The Rocket Run requires Whip It Light Rods and rock lights (Photo by the author)
About 10 years ago, Chuck Coble told me a story from his motorcycle days in the 70’s. He and his buddies would go out into the desert at night and one of them would go hide. That person would shoot up a flare or a rocket and everyone else would race to see who could be the first one to find the person. Then somebody else would take a turn. As Chuck told the story, it became apparent that they were lucky to have lived through some of those nights. It sounded like an awesome time!
I couldn’t get this idea out of my mind and soon The Rocket Run was born. Chuck and I got the idea off the ground a year later and now Idaho Off Road has been doing this event for eight years. It has been adapted — it isn’t a race, we use 50" LED light bars on 20-foot towers, and we try not to have people go too fast and take too many chances.
However, the idea is kind of the same — you drive around lost in the desert and mountains all night looking for lights. It’s a great time.
Thursday and Friday
The Rocket Run has become an all-weekend event. Many people camp the night before and the night of the event, so the parking lot takes on a life of its own. This year, I went out on Thursday so we could get some stress-free camping in before the event.
After a good Thursday night of motor home sleep, Lynette and I took a nice drive. We left Hemingway Butte, drove up and around Black’s Mountain, and down to Murphy. We saw lots of little Mormon crickets, already sprawling out across the roads. They are tiny now — but come July — they will be acorn-sized bug guts smashed on the road.
Thursday night calm before the storm (Photo by the author)
Friday night, more and more campers came into camp. When we started The Rocket Run, hardly anybody came out and camped the night before. Now, there were a least a dozen campers by dinner time on Friday night. After a great dinner of steak and potatoes, it was time to get to bed in anticipation of Saturday.
Saturday, Dan came around wanting to go run some rocks. At first, I declined because I had my blue Jeep and didn’t have rock sliders, but I was soon talked into it. Don’t threaten me with a good time; I don’t know how to say no!
My blue TJ and Chuck’s yellow TJ before “the incident” (Photo by the author).
About 20 rigs went to run Carnage Canyon. We didn’t make it very far. On the first obstacle, Chuck ripped his rear link mounts off the rear end of his TJ. Soon, people were headed back to camp for a Ready Welder and parts. We spent the next couple of hours welding and getting the rig out of the canyon. Right as we cleared the top of the canyon with the broken TJ, the rain unleashed an absolute downpour like only the desert in the spring can do.
I was ecstatic to have the blue Jeep with a top and doors on this trip. We made it back to camp in time to hunker down in the motorhome and wait out the weather.
After a dinner of tri-tip and potatoes, the raffle was slated to start at 6:00 PM. At about 5:45, another squall came through. Fifty mile an hour winds, rain, and lots of dust blew everyone back into whatever shelter they could find.
Raffle time after the storm. Notice how bundled up everyone is and the unsettled weather in the background (Photo by the author)
The Actual Rocket Run
Gabe rode with me this year and we were one of the last group of rigs to leave the parking lot. We ran with some of our friends in UTVs, so we were behind everybody in the desert most of the night. Out the back of Kane Springs, we drove right to the first light tower.
Everyone grouping up to head out for the run (Photo by the author).
We found all three light towers, and the bonus points, by 11:45. We had a fairly short night hunting lights but had a great time. We were back by 12:30 AM for one of the earliest nights ever. I have come into camp at 4:00 AM before, so 12:30 is a dream.
While out on the run, we had an interesting encounter with some off-trail behavior.
While driving along in a line of about 20 rigs, two UTVs drove off the trail around us on the high side. They came ripping by us, kicking rocks down the hill at us as they passed. As they came back into the trail, still kicking rocks, the first Can Am rolled his $30,000 rig over about 50 feet in front of us.
It happened so fast we couldn’t even get pictures of the stupidity.
Gabe and I got out to make sure they survived and weren’t hurt. They weren’t. However, I believe stupid SHOULD hurt and teachable moments are everywhere. I couldn’t help myself. I told the driver how stupid he was for driving off trail and he got what he deserved. He tried to laugh it off as he was just having fun.
I kept chewing. The problem with this behavior is it closes lands for everybody else. All somebody has to say is that people are driving off-trail and all of a sudden, we can’t have events. All of a sudden, we can’t drive on the trails we have always used. All of a sudden, we find locked gates where they didn’t use to be.
There is an outdoor recreation explosion happening. This growth in our sport could be a good situation, if people would get educated and learn the rules of the land before heading out. Rule #1 is to stay on the damn trail.
I encourage people to find clubs and organizations that fight for motorized land use in their area. To read an article about why you should join an organization, click this link.
I sure am glad that Chuck Coble decided to tell me a super cool story and it turned into an event that I look forward to every year. It has taken on a life of its own, with a dinner, a raffle, multiple runs, national-level sponsors, and about 100 participants. This year, we donated money to the local fire fighters and Sheriff’s department, which is a great way to give back to the people who need the resources to keep people safe. It will be cool to see what next year will bring.
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Happy to have a top and doors this year with all the crazy weather (Photo by Lynette White)