Bower Media Adventures Backdoor Challenge – with Charlene Bower
Although I have been working in the industry for years, it has only been recently that I started driving and competing. Well, kind of. I have to thank my dad and mom for giving me an awesome childhood growing up in the backseat of a flat fender with trips all over the west. But more recently, Matt has given me the opportunity to drive his tube buggy allowing me to learn and master the crazy Arizona trails and of course, waterfalls.
One of those waterfalls that I have mastered is, what everyone knows as, Backdoor in Johnson Valley, CA. Did you know that I am the fastest girl up Backdoor, two years in a row now? Yes, well there is a lot more to this story than what meets the surface, so here is the inside scoop. We’ll jump back to the beginning, two years ago.
Let’s start with a few facts to set the scene. The 2014 Griffin King of the Hammers is one of the largest off-road events and in 2014 they added a new “fun” competition called the “King Shocks Backdoor Challenge” Limited to only 50 competitors, the event was meant to be a competition of “east vs west” or “rock bouncers vs Ultra4 vs RockCrawlers”. Now to get a little more specific,
I’ve never raced anything before. We can take that one step further to saying, I have never seen a green flag and hit the skinny pedal. Also, I’ve never driven up the obstacle Backdoor as a passenger…muchless a driver until the Saturday before the event two years ago. Sure I have taken hundreds of pictures, but that doesn’t mean you can crawl it. And, I was driving an everyday crawler. Well, actually Is that fair? How about a 4 cylinder YJ that has slowly been stripped into an AZUndertakers proven tube buggy.
Yes, that makes the decision to compete at this fun challenge even crazier! doesn’t it
Honestly, I registered Matt to do the Backdoor Challenge when the opportunity first came out, but because it was my credit card, my name showed up on the list. It created a huge buzz about me competing, which I didn’t confirm or deny. There was a lot that had to be figured out…
We drove onto the lakebed Friday for King of the Hammers to set up for the week of helping racers. Mid-afternoon Matt came and put me into the buggy – “Time to show me you can do this!” When we got out there, I went up Backdoor as a passenger and learned the passenger line; I got out and watched Matt go up it once and learned the driver’s line; then I came back around as a driver and pulled up to feel the angel, gave it a few tries and made it up; went back around for a second try and ONE SHOTTED IT! Whoooohoooo! Talk about some self-confidence. I was ready. Well, maybe not quite yet. We went back out on Saturday night so I could run it at night with a group of hecklers and a helmet on. I could feel the adrenaline and put a few laps on the ‘ol Backdoor. I got this.
When Monday came, I was crazy busy chasing racer boys around the lakebed trying to get work done. (Yes, it’s what I do) I almost lost track of time but headed into the driver’s meeting and then raced back to the trailer to get the buggy final prepped. Final prep: well Stickers of course! BFGoodrich Tires, Raceline Wheels and WARN Winch, plus the fancy Bower Motorsports Media banner duct taped to the top – thanks to Matt for the touch of Pink duct tape And then we loaded up and headed to staging for the King Shocks Backdoor Challenge.
I think I peed 5 times, maybe more. I was nervous and it was cold. The Backdoor canyon could be described as a scene from a medieval fight arena. To take my mind off things I decided to hike up the canyon to talk to Raceline’s Greg Mulkey and Tim Lund who were announcing. That was a bigger feat than I thought, but I took a bag of koozies and they worked perfectly as bribery: “Here, I am paying ahead to make sure I don’t fall”. Anyone that has walked like a billy goat on the side of a mountain with hundreds of people (or goats) in the way can attest to this feat. I made it and back safely. Then I took my mind off things by cleaning. The jeep was really, really clean.
It was finally getting close to my turn and time to buckle in. Time to go. What in the world am I doing? I rolled down to the start line. 3-2-1-GO! I went fast! I’m not sure if you can tell in the video, but I was speeding along to the base of the waterfall. I lined up perfectly. I hit it, but not enough. Dangit! I waited for the buggy to settle, put it into reverse and went too far down! Dangit! Rolled up, and again the 4-squirrels weren’t there. I backed down again, knew that this was my last chance………and it crawled!!!!! I made it up! Slammed into the rock at the top, went around to the right hand climb, walked right up it and then sprinted to the finish.
The volunteer at the finish line has THE STORY. He came up to the buggy and asked if I knew what my time was. “I don’t care! All I care about is I get to talk to you right now and that means I made it to the top!!!!” The end result was a not so awesome time because of all the backups, but I made it up, and within the set cut-off time. That was my goal, that was my accomplishment. This gave me the title of “Fastest Girl up Backdoor” – I’ll leave it at that because we have all been having a lot of fun with that name…If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at, right.
The competition was a great success so they did it again this year. I signed up to keep my name on the top of the board and had a great time doing it. We went out the night before and did a few runs to make sure that I remembered how to do it, and we were good. This year I wasn’t quite as nervous as before, but still pretty amped up, not going to lie. There were probably twice as many people in the canyon as the year before and there was no way I was going to be able to make it up into the announcer box, so I waited, somewhat patiently at the bottom. When it was my turn, I took the green flag, got through the bottom section with no problem, ONE-SHOTTED the waterfall and then hit the top ledge at the wrong angle. Instead of taking a full back up and lining up correctly, I half backed up and fought it a couple times. I still made it to the top within time and kept my awesome title, but now my competitive spirit in me wasn’t as stoked on my finish because I knew I could do better.
The rest of the King of the Hammers week, Matt and I spent almost every night out there. I probably ran the waterfall over 35 times taking some of my friends and supporters up. It was a ton of fun.
Who knows what the future holds, but I am really glad that I was able to participate in the Backdoor Challenge over the last couple of years. I have to thank Matt again for letting me use his buggy. It may look a little rough around the edges, but like we all say, it fully works!