Words & Photos: David “Off-Road Dave” Miller
It all started in Ohio. Well, the thought started between me and my good friend Nick in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Ohio is later. This was the season we were going to hit comps. As many comps as we could. Not to win, but to learn. To become better at choosing lines. To meet up with other scalers from around the Midwest. To learn better set ups and tuning on our rigs. Nick started searching comps. We started talking about which ones we might be able to get out to. Then AxialFest started popping up on social media. “Axialfest man, let’s do it. ” We were both serious.
Then life happened and neither of us could make it. So we started looking at other big events we could hit. This is where Ohio comes into play. Team KNK Hardware TTC. It was on our radar. I made plans to go. Now keep in mind, I manage a business and have an amazing wife and 6 kids, so me making plans to travel out of state to play with tiny trucks isn’t super high on the priority list. I was given the ok by Amanda (my love) and the owner of the business I run. “Dude, I’m going to KNK you are too!!” Yeah, my buddy couldn’t make it. I was bummed. I planned on going solo and after a few posts on Facebook, my buddy Kevin said “I’ll go bro!” Now I had a co-pilot.
So, fast forward. We run KNK. It was amazing. I find out I’m a team driver for my favorite electronics company , Castle RC. I also end up taking 1st place in one of my classes beating the one and only, John Schultz. Like, what? Kate, my team manager says “we need you at AXIALFEST!” OK, so wow, this could be real as in this could really happen! I might just be making it there. Then my new friend, Rodney Wills says, “I want you to shoot AxialFest.” So yeah, how could I not go now. That’s two real big signs saying your dumb not to dude… I get home (after several hours and Starbucks iced coffees) and I’m excited about everything. I tell Amanda I won first!! They want me at AXIALFEST in July!! So blah blah blah, scheduling, family, blah blah BUT ITS ON!!!
Let’s skip to Thursday July 13th.
I arrive at the Reno airport and have a kid named Elvis from Reno picking me up. Chris aka Hemistorm set up the ride for me. This kid is a maniac. Toyota Tundra, mountain roads, and fast driving to make it to the concourse at Axialfest. He and his friend built this wicked RESQ1 replica for the big show. 200 hours spent on it. Crazy, right? We have to be there like an hour ago. As we are flying by the seat of our pants I can’t take my eyes off the mountains. The mountains are EVERYWHERE out here. Back home we have tallish buildings, so these Sierra Nevada mountains are blowing my mind, like seriously blowing my mind!
The anticipation of arriving at Cisco Grove campground is weighing heavy on my mind too. I am excited to see people and tiny trucks. We make it and I need to head to the Castle booth first. Elvis gets me there in one piece. (Whew) and I meet up with Kate and Chris. Now, I haven’t eaten since the night before, high elevation, and overloaded with being at the one and only AXIALFEST. Needless to say, I felt a bit strange. Not all there but, you know, there. Jody from the Renegade rock Runners shows up and lets me know my spot at their campsite is ready. I hang out at Castle for a while and help out with programming esc’s and customers.
I take a walk around and see that the online shops I order from are here. I can get what I need (let’s face it, what I want) now. NOW!!! No shipping time. Get that stuff now and go build!!!! Awesome. So RPP is where I went. B-Line YO!! Scooped some new F9′s for the 10 II along with all the Vanquish fixings. I head over to A camp and meet up the RRR guys. Now if you don’t know the RENEGADE ROCK RUNNERS, you should. These guys are top tier A + human beings. Only one of them knew me. They took me in, fed me, gave me a bed to sleep in, helped work on my rig, you name it. The are in this for the love. The passion. Man, the passion I felt through out my time at AxialFest. That’s the thing… It’s the essence of what we do with these things. Yeah, they are toys. We all get that. It’s the people with passion that make them so much more than toys. Every manufacturer, every club, every retailer I spoke with had that fire. They love what they do and the love to share it. Axial, these guys are passion. These guys are love. These guys make adventure happen. That’s what this whole thing has been.
Ever since I decided to go to KNK TTC I have been on an adventure. I didn’t realize that until I spent a few hours talking with Rodney Wills. I met him simply because he is inquisitive. He wants to know. He wants to know what makes you tick. I love that about him. He uses the word adventure with a passion unlike I have ever seen. Dude is sort of the RC equivalent of Indiana Jones.
OK, back to my story here.
I head back to Castle with my rig to help some more. After a short while I got antsy and needed to find a trail. First one is Trail-A. I mean, ABC’s man! Only seems logical. The beginning is pretty basic. Cool scale building and easy trailing. Then you hit the rock. It gets awesome fast. After about 50 gates I take a break from looking down at my truck. I stretch a little and realize that the mountain I am on is surrounded by much bigger mountains and it is breath taking. It truly put a tear in my eye. Axial picked an astonishing place to hold their event. I cannot describe accurately enough how amazing Cisco Grove really is. To top it off I am playing with my tiny truck alongside hundreds of other people! You can’t beat that. I continue on Trail-A through the trees, rocks, brush, dirt, and hot sun all the way to the last 5 gates. My battery dies. In all the excitement I didn’t think to grab extra batteries or even tools. Either way it was a great way to start my trail runs at AxialFest.
That night I went on a run on Trail-G with the Renegade Rock Runners. I’ve never ran at night so my rig wasn’t prepared. You know, ROCK LIGHTS! (I fixed that the following day with Gearhead RC lights from RPP) but fortunately for me on this first night run, the Renegade boys had plenty of light to keep me on trail. Trail-G would become my favorite trail maybe because it was my first with such the experience… but the terrain and company was more than I could have ever asked for. There were a lot of tiny trucks on that trail that night. You could see off into the distance headlamps and LED lights on ridges up high and down low. The entire trail experience was really fun. The Axial team made the gates wide so you could pick your line which gave everyone the ability to go hard or soft on their rigs. I had to choose the most difficult lines. Like most people I want to see what my rig can do. The end of Trail-G was kind of crazy. It was like a downhill slide of sand. Needless to say, we did some skiing to make it down. At the bottom there was another crew of guys digging hard into the sand with their rigs. It was cool to watch. The rock lights and dust along with the dark made it a bit of a spectacle. With Trail-G over we head back to camp and rest up.
The following day was a blur. There was the Altra Ultra 5K Enduro. Man, I couldn’t believe how hard these guys and gals worked to make forward progression on the designated course! It was impressive to say the least. Michael Pham is one of the guys that had my interest. He pushed himself to the breaking point and kept going. He’s a champ in my mind. Everyone was crazy, really! I mean, cars jumping on each other, flips, flops, (one dude had on flip flops), running, sweating, and focus. All of the competitors get a salute from me. Hats off!! After all of the excitement I went back to camp to take a breather and hang out with my new friends.
The last day was rock racing, raffles, drawings, and awards. The awards ceremony held by Axial was glorious. It wasn’t because of the gifts or awards. It was the hundreds and hundreds of people that drive tiny trucks gathered in one place for the first time since I arrived. So many families, friends, kids and purely awesome people all there for one reason. The reason you ask? Because, Axial. Jeff Johns, Rodney Wills, John Schultz, and the whole Axial family. Axial has found me new friends, adventures, fun, and love. They might not know it, but because of them, so many people have connected who might not have ever connected without them. Thank you Axial. Not for your rigs but for that piece of the puzzle that so many have used to connect to one another. I will never forget 2017.
Thank you Castle (Kate and Chris) for making this trip happen.