After having plans change days before the OG Gambler in Oregon this summer, I was committed to hitting the back roads of Washington with whoever would have me. I tracked down the event page for the Washington Gambler 500 and put a feeler out there for anyone who needed a co-pilot. A great guy (Russ) outta Salem offered up his passenger seat and we made early plans to meet up a few weeks later. As the event neared, plans were posted, hype was building and it seemed like a ton of people would be in my neck of the woods for a two day party we wouldn’t soon forget.
Then, like clockwork, the event was cancelled due to a bit of miscommunication and the USFS coming down with a heavy hand asking why there was no permit in place. It came out of the blue and while it put a twist in everyone’s plans, my new crew was on their way from parts of Oregon, Idaho and even Alberta, this didn’t appear to slow them down. So bright and early I was meeting a bunch of random strangers in a parking lot in Enumclaw with cars that didn’t look safe for them or anyone around them…
Everyone seemed to have a rough plan. Some bailed, some said they were headed for Crystal Mountain and others figured they would head for the original start point and just gamble from there. Our crew of about 10-15 cars aimed for the start line and would decide on a plan from there. The thing about the Gambler is that they don’t hang out coordinates until you’re on the starting line. Generally speaking, you get a sheet with a list of coordinates and race off while your co-pilot enters them into a app and it goes from there. Early reports had me thinking the camp site would be located somewhere near the start point. I’d leave my truck somewhere and I’d sleep in it after a day of runnin’ the hills and alcohol consumption. We quickly noticed the camp site was 3 1/2 hours away outside of Yakima in the middle of nowhere. So, we ditched my truck, emptied all my stuff in the MPV being piloted by Russ and got on the road with The Fabulous B-Team.
Our first way point involved a decent little hill climb. A couple guys in the crew gave it valiant efforts and a couple even succeeded. The 4WD MPV handled it surprisingly well and I was quickly wondering what the hell I was getting myself into. One of his dogs wouldn’t let me near him, the other wouldn’t leave me and this guy was getting wild in this green “mini-van”. Whatever, I was more or less stuck now and figured it would just add to the weekend, right? Maybe a funny story or something. Anyways, a few of us made it up and the rest turned back down to take a longer route to the next way point.
After a number of wrong turns and watching a 2WD S10 try some pretty gnarly climbs, we ran into a Jeep who said he had seen a bunch of crazy looks rigs and a black/red bus up the road a bit. This would become a continuing theme throughout the weekend, crazy looking rigs and vehicles trying things they weren’t meant to try.
As we all cruised up the mountain, we finally caught up to the crew, only to find out we had a rig down. The old Chevy was having overheating issues and we guessed a bad thermostat. In true Gambler spirit, the person who had been drinking since about 7am, was the person getting the truck back on the trail. We found a half tube of RTV, a cereal box and got to work. Not a big deal really. This means the mobile beer pong rig gets some use, we pick up all the trash in the vicinity, catch up with people, meet people (I was the new guy, hello) and more or less bullshit. They finally got the rig back in a good spot and we all settled on our next way point.
Well, before we know it, we’re down a rig. Oddly enough, the rig that everyone called shitbox. I’m still not sure why we had shitbox in the rear like that, but lesson learned I suppose, hahaha. We made a plan to send a few guys back to check for them and we would wait. One of the guys ran over and asked some of the nearby campers if they had seen a white truck with no hood and a shopping cart basket on top and they had, it went up the hill. So, we bombed for the forest road, completely forgetting about the guy who had gone to look for shitbox the other way. And oddly enough, this new forest road was even more dusty than the previous forest road. Which resulted in the crew getting spread further and further apart. Before we knew it, we were all spread apart, patience was growing thin and camp wasn’t getting any closer. Everyone within CB range decided it was time to fill up the tanks and head for camp.
With tanks filled and some coordinates that almost had us in Oregon, we hit the pavement. It was probably 5pm or so by now and camp was still two hours away. It was a great opportunity to chat with Russ, win over the un-winnable dog and mostly, think about food and eventual sleep. I think we had five cars in this little mini-crew and we eventually made it to a gravel road. Which turned into an old dirt road and then something resembling the Oregon Trail. The MPV continued to make quick work and we eventually rolled into camp to hook up with some friends from earlier in the day and start getting ready for some grub and beers.
I won’t share too many details about last night. Gambler parties are meant to be enjoyed and experienced in person. I will say this, I remember checking my watch at 3am and a few people were still celebrating. I then remember checking my watch around 6am because people were already stirring. Hey, when you’re Gamblin’, #alwaysbegambling I slept in my tent with a sleeping bag and that’s about it. No pillow, nothing on the ground except rocks and yeah, I just figured, gambler style or something. I had a blast, met some people and then crashed. Everyone slowly got up. Cars started to drive out, bacon started to sizzle and we slowly turned the place into the cow pasture it was before we got there. No trash left behind. Most of the crew decided to head back home to Oregon since they were so close and a few of us figured we may as well finish this thing out. I can’t thank Russ enough for driving my ass back to my truck. The guy truly enjoys getting outside and it was fun to spend the day exploring southern Washington. Most of it I hadn’t even seen, so it was exciting to mark some new spots to further explore, bomb roads and get after it without any real commitments. We had a rough plan and we somehow made it from one city to another, generally without using any paved roads. I still can’t believe we made it to Randle and eventually, my truck. The main road is closed at some point and Russ had some random download that showed a tricky way through the woods. He wanted to give it a go, so whatever, lets do it. We either find out it’s bad and have to backtrack or just backtrack, so, let’s send it and see what happens. We ran across another gambler at some point and while talking to them, another came up behind us. So, guess we’re all in at this point. Was a fun road, but I have zero clue how that little CRX gambler made it through and they kept up with us for most of it, wow!
What a trip! I met some great people, we made the most of what I’m sure a ton of people bailed on and it’s got me pretty jazzed on bombing some hills on my own. Because why in the hell not? See ya next time!