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On the rocks

Extra suspension and oversized tires are necessities for a rock crawler like the one Dave Wong is building. (Photo by Amy Alonzo, The Union Democrat/copyright 2003).
Extra suspension and oversized tires are necessities for a rock crawler like the one Dave Wong is building. (Photo by Amy Alonzo, The Union Democrat/copyright 2003).

By JOSHUA WOLFSON

Dave Wong inflicts more abuse on his truck in one weekend than most people do in a lifetime.

Wong, however, is no vehicular sadist. His passion is rock crawling, a sport in which men and women use souped-up trucks and buggies to cross steep rock formations.

"It's almost like a roller coaster, just a lot slower," he said.

Rock crawling differs from most motor sports in that speed is not the key element. Instead, the crawlers usually inch up and down rock faces or through boulder fields, with only occasional bursts of speed when things get hairy.

That doesn't mean drivers get bored behind the wheel, Wong said.

"For a sport that is going so slow, you still get a lot of exhilaration," he said.

In a way, rock crawling could be called the thinking-man's sport. Poor planning or a wrong turn can lead to overturned or stuck crawlers. To be successful, Wong said, "You need to know what your rig can do."

Rock crawling might not be the most well-known sport — Wong says people sometimes confuse it with rock climbing — but there are competitions throughout the country, complete with corporate sponsors and thousands in prize money. In the Mother Lode, there are probably 150 to 200 people who rock crawl at trails at Eagle Meadows and near Lake Tahoe, Wong said.

Wong, a goateed 35-year-old, got into rock crawling about four years ago through some of his friends. His passion for all things automotive, however, began much earlier.

As a child, the Soulsbyville resident started working on go-carts and dirt bikes, before graduating to cars as a teen.

"As soon as I got a car, I started messing with it," he said.

That know-how is essential given the abuse Wong heaps on his vehicle. Repairs on the trail are common, and Wong usually brings a portable welder with him just in case.

"Being prepared to fix stuff on the trail is very important," he said.


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