Mike Stump – from off-road to electronics, back to off-road with electronics. Yep, we all come full-circle. Give Episode 106 a listen on your favorite podcast channel – or YouTube! Yep, we release on YouTube now at the same time as we release everywhere else – be sure to Subscribe to the channel: Big Rich Klein.
7:49 – they gave me lots of candy
13:28 – we’re going to have beachfront property!
20:00 – just call me Push Start
23:30 – I was kinda a liability.
42:24 – the first black diamond coilover kit
47:34 – at what point do you let go of the throttle?
54:50 – a funny story with Roggy (aren’t they all?)
1:05:59 – it was a sh*t show
1:22:43 – learning all the idiosyncrasies about LEDs
We want to thank our sponsors Maxxis Tires and 4Low Magazine.
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[00:00:06.310] - Big Rich Klein
Welcome to Conversations with Big Rich. This is an interview style podcast. Those interviews are all involved in the offroad industry. Being involved, like all of my guests are, is a lifestyle, not just a job. I talk to competitive teams, racers, rock crawlers, business owners, employees, media and private park owners, men and women who have found their way into this exciting and addictive lifestyle. We discuss their personal history, struggles, successes, and reboots. We dive into what drives them to stay active and offroad. We all hope to shed some light on how to find a path into this world we live and love and call off road.
[00:00:53.730] - Speaker 3
Whether you're crawling the red rocks and Moab or hauling your toys to the trail, Maxxis has the tires you can trust for performance and durability, four wheels or two, Maxxis tires are the choice of Champions because they know that whether for work or play, for fun or competition, Maxxis tires deliver. Choose Maxxis tread victoriously.
[00:01:20.350] - Big Rich Klein
If you still love the idea of a printed magazine, something to save and read at any time 4Low magazine is a magazine for you. 4Low cannot be found in a storefront or on a bookshelf, but you can have it delivered to your home or place of business. Visit 4lowmagazine.com to order your subscription today.
[00:01:41.950] - Big Rich Klein
On today's episode of Conversations with Big Rich, we have Mike Stump. Mike is an old time friend of mine. I think we met somewhere around. Well, I probably saw him the first time in 1999. We'll get into that down in Johnson Valley, but I believe I met him right after I moved out of Utah and back to California, probably up on the Rubicon or at a party somewhere. Anyway, Mike competed was one of 42 drivers in our first event at Lake Amador for the Calrocs put up or shut up. So he's definitely an OG in my mind with us. Hey, Mike, let's talk about your life and good to have you on here.
[00:02:26.110] - Mike Stump
Oh, Rich, I appreciate you having me on here. It's good to talk to you again. We visited almost eight months ago or a year ago when I met you at your house.
[00:02:39.100] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, I think it was about six or eight months ago, right?
[00:02:43.340] - Mike Stump
Yeah. It was the first time I've seen you in quite a long time. So it was great to see you again.
[00:02:47.110] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. And let's rock and roll on this podcast thing and let's find out more about you. So where were you born and raised?
[00:02:58.190] - Mike Stump
Well, that may be a little bit of a long story.
[00:03:00.570] - Big Rich Klein
Like I said, but I was actually more of the time we need today.
[00:03:06.590] - Mike Stump
Technically, I was actually born here in Utah. I was born in Salt Lake City in 1969. My parents were for whatever reason, I don't know why, but happened to be on a road trip while my mother was nine and a half months pregnant. God knows why they were doing that, but he happened to be passing through Salt Lake City when she went into labor and well, about four or five days later released out of the hospital and they finished their road trip they were living in, I want to say at the time they were living in Las Vegas. So after they finished their road trip over, we went back to Las Vegas. Spent probably the first just from my recollection from what they told me about the first maybe three to four years of my life, maybe five years in Vegas and outside of Vegas area. And then my parents decided to move to Godforsaken California.
[00:04:04.810] - Big Rich Klein
Well, come on now. When they moved there, it was a damn nice state and absolutely yeah.
[00:04:13.620] - Mike Stump
We won't get into the politicals but yes, when they moved there, California was a great state and we moved up to the Sacramento area, bounced around quite a few different little houses there. My parents situation was quite volatile. So we did move around quite a bit. They had a lot of their own issues. So in the house, out of the house, I end up actually living back with my grandparents in Winnamucca, Nevada for about four years or so. And then from there I moved back. I was able to move back, my parents back into the Sacramento area. That was about 12/13 years old. We actually moved into Placerville, El Dorado County right around that time and exactly,God's country. Spent the next 30 plus years in El Dorado County growing up, going to high school there. What days? I did actually attend school, probably doing more wheeling and drinking than I did going to school. A lot of us back then. But yeah, the rest of my growing up in El Dorado County from there on end up getting got married, my first wife at 21, 22. I think it was right in there.
[00:05:41.410] - Mike Stump
Had our first son before we got married. So he was the ring bearer for our wedding.
[00:05:49.630] - Mike Stump
Yeah, it was quite interesting. I was married to her for almost ten years. Things didn't work out as they do with a lot of them. We actually had a second kid during that time. So I've got two boys, my son Devon and my son Chad who are 30 and 26 now, I believe from there during that time I worked quite a few different jobs, but mostly in the off road industry. I worked for Central Four Wheel Drive for quite a while, worked for S&H Four Wheel Drive down in Sacramento, one in Auburn, which I can't think of the name right now, but worked in an off road shop there for quite a while. Probably the longest since I had with an off road shop was with Four Wheel Parts Wholesalers in Sacramento. Was there for about two and a half years. I went in there as salesman. Within six months I was the assistant manager and two months later was the general manager. Of the store, stayed there for about two and a half years and was actually very successful there, made that store. It was actually the top gross profit wise, was the top producing store out of all their stores by about 4% over any of their other stores.
[00:07:03.250] - Mike Stump
But I had the Rubicon and all the Jeepers to back me there. So we made sure we carried lots inventory for a Jeep product, and it worked out really well.
[00:07:13.540] - Big Rich Klein
Okay, let's pull back a little bit and dive into some of these things. Now, you said you were living in Winnemucca for four years with your grandparents.
[00:07:26.950] - Mike Stump
[00:07:27.590] - Big Rich Klein
And that was probably well, by the time you said seven or eight to twelve or so, what was that Winnemucca like? I know now when you go through there, it's just a wonderful place.
[00:07:45.890] - Mike Stump
[00:07:46.970] - Big Rich Klein
What was it like growing up there?
[00:07:49.190] - Mike Stump
Winnemucca was back then about half the size that is now. It was a really nice and I imagine it still is. I don't spend a lot of time there, but it was a very nice town to grow up. Kids were great. Pretty much you could do kids were as a kid, you could feel safe. There was very little crime. It was a very nice place to live. Not the greatest time living with my grandparents, but other than that, I did have my mom's parents that didn't live too far. They're only a couple of blocks away from where my dad's grandparents, who I lived with, or my dad's parents, who I live with. My mom's parents were only a couple of blocks away, so I spent a lot of time over there. They were great to hang out with. A lot of fun, gave me lots of candy. They also used to they were going to do hunting and hunting and things like that. So we used to go they used to take me out and go hunting. Taught me how to shoot a gun, taught me how to Hunt Quail, how to just do the general stuff that you love to do when you're a preteen, basically.
[00:08:54.410] - Mike Stump
So those were definitely that part of living in Winnemucca is definitely one of some of my fondest memories. The town itself, it was a very simple, very quiet town. That part of it really probably hasn't changed a whole heck of a lot. Still simple town, still fairly quiet, gotten bigger, but it still has that hometown feel, which is nice.
[00:09:14.750] - Big Rich Klein
So is that where you got introduced to offroad? Did your grandfather have a Jeep or something like that when you went out hunting?
[00:09:23.930] - Mike Stump
Yeah, actually, my grandpa Glasby did had an old CJ five, but based on my recollection, I want to say it was probably about a late 60 68 69. So it was definitely a short nose. It wasn't a longer unit. It was one of the longer wheelbase units that had a V six in it that I remember. Right. But yeah, that was his hunting rig. So, yeah, he used to take me out up in the Hills, and we never did any, of course, Rubicon style rock crawling or anything like that. But he took a few places that probably, from what I can remember, may have made me pucker a little bit.
[00:10:02.530] - Mike Stump
But that was definitely a hunting rig and that truck. So if we took more than just the two of us, then we would go in one of his old trucks and there'd be five or six of us. All my aunts and uncles would go. So I did have a quite extended family on my mom's side, two uncles and two uncles and one aunt. So I had the three of them plus my grandma and grandpa. So it was usually a fairly good sized group when we would go out up there. So that was definitely some of the highlights. I loved spending a lot of time with them.
[00:10:34.510] - Big Rich Klein
Is there a river in or about Winnemuka?
[00:10:39.830] - Mike Stump
Yes, that'd be the Humboldt River. Humboldt river is kind of interesting. It winds back and forth like a snake and through the main part of Winnemucca. I don't think it goes any more than, say, 50 to 75, maybe 100 yards before it makes a U turn back on itself. You've probably seen it then. You obviously are familiar with it. It's just their loops back and forth and back and forth. It's a crazy little river, right.
[00:11:10.910] - Big Rich Klein
There's a lot of history on the Humboldt when the area was first being settled by the Americans and the white settlers, you might say.
[00:11:26.760] - Mike Stump
[00:11:28.470] - Big Rich Klein
I'm kind of a history buff on that kind of stuff I'll have to look into.
[00:11:33.920] - Mike Stump
That's not something I've ever really looked up as the history on the Humboldt. But since I spent a lot of time there growing up, I'll have to look that up. Yeah.
[00:11:41.380] - Big Rich Klein
It was one of those areas where when they were coming across Nevada, the main trail that people would take to the West Coast was, of course, the Oregon Trail. And then the California Trail came across Nevada, and it was one of those places where they tried to follow the water or go from water to water to water source when they made those long settlement treks. And that's how a lot of these towns got established is somebody broke down and decided they weren't going any farther.
[00:12:21.270] - Mike Stump
Yeah, this looks like a good spot to hang out. I think I'll raise my family.
[00:12:25.380] - Big Rich Klein
Exactly. I have a friend up in Rangeley, Colorado, and that's exactly what happened with his ancestors. They were trying to make their way to Oregon or someplace, and the wagon broke down for the umpteenth time and right on the White River. So he just settled the whole area. He just said, okay, I'm staying. We're not going any further. Of course, that was probably in the summer when it was nice and not the winter when it so damn cold up there.
[00:13:00.900] - Mike Stump
Yeah. December rolled around and they started thinking themselves what the hell they do.
[00:13:05.620] - Big Rich Klein
They should have fixed that wagon.
[00:13:07.970] - Mike Stump
[00:13:09.950] - Big Rich Klein
So then you come back to California, you move into Sacramento area, you said. And then up to El Dorado County. Was that Cameron Park, Shingle Springs?
[00:13:24.110] - Mike Stump
Well, the first place we actually lived was out in Georgetown area.
