Four great takeaways from the first ever Cruisers on the Rocks, as observed and experienced by @aaronrules aka the #arkansasmaniac
My name is Aaron, and I had the privilege of attending the first ever Cruisers on the Rocks back in October of 2021. As a member of the Land Cruiser community for going on 15 years, I have had the opportunity to attend many off-road/Land Cruiser events. I've also helped plan various events myself, both big and small. You can read more about me in this spotlight blog post. I'm going to give you four great takeaways I had from the event. I’ll be breaking these four takeaways up into four or five separate posts so as not to overwhelm everyone with a wall of text.
Cruisers on the Rocks is an event hosted at Windrock off-road park right outside of the town of Oliver Springs, TN. It’s an off-road event created specifically for the 100 and 200 series Toyota Land Cruiser and their Lexus versions as well. The main reason for choosing and keeping the event to these specific vehicles is because of their independent front suspension. This also may be the only event that features both the 100 and 200 series. The trail selections for COTR are made with the IFS cruisers in mind. The atmosphere is laid back, the people are awesome, and the time of the year is perfect with the leaves changing colors and the temperatures finally being bearable for this part of the country after what feels like a seven-month long summer. Instead of giving a play by play of each day (although I reserve the right to tell a story or two) I have decided to give you four awesome takeaways from the event.
My four takeaways from Cruisers on the Rocks will:
Explain how COTR 2021 was such a huge success, and why that matters.
Give you a better understanding about how capable 100 and 200 series Land Cruisers are, and why that matters at an event like Cruisers on the Rocks.
Show why and how "East Coast" wheeling is just different, and the importance of understanding this when attending off-road events.
Prove that community can begin anywhere with anyone.
#1 A first-ever event doesn’t have to be a disaster. But it doesn’t have to be perfect either.
The great thing about COTR 2021 was that it wasn’t a “trial run” or just a handful of people who know each other calling it an event. It wasn’t a disaster where nobody knowing what’s going on. On the flip side, it wasn’t a super formal corporate/sponsor, stuffy, rigid, planned-down-to-the-minute type of event either. The first annual Cruiser on the Rocks hit the sweet spot between being perfectly planned down to the finest detail and a total free for all.
It was one of the smoothest, well put-together events I have ever attended. Lee (@lee.sumner), Joy (Joy's Photography IG), and Lee’s mom (Teresa) did an exceptional job planning and executing each day’s around-camp activities. With the help of a handful of volunteers selected before the trip and people pitching in as needed, there wasn’t a hiccup during any of the around-camp activities. The only thing I would consider a hiccup was the wood that was delivered. We wanted to do a big ole fire every night but the wood we got was probably pulled straight out of a lake, that’s how wet it was. Turns out, I was the person who was “in charge” of having the fire going every night. But we made do with Hunter's Solostove Bonfire alongside mine for the nightly marshmallow roast and smores. We had to go into town and buy dry wood, but I think it added to the atmosphere and brought people in closer to be around a smaller fire setup.
The first camp activities night was a burger cookout that ACC Garage sponsored. It went off without a hitch because of the planning Joy and Teresa put into it. ACC Garage were fantastic in providing enough beer for every night in camp as well! I need to shoutout Matthew for taking over burger cooking duties while I had to deal with my waterlogged tent! We came back from a trail ride and my awning room that I left out ended up being full of water since it apparently rains every day at Windrock. I was lucky that most of my sleeping bag was on top of my cot, so I only had a half-wet sleeping bag to sleep in that night. As for the cookout, there was more than enough burgers, hot dogs and all the fixins to go around, it was amazing!
Later in the week we had a night with catered BBQ that was amazing! And again, there was plenty to go around, even though it was a “serve yourself” type of service! COTR does it right! Even the fat kids (this guy) got full eating all the catering they wanted! LOL.
The highlight of all the around-camp activities was the amazing raffle night! The fact that there were so many items and so many big ticket items for the raffle shows how much planning and work went into making COTR such a smooth-running event. The sponsors, including the presenting sponsor Ironman 4x4 America, made sure there were plenty of awesome prizes to be raffled off. I could sit here and list off every sponsor, but you can get that list from the COTR 2021 Sponsor Page. There were so many prizes it felt like everyone left with something. This raffle was easily as big and well put-together as I have ever seen from other events I have attended. And those events have multiple years under their belt. Each driver was given two raffle tickets. One was for the “general” raffle items, and one was for the “big ticket” items.
Being someone who already has a lift, bumpers, roof rack and basically everything else in the big ticket raffle, I had my eye on the CVT UFO SOLAR LIGHT WITH SPEAKER which was surprisingly in the general raffle. It was honestly one of the few things in the raffle that I really wanted to win. Like I really wanted this light. It has four detachable flashlights, a Bluetooth speaker and it’s solar powered! What’s not to love about this thing!? What follows is a story that shows why these kinds of events are so great. Tyre won the CVT solar light earlier in the raffle. I was bummed, but seeing other people like my friend Enrique and my new friend GA (who doesn’t have an IG) both win one of the Rugged Radios they both needed, was pretty awesome. Then on the final draw of the night Tyre also won the 200 series lift kit from Ironman 4x4 America. Tyre winning the lift was awesome because he showed up in a bone stock 200 with highway tires!!! He still wheeled that sucker though! Check out the pics on his IG. What made it even better is that Tyre put the CVT solar light BACK in the raffle, because he’s an awesome guy! Then, on what would be the last draw of the night… I WON THE CVT LIGHT!!! I’ll be honest, just being at the event was good enough and being able to help with the event however I could, made it more meaningful for me, but winning that solar light made it all worth it! Thanks for being a good dude and putting that light back in the raffle Tyre!
Another thing about COTR 2021 was the trail selection and sign-ups. Being a laid-back event meant that picking a trail to go on was an easy process. Lee made himself available for every question people had about the trails. The trail leaders and other people in attendance who had experience at Windrock were also available for any questions people had about the trail selections. Sign-ups were written on an old-school white board and were usually available the night before. Every morning people would gather around and talk about the trails and their plans. Sometime people would change what they wanted to do for the day, and it wasn’t a big deal at all. The whole process was very approachable and easy to deal with. This is another example of how COTR fits perfectly between being a free for all or being a cut and dry, pick it and no take-backs type of thing. You can read about the different trails offered in the series on the COTR website. I will have more about the trails myself in a later post.
As I will explain in later posts, east coast wheeling is different, but these trucks are very capable. Knowing both of these facts helps you understand why COTR being such as a success is a big deal. Windrock Off-Road Park is a perfect example of what east coast wheeling is. It is also very accessible for quite a few people in the USA! Over 100 million people live within a 12-hour drive of Windrock (yes, I actually Googled this). This is great because it makes the park, and in turn COTR, accessible to many people!
When you show up for COTR you'll find a very accommodating atmosphere. A place to see old friends and make new ones. You'll be attending what I believe will be your favorite off-road event of the year. A very well-planned and thought out grassroots event perfect for the IFS Land Cruiser and the people that love them. Lee, Joy and company have created what I feel is a special event and I was very happy to see how well it all came together. I believe there will be very few adjustments needed to keep COTR one of, if not the best, IFS Land Cruiser event in the country.
My next post will explain how capable the 100 and 200 series Land Cruisers are and why Cruisers on the Rocks is the perfect off-road event for these trucks.