As SnT continues to grow it's hard to pack all the fun and socializing into one weekend. I decided to go down early on Thursday to give myself more time on the beach. I was happy to learn a few others had reached the same conclusion so I wasn't alone. Hanging out with the smaller group of dedicated Cruiserheads was a great way to kick off the weekend.
One of the early birds was the infamous Kowboy who arrived after a non-stop drive from Texas. Notwithstanding the faithful Canadian contingent, Kowboy was one of the most distant visitors to this year's event. Still delirious from the long drive he steered his tow rig and car trailer toting his custom FJ40 onto the sand for the final few miles down the beach to the SnT camp.
A couple of Shiners later and he had his tent set up for some long over due sleep. Other friends continued to arrive on Thursday and we all enjoyed some good food and an evening bonfire on the beach. We even managed a quick night run into the dunes.
The weather was windy and wet while we set up camp early Thursday morning but it was already clearing by sunset. Friday morning we awoke to mostly clear skies with only a few puffy clouds lingering. I crawled out of my tent at sunrise to find a well rested and goggled Kowboy ready to hit the dunes. Still groggy from the previous nights festivities, I jumped into the passenger seat and fastened my seat belt harness. With the crashing surf at our back we headed East into the dunes and rising sun.
As a local, I get to pick my days at the dunes. I avoid the summer crowds and typical wind blown afternoons. So you can believe me when I tell you on this particular morning the beach and dunes were absolutely beautiful! The previous day's wind and rain had swept the dunes clear of all tracks. The wet weather, mid-week, off-season date had kept the crowds away and we literally had the place to ourselves. We didn't see anybody or any tracks except our own during our early morning tour of the back dunes.
As it turned out, this was not Kowboy's first time driving sand dunes. In fact, he was an experienced dune runner and his lightweight, V8 powered FJ40 with 42-inch Irok tires easily climbed the steepest dunes. Cruising the dunes with Kowboy on this peaceful morning would be the first of many highlights for me. SnT was off to a great start!
Hanging out on the beach and seeing old friends is always fun. All day Friday and late into the evening Cruiserheads from all around the country continued to arrive and set up camp. Dozens of cruisers were spotted driving around town and filling the local restaurants and hotels.
In what has become a SnT standard, several Canadian Cruiserheads showed up after a long drive South. Their non-USA cruisers are always a hit with the fanatic Cruiserheads. Several TLCA chapters arrived in mass and the large SnT camp began to take shape. The firewood crew was busy hauling wood for bonfires and the local rental company, LUV2CAMP, began setting up their self-contained camp trailers. Other motor homes, camp trailers and tents sprung up as impromptu boulevards were formed within this booming Cruiser City.
Amando Mendoza arrived and set up a large sign post at the center of "town". It included signs showing distance and direction to other cruiser icons such as the Rubicon Trail. It wasn't long before the great food started coming out. It's impossible to go hungry at SnT, which was a good thing since I didn't bother to bring my cooking gear or food. My decision to throw myself at the mercy of the generous Cruiserheads, especially the NorCal Wagons, worked well and I was treated to many culinary delights. Not the least of which was a special "Surf N Turf" entrée of venison and abalone presented by Terry Crump. Absolutely delicious!
While I was completely entertained by meeting people (and mooching food) others began exploring the beach and dunes. It wasn't long before the nightly bonfire was lit and the sun set into the Pacific.
Saturday morning revealed even more campers who had arrived during the night. It was another beautiful day. There were more people to meet, rigs to checkout and lots of informal dune runs. The time passed fast as I was excited about my secret plan to organize an epic aerial photo shoot.
The plan was to park about 150 Land Cruisers in formation forming the letters "TLCA". Timing would be critical. I had pre-arranged for pilot, Tom Ronay and photographer, Amando Mendoza to fly over and take pictures. My job was to organize the group and get everyone parked in position before the plane arrived. As you can imagine, organizing this group to line up their Land Cruisers in formation is a lot like herding ants. Fortunately, everyone was patient and with the help of a few local Cruiserheads, especially our highly esteemed parking attendant Sethzilla, we managed to pull it off.
Once the formation began to take shape it was clear this would be an awesome photo opportunity. In fact, it turned out so good it became the cover shot of the January/February 2005 issue of the Toyota Trails magazine! The final count was 137 rigs, that's a lot of happy cruiser owners who have now scored a Toyota Trails cover shot!
Immediately after the photo shoot we started the traditional High Noon Poker Run. The line of cruisers literally stretched for miles as we paraded down the beach. Once everyone was rolling down the beach, we turned around, facing the oncoming traffic to create the longest "cruiser wave" fest ever! It was a great way to start the poker run.
Unfortunately, the poker run line became so stretched out a few people were unable to find one or two of the checkpoints but everyone had a good time anyway. The winners (high and low hands) split the pot for a very nice prize.
In what seems to have become another SnT tradition, after the Poker Run most of the group congregated at a large hill climb to take turns climbing the steep hill and launching into the air. There were plenty of photos ops as even the most unlikely cruisers flew through the air.
Time flies when you're having fun and before long the sun was setting and the bonfire was lit again. Saturday night there was even more great food with several pot lucks and buffets around the camp. A few folks shared some tasty deserts concocted in their Dutch ovens. Thanks for the yummy treats!
Once again, with everything going on and so many friends in camp it's easy for me to forget about the wheeling. Naturally this is not the case for the more adventurous in our group. Several of these crazies formed small groups and headed into the dark, vast and unmarked dunes. Driving the dunes at night is challenging and potentially dangerous. Nonetheless, with a strong dose of caution and some careful spotting it can be an exhilarating experience. At one point I jumped into the back seat of fellow local Jason Cohn's FZJ80 as a small group headed into the darkness. We managed to find some interesting terrain where Jason put his wagon through its paces. Lets just say driving up, down and around (and flying over) the steep dunes in the darkness is not for the faint of heart, especially when Jason is driving!
Eventually everyone made it back to camp safely. Sunday morning came quick after the late night and it was time to break camp. Once everything was packed up we headed East to the inland trails and the historic Pozo Saloon.
The inland trails can't really handle the large crowds the same way the beach and dunes can. Personally, I chose to skip the Big Falls trail and head directly to the small town of Pozo. I always enjoy the change in scenery as we travel the 30 miles from the beach to mountains. Along the way, a few of us decided to check out the Garcia Ridge Trail. There were already about a dozen cruisers ahead of us on this one way in, one way out, trail and we didn't want to cause a traffic jam. Still we wanted check it out so we cautiously headed up the steep narrow trail. We made it up the first few climbs before we encountered the early group as they were exiting the trail. We turned around at that point and pointed our rigs back toward our ultimate destination. It didn't take long to make our way down the hill to Pozo.
Arriving at Pozo and seeing all sorts of cruisers parked around the old saloon is very cool. We counted about 60 rigs in the parking lot. The Pozo Saloon provides a mellow place to relax and say goodbye. Everyone seems to enjoy the scenic backcountry drive from the beach to Pozo before heading home.
For more information about Surf N Turf contact: Jim Brantley