[00:13:27.860] - Big Rich Klein
[00:13:28.850] - Mike Stump
Letter county. We went out to Georgetown area. I don't know if you're familiar. Well, I know you're familiar with the area. If you're familiar with Slaggermine Road. We're at the very, very end of Slagger Mine Road. So this was a piece of property that back when they were talking about building the Auburn Dam, this is when they're really talking pretty heavily about it. If they would have went through with it, we would have had about a half a mile of beachfront property, unfortunately. So my dad always thought, well, we're going to stay here. We're going to stay here. We're in the middle of BFE, take a left or right and then go another 50 miles. And he's no, we're going to stay here because we're going to have beachfront property. Well, as we know, that never came to fruition. So we end up with a piece of property that really wasn't worth much.
[00:14:12.980] - Big Rich Klein
That's how we ended up in Placerville. My dad was chasing the job. He was going to work on that damn project.
[00:14:21.530] - Mike Stump
[00:14:22.120] - Big Rich Klein
And we bought the house in Placerville. We were looking at Jackson and Grass Valley and other places, and he goes, you know what? This is the biggest, closest town to the side of the Lake we'd want to be on. So let's buy the house here. And then, of course, it never went through environmentalist.
[00:14:43.370] - Mike Stump
Yeah, unfortunately, it didn't go through because that would have been pretty nice. But being out there, as you're familiar with the rattlesnake fund in Eldorado County and a lot of places in El Dorado County, it was pretty drastic out there. Our house and there's a single wide mobile that a friend of my parents were renting from us living out there, a single mom with a newborn. And multiple times we were getting rattlesnakes. We had an older Doberman at the time that Doberman got hit probably six times in a matter of six months by Rattlers. He wasn't smart enough to leave him the hell alone.
[00:15:22.130] - Big Rich Klein
[00:15:25.110] - Mike Stump
Finally got him to stay away from them. But unfortunately, it was a little too little too late, and it kind of took its toll. But the scariest thing really was for that renter, for that friend of mine parents. She came home one time and had her baby with her and was just about to put her baby in the crib, started to set her in there and heard some noise, pulled the cover back, and there was a batch of baby Rattlers in the crib.
[00:15:55.410] - Big Rich Klein
Well, at least the mother rattlesnake knew where to put them.
[00:16:00.570] - Mike Stump
Exactly. They knew where there was going to be food and everything, but right at that point, she pretty much took her kid, brought her kid in the house for us to watch, packed her stuff and said, yeah, I'm done. And I want to say it was probably not more than about three months later we moved out of there, too. And that's when we moved down to Placerville.
[00:16:20.150] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. And where in Placerville.
[00:16:24.330] - Mike Stump
Oh, God, you're really making me dig the memory of Banks up here. I'll be honest with you. We probably lived in four or five different places in Placerville, so I couldn't even really recall exactly where I know we live. Well, I would say probably the one I do remember we were up off of. Oh, God. What's the name of the road where the small baseball the kids baseball park is?
[00:16:52.690] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, that's Lions Park, but I don't know the name.
[00:16:58.630] - Mike Stump
We live just beyond that, up on the Hill at a house back. They bought a place up there for a while.
[00:17:03.800] - Big Rich Klein
Oh, that's a really nice area. I remember looking at a house up there one time as well, but I think it was when my parents decided to move to Placeville back in the 2000s. But anyway, yeah, that's a really nice wooded area. It's got a lot of big trees up on that Hill.
[00:17:21.490] - Mike Stump
Exactly. That house is where a whole lot of stories come from. So we've moved up there. I guess I was probably 14, maybe when we moved into there. That's where I got my first Wheeler. That's where we really got into four Wheeler. My parents had bought an FJ 40 outfitted it pretty well. This is back in the days before springovers didn't even exist. Nobody really knew anything about spring overs or anything like that. So they built it. They had 33s on it, stock six cylinders, stock four speed that was in it. And we had joined, you probably remember, Toys on the Rocks.
[00:18:00.860] - Big Rich Klein
[00:18:01.410] - Mike Stump
Warren Wardens club. Yeah, Danny Warden. All those guys we joined Toys on the Rocks. We didn't really know much of them, but joining that club went on a lot of wheel and trips. And eventually, I guess, about six months later, we found a friend of ours had an old FJ 40 sitting in a barn that was starting. It was a 76 just sitting in the barn. They had no idea what they were going to do with, so they gave it to us at a smoking deal. I think we only paid maybe $1,000 for the thing, which is just insanely cheap even back then, right? Only had maybe 100 and 510,000 miles on it. And that was my first four wheel drive. It was a 76 FJ 40.
[00:18:44.280] - Big Rich Klein
[00:18:46.270] - Mike Stump
Wow. Yeah. It was an ugly rig, but I made the best of it. Got that thing up and running, picked up some 31s on it, some decent 31 decent set of wheels, and that was what I drove back and forth school between that and my 1959 Harley Panhead that I had also at the time.
[00:19:09.070] - Big Rich Klein
[00:19:10.490] - Mike Stump
Wow, 59 Panhead. Yeah. My dad was into Harley. Had been into Harleys for many, many years. There's actually a lot of story behind that, too. But he gave it to me as a basket case when I was 15. When I was 15, gave it to me as a basket case, which for people that know, basket case is basically just a pile of parts and baskets. Gave it to me as that and said, if you can make it run, it's yours. It took me about six months, but I got it running and used to actually ride that back and forth before I got my full driver's license to drive the FJ 40 back and forth. That's was my transportation back and forth. Delta High School. To this day, I think I'm still the only would I have been a sophomore junior to ever ride a Harley to high school.
[00:19:58.210] - Big Rich Klein
Especially in Eldorado?
[00:20:00.250] - Mike Stump
Exactly. Now that being said, I did gain the nickname Push Start because I could never get that thing timed exactly right. Four times out of ten, you go to Kickstarter and they tried to throw me over the handlebars.
[00:20:15.170] - Big Rich Klein
[00:20:17.030] - Mike Stump
Yes. Matter of fact, you obviously remember Bill Strauss. Bill stress many times because we went to high school together. I think he was a grade or two ahead of me many times. He helped me push start that thing.
[00:20:31.670] - Big Rich Klein
But you didn't have to walk.
[00:20:34.190] - Mike Stump
I didn't have to walk. And I had the cool factor of riding an old Harley to school. Yeah.
[00:20:39.990] - Big Rich Klein
Because you could have told your kids that you had to walk to and from school in the snow. Uphill both ways.
[00:20:47.690] - Mike Stump
Yeah, exactly. That's all.
[00:20:48.960] - Big Rich Klein
No, I just rode to and from school uphill snowball on a Harley in the snow.
[00:20:54.300] - Mike Stump
[00:20:56.390] - Big Rich Klein
So you went all the way through high school at Eldorado?
[00:21:01.730] - Mike Stump
No. Back when we were in Georgetown, it was my freshman year in Georgetown that I did. I went to Georgetown Middle School a little bit and then Golden Sierra High School there for my freshman year, and then that's when we moved to placesville. So it was sophomore junior, and I actually ended up dropping out about halfway through my senior year due to some issues with my parents and some very poor decisions by my father at the time. So I ended up having to be the breadwinner in the house. And so I dropped out, like I said, about halfway through the senior year, had to get a full time job and make a lot of the money that way to bring in the house so we could actually live and put food on the table because my mom had a job but didn't pay very well. And without my dad around, without my dad around, she wasn't able to obviously make ends meet. So Unfortunately, I had to do a lot of growing up real quick.
[00:21:57.030] - Big Rich Klein
Right. I get it. What kind of job did you get at that point?
[00:22:04.010] - Mike Stump
Honestly, at that time, it was fast food. I think my very first job was when the old A and W was in town in Placerville. Okay. Got in there, worked there as a Cook, work in the fryer back there. Worked there for a few months. Let's see. It was between there and McDonald's in its original form before they rebuilt it. Were the two places I probably worked the most there then? Right about, I would say 16 and a half, 17 right in there. A friend of mine, a good friend of mine at the time, his dad owned a construction company in residential construction, doing finished trim and light duty, framing, things like that. So I went to work for him, cash under the table, and worked for him for probably about a year in doing residential construction, just bouncing around from different jobs. I don't know if you noticed last time we talked in person, but I'm missing the tip of my index finger on my left hand. That was during that time running a chop saw with an old broken guard. I mean, this guy didn't have the best equipment, so broken saw guard and end up accidentally cutting the tip of my finger off.
[00:23:20.270] - Big Rich Klein
Wow. I've never noticed that. How much of that tip is missing?
[00:23:25.310] - Mike Stump
Like the whole nail part right to the first knuckle, right.
[00:23:29.740] - Big Rich Klein
[00:23:30.620] - Mike Stump
Yeah. All the way to the first knuckle. It was quite interesting. It didn't even know what happened. I had actually let off the trigger on the saw, went to grab the piece of bass cord trim that I had and went to grab with my left hand. And my finger just twitched. For whatever reason, it bounced off the blade and all it is, I didn't feel that part of it. I heard a snap, and I looked down at the table, the saw thinking, oh, God, How'd the board break? You know, the saw was up. Board was perfectly fine. And there was one little drop of blood on the saw table. And I went, that ain't right. Lifted my left hand and looked and went, Boss, we have a problem. Yeah. It through the tip across the room. And the saw was only going about half speed. So it wasn't a clean cut. The boss went and collected it up and went to the hospital. And unfortunately, they weren't able to put it back on because it's more of a ripped off than a nice clean cut.
[00:24:25.710] - Big Rich Klein
But it's amazing that you didn't feel it happen at first. So it happened pretty damn quick.
[00:24:32.970] - Mike Stump
It did. It was just instantaneously. Yeah. And like I said, my body reacted so fast, it didn't even bleed. It was like a little drop. And that was it.
[00:24:41.570] - Big Rich Klein
Well, I was in high school, and I was trimming photographs for a final presentation. And we had this huge paper cutter trimmer with the big handle that comes down. And it had no handguard on it as well. The little piece of metal they put just before the blade, little loop. And I cut like a corner off of my finger, part of the nail, the flesh, and you could just see the edge of the bone. I didn't hit the bone well. And I put my finger, my thumb over the end of the index finger was on my left hand. And I walked up to the instructor telebertini, and I go, hey, Mr. Burtini, I cut my finger and he goes, Let me see it. And I said, well, it's bleeding. And he goes, Let me see it. So I took my thumb off the finger and pointed it at him and shot blood on him. And he goes, all right, you need to go up to the nurse's office. Why'd you stop to talk to me?
[00:25:48.790] - Mike Stump
Because I needed permission.
[00:25:50.120] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, exactly. Oh, man. The things that happened. This is why it's cool doing these interviews, because, like, you mentioning getting your finger cut off or part of it brought back that memory. And it's amazing how life is full of coincidences, but so many people have the same kind of coincidences.
[00:26:17.270] - Mike Stump
Exactly. You don't even think about things until someone brings something up. Oh, yeah, that's right. I did that.
[00:26:23.380] - Big Rich Klein
Especially when you get my age and you start losing your memory.
[00:26:28.370] - Mike Stump
What was your name again?
[00:26:30.530] - Big Rich Klein
So then you were working construction, got your finger chopped. Were you still driving the FJ 40 at that point?
