land rover defender 90 off-road

Cline Buttes Off-Road Trails

kamp karma voodoo alterCentral Oregon is a stark contrast to the wet, muddy, forested off-road areas of the western coastal side of the state.  High plains, filled with sage, juniper and scattered Ponderosa  pines growing in reddish brown pumas sand, from not so extinct volcanoes, fill the landscape.  Cold in the winter, hot in the summer. Clear dry skies most of the year.  Central Oregon is a great option for off-road adventures.

Searching for an alternative to Oregon’s Tillamook Forest off-road area, we set out to explore Cline Buttes’ new(ish) 4×4 trails.  The 32,000 acre Cline Buttes  recreational area has been established to serve all types of outdoor adventurers.  Large chunks of land have been carved out for motorizes and non-motorized trail use as well as blocks for those who prefer to travel on two feet or even four hooves .

fj cruiser interior driverFive miles east of Sisters, nine miles north of Bend and a short drive west of Redmond Oregon, Cline Buttes is easily accessible from just about any direction (Cline Buttes recreation area).  Its proximity to these iconic western towns allows those who’s idea of roughing it involves room service to find all levels of lodging and meal options.  When it comes to sitting around a camp fire and looking up at the stars, Cline Buttes offers plenty of dispersed camping options.  (The area does get dry so be sure to check the fire restrictions before you go).

cline buttes recreational area mapA staging area in the north east corner provides plenty of parking and an outhouse.  Everything else will need to be packed in, and packed back out.  From here an easy 4×4 off-road trail takes you out into the heart of the off-road area connecting to several options.

camp fire cookingThe 4×4 off-road trails are categorized as easiest, more difficult and most difficult.  Most stock, high clearance 4x4s are more than a match for the easiest and more difficult trails. Drivers would be well served to have a lift, taller tires and rock rails before traversing the most difficult trails.  Additionally there is a “play area” where cross country travel is permitted.

We explored the Cline Buttes OHV area in late November following a week of warm torrential rains.  What we found amazed us.  The lava sand and rock trails were well drained with only a few scattered puddles on Barr Road.  No mud or slippery rocks that can take the entertainment value out of navigating tail obstacles with open cruiser cluster gages

The down side of wheeling under clear blue skies this time of year in central Oregon is that it gets cold, really cold.  The mercury barely topped 24 degrees Fahrenheit at lunch time and dropped into the teens as we climbed into our sleeping bags.  The upside of the cold weather…  We never saw another truck on the 4×4 off-road trails and we covered a good chunk of most of them over two days.snowy mountain pass road

Maybe it was the outstanding weather, maybe the great trail conditions or just that it had been awhile since we’d explored something new, but Cline Buttes has definitely moved into the top 10 list of great off-road adventure locations.

jessi combs selfie sema 2014

To Live And Die In Sema

comeup winch toyota fj cruiser sema 2014Automotive nirvana by day, debauchery and broken dreams by night.  This is SEMA.

By all accounts SEMA is the premier automotive specialty products trade event, period.  It draws the industry’s brightest minds and hottest products to one place, the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The SEMA Show attracts more than 100,000 industry leaders from more than 100 countries covering the automotive, truck, SUV, powersports, and RV markets.  Adding to its mystic, SEMA is not open to the public.  Like a chichi Boho model gliding past the velvet rope of New York’s Up&Down club, at SEMA you have to be an insider to gain truck sema 2014

The Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC, apparently everything is Vegas simply goes by its initials now) has some 3,000,000 square feet of exhibition space and SEMA seemed to fill it all.  The show even managed to spill into most of the parking lots, muscle cars burning rubber around a makeshift track, Baja trophy trucksIronman4x4 toyota hj61 sema 2014 fresh from their Nevada desert runs are poised in the loft ready for the upcoming Baja 1000 and tons of exotic builds filling every open space on the asphalt.

While outside SEMA is smoking hot fun, inside is all business.  Manufactures and distributors do whatever they can to attract dealers and buyers to their booth where they can show off new product lines, discuss their M.A.P. skyjacker ford bronco sema 2014policies and tout seductive quantity discounts.

And in order to draw the tens of thousands of SEMA buyers into the booth:

  • chichi models strutting around in stripper heels
  • outrageously over-built and flamboyantly wrapped cars, trucks, 4x4s and SUVsbaja 1000 trophy trucks sema 2014
  • TV celebs, racers and motor sport legends signing posters
  • flashing lights, mega booths and lots of highly polished bling
  • tons of swag
  • and anything else that will entice a buyer to stop in their tracks

ford bronco sema 2014We spent four days wondering through SEMA and still didn’t manage to see everything.  We didn’t have time for booths showing off their tire balancing lead weights and lug nut wrenches.  Spent most of our 4 days checking out the off-road manufacturers hall.

ford mustang sema 2014Jeep is he market leader when it comes to shear numbers so manufactures heavily target the brand.  With Toyota calling it quits on the FJ Cruiser and no real successor named yet, the 2014 SEMA show was dominated by Jeeps and full size pickups on display.  There was the occasional Land Rover, 4Runner, Tacoma and one or two FJ Cruisers.redline land cruiser FJ-UTE sema 2014

Redline Land Cruiser’s new FJ-UTE was the only completely new to the market 4×4 on display.  Their production run will only be in the dozens or so each year and they have deposits covering builds for the next 18 months. Justin Robbins the designer and builder behind the FJ-UTE shared with us his favorite thing about their new truck.  Turns out he geek-ed out when it came to the CAD created CNC replica nobs.  No one had ever done it before and he knew it would be one of those things that no one notices but adds big to the overall FJ heritage experience.bestop roughrider sema 2014

Our big scores at SEMA this year…  How about a chance to chat with Jessi Combs, the fastest woman on four wheels.  We discussed how to encourage more young women to become involved in off-road and the business side of motor sports.  Ben from COMEUP winch gave us a glimpse of their new Gen2 product line coming out soon.  Over at BesTop we were impressed with their RoughRider spare tire organizer solution which is great for keeping recovery gear handy.

toyota 4runner sema 2014The truth about SEMA, or any other trade show, is that for everyone working the floor, covering the event or maintaining the facilities…   it is a lot of hard work!  By Friday even the chichi models were a little less bouncy and a lot less excited about those platform heels.  I’ve worked all side of these types of events.  I love them and I always end up working my ass off.  I’m not complaining.  It’s SEMA. It’s Vegas. It’s automotive nirvana and I’ve already booked my ticket for SEMA2015!