Raptor Nationals Ford Raptor Owners Gather in Arizona

May. 21, 2013 By Matt Kartozian

The deserts and wilderness of Arizona are home to a large variety of wildlife, both dangerous and benign. Gila Monsters, Scorpions, the infamous Western Diamondback Rattlesnake as well as Antelope, Bighorn Sheep, Roadrunners and Coyotes all call the area home.  But on May 18th and 19th Arizona was also home to voracious dinosaurs Raptors. These Raptors hunt in packs, and they were hunting dirt, rocks, silt and other off-road terrain.

Driver's view outside Sedona.

This group of 30 trucks was part of the first annual Raptor Nationals put on by Five 2 Productions. The event started on Thursday, May 16 with an optional off-road driving school near Saguaro Lake in Mesa.   On Friday the participants gathered at Addictive Desert Designs shop in Mesa for registration, a BBQ, and vendor expo showing off available parts for the capable Raptor. 

The real show started Saturday morning when the off-road driving began. The group met back at the ADD shop to begin the journey. On day one the group traversed 197 miles from Mesa to Camp Verde with more than 150 miles of dirt. Starting at 900 feet altitude, the group drove through the Arizona desert all the while climbing into the high desert. After a lunch stop in Mayer the group continued to climb into the pine trees and then above them all the way to 7000 feet through the Prescott National Forest. At the conclusion of the first day the group hit the pavement and drove through the picturesque small towns of Jerome, Clarksdale and Cornville before dropping back down into the high scrub at 3500 feet to finish at the casino in Camp Verde.

Day two consisted of 122 miles. The group hit the dirt just after leaving the casino before a pavement section and then returned to the dirt near the Tuzigoot National Monument. At this point the guys from VORE brought in a Robinson R22 helicopter and filmed the group as they left the scrub next to the Verde River and drove into the beautiful red rocks of Sedona. Luckily, the kookier residents of Sedona refrained from throwing crystals and incense at the trucks as more than 12,000 horsepower rumbled through the center of town.

12,000 horsepower in Sedona.
The final dirt section took the group back into the pines where, if you did not know better, you would think you were in Lake Tahoe, CA. The pines broke and opened into huge wild meadows, but then the trail would pull the group back into rocky mountain trails. The ride finished with some high-speed gravel roads taking the group right to Interstate 40 for a short hop to the headquarters of KC Highlights in Williams. KC rewarded the drivers with not just an amazing BBQ meal with actual fall-off-the-bone chicken and ribs, but also a goody bag including an LED flashlight and worklight.

As expected, the group included many Arizonans. However, other participants made long treks to experience the wonder of the Arizona wilderness. Drivers came from Canada, Washington, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Michigan and more for the trip.

The host, Five 2 Productions, is headed by Jason Cobb, a longtime member of the automotive aftermarket industry and an accomplished off-road racer. Running these events is a family affair involving Cobb's wife Gretchen and son Josh. Cobb also expressed thanks to the event sponsors who, as well as being generous contributors, helped with the work load of running the event Sanderson Ford, Roush Performance, Addictive Desert Designs, KC Highlights and VORE.

Arizona or Tahoe?

Cobb spoke about his motivation for putting on off-road events in Arizona.

"Being a native of Arizona, I am very proud of this state and what it offers in terms of off-roading," Cobb said after the event. "They embrace off-roading here. That does not mean you can go anywhere, as we are still losing lands at an alarming rate. But events like this pull the community together and allow us to hopefully still be doing this in five years. I am really proud that 100% of our course was on public lands; anybody can come out here anytime and do this. We had it all, rocks, high-speed roads, water crossings, silt, desert and hill climbs."

Cobb has plans for more Raptor runs in the future but never the same thing twice. For each event he plans to chart and use a new route to show off more of the available off-roading in Arizona. For more information, go to http://raptornationals.com/ and Raptor Nationals on Facebook.

Trucks lined up at the finish at KC HiLites.

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