[00:26:42.030] - Mike Stump
At that point. Like I said, this was a while later. So, yeah, the motor finally went. I don't recall the timeline to be perfect with exactly when it went, but I think it was probably when I was 1718, about the same time that my father had left the picture for a while. The FJ was broke down at that time, so I think I picked up a what did I have at the time? Oh, my grandmother had an old Dawson B 210 wagon that they'd got a new car and end up giving me that as transportation. So I'd have something to drive. And, I mean, this is the full on grandma car. It was like a God early 80s B 210 wagons, all stock white. I mean, Tweed interior or something like that. It was just ugly as thin.
[00:27:36.130] - Big Rich Klein
Good little cars, though.
[00:27:38.290] - Mike Stump
[00:27:39.970] - Big Rich Klein
I had a BTC.
[00:27:41.950] - Mike Stump
Very reliable little car. Just ugly as sin and not something I really want. Luckily, I had already dropped out of high school at that point, so I didn't have to get embarrassed by driving back to high school.
[00:27:51.380] - Big Rich Klein
You just park it down the street?
[00:27:54.430] - Mike Stump
Yeah, I parked it down the street and walk. Like when your parents took you to school, you'd have to drop you off a week a couple of blocks before.
[00:28:01.060] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. So then with the B 210 and working. What was the next step?
[00:28:11.270] - Mike Stump
Well, work through. Obviously, I didn't have the construction job anymore because he decided that I was a liability for him to continue working for him. So after healed up, someone I had met while we're working, I don't recall his name, but end up working for him as an apprentice in construction. So probably till about 19, I guess 19 or 20 I worked for him and we did step work. We would just do piecework, mostly siding, a little bit of framing, plumbing line, that kind of thing. So for about two and a half years we did that. Matter of fact, most of those houses in Gold River, right down there in Sacramento you're familiar with all those houses? Kind of off the would be the north side of the freeway, the Gold River area right between me and him. We probably cited 80% to 90% of those houses in about a two and a half year period. Okay. So that's where I learned a lot of my construction experience, pretty much just doing just about everything other than maybe electrical and sheetrock, which I can't stand doing sheetrock. But that's where I learned a lot of residential construction experience, which has really helped me out with home improvements and stuff of houses we've owned over the years.
[00:29:30.950] - Big Rich Klein
I think anybody that likes sheet rock work has got something wrong with them.
[00:29:36.560] - Mike Stump
They're demented. Yeah. And then basically from there, from that point is where when I got done with that resident, that stint with him, his name was Dave. When I got done with that stint with him is where I started getting into the off road industry and work for a couple of small shops. I'm just trying to remember the exact time in line. I want to say I got connected up with SNH four wheel drive first. Was it SNH? Yeah, with naked SNH four drive first. Then when I was Foothill four wheel drive up in Auburn that I worked for, but they weren't on the same. So it was SNH four wheel drive first. Then I went to work for four wheel parts or not four wheel parts, but that's central four wheel drive. You remember central four wheel drive. It's been years since they closed.
[00:30:29.070] - Big Rich Klein
[00:30:30.390] - Mike Stump
Worked for them for a while and then it was Nick and I think her name was Nancy. This is funny. The same owner's names up at Foothill recruited me up to Foothill fourwheel drive, I end up working with. You probably know the name Tony Casabasic.
[00:30:44.690] - Big Rich Klein
Oh, yeah. Tony Kay. Yes. Tony rogee calls him case of ballsich.
[00:30:50.430] - Mike Stump
Yeah, case of balls, case of assic. But yeah, now I ended up working with him up at Foothill for wheel drive there in Auburn for a while. That's where I actually learned a lot, learned how to do axle narrowing, cutting data, 44s, 60s, 49 inches. So I learned how to design and cut down and engineer those for the time I was there and do a lot of custom Fab, building a couple of frame stretches, custom body lifts, frame off job, stuff like that. So I learned a whole lot of my fabrication skills and knowledge there.
[00:31:27.030] - Big Rich Klein
And that was around the mid 90s then I would say.
[00:31:31.270] - Mike Stump
Yes, that was probably around. Yeah, I would have to say it would have been around 959-4959 six somewhere in there. And the only reason I can assign that is because we remember one specific person. We had a guy in there, I don't remember his name, but brought in a brand new 94 PJ.
[00:31:53.670] - Big Rich Klein
[00:31:54.340] - Mike Stump
He drove it from the dealer to our shop, and when it left, it had 60s front and rear Atlas, tea case, custom body lift and 40s on it. Wow. Before the thing ever had 50 miles on it.
[00:32:12.190] - Big Rich Klein
The guys do that a lot now, but back then, that was unheard of. It was always a process.
[00:32:17.950] - Mike Stump
Yeah. You got a 25 at that time, probably a $25,000 Jeep. And then he came in and dropped another 20 grand with us. Now, that same thing would have been a 50 $60,000 Jeep in about an 80 grand freaking build. But nowadays.
[00:32:32.780] - Big Rich Klein
[00:32:33.100] - Mike Stump
But yeah, it was the same thing. But yeah, you don't see that. You just did not see that back then. That was real rare. So we were real happy to get the job.
[00:32:40.480] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. And back then, that was mostly custom work. It isn't like nowadays where you can go onto four wheel parts or any of the big catalog companies and just pick out everything and give them a credit card number and you've got everything you need and basically can do it in your own shop or have somebody do the installation for you. But it's all everything's ready now?
[00:33:16.150] - Mike Stump
Well, yeah. The things that were custom back then you can buy off the shelf. I don't even know if Diana track even existed back then. Curry obviously did at the time, but they were still pretty small. But I don't even think Diana track even exist at the time. If they did, they weren't building a lot of the custom stuff they do now. You can crack the order of brand new JT with Dynatrack 60s already under it from the dealer where that just didn't exist back then. We built everything from scratch. And that's one of those things where you get a lot of people now that go out and they have a ton of money but don't have the knowledge to do any of that, which I guess is great for them. But they just don't know anything about their vehicle when they drop $$80 to $100,000 into it, because they just don't know what they have. You know, we had the advantage of knowing every inch of that thing because we built every inch of it.
[00:34:09.890] - Big Rich Klein
Right. And that same philosophy is true with the driver's ability to drive their vehicle. They're not starting with like in the old days, we did a five or a flat Fender, no automatic transmissions. Everything was manual. And you didn't have lockers. If you had lockers, it was like insane. And then you really had to pick your line. And nowadays everybody drives up and all of a sudden they go off as soon as they hit the dirt, it's four wheel drive, it's lockers on. And you see these guys bashing because they still can't pick a line.
[00:34:58.030] - Mike Stump
Exactly. We were able to gain the experience of running a wheel and a rig that really wasn't very capable. Prime example, a sprung over or sprung under FJ 40 with 31s or 33s on it. Yeah, it'll do okay. But you're hitting everything, and you got to learn where you really got to learn your line and where to place your tires. And when you graduate up to a rock buggy or TJ or one of the new JKS or JLS that are already running 44, 38, 40 inch tires on them with lot airlockers, they're a point and go machine as long as the person behind the wheel has at least half a clue. But a lot of them don't like you said they can have the most capable rig on the face of the planet. But if you don't have the talent, you don't have the talent and it ends up showing really quick.
[00:35:49.950] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. There's that. Easter Jeep is coming up here in a couple of weeks, and I'll be heading out to Moab next week. But by the time people hear this, it'll be like the week after I've already left. But anyway, one of the things I like doing when I'm out at Easter Jeep is finding an obstacle, whether it's the Z turn or Golden Crack or someplace like that, and watching the guys that have the $125,000 JK's or JLS try to drive them.
[00:36:30.970] - Mike Stump
[00:36:31.980] - Big Rich Klein
And it's nothing against those enthusiasts. I love that they're out there. They help the shop stay alive with repair work and stuff. But their Jeeps are taking or their rigs. It doesn't matter what they're driving take abuse that doesn't necessarily have to have to happen. If they could just read the terrain properly and know where to put a tire.
[00:36:58.850] - Mike Stump
Well, that in the fact that it's great entertainment for us that have been around for 40 years in this industry and have the experience. I'll take people like that, and I will absolutely help them because I don't want to see them get hurt or destroy their vehicle or anything like that. But I'm not going to lie secretly behind the scenes. I'm kind of laughing a lot.
[00:37:18.590] - Big Rich Klein
[00:37:19.600] - Mike Stump
That's one of the first one to be helpful, too. I don't want to say that I'm an ass or anything like that, but all of us, I think that have that background experience that have been around have to look at that stuff and go, oh, this is going to be a show. Let's go for a little bit. But once we see things are going to get really bad, then we'll jump in and help them.
[00:37:38.680] - Big Rich Klein
[00:37:39.030] - Mike Stump
But they're not going to buy either.
[00:37:41.810] - Big Rich Klein
I don't spot people unless they are frantically asking for it, or if I've been asked to, like, on a trail ride, like, when we're in Moab, I'll jump in with some friends and they'll have some new people, or it'll be a business owner that's taking their people out, and they'll say, hey, would you help spot the group right behind you? And it's like, sure. All right. Okay. I think I'm a better spotter than I'm a driver myself, but that's because I see so much of it happening with the competition. But it's more fun to watch. And heckle.
[00:38:20.850] - Mike Stump
It is. You get that mentality of when we were sitting we were sitting at the Spider Lake on Heckler's Rock watching people go through little flus. Yeah.
[00:38:30.180] - Big Rich Klein
And the greatest heckler of all time had to be Bob Rogey.
[00:38:33.900] - Mike Stump
Oh, my Lord. That guy. For someone who most of the time was so quiet and you'd hardly get a word out of them, you get a couple of beers and that guy and you get them on Hector's Rock. Oh, it's game on.
[00:38:46.830] - Big Rich Klein
He was brutal, too. And people would look at him like, first they hear the voice, they'd hear the comment. And so somebody would want to go, oh, that guy needs his ass kicked. And they'd look around and see that it was the bear. And they're just like, yeah, no, we'll just keep going.
[00:39:06.930] - Mike Stump
We're just going to pass on that. I was the target as heckling just as much as anybody else was, so I'm very familiar with it. Luckily, I got a pretty thick skin. But you mentioned actually Easter Safari coming up. The last time I was in Moab was 99. Oh, wow. Yeah. Even though I'm living here now, I'm not living that far away from. I just haven't had a chance to get up there. But the last time I was in Moab was 99. It was for EJS back then. And this was back when Lions back and Dump Bump were still open.
[00:39:42.920] - Big Rich Klein
Right. You can still love Dump Bump.
[00:39:47.870] - Mike Stump
Watch the guy. This was like we were first starting to get in. There was this College group. I don't know if they were electrical engineers. They had an old Range Rover out there. We're talking the real old ones where the spare tires sat in the middle of the hood type thing.
[00:40:03.430] - Big Rich Klein
[00:40:04.550] - Mike Stump
And they converted it to electric. They pulled the motor out, basically made the motor directly to the transfer case with a little bit of a torque converter in there. And we're running that thing around there as a test. And they took that thing and decided they wanted to do Dump Bump in that thing. And this thing bone stock as far as suspension wise. All bone stock, little 30 inch 31 inch tires, whatever. They beat the living hell out of that thing on Dump Bump before they finally got that thing up. 1520 tries hammering the throttle. I don't know how they didn't buck the actual transfer cases because as you know, it's an electric motor. You got 100% of your torque right off the bat. We sat there and watched them for like 45 minutes. Just beat that thing hammering the throttle. I don't know what that thing had some sort of factory pals or whatever, but it had all four tires. Just smoking on that Hill multiple times.
