Today I am going to talk about one of my COLDEST trips EVER. The destination was Newry, Maine, January 8th and 9th, for the Red Bull Frozen Rush Event. For those not familiar with the event, it is an invite only Pro 4 truck race on the snow slopes of the Sunday River Ski Resort. Ricky Johnson had this awesome idea and tested it in 2013. The first Frozen Rush race was officially held in 2014, Ricky Johnson actually took the win too. Unlike in 2014 where they strictly raced for times, this year’s race had two trucks on the course at the same time, essentially bracket racing. It was still a race for times, but the competition level was raised.
Anyways, here is our story….
Carrie from BFGoodrich asked me to join her and Woody, from i hate mud and UTV weekly, on this little adventure. I excitedly agreed after seeing the success of the first event I wanted to see what it was all about. I was prepared for the cold, but I was not prepared for the absolutely freezing COOOOOLLLLD! It was negative 22 degrees! Carrie and I were laughing about how many layers we had on; we felt like the Michelin Man.
We stayed at a really cool lodge called the Grand Summit Hotel, which was actually a ski lodge that had some very interesting rooms. Pulling in late Wednesday afternoon, we met downstairs for dinner after checking in to our rooms. It was interesting to be in a snow lodge with a room full of desert racers. Many of the faces around the tables were familiar to me.
Thursday morning we started early with Breakfast at the Bethal Inn with the group from BFGoodrich. BFGoodrich had decided to use this opportunity to bring in customers from Canada and the East Coast to test the new All-Terrain KO2 Tires in the snow and ice. Boy did they ever pick a good spot and good weekend for that! After breakfast and the introduction session, Carrie, Woody and I headed on up to the track to get the lay of the land and scout out where we wanted to be for qualifying.
After checking in at the media center, we decided that to head on up the hill to see qualifying. When I mean head on up the hill, I really mean HIKE A SNOW MOUNTAIN. You know those little pullies that they have for the bunny hills – yeah one of those would have been awesome. I felt bad for some of the folks hiking up. Looking on the bright side of things, at least our core temperature was high by the time we finally got to the spectator area.
It was very impressive to watch the trucks peeling out in the snow. The hard packed snow and ice turned was ground into loose snow by the time the trucks were done driving. The studs on the truck tires tore into the snow to provide traction, leaving behind soft powder instead of solid ice. All drivers were using a special, hand built, BFG tire with 684 studs. Yes, each individual tire had 684 studs in it. The tires were first grooved to the right pattern for snowy conditions then, they had to drill the holes and glue in the studs all by hand. There were 9 drivers, times four tires is 36, but I think I heard they made more like 50 tires just in case. That is some dedication from BFGoodrich.
When we were done hanging out in the negative 22 degrees watching trucks race around, we hiked back down the bunny hill and jumped in a gondola to head up to the upper lodge for a clam chowder lunch. I don’t think I have ever been on a gondola without ski’s. We did get a few weird looks because of it.
When we were done with lunch we headed into the pit area that was a huge heated tent. Each team had about a 40×30 area to use as a pit space. The fans would be able to come into the pit tent during autograph times to get up close and personal with the racers. It was here that I picked up my best advice of the weekend from Rob MacCachren. He told me about the technique of putting heated pads into your shoes so you don’t lose feeling in your feet, but also not make your shoes so tight that you cut off circulation. Most of the drivers had heated seats in their trucks for this event, but Rob said that the blowing snow that comes into the truck, as dust, was freezing, literally.
Our day wasn’t over yet. We still had an adventure on our hands. We were going to go snow wheeling with the BFG vehicles and it was getting late and dark quickly. I stayed out of the drivers seat taking videos and pictures, but consequently at one point my video camera stopped working because, guess what, it was soooo cold. I had to put it back inside my jacket to warm it up and get it working again. It was a lot of fun though.
And then it was off to dinner where we met up with all the dealer groups, BFG folks and all the BFG sponsored racers that were at the event. Very cool for the dealers they got to sit right next to and talk to the racers that they have only seen from a distance.
Friday was race day, and I will admit that Carrie, Woody and I had a very slow and peaceful breakfast as we all watch it snow outside the window. Not a single one of us were in a hurry to get outside. But when we did, we had the perfect plan. We were going to go into the pit tent and watch all the pre-race action and then head over to the BFG Semi where they changed out the tires just before heading up to the snow. It was a pretty awesome decision as we got to watch all the real behind the scenes action – and stay warm. As the trucks rolled through the BFG pit for tires, we tried to stay out of the way, but I will admit to loosing a pair of jeans by rubbing up against a set of studded tires too close.
The racing was awesome. The bracket racing including drivers Ricky Johnson, Bryce Menzies, Todd LeDuc, Scott Douglas, Rob MacCachren, Carl Renezeder, Brian Deegan, RJ Anderson and Chad Hord. The day’s racing led them to the semi finals where Scott Douglas and Rob MacCachren battled for the third place podium position. On the last lap of their race the two nearly collided on the straight away and then drove into the final turn side by side for a fantastic finish. It was incredible.
The final race was Ricky Johnson vs Bryce Menzies. There had been some haggling between these two for the few days before about the difference in their ages. The young Menzies may have won it, but Ricky still had it!
We headed back to Portland Maine that evening to prepare for our flights home. When we checked into our hotel, I turned up my thermostat to 80! I was still freezing. But we weren’t done – never a dull moment with the BFG crew, we headed down to the waters edge, walking of course, to a small and exceptionally awesome restaurant where I experienced my very first full lobster and clam dish. It was huge and only $20! It was simply amazing as the rest of the trip had been too.
Well, that recaps my coldest trip. I’ll come up with another great story for next week! There are plenty of them!