49Th Annual Tierra Del Sol Off-Road Safari

Mar. 10, 2011 By Jaime Hernandez
Every year, the biggest Jeep and 4x4 event in Southern California takes place at Truckhaven, now part of Ocotillo Wells SVRA—Tierral Del Sol (TDS) Safari. The three-day event took place Friday March 4th through Sunday March 6th, marking the 49th year of its run.

The big news this year at the TDS Safari was the new Truckhaven 4x4 Training Facility.  The Tierra Del Sol 4x4 Club worked hard with Ocotillo Wells State Park SVRA Superintendent Kathy Dolinar to make this happen. The 31-acre facility has 21 obstacles and was designed for people to learn how to drive their 4x4s, improve their skills and learn more about their vehicle in a safe environment.  From novice to expert, there’s something in this new park for everyone.

Event supporter All-Pro was onsite playing in the new Truckhaven obstacle course during TDS Safari.  John builds some very nice 4x4s, and this custom Toyota FJ40 is a testament to that.

The Truckhaven 4x4 Training facility had an official ribbon cutting on Friday to kickoff the weekend at TDS Safari. The Truckhaven 4x4 Training Facility had a big spectator draw all weekend with its close proximity to the vendor area.  It was a great way to show newcomers to the sport what today’s 4x4s are capable of and really get people excited about joining the fun!

Tierra Del Sol even got W.E. Rock involved by helping design the most extreme obstacles at the facility.

Here are some of the facility highlights:

• 550 tons of rock and boulders
• 400 yards of Shotcrete
• 100 earthmover tires
• 125 sections of concrete conduit
• 40 logs
• 2,000 ft. of rebar
• 100 one-ton landscaping blocks
• 100 two-ton landscaping blocks
• 2,500 man-hours

All in all, a very impressive place that came together in less than two years! Bo Neece, TDS Safari Chairman, had a big part in breaking ground for this new 4x4 Training Facility.

All the obstacles at the Truckhaven 4x4 Training Facility are marked with difficulty ratings, ranging from Green (beginner) to Black Diamond (extreme).


The event brought out over 900 registered vehicles to experience the amazing terrain.  The 20-mile trail through the mud hills, washes, notches and bluffs of the Tectonic Gorge and Truckhaven Hills was similar to the last two years, but with a 180 twist.  They ran it backwards, south to north. 

This completely changed obstacles, approaches and the terrain for the Safari. Trail Boss was Joey Holden with co-Pilot sister Amanda Holden for the third year.

New this year was checkpoints. A total of four checkpoints where present, with numbers 1 & 2 having sponsors. Off Road Warehouse (ORW) was assigned Checkpoint #1 (N33° 15.52", W116° 02.29") and passed out goodies and greeted Safari runners as they drove by. We spoke with ORW founder Howard Hughes about it, and he said it was a great way to say hi to people and also let them know about their “text 90210” promotion. Basically if you text ORW at 90210, you will be the first to hear about exclusive promotions, events and ORW updates.

At checkpoint #2 (N33° 15.52", W116° 02.29"), Icon suspension was passing out cold water and greeting TDS Safari participants as they passed on the trail.  Unlike last year’s Safari when it was raining and cold, the 49th Annual Safari was sunny and surprisingly warm, so cold water was a real treat.

For those too big to go on the Safari, there are plenty of other things to do, like climbing hills, playing in the washes and enjoying the Truckhaven hills.  This group enjoyed the extreme climbs on “roll-over” hill.

The TDS Safari Run took less than three hours for the leaders, but almost all day for those stuck behind a K5 Blazer that broke down on Obama’s Notch, according to a TDS Official.  They had nowhere to go since there is “no bailout” on Obama’s Notch.


The TDS Safari brought out over 100 off-road vendors and manufacturers that support the Jeeps and 4x4 market.  This year there was a presence of top-tier manufacturers with semi-trucks and mega display areas like Mopar.

Mopar brought out its latest Jeep and Dodge Ram truck aftermarket parts, including the new portal Jeep axles that add 5 inches of clearance.

Overall, there seemed to be a much bigger presence of vendors and manufacturers, and even spectators. This is a good sign that the off-road industry is on an up swing.

Falken tire came out in a big way this year by sponsoring the TDS Safari Tech inspection. They also had a team onsite helping people try their new off-road tires by lending them a set for the day. 

John Troust, better known as JT, was at the BFG pit truck at TDS Safari helping with tires and repairs.  JT is a jack-of-all-trades, he grooves tires at races, airs up trail rigs and can even help weld a broken bracket to get you back on the trail. When not at a race or doing BFG pit support, JT can be found helping off-roaders in Ocotillo Wells.

Sam from Pomona Gear stands proudly with his wife and their latest creation, a California smog-legal Toyota pick-up with a 4.3 Vortec swap. Under the ‘84 Toyota is a Dana 60 front and GM 14-bolt rear axle to compliment the extreme exo-skeleton and meaty tires.

The famous TDS Raffle on Saturday night (above) was again the biggest draw of the night.  With over $100,000 in prizes ranging from Goodyear tires, Raceline beadlock wheels, Bilstein Shocks, Banks Intakes and Exhaust, to everything in between. Over 60 prize packages were awarded, and many happy people left with something in their hand.

Even for those that didn’t win anything, it’s nice to know that the $50 Safari Registration fee ($60 on-site), which entitles you to 1 TDS Safari raffle ticket, goes to a great cause—keeping our land open for off-road use.

After the TDS Safari Raffle, some folks headed out to the infamous notches to see the light show.  This is not part of the TDS Safari, but somehow people find their way to it.
On Sunday morning there were two more runs to go on, the Rough run and SUV run. The Rough run is hard-core and unmarked. The SUV run was a relaxing drive through Ocotillo Wells SVRA to the famous Pumpkin Patch.

Also taking place on Sunday was a Winching demonstration put on Tom Severin and Frenchie La Chance of International 4-Wheel Drive Trainers Association (I4WDTA).  This demo was sponsored by Superwinch at the new Truckhaven 4x4 Training Area.

Once again, the TDS Safari was a great time and has really set things in motion for the 50th TDS Safari in 2012.

For more information on Tierra Del Sol Safari, visit http://www.tds4x4.com/.

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