[00:41:02.690] - Big Rich Klein
One of the great stories I have is me and a guy from Cedar City. It was a really good friend of mine, Dave Burling. He owned the auto trim design at the time in Cedar City. We're part of the color country four wheel drive club. And we were out there at Dump Bump and it was in the evening and it was starting to get dark and my son was with us and he started digging holes in the ground. He's 8th grade, something like that. So he's digging holes in the ground, but he's digging them like 2ft apart in pock marks all over the ground. We never had so much fun watching people. Everybody's got beers in their hand. It's dark. Nobody's got a flashlight or anything. It's just whatever car lights happen to be on and around and watching people step into the freaking holes and just disappear from vision and you hear, God damn, they'd be swearing stuff and getting up and there'd be somebody stepped into one of those pock marks.
[00:42:16.530] - Mike Stump
Yeah, that's ankle breakers big time back then.
[00:42:19.950] - Big Rich Klein
It was pretty hilarious. You'll have to bring that up to them. When next time you see little.
[00:42:24.990] - Mike Stump
Yeah, I think I'm supposed to be going over there next week or week after or something like that. He had signed me over for something. I can't remember. I got to go back and look at my calendar. Awesome. Oh yeah. No, Easter Jeep Safari was a blast actually, when I had my YJ, so when I was four parts, I had a 93 YJ. Originally it was sprung over 35. I bought a stock, but I sprung it over 35s. Airlockers front and rear. We'd swapped out when I did the spring over. We'd also swapped out the rear end for Scout 44 in the back. Kept the original 30 up front. Well, luckily for me at the time at one of four parts. Obviously some perks come with that kind of job. So you probably remember Scott Porter with Warren. Absolutely got to be really good friends with Scott Porter. Hell of a guy that's one of those guys give you the shirt off his back if you need it. Just the super nice guy. He stopped in the shop quite a bit. And this was when Warren was really starting to really push a lot of their products actually coming out with a lot of new stuff.
[00:43:32.700] - Mike Stump
And this is when they first came out with all their drive train product. So they came out with their axles, their new axle shafts, the 41 30 axles. The black diamond coilover kit was still kind of in semi prototype at the time. So Scott decided because my red and black Jeep, red, white and black Jeep, which is Warren's colors, was parked in front of four parts all the time, he decided that, well, guess what? We're going to make that our rolling display. And he probably threw $50,000 worth of product at that thing in promo stuff. And the biggest thing was the black diamond coilover kit. So I had the second technically black diamond coilover kit off the roll off the production line went on my Jeep before they were even really selling into the public yet. So I had the second one on there. We did one of the very first installs other than protocol. We did one of the very first installs there at the shop. So that spent a lot of time out there. But that was the great thing about that was the fact that that thing just did so incredibly well with that kit.
[00:44:44.830] - Mike Stump
And I think that's where a lot of the first ability to buy an off the shelf link Rod coilover type system, I think was probably the very first one out there.
[00:44:58.810] - Big Rich Klein
Wasn't it, Kurt Hildebrand that originally designed that and then I think Warren purchased it from him, correct?
[00:45:06.330] - Mike Stump
Yeah. Before he ever put it into production. He had the design and had like a couple of prototypes. And then Warren saw the advantage of it and then partnered with obviously partnered with Fox to build the shocks for it. But yeah, Warren put it into production, developed all the dies, everything and put it into production. And they had a few little quirks here and there. Like they had to build a custom rear section for mine because mine had a 44 not the factory day and a 35 in the back. So they had to build a custom rear tower because it was triangulated in the back. But they did all that and it was kind of going back to the mobile thing. That's where that Jeep and probably got my first magazine experience was with Peterson's four wheel and off road. So I end up getting a couple of cover. I got a cover with them and a centerfold during Easter Jeep Safari actually got a centerfold shot with them. I was out there with Rustin or Ryan from Groupon Express at the time. We get into the section, I think you remember out there, it's called Tip Over Challenge.
[00:46:11.570] - Mike Stump
So we're going up and I kind of got caught behind a little way. So they're up there because there's a bunch of other vehicles slowing down. So they're going around and everybody's like, go to the right, go to the right. So there's that Bush and that tree right there at tip of our challenge. Go that way. So I have a center fold shot coming up that. And I got to the point where literally the Jeep was about to go over. My left front tire was a good four and a half, 5ft in the air, and it was just about to tip. They stopped me right there and all went. Nobody went that way. They're laughing their ass off. I'm like, I'm going to get you guys. Don't worry. Like, nobody's made it up out without rolling over. Oh, thanks, guys. I appreciate that.
[00:46:53.270] - Big Rich Klein
Awesome. And that's the Jeep that you competed at. Top Truck, isn't it?
[00:46:59.210] - Mike Stump
Yeah, I competed at your event, and I competed down at the Hammers in 99.
[00:47:04.320] - Big Rich Klein
Didn't you do a Top Truck challenge as well?
[00:47:06.560] - Mike Stump
No. You did a copy. The only person I know that I was actually ever knew really well that did that was if you remember Grady McLeod.
[00:47:15.130] - Big Rich Klein
[00:47:16.970] - Mike Stump
Yeah. That rig that he built, he ran Top truck, I think, two or three times.
[00:47:22.090] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. Buggy top truck, the black Buggy that he ran in, that because he was at that first cow rock put up or shut up as well.
[00:47:33.170] - Mike Stump
Yes, he was.
[00:47:34.650] - Big Rich Klein
He's the only vehicle I've ever seen the roll uphill. He wedged that vehicle, the front tire into that crazy stuff that was down there that I think it was put up or shut up, but maybe it was one of the first cow rock events. Anyway, he wedged a tire in there and then tried to accelerate and there was enough torque where it rotated the car on that wheel, that axle and just flipped them over. And I was like, what? How did that happen? Didn't break anything, just flipped it over because the tire was wedged. At what point do you just let go of the throttle?
[00:48:20.110] - Mike Stump
Okay. We know Grady. Grady never let go of the throttle, ever. True. His foot had two positions off the throttle and then the floor.
[00:48:28.890] - Big Rich Klein
[00:48:32.750] - Mike Stump
At what point did you first go on the Rubicon actually was before I even had my driver's license after I got my FJ 40. So I was 14 and a half 15 the time. I don't think I had my learner's permit yet. We went on a Toys on the Rocks run for one of their Toyota Jamboree trips. And my mom drove my Land Cruiser up because I couldn't legally drive on the street. So she drove it up to Trailhead. My dad drove theirs. And then once we got to Trailhead, she hopped in with them. And that was my first time. Wasn't even 15 yet and drove it all the way through into the Springs. I think we went into the Springs and then came back out the same way. We didn't go up the top to Tahoe, but yeah, we went all the way into the Springs and camped out. So that was probably my first four wheel drive trip myself driving. So it would have been 85. I guess it was because I would have graduated 84. 85 was my first driving trip. I'd been up there obviously a few times before riding with my parents, but that was my first driving trip.
[00:49:41.270] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. My first trip on the Rubicon was in had to be probably 82. When did you meet the guys from Pirate?
[00:50:01.110] - Mike Stump
Most of them I met just different trips on the trail. I would spend between 16 and 17 and a half while my Land Cruiser was when it wasn't broke down, pretty much. We spent every weekend on that trail. We get a few of us together and it was funny because we'd be cruising town 1011 o'clock at night on a Friday night and went, yeah, this is boring. We'd find somebody to go find somebody of age to go buy us a bunch of beer. We'd load up through our gear in and we'd leave Classical at 11:00 at night and hit up the trail. And most of the time we would usually just get into backside alone, maybe Spider that first night and then just camp and party last night. So I think most of them I would met mostly at Spider between Lance, I don't think I'd met Rogue yet, but I had met Rogue during that time. Lance, Clifford, God, obviously Dave, Hollywood. So most of those guys, I would say during that time period between when I was probably 17, between 17 and 18 years old, wheel on the trail up there.
[00:51:11.620] - Big Rich Klein
[00:51:12.570] - Mike Stump
[00:51:12.880] - Big Rich Klein
I didn't know if you were one of the group that had when you said it was Placerville and you went to Eldorado, I knew it wasn't, but I thought maybe you had gone to Ponda Rosa because I know a lot of those guys all started off at Ponderosa or that's how they met.
[00:51:28.350] - Mike Stump
Yeah. I think most of the Pirate guys, most of the guys, at least the original core group, are all Pondo guys.
[00:51:33.100] - Big Rich Klein
Right. So the last job you had down there in Off Road was that four wheel parts?
[00:51:42.390] - Mike Stump
No, actually I was recruited when I was at four wheel parts. It had been there for two and a half years and I kind of gotten tired of obviously the corporate BS with four world parts. It just got to be a real nightmare down there between different little games they would pull with commissions, bonuses, things like that. It's like this is just getting old. And during that time I was approached by Rustin with Rubicon Express, Rustin Smith, and they saw that I was running that store very, very well and they were in search of a general manager. So they made me an offer I couldn't refuse and moved over to Rubicon Express and became the general manager there for it was a short term. Honestly. It was about six, eight months that I was with Rubicon Express and unfortunately, there was Rustin and Ryan, nice guys, but there was a bit of a personality conflict in the way I like to do things and the way they wanted to do things. Unfortunately, I'm a bit thick headed, so I tried to run things the way I knew worked really well at four Wall parts. While I didn't get it into my head that, hey, this is a manufacturing company.
[00:52:55.860] - Mike Stump
They're an actual suspension company, not a sales company. So I had to get into a different mindset. And it never clicked. It never clicked right. So unfortunately, it only lasted about six, eight months. It was a great experience. And I appreciate Russ and Ryan, absolutely, for giving me the opportunity. As a matter of fact, I don't know 100% how it worked out, but that's when Rubicon Express was developing their long arm TJ kit. I know that Marty their chief engineer, so this will say I obviously had the black diamond coilover kit on my YJ. He spent a lot of time out measuring my Jeep. I have a feeling that my Jeep may have been the catalyst for their TJ long arm kit.
[00:53:45.850] - Big Rich Klein
There you go.
[00:53:46.600] - Mike Stump
I'm not saying that for sure, but I'm thinking may have had something to do with it.
[00:53:51.090] - Big Rich Klein
Well, you know, there's nothing wrong with that, as long as it's not a direct, absolute copy and everybody throws their own twist into things. It's one of the things that somebody that owns a shop back then, especially, they would teach guys, the people would come in that wanted to work, they'd teach them how to Weld how to do things, make a cage or whatever, and then the guy would leave and start his own company and undercut the prices. And that happened a lot. And some of those guys are still in business and have done really well. Everybody needs that catalyst for change, you might say, or at least the place to learn. So then after Rubicon Express, what happened?
