoyed the radio controlled cars and children's auction. It should be noted that a large gathering of gearheads and their toys never have a problem keeping themselves entertained.

Saturday morning started early with the Santa Rosa 4x4s serving a hot breakfast breakfast and bag lunches before heading out to the trails. This year's Fun Fest was bigger than ever, with eight different runs to choose from. Trails ranged from the scenic SUV run and the popular historical run led by Jim Bramham to the challenging “Express” runs. The 4x4Wire staff chose to run the Avalanche Express run. Located near the Yuba Gap exit off of Interstate 80, Avalanche Express offered deep snow and required participants to equip their vehicles with oversized tires, at least one traction aiding differential, and loads of safety and recovery gear.

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The views along the trail are a drastic contrast with summer.

Our group, led by the Grass Valley Four Wheelers, consisted of a number of highly modified Jeeps and Toyotas, as well as a couple Suzuki Samurais. Everyone met at the trailhead and aired down their tires prior to the drivers' meeting. Our trail leaders vowed not to repeat last year's 20 hour fiasco and promised to have all the vehicles safely back to pavement by 3 PM. With 30 vehicles in our group, it was important to establish some rules and keep the crowd moving. Sunny skies and warm temperatures made for a beautiful day, but the slushy snow proved stubborn in a number of spots. Fortunately everyone was prepared with recovery equipment and there was no shortage of help and goodwill among the participants.

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Alan investigates the hole recently occupied by his truggy.

At noon we stopped at a clearing overlooking Huysink Lake for lunch. The area was wider than the rest of the trail and full of deep snow for those who wanted to play. Alan Lunghi managed to find a big sinkhole and test the depths of the snow while roosting around in his Toyota Truggy. The snow must have been at least five feet deep thanks to the abundant snowfall the Sierras received in December. Almost as impressive as Alan's truggy was Ned Bacon's “sleeper” Tacoma. This truck sported ARB lockers front and rear, an Old Man Emu suspension, and 32” tires. Although the truck was very mild compared to the rest of the group, it seemed to go everywhere Ned pointed it.


After lunch we began to head back down the trail. At one point the group had broken up into several smaller clusters of vehicles. Instead of just idling in the road, several participants took the opportunity to play in the deep snow on the banks of the trail. Everything was going fine until Ned piloted the Tacoma up a steep face and came precariously close to rolling. Alan managed to extract the truck, but not before the passenger side tires both lost their beads. Luckily the group had all of the required tools to reseat the bead and we were back on the trail shortly… but not before a Wrangler threw its rear driveshaft. Without a spare u-joint we burrowed around in the snow for the missing caps, and miraculously found them. The rest of the run was uneventful, as the late day sun had softened the snow and we now had gravity on our side. True to their word, our trail leaders had us back to pavement by 3 PM.

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Cause: Playing the snow. Effect: Two blown beads.

After returning from the trails Saturday night, the nearly 700 participants were treated to a dinner prepared by the Motherlode Rockcrawlers. Following the delicious dinner, a raffle, kids' games, four wheeling videos, and Monte Carlo Night kept people entertained. The Capital City Mountain Goats manned the bar and made sure that no one went thirsty. The huge fairgrounds' hall was nearly filled to capacity for the raffle, which featured tires from BFGoodrich, a gift certificate from ARB, and a winch, as well as numerous other prizes. Also available were Cal4Wheel products and tickets for the raffle Jeep that the Association gives away every year to generate much needed funding.

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People were always willing to lend a helping hand, or helping strap.

Sunday morning started as the day before with breakfast in the hall, this time served by the Diablo 4 Wheelers. Following breakfast, participants had the choice of exploring more trails or taking part in the River Bottom Games. This year's games were held at the fairgrounds due to past issues involving irresponsible behavior on the part of local residents not affiliated with Cal4Wheel or the Winter Fun Fest. The games were still a big hit though, and the Joaquin Jeepers made sure to included such favorites as the timed tire change and RTI ramp.

If you enjoy wheeling in the snow and having out with other gearheads, make it your New Year's resolution to attend next year's Winter Fun Fest. It is certain to live up to the “Fun” name once again.

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