[00:54:50.770] - Mike Stump
Well, at that point, after I left, we kind of went part of our ways there. I decided to make a drastic and huge career change and actually got out of the four wheel drive market completely, not only in working in it, but also just in playing in it, too. I had a few things happen where even when I was at Four Parks, we were down at the I think it was actually down when I was down there for the Rock Rolling Championship in 99 for the Warren one, you couldn't get away from the customers. I was down there, not on a professional standpoint as far as the company was concerned. I was down there personally to have a good time, do some competition. And it's actually a funny story with Rogue. One of our customers at the time had a Suburban, had bought one of the super lift eight inch lease Suburban kits. We had a lease spring, a rear leaf spring that was sacking out on him. And he only had it about four months. And him and I had gone back and forth a couple of times on the phone. Well, I told him I've got one in stock.
[00:55:53.970] - Mike Stump
I've got one in stock. I brought one in specific to Forum. Pull your spring off, bring it in exchange, it will give you the new one. Well, he kept not doing it. Not doing it procrastinating. Well, I just kept it set aside for him while I get down there to the Hammers. The second day I'm there, he shows up in one evening, we're all drinking three sheets of the wind and decided to start picking a fight with me because I hadn't given him his spring yet. I'm not on the clock. I'm trying to enjoy myself. Rogue's there, I think a few other pirate guys are there, and he starts coming up and I'm a decent sized guy, I'd like to think. And this guy was probably maybe 510, 511, like a buck 60 scrawny little guy. And he starts picking fight with me, pushing me in the chest, push me. And I'm like, Dude, you don't want to go there. And I'm trying to keep professional because I'm like this. Even though I'm there on a personal level, if something happens and I swing on this guy, it's going to reflect on me professionally. It's going to come back to my boss at some point.
[00:56:53.980] - Mike Stump
So I'm trying to play it going. You need to stop. You need to back off. I'm not going to back off. I mean, obviously a lot of alcohol is talking on his side. Finally he starts to come in, and I'm thinking he's getting ready to swing. And the details are a little fuzzy. Exactly. Because it's quite a while ago. But right about that point is when Rhodey stepped in, he stepped in, grabbed the guy, drug him off. He dragged him off like 100 yards. He may have pummeled him, I don't know, but he dragged the guy off quite a ways away from me and never saw the guy again the rest of that week.
[00:57:25.210] - Big Rich Klein
I doubt if Rogue pummeled him. He probably just drug him away like grizzly bears do for later.
[00:57:34.510] - Mike Stump
Exactly. Just throw him away for food for later. Exactly. But yes, Rogue came to my defense.
[00:57:42.390] - Big Rich Klein
It was great because that event down there had, oh, my God, the name, the vehicles you had Hollywood with his big white Goliath, Goliath. And then you had Brutus with Scott. Was it Scott Lens?
[00:58:07.330] - Mike Stump
Yeah, I think it was Scott Lens. That was the Orange CJ five.
[00:58:12.070] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. Like a burnt Orange brownish.
[00:58:17.330] - Mike Stump
Up at Donner. The same one up at Donner. He had the Duly 3100 boggers on it, right?
[00:58:23.760] - Big Rich Klein
[00:58:24.180] - Mike Stump
Front and rear.
[00:58:25.090] - Big Rich Klein
No, no, the one that had Duly's front and rear, that was a Samurai. Scott may have done something like that with Brutus, but I remember this case used to run all like the 44 Swampers and boggers and stuff like that. And then there was another guy. I can't even remember his name. But there was the three. It was Goliath, Brutus and Darn. My memory is bad anyway. I know, but another guy from that Auburn area.
[00:59:06.790] - Mike Stump
Yeah, I can't remember the name of the rig. Glasses. It was kind of a semi tube chassis rig.
[00:59:12.510] - Big Rich Klein
[00:59:13.250] - Mike Stump
That was real long. It was excruciatingly long for what he built it for.
[00:59:19.860] - Big Rich Klein
[00:59:21.070] - Mike Stump
Yeah, I remember that. There was 58 rigs down there, if I remember right. And I ended up taking 10th place out of those 58 rigs in the competition and made it to what they called the Dirty Dozen. I still have the sandstone plaques they gave everybody. I still have two of those plaques. Mine and my spotter, Jim Miller had got a plaque line up with his plaque. So I've got both of them still from that event. That was a great event. I was actually pretty surprised I ended up placing, like I said, 10th place, one place behind Curry between what was brain part in the dad's name. This poor Casey even existed.
[01:00:03.010] - Big Rich Klein
[01:00:04.660] - Mike Stump
Yeah. Ray Curry was driving at place in one position behind him. And the only reason that was is on one Hill, climb my ass and slid over and I tagged a cone. Otherwise I would have been in 9th place and they would have been intent.
[01:00:17.590] - Big Rich Klein
[01:00:18.790] - Mike Stump
Yeah. And that was with the daily driver. That was basically I pulled the windshield the doors off, pulled a bunch of stuff off to lighten it up, and threw some 36 inch Swamper SX on it and we hauled it down there. So it literally was my daily driver that drove back and forth from Placerville to four wheel parts.
[01:00:35.450] - Big Rich Klein
That was the first competition that I had seen. I was the club President at the time in Cedar City, and I knew that Dave Burling and I went to go watch the event because we knew there was a rock crawling competition coming in. It was Arca was coming into Cedar City. We didn't realize that that event was somebody else was running it. When we left, like Friday evening, we got lost getting to Johnson Valley. We ended up in Big Bear, then turned around and came back because there really wasn't any internet or anything like that. We're just shooting from the hip oh Johnson Valley OHV area. And we ended up off Besser Mermaid Road in the rock piles, or whatever they call it out there. And we camped that night. Finally got up and realized we are not in the right area. We found the Lake bed where everybody was camped out. And then the most horrific windstorm, like Johnson Valley is known for happening that Saturday night because I can remember being in a tent with my son and we had to put the ice chest in the tent to keep the tent from smacking our faces as the wind would blow.
[01:02:00.970] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. I thought for sure when I opened up the tent that morning, Sunday morning, that we would be like across the Lake bed.
[01:02:08.950] - Mike Stump
It was just going to drag the whole tent with you in it all the way across.
[01:02:11.580] - Big Rich Klein
[01:02:13.270] - Mike Stump
Oh, yeah. The wind down there can get pretty horrendous. Luckily, I think the 99 when I was down there, it only hit one night. It was pretty bad. But other than that, because we were the same thing, we were tent camping, and luckily it was only one night was pretty bad. Other than that, we got lucky. Thank God.
[01:02:31.470] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. That was that event, because that's when I saw those big rigs and I was like, man, who are these guys that are building this shit like that? It was just crazy.
[01:02:40.830] - Mike Stump
[01:02:41.430] - Big Rich Klein
And then we found out it wasn't the same event for the organizer. We go, wow, there's more of these things going on than we thought. And then after we put the we helped Arka get started there in Cedar City. Well, before that one, we went to the Arizona event. That Ranch was doing Arca, and it was on lower woodpecker. Yeah. Lower woodpecker. And they use lower and upper. And then that's when I met Lance. And Howdy Shell and Rogue.
[01:03:19.810] - Mike Stump
There's a name I haven't heard in a while. Vince Addy show.
[01:03:22.720] - Big Rich Klein
Oh, yeah. We had met there. My wife was out of Placerville, and so she knew those guys, and then we got to know them. And the next thing I know, they're all staying at my house there in Cedar City when the Cedar City event came on. Yes. That's how I got to know all those guys. And then after that, I moved to California and started Cow Rocks and Rogue helped with that, getting it started and getting that first event off the ground.
[01:04:01.700] - Mike Stump
He did a lot of your course design, didn't he?
[01:04:03.570] - Big Rich Klein
Yes, he did. He did for the first two or three years. Him and Adam.
[01:04:09.790] - Mike Stump
Oh, yeah. Adam Dodds. Rogue's got a knife for that course design, that's for sure.
[01:04:14.490] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, he does. He sure does.
[01:04:17.060] - Mike Stump
Yeah. Some of the stuff we ran that he designed, I looked at went, dude, you got to be nuts. Are you doing this on purpose just to see how many rollovers we can get or what?
[01:04:30.790] - Big Rich Klein
You know what, though? Guys would get in there, break their stuff, and then they'd complain about the courses and Bob would a typical Bob ism would go, well, if you didn't drive such shit, it wouldn't break things like that. Bob and people would get so mad, they'd come over and talk to me. He just called my stuff junk or a pile of shit. And I'm like, well, where is it? It's broken over there. Well, maybe so.
[01:05:03.050] - Mike Stump
He didn't lie.
[01:05:04.210] - Big Rich Klein
I wasn't going to argue with him.
[01:05:06.410] - Mike Stump
No, not at all.
[01:05:10.370] - Big Rich Klein
All right, I got to get him on. He has not refused to do it, but he wants to do it, like, more in person. And we've got to have a beer or two before we get started because that's the only way I'll get any words out of him.
[01:05:22.220] - Mike Stump
Oh, yeah, you get a six pack in and then he'll be ready to talk.
[01:05:26.510] - Big Rich Klein
Oh, the stories that could be told.
[01:05:28.390] - Mike Stump
Anyway, that guy, you better plan on sitting down all day.
[01:05:34.890] - Big Rich Klein
So then you do the Warren, you came out and you competed as well at Put up or Shut up. You were one of the first 42, right? What was that like for you? I know what it was like for me. It was chaotic nightmare that I absolutely fully enjoyed.
[01:05:59.670] - Mike Stump
Right. It was for me, for a lack of a better phrase, it was a shit show. Because trying to get my rig together, because at that time, my rig had been beat up on the trails quite a bit. It needed some stuff. So I'm scrambling for the couple of weeks before that, just trying to get it to a position where I thought it would actually hold up, because at that point, I literally had started kind of changing my direction. And actually I was getting ready to probably sell it, not too much longer after that. So someone who came to me and wanted the axles and the Warren hub kit and the axles out of the front of the thing. So I don't know why, but I pulled the airlocker and the axles out of the front end and sold it back, put it back to stock and did a couple of little things here and there. Still had the 44 in the air locker in the back, but the front end was back to bone stock axles. And then shortly after that, you approached me. We found out about the comp. I'm like, oh, what the hell.
[01:06:56.570] - Mike Stump
This will be one last great hurrah for this thing and see if I can make it out in hopefully less than 15 pieces. So we scrambled, got the thing together, brought it out there, and my God, that was a hairy course. There was a couple of really good ones. And actually, surprisingly enough, I think I was in the top five for quite a while until I ended up blowing the front axle. I remember coming across. There was a Valley section where you had to go side Hill across, and then turn and drop down into the ravine. And again, Jim Miller, my buddy Jim, was spotting for me. We got to a point where he actually had to grab the rope on the high side, go around a tree above me, and then come back down and hold the thing because we were on such a side deal that most of the time, as I'm trying to make that turn, I'm just on the downhill two wheels. My driver's side tires are both in the air, and it's just raining he's digging his speed in, shoulder up against the tree, doing everything he can just to keep the thing from going over.
[01:08:02.000] - Mike Stump
So I finally got it straightened. I got it pointed downhill. That was a hairy one. I remember that specifically. And then the spot where you came in, and it was literally about a four and a half, five foot, almost straight drop off into that little like a cutout washout. And as he dropped off, especially the short wheelbase rigs like mine, I dropped off front bumper, hit the ground. It stood up, pivoted on the front bumper, and laid against the wall. So only tire touching anything was the side wall of the right rear tire. And the bottom of that tire wasn't even near the bank anymore. It was about a foot off the Hill that I just dropped off of. And it's just pivoting on the front bumper, sitting there going, well, let's see now what I do. I can't winch out because my winch is buried in the ground. At this point, I'm like, well, all I could do is get on the gas, and I think I put it in reverse, give it a quick bump the throttle, which spun the tire correct? I think reverse spun it, bounced it back against the wall, and then I threw it in drive and dropped out of it.
[01:09:10.940] - Mike Stump
So that was a bit of a hairy spot there. And then from there, if you remember, you made an immediate left in that Canyon and you had to climb out almost the same amount of vertical. I'd seen a couple of people go through it, and I'm like, well, the only way you're getting out of this is gas. So I made sure the air locker was locked in the back, looked back. I was about three or 4ft from it. I'm like, Here it goes. Hammered the throttle, came up and out of the thing and literally wheelied out. I don't know if you saw it or if you're watching somebody else, but I wheeled out of the thing. Front tire is good, probably four or 5ft in the air. And when they dropped, I had so much adrenaline going that I still had my foot on the gas when it hit second hit, blew both ball joints and snap the axle on the driver's side. So here's where Rogue comes back into rescue again. You had him out there and he was one of the tow rigs for dragging people out, right? He knows up to me.
[01:10:10.440] - Mike Stump
He runs his winch cable underneath the front axle, back up to my front bumper, sucks that winch up, and basically dragged my Jeep up on top of his front bumper to where the front end was off, mostly off the ground and backs up and basically as like a tow truck, but in reverse, dragging my Jeep back to camp in reverse, the left front wheels just off it's hanging there flat. So that was the end of that competition for me, unfortunately. But at that point, I think Jeremy Faber was running that tube chassis FJ 40 that he has. I think he still has it. I was actually ahead of him at that point in the standings and it was pissing him off. My daily driver was beaten as two chassis.
[01:10:58.650] - Big Rich Klein
Ricky. That was quite the event. It really was. There was so much going on everywhere that it was absolutely nuts.
[01:11:12.510] - Mike Stump
Oh, yeah, literally. I think it was a matter of you probably didn't maybe you didn't have enough volunteers or whatever because it was crazy. It's like half the time I'm going, where do I go now? What course do I go to now? But again, like I said, that was 20 years ago and we've all learned a lot since. Yeah.
[01:11:34.450] - Big Rich Klein
Absolutely. And I thought we were pretty well organized because that's why I got into doing the rock crawls was that having been around the others, I thought, Man, I can organize this better. But that wasn't necessarily the case with the first one.
[01:11:54.310] - Mike Stump
[01:11:54.860] - Big Rich Klein
When you think back on it, I mean, how I ended up in court on Friday night to make that event happen.
[01:12:01.750] - Mike Stump
Oh, that's right, yeah. Because you're having troubles with the permits or something like that.
[01:12:05.370] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. In fact, because we didn't have any permits, we were using the places they zoned recreational area. And the sheriffs actually came in and said, oh, no, you need to have a permit. County permit. And they gave me a ticket at 1030 in the morning. By 01:00. We had a lawyer and a civil engineer on site and we're, we went to court at five, beat them, beat their cease and desist order, the county of Amador and was able to put the event on. We had to cap it at 1000 people. So we really pissed a lot of people off because I'll bet if we would have allowed everybody to come on the property that wanted to, we'd have had probably four or 5000 people out there.
[01:12:56.840] - Mike Stump
Oh, I don't doubt it. I don't doubt it at all.
[01:12:59.070] - Big Rich Klein
And that's why I looked at it and said, okay, I'm going to continue doing this because people want this. That first year was pretty crazy because the next event site we were supposed to use was Deadman's Point down in the Apple Valley area. And it's a big rock area and it's owned by this guy that's a real estate agent. So we made a deal with him to be able to use that. And then he wanted to know. He goes, okay, I'm going to need all of your driver contact information, all your marketing partners or sponsor contact information. And I'm like, no, you're just the property owner. I'm not giving you that information. And he goes, if this was successful, he wanted to put his own events on so he wasn't a rock crawler, so he didn't have access to everybody. So he wanted me to provide him with all that information. I told him to take a flying leap. And we didn't cancel that event. We just canceled going to that event. So then I drove out to it was over New Year's. It was just before then is when we had the meeting, went out New Year's to Johnson Valley and met John James, Desert toy from the Ten Benders.
[01:14:22.460] - Big Rich Klein
And we ended up he goes, well, we should use Lions Pride Park. There the gun range in Lacern Valley. So in a short period of time, very short period of time, we got the permits for that going through San Bernardino County. And we put that event on there. That was our first series event, and that was 2002. And I think it was even like March that we did that event. And again, it was widely successful with not only the drivers that showed up, but with the spectators as well.
[01:15:02.750] - Mike Stump
Absolutely. That's a huge area for a spectator. I mean, look at Koh. Now, I just want this last one. And they estimated somewhere between 70 and 90,000 people there. Right. Maybe you've heard more because you're in that end of it a little more. Suppose there were rumors floating around that they're talking about moving Koh to the San Hollow area. I've heard a couple of rumors about it, and I'm going, where in the hell here would you put that? San Jose Park ain't anywhere near big enough for that kind of venue or that kind of volume. So I'm trying to figure out where they would even put it out here.
[01:15:42.930] - Big Rich Klein
I would imagine because of the personalities involved with Sand Hollow, meaning my son and the personality involved with K-O-H. Meaning DC Dave Cole.
[01:15:59.970] - Mike Stump
[01:16:00.660] - Big Rich Klein
That I don't think that that would ever happen because I know Rich has a lot of power out there because the trail hero and what he's done out there and how successful that's been, and that most of the events out there, if they're four wheel drive related, he's got like the permit. They only allow so many permitted events out there. And he owns a bunch of those dates. I don't know how that would work out, but you never know. Money can make things happen. So who knows?
[01:16:40.240] - Mike Stump
Well, we know how well him and Cole get along.
[01:16:44.730] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. Famously, there's no love lost there. Yeah, none whatsoever.
[01:16:52.650] - Mike Stump
Right. Yeah. I'd say probably one of the only big event that happens out here that isn't under his purview would be probably Utd takeover. Correct. Other than that, he has a hand in just about everything else that happens in that area.
[01:17:10.280] - Big Rich Klein
True. And that's because the park and BLM and the state park all trust what he's done in the past and gave him that opportunity to be the person that they trust to go between.
[01:17:27.690] - Mike Stump
Right. No, he does an excellent job. Like I said, I'd never met him before moving here. Obviously, you and I knew each other for a long time, but I'd never met your son until I moved here. And a hell of a guy. He does just an amazing job with Trail Hero, and I'm very impressed with the organization and how well he has it working and flowing. It's pretty damn smooth for the size of event in such a short period of time. And all the other stuff he has going on, it's definitely very smooth.
[01:17:57.330] - Big Rich Klein
Well, Acorns don't fall far from the tree.
[01:18:03.010] - Mike Stump
Don't hurt yourself on the back.
[01:18:05.130] - Big Rich Klein
I just dislocated my elbow.
[01:18:07.930] - Mike Stump
[01:18:09.430] - Big Rich Klein
Anyway, so then let's go ahead and jump into I know that you said you got away from the off road industry, right. Touch on that real quick, and then we'll jump into what's happening now.
[01:18:26.930] - Mike Stump
Great. Well, this was when I was at Four Parts. One of the customers that I'd met had a black YJ, pretty well built and had done a 302 conversion, injected 302 conversion, all this stuff into it. And he worked in the low voltage electronics industry. So voice, data, CCTV, that kind of thing, fire alarm, security. And he worked for a company out of Sacramento called Nutter Electric. Well, he had talked to me a couple of times, and I kind of got to understand what the business was. Well, after I left, Oral Parts went to Rubafront Express, and then that didn't work out all that well. I was still in contact with him, still did a little business with him because he bought some Ruton Express parts while contact and say, you know what? I'm ready for a change. I'm just ready for a complete career change. I've done this off road thing for several years now. I need something different. So I contacted him. And yeah, it took a huge pay cut, unfortunately. But hey, it is what it is. You've got to do that when you change careers. He brought me in as an apprentice doing low voltage electronics, building out data rooms and doing basically computer infrastructure, that kind of thing, and brought me in.
[01:19:44.620] - Mike Stump
And again, as I usually do, I don't know how it actually works out, but maybe it's my Alpha personality or whatever, but it usually works out within about six months. I was running Cruise for him. So we had a great company going with Nutter. Where that division? The low voltage division. We did huge, a lot of huge jobs. You're trying to think was probably one of the biggest ones we did was ETrade. When ETrade had that building in Rancho Cordova right there on Data Drive. When they built that building, we did that whole job. And that was just in the voice and data part of it was a good year and a half long job, just pulling and terminating cables, building out the data rooms, things like that. So he introduced me to that, really got good and trained in a lot of those aspects. I worked for another for probably about two years, I guess it was two and a half years left there. And I want to think from there. I went to a place called Tricignal Integration right out of Eldrato Hills. They did the voice data stuff, but also that's where I learned fire alarms, security, CCTV, fiber optics, that kind of thing.
[01:20:59.490] - Mike Stump
So working for them, we did again, ran cruise for them, learned a lot about that industry. So I kind of kept growing in that industry and literally was out of the four wheel drive stuff for God, probably close to ten years. I didn't get back in honestly, heavily get back in until was it three years ago when I bought my Canon and bought my side by side? It was just one of those things where you guys go out and play with people and have fun and stuff. But I never didn't even own anything until I bought the side by side. That industry has done really well for me. I grew from basically being minimum wage base to where I am now working for a company, the company that I'm with now, which is Direct Digital Controls. It's HVAC control equipment. I do all the systems programming, engineering, electrical engineering, used to do some install out in the field. Now working or living here in Utah, I do all my work remotely, which is great, but that's how that kind of graduated through that particular industry. And I've been now with Direct Digital for 17 years going on.
[01:22:10.740] - Big Rich Klein
Wow. Okay. Excellent. Is that how the business that you have now, Besides working for them, your side gig, I guess you'd call it you're doing the company mega whips.
[01:22:31.810] - Mike Stump
[01:22:32.450] - Big Rich Klein
And you bought a UTV, you saw the need for a better quality product. Is that what it was that drove you to doing that?
[01:22:43.390] - Mike Stump
Not exactly. I saw the need right after I bought the car, looking at accessories. And this is probably a lot how a lot of these Utd companies started realize the pricing is ridiculous and you're paying for honestly, when it comes to anything short of maybe suspension or drivetrain stuff, you're paying through the nose for honestly, very subpar sub quality parts. And I started realizing what was out there. And the thing I kind of gravitated towards was what can I build fairly inexpensively, quickly, but still build a much higher, better product than what's out there. And that's where we kind of got into the Led with. It was a natural progression for me with my background in low voltage electronics. I'd already dabbled in some of it, building my own custom Christmas decorations for my house back in California. Before we had ever bought the side by side. I built driveway Hoops and little dancing Hoops, those kind of things with Led strip and what they call an Arduino controller, which is you may be familiar with custom program controller that you can write code for and then design all your own lighting patterns, things like that.
[01:24:00.100] - Mike Stump
Started getting into it, learning what all these little idiosyncrasies about LEDs, how they work voltages, things like that went well. Hell, most of these guys are building Led whips. They're taking a CB antenna, wrapping a fiberglass pole, wrapping some strip around it, shrink tubing it and calling it, hey, now I can sell this thing for now, I can sell this thing that I only have $30 into for two or $300. Like, well, I can build something a lot better that doesn't break every other time you take the thing out. So I started diving into it, pulling in some product, doing some prototype end up designing a completely different product than what the industry was used to, where we used a much heavier duty inner core. We originally started with fiberglass cord, then graduated out of that, realizing that fiberglass cord just didn't work out really well, went to a heavy wall polycarbonate tube in her core. All CNC machine bill up pieces I probably have in our first year of prototype components, I got a stack of broken and damaged whips. There's probably 50 to 100 of them. But again, that was the process you go through when you're trying to come up with the best product you can.
[01:25:14.050] - Mike Stump
Finally, after lots and lots of design changes, we came up with the design that we have now, and it's virtually indestructible with the polycarbonate outer casing, polycarbonate inner core, which adds a lot more flex. We do a spring base on them, a completely redesigned disconnect system, retained cable system. The whole product, as you've seen, as the ones you're running, is drastically, drastically different than virtually anybody else on the market. And it's paying off really well for us. Just even in the last two weeks, we picked up five new accounts just in the last two weeks for the simple fact that they see ours and they compare. I'm not going to put any names out there, but they compare to what they're already carrying, which is a couple of major names. And we've taken accounts away from one particular company. I've taken probably ten accounts away from them between California and Southern Utah and Arizona.
[01:26:17.210] - Mike Stump
So there's something to be said when you've got a small little company, mom and pop company like mine can do that. And we stand behind our product and we build something that is I'm not going to say it's indestructible, but I've got multiple customers that have barrel rolled their UTVs and didn't break our whip. Literally, I think I've only had one customer that even tacoed a whip in a barrel roll, and the whip still fully still functioned. It was a six footer rolled a flat, rolled his razor over, and it was a can am, rolled it over in a witch's eye at Glamis, had two of our six footers on there. The inside one buckled in the middle, the outside one hit the sand and literally held the car up. It was sitting there supporting the car without buckling. The inner one still worked when he got back onto its wheels. I mean, it made almost a 90 degree bend right in the middle. It still worked. It still lit up and did the full chasing colors right up to the bend point. And then after the bend point, it just lit up solid white because it's a flexible PCB.
[01:27:20.570] - Mike Stump
So it just did damage one of what they call the IC chips, which control the color changing inside those.
[01:27:26.830] - Mike Stump
He straightened it back up through some duct tape around it and ran the rest of the weekend.
[01:27:31.750] - Mike Stump
Then came to me and said, hey, this Apple was totally awesome. I'm like, you know what? You sent me the picture of that. I'm more than happy to replace that for you. That's great for us. It's great advertising for us.
[01:27:41.530] - Big Rich Klein
[01:27:42.730] - Mike Stump
We developed a product I think is just incredibly much higher end and much stronger than basically anything else out there on the market.
[01:27:52.690] - Big Rich Klein
Cool. And there's a lot more market to take as well.
[01:27:57.730] - Mike Stump
Oh, yeah, it's huge. When we first started the company, we delved into a few other things. Like, I built some radius rods, I built plates, did some suspension components, few other little minor things here and there to help. Kind of think they knew the megawatts, the whips portion of it was going to be where the company was going to go. But of course, just like anything else, you need something to help generate capital to build the company. And those all things helped. Well, kind of as the stories like how it progressed was the original company was not megawith. The lip line was my megawiths line. That's what we named it. But the original company was trail tech side by side. So when we had that, I was a retail company. I sold, sold online. I'd go out and pursue a little bit of wholesale, but mostly online and retail customers locally. We didn't have a shop at a storefront or anything like that, no brick and mortar. But that's where the company started with trail tech side by side. Well, kind of a funny story. There's another company out there called trail tech, and my trail tech name came from way back when we kind of glossed over.
[01:28:58.640] - Mike Stump
We didn't get to it, but way back when I was in the still had the Jeep and was building stuff for the Jeep. I had actually started a company back then called trail tech, and we had a small little shop right in Placerville where I would do, installs and sell accessories and a few other little minor builds and things like that. I had that for about a year, year and a half. Unfortunately, it was my first dive into business and really didn't know what I was doing. So things didn't go well with that. But we all learned from our first businesses but I took that name, and I still had that name, and that's when I started my side by side accessory company. So we just added SX to the end of the name. Well, come to find out, And I knew this other company existed. They started after I originally had the name, but there's a company out there that builds more Overlander stuff for the dirt bikes for like your BMW, motor sports, things like that. So steering, stabilizers, a few little different things for these bikes. Well, they're called trail ten. Well, Polaris industries had bought that company and they had a company for a while.
[01:30:08.260] - Mike Stump
Well, apparently they were getting tons of phone calls about my trail tech, Looking for components for us. But somehow, because my website wasn't out there far enough, It wasn't registered with enough search engines, they ended up with them instead of me. So they're fielding, from what they said, 20 to 30 calls a day looking for me. Well, I get an email from Polaris industries about a year ago. I guess it was now maybe a little longer now, less than a year ago, Because we haven't been here for a year. So about eight months ago, nine months ago, I get a cease and desist letter from player's industries, And I'm thinking, I've got this little tiny company. Why is Polaris industries interested in me and what could I be doing to affect them? I end up calling their lawyer and spent probably about an hour and 45 minutes on the phone with their lawyer. And he basically explained it. He's like, look, there's nothing you're selling that's in competition with us. The only problem we have is the name. We've got the name copyrighted. So obviously, even though I had the name first, I could have gone through a lot of stuff to fight them.
[01:31:16.400] - Mike Stump
But honestly, the direction I went was going with megawps anyway, was a direction we were planning on going to begin with. All they did was expedite it for me. So I said, no problem. This is something we had in the plans to begin with. So shortly after that phone call, I started the LLC proceedings and ended up getting a megawatt LLC completely set up and then switch the company completely over to megawebs LLC. Got dropped all my suspension, everything so focused strictly on the whip product and rock lighting, that kind of thing, and also switch the direction of the company to strictly a wholesale company only and stop selling retail. So I wasn't going to be doing events or anything like that, strictly wholesale. My reason for that was I would be the only led whip company on the planet that I'm aware of that does not sell retail. So that makes me the only company selling to dealerships and selling to my accounts that they never have to compete with.
[01:32:18.990] - Big Rich Klein
And that's the way the four wheel drive industry has gone is just the opposite of that. Everybody that was a manufacturer or a wholesaler is now selling retail. And so if you've been using their products and you're installing and you have a brick and mortar store, all of a sudden your customer can buy it at the same price that you can. And they've taken away that opportunity for the business owner.
[01:32:52.530] - Mike Stump
Exactly. In my opinion, it was a very bad decision by these big companies for the small builders, for their accounts that were the small builders and small shops. I experienced that competition first hand when I was working for Will Parts as a general.
[01:33:11.420] - Big Rich Klein
They were the originator of that.
[01:33:13.890] - Mike Stump
Exactly. They had their mail order division and then they had their retail stores. Granted, my retail store did good, but I had to compete with our own damn company. And that's what I had a big problem with. And I remember the nightmares of what it would do to our profit margins and our bottom line at that store where I had to take someone came in to buy a set of tires or Rancho suspension lift kit or something like that. And I had to sell those things at 510 percent profit margin at the best.
[01:33:46.830] - Big Rich Klein
That didn't even cover my overhead because the customer could buy it, have it shipped to their house, loaded in their Jeep, come to you, have you install it for less than what you would sell it to them over the counter.
[01:34:01.170] - Mike Stump
[01:34:01.860] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. It just didn't make any sense. No.
[01:34:05.120] - Mike Stump
And that's why I found it very strange. The only reason I could think of that all the big companies have gone that route and started selling retail is because of the ease of Internet and the e commerce. How ecommerce is so hugely exploded in the last ten years. They saw an opportunity to make higher profit margins, which is great. And I understand that, that's capitalism. Let them have at it. I went the other direction because I looked at it and went, you know what? I want to support my dealers. I want to be there, be the company that goes, hey, you guys got a problem, call me. I will take care of it. Like warranty issues. I'm probably one of the only ones that tell my dealers, you know what the written warranty is. If somebody comes in with a problem and you feel it's a legit problem, don't send them to me. Take care of them. Give them a replacement. Call me after the fact, make sure your customers got happy and out the door. Call me and let me know and I will replace your product. I'm going to trust your judgment. I pick and choose my dealers, especially after talking to them to know who I can feel good about.
[01:35:10.870] - Mike Stump
That's going to go, yeah, I can judge this as a warranty or not a warranty pretty well. And I let them have carte Blanche on it. Most of the other with companies out there, they have to get referred directly to the company, regardless of where they bought it from. They have to get referred directly to them. And then they go back and forth with them with emails, phone calls. I've heard horror stories of one in particular that just for one four foot width took them six months to get it replaced between finally getting it approved and then having to wait for the product. I will not do that to my customers. I simply will not. I want to make sure that they can be out the very next weekend riding and doing what they want to do because these people drop 30, 40, $50,000 into these side by sides. And they don't do that to let them sit in the garage because they're waiting on a warranty part. Right. They want to take that.
[01:36:00.150] - Big Rich Klein
And the thing is, with the side by side, people don't hang on to their individual side by side for very long. Most they buy it. They're carrying, you know, the bank is carrying the note on it or Polaris or can am with their in house financing. They either sell that rig to somebody else and then get a new one and build another one or it Burns to the ground, which is kind of a common theme. It seems you've got a steady stream of customers, even if it's an old customer that had bought your product previously from one of your suppliers, is still going to go and buy it the next time when they're building their new one.
[01:36:54.270] - Mike Stump
Right. So the repeat you keep people happy. This is across all businesses. Repeat customers are your best friend. Absolutely. And if you can develop a rapport where they know that you're a good company and you support people, they're going to keep coming back to you. They're flat out going to keep coming back to you. And that's rapport I build. And I try to double that with the fact that we build, in my opinion, the best product on the market by far. So you have a product that they literally can feel comfortable going out and running their car 80 miles across the Whoops and watching them whips bounce all over the place and not going to hurry up. That's what makes me feel comfortable and makes them feel comfortable. I can go beat my car and not worry about it. I don't have to slow down and go, okay, that thing's moving around. I'm going to snap that. It's going to break off. When I go through the tunnel at Sand Hall. I got to fold that thing down or I'm going to break the thing off. They don't have to worry about that. They literally don't have to worry about that.
[01:37:54.280] - Mike Stump
I never take mine down. I drag them through the tunnel. I've smacked mine on my garage door several times, pulling it into the toy hauler. That's probably the biggest thing that snaps a lot of whips is people forget to take them off. They pull them in the toy Haller. And they snap them off when they pull them into the toy hair and forget like, oh, great. Well, there were three or $400. Now I got to wait for a warranty, right.
[01:38:15.060] - Big Rich Klein
I don't run mine very often because I'm only in the dunes. We run the beaches down here, but they're not dunes, so you don't have to have a whip on the vehicle when we go to Glamis once a year is when I run them. I've run them on some other trails. In fact, out there outside of Vegas, there's Christ, I can't even remember what the name of the area is called. Four wheel drive area.
[01:38:49.690] - Mike Stump
[01:38:50.000] - Big Rich Klein
It might be the red Rocks. And there's these sand trails through the river beds and stuff like that. And it's almost like a Dune because you can't see the road or what's coming at you unless somebody's got a whip on. And it's all really narrow to track, but very narrow. And so I put them on then and ran them just so that people could see me over the top of that. But they ride in the back of my truck along with everything else. And they're just the right length to fit in the back of that Raptor. But they take a beating back there because, well, tool boxes and everything else are flying around because Unfortunately, I don't drive the Raptor very slow. I drive it more like a side by side, you don't say.
[01:39:39.620] - Mike Stump
[01:39:40.180] - Big Rich Klein
And they've never failed. I mean, they are very sturdy product.
[01:39:47.590] - Mike Stump
Well, and that's the thing we built them to be to take abuse. We built them to people think, well, I got to take them off. Like up in the Northern California, people run the woods a lot. I got to take them off to run through the woods because I don't want to break mine, bounce them off trees, have at it. I encourage people to go out and beat them. I want to see how much abuse people can put these things through before they do fail. I haven't seen one yet. I've actually had one customer. And as you see, we've got the Springs on the bottom. There's a reason for those Springs because it's not just a pool that's wrapped and shrink to this is an engineered whip. The whole thing works together. That's why we built the Springs into the tube itself and the polycarbonate, the whip itself doesn't have a whole lot of flex because of that polycarbonate outer casing. So we transfer all that load and all that abuse down to the spring. So I've got one customer that decided, well, I don't want to run the Springs because those Springs will untread.
[01:40:45.440] - Mike Stump
You can take them off and Bolt the whip right directly to them. It's still a half inch stud, just like the bottom of the spring has. Well, he decided he didn't want to run the spring. It made it very clear to him that if you modify the whip in that way, it technically voids our warranty. Okay. But that being said, he managed to get a year and a half out of running a set of six orders without Springs before one of them finally started to separate. Where the polycarbonate tube goes into the aluminum housing in the bottom never broke the whip, but it finally broke that epoxy loose from all the whipping and bouncing around without a spring, it finally started to break that loose. Honestly, I'm amazed it lasted a year and a half, especially with the six footer, because he was not running that spring. He bought it from our dealer Utd addiction in Reno. He bought from them, took it back into them, sent me a couple of pictures, and I'm like, where you running these without the Springs? And he was honest, said, yeah, I was running without the Springs. All right.
[01:41:46.930] - Mike Stump
You've had it for a year and a half. Technically, you're past the warranty on breakage. But you know what? We're going to take care of you on one condition. Put the Springs back on. Right. Put the Springs back on and you'll get five years out of these things.
[01:41:59.280] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. Then with the shrink wrap, you put the shrink wrap over the spring. And the thing is not all over the place.
[01:42:06.370] - Mike Stump
Exactly. And that's why we all include that, even with our little two footers not even needed on a two footer, because the things just don't move with that spring. But we include it with every one of them. But when you get into four, five and six footers. Yeah, you get a lot of moving, especially if you've got a three X five flag on the thing, which we encourage. Put the big flags on. We don't have any problem with that. But you get that big flag on there and you're cruising at 60 miles an hour across the desert. Yes, that thing is going to be moving around there's. A lot of load from that flag ain't going to hurt the whip as long as you're putting that spring on there, it's going to hurt the whip. You throw that shrink tube on there that we include with the kit. That shrink tube is mainly not for the high speed running, but it's for the whoops and the bouncing that keeps those things from going all over the place. That's where the biggest complaint with a lot of people with Springs and whips, they bounce all over.
[01:42:50.180] - Mike Stump
Well, we solve that problem. Not only do we use the barrel shaped spring, not a straight spring, we use that barrel shaped spring, which drastically reduces that. Then you shrink to the problem solved. You don't get that after bounce. Yeah, you're going to get a couple of bounces back and forth, but it's going to stop. And as you've seen with your six footers, you can bounce those things like crazy. And they're going to come back to a stop and not beat the heck out of your head.
[01:43:08.990] - Big Rich Klein
Exactly. Because where I have mine mounted, I was worried that they were going to smack the cab. They don't. Not at all. And that's Glamorous doing 80 miles an hour across through there.
[01:43:22.990] - Mike Stump
[01:43:24.020] - Big Rich Klein
And I do not suggest that anybody drive their vehicle at 80 miles an hour in Glamis. Okay.
[01:43:29.440] - Mike Stump
[01:43:31.890] - Big Rich Klein
And I didn't really do that. I was just using that for advertising purposes.
[01:43:36.560] - Mike Stump
[01:43:37.470] - Big Rich Klein
Closed course professional.
[01:43:39.910] - Mike Stump
[01:43:42.730] - Big Rich Klein
So what's next? You're just going to concentrate on that one product or do you got some other things in mind?
[01:43:48.010] - Mike Stump
Well, we do have we are working on more new products. So currently we've got two foot through six foot Whips. We've got our eight pod rock light kit, which those two things obviously are our biggest product. We've come up with a couple of little small components. We still get even though the Whips will handle all full time writing, we still get people that want to run just their standard fiberglass poles. So we've come up with an adapter that drops right into our disconnect housing. You pop the whip out, new adapter drops in and it's got a half inch 20 pitch thread hole, which 90% of your fiberglass poles. That's what they have at the bottom of them. So we've got adapters for those. Now we're also doing one in a three eight size two for some of the smaller flag poles that people are liking to run. So I'm going to have those here probably in about a month. That's the small little things we're doing. We have RV pole that I'm just about complete on and ready to go into production with 22 foot extendable pole with a three foot. One of our three foot Whips fully controllable through RF control.
[01:44:47.420] - Mike Stump
Everything all embedded right inside the pole. So there's virtually no wiring that you see at all.
[01:44:51.580] - Big Rich Klein
So you know where your campsite is at night.
[01:44:54.730] - Mike Stump
Exactly. That's our first or what we call our Rev one version of it. Our Rev two version is we're working and this is going to be a little way out, but we're getting the details worked out. But we're actually going to have a four footer that goes on there. That's going to be Bluetooth control and what it is. The first three foot three foot will be controllable and then the top 1ft will be controllable separately from the first three foot. So you literally can take the top foot of it and change the color, change the pattern independently of the lower 3ft. So you can literally make a very unique color combination pattern combination. So when you're sitting at say you're parked at Halloween at Sand Mountain and you're at the top of Comp Hill looking down, you can go, yes, there's 4000 campholes out there, but that one's definitely mine.
[01:45:45.670] - Mike Stump
So we're working on that. That's coming out. I'm hoping in about two months, maybe less. We'll have the Can Am and Razor signature lights that fully integrate with our controllers, so they'll do the full chasing colors, turn signals, as well as the standard driving light option, which I don't think anybody else right now offers in the replacement lights on the front. So those are in final prototype stages. Just getting a few little Idiosyncrasies worked out on those are two, three and four foot versions of our whips have updated. We now have increased the Led count by about 25% on those first three links. So you've got a good 25% brighter whip, which we're already pretty bright to begin with. Now you've got about 25% more LEDs, which translates to about a 25% brighter whip than most other ones out on the market right now, including our old ones, previous ones, we didn't do it with the fives and sixes just because, well, the whip is so long it didn't really need it. Plus you end up with you could end up with problems with voltage drop, with that long of a whip and that many LEDs, most of your vehicles just don't produce the kind of amperage to push through there to actually keep those lit up.
[01:46:58.140] - Mike Stump
Well, when you go that high of an Led count, so they're going to stay that way. Those I have available now, we just finished getting those and got our first production run of those. And we're always looking one of my customers actually just came up with an idea that I'm going to start experimenting with an Led whip. And I think a couple of companies are doing something like this, but like a chase light, essentially, we're looking at some design, a design coupler that kind of will make this thing look like the double ended lightsaber with a pair of two foot width one going out either way individually controllable with our Bluetooth controller, they would have turn signal option, everything like that. So essentially a double ended whip with a Center Mount, and that still has full disconnect capability, too.
[01:47:45.350] - Big Rich Klein
Well, that's kind of cool.
[01:47:47.710] - Mike Stump
Yeah, I think that'll be something good. So that you can act that you can put it on the back of your car, you can put it up right at the cage, act like a chase, like so it'll have all the same chasing colors like you would with your whips or anything like that. So that's something we're working on right now, trying to think what else we got going. My mind is always going, trying to come up with new products. I'm always listening to my customers with them asking me, okay, do you do something like this or is something like this possible? And I'll tell them, I'm like if I think it's possible and I think there's a market for it. Absolutely. I will definitely dive into it. So I'm never going to slow down as far as wanting to come up with new products. I'll keep improving our existing stuff and I'm going to keep trying to come up with new stuff as long as it's feasible and I think there's a demand for it. I'll do it.
[01:48:36.340] - Big Rich Klein
Cool. That's awesome. Well, Mike, I want to say thank you for coming on board and talking about your life and your past history and what you got going now with mega whips. I really like the idea of the chase lights. That's something we'll have to talk about later. I hope to see you again here real soon. I'll be in that area. Cedar city. We're going to be putting a rock crawl on here shortly, right?
[01:49:07.310] - Mike Stump
I'd love to be part of that.
[01:49:08.730] - Big Rich Klein
Perfect. So yeah, let's figure you coming on up there and bringing the display. I know that you can push people to your distributors, but might be worthwhile putting up a display.
[01:49:24.890] - Mike Stump
Yes, I actually have a dealership in Cedar city now. Oh, greatenson. In Cedar city. It's DNP okay, DNP performance and I've got Jorgenson's up in Richfield.
[01:49:36.380] - Big Rich Klein
[01:49:37.460] - Mike Stump
They're both taking their first deliveries of product next week, actually.
[01:49:40.440] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. Dp that's Dean Bullock.
[01:49:44.450] - Mike Stump
Yeah, Dean and Naga is Lacy his wife or she's the one. Pauline.
[01:49:48.750] - Big Rich Klein
Pauline. That was his wife. That's his wife. But that's I think the daughter got you.
[01:49:56.630] - Mike Stump
Cool. I talk to all the time, so. Yeah, I'm delivering both of those locations. Their first order next week.
[01:50:03.150] - Big Rich Klein
Excellent. Excellent. Well, Mike, thank you so much for coming on board and spending this morning with us talking.
[01:50:11.030] - Mike Stump
Hey, I really appreciate it, rich. It's been a great time and a great time catching up on some old stories.
[01:50:15.870] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, absolutely. We'll have to do it tomorrow when we're in Cedar. Thank you.
[01:50:19.580] - Mike Stump
Oh, yeah. We'll talk some more over some beers.
[01:50:21.810] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. Talk to you later.
[01:50:23.290] - Mike Stump
Take care. Bye bye.
[01:50:26.150] - Big Rich Klein
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