Making good decisions for his family, work, and team, Russell Battles brings patience and discipline to the sport of rockcrawling and life. Listen in on your favorite podcast app or on YouTube. Always good to hear from our friends, a little history, a little present, a bit of the future.
7:48 - …the scout went down the road
12:45 – First phone call to Marlin Crawler
15:40 – know exactly what you want and don’t let them tell you can’t
20:15 – in Abu Dhabi, we were doing something that had never been done in the world before
29:48 - I got into wheeling with some of the best crawlers in the world
33:27 – meeting Old Man Charlie, “is this Carnage Canyon?”
40:32 – we got beat up a little bit
44:07 - put your faith in your driver
Big thanks to our sponsors, Maxxis Tires and 4low Magazine.Support the show
[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. 2We 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 of Moab or hauling your toys to the trail, Maxixs 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.
[00:07:35.390] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. And then you had dirt bike. What was the first four wheel drive vehicle that you got to drive?
[00:07:48.150] - Russell Battles
When I was twelve years old, my dad did some work. My dad was an auto body. Did some work for a guy in trade for a 1974 International Scout, too.
[00:08:00.160] - Big Rich Klein
[00:08:01.290] - Russell Battles
And my dad and I spent a couple of years getting it running. We took 345 out, put a small block Chevy in it, and nothing crazy. Open front dips 33, just a nice little rig. And when I was 14, had it for a couple of years, my buddy down the street and I decided we're going to go joyriding in it.
[00:08:28.770] - Big Rich Klein
Without Dad's permission?
[00:08:30.990] - Russell Battles
Yeah, without Dad's permission. Middle of the night, may or may not have been arrested. Spitting Donuts in the football field.
[00:08:40.860] - Big Rich Klein
[00:08:43.290] - Russell Battles
And needless to say, the Scout went down the road and I wasn't allowed anywhere near a car for a while.
[00:08:51.930] - Big Rich Klein
Was that your parents choice of you not having a car for a while.
[00:08:55.990] - Russell Battles
Or was that my dad? Yeah, definitely my dad's choice. He said I wasn't responsible enough to have it there and he wasn't giving me my first car. So that was my first vehicle, I guess you could say. And it was a lot of fun. I really liked it.
[00:09:15.240] - Big Rich Klein
Do you regret doing those, Donuts?
[00:09:17.520] - Russell Battles
[00:09:19.710] - Big Rich Klein
But you had fun while you were doing them.
[00:09:22.890] - Russell Battles
It was a good few hours for sure. But when I turned 16, dad did. True to his word, he didn't get me a vehicle. So in a round about way, I guess he did because I had RM 125 dirt black. I traded it for a 1984 full size Bronco. And that's what I drove through high school with the 306 MP 435. And I beat the crap out of it.
[00:09:52.830] - Big Rich Klein
So somebody traded you your motorcycle for a full size Bronco?
[00:09:58.230] - Russell Battles
They did. You wouldn't have that these days. But back then, especially the 80s Broncos, I mean, people give them away almost. They were just not worth anything. I got that thing and I drove it all the way through high school. In fact, I just sold it a couple of years ago to a fellow Wheeler for his son. Nice. But over the years, he'd gone through a lot of changes. It ended up with a big block 460. And I saw it axle, swapped it with tons. And so, yeah, just a lot of different things happen to it. But I beat her up pretty good. And that was really the first vehicle that I went offroading in mostly mud. We did school and go out in the desert and play in the mud and thought it was really cool if we could pull up on a two foot rock with one tire, get out, take the pictures, posing. Yes.
[00:11:05.520] - Big Rich Klein
At least it wasn't in a parking lot. Or on a football field.
[00:11:10.030] - Russell Battles
That's right. And then a little bit later, I guess, when I was about 18, I guess as a lot of us rock crawlers all started with Toyotas. I know they're your favorite with the super low gearing and everything. Yeah. I got an 84 runner, first Gen four runner. And after that, I was hooked in rock crawling. I just absolutely loved it. A friend of mine, Eric Loser, I was working with him at the time. He's like, why don't you bring this thing out? We're going to go do 21 road. And I got out there, completely exploded everything. But that was hooked. That was it. I had to conquer 21 road. That was the goal.
[00:12:06.110] - Big Rich Klein
You still have the Bronco. So you weren't vehicleless, right?
[00:12:10.460] - Russell Battles
Yeah. No, the Forerunner was a straight wheeling rig, chopped up. Not even road worthy, I would say. The typical Toyota that you see every finger and everything bashed up. That was my rig.
[00:12:34.770] - Big Rich Klein
Okay, so then what kind of work did you do to the Toyota after you destroyed it on your first time out on 21?
[00:12:45.530] - Russell Battles
I went to the army and it kind of sat for a while. Didn't really do much to it. When I got back, I had a little money sitting in the bank, as you would have from time to time. So it was a phone call out to Marlon crawler and double T cases 47s. I kept the Toyota axles, but 529 linked the lunchbox lockers and left at least sprung for a long time. Eventually, I did go to three link front, four link rear coilovers, did a turbocharge LC engineering 22 RET, just railed on it for a really long time. And it actually helped me really start off in the rock crawling world because by doing that, meeting people, I found this niche of, shall I say, Toyota guys that didn't have fabrication skills or really want to, I guess. But I ended up starting a company here in Grand Junction. It was Roxa Motorsports and that's what we did. We built Toyota. That was pretty much all we worked on was Toyotas.
[00:14:07.850] - Big Rich Klein
And it was rock solid.
[00:14:09.790] - Russell Battles
Yeah, rock solid motorsports.
[00:14:11.660] - Big Rich Klein
[00:14:13.730] - Russell Battles
And we're open for a few years. I quickly found out that running your own business is a ton of work. You don't get paid, the shop gets paid. And I also found out Toyota guys are cheap.
[00:14:34.830] - Big Rich Klein
That's why they're driving Toyotas.
[00:14:36.910] - Russell Battles
Just driving Toyota.
[00:14:38.550] - Big Rich Klein
Now I'm going to get a bunch of hate letters or hate messages from Toyota guys that have a lot more money than I do. They just grew up and knew better.
[00:14:50.130] - Russell Battles
Hey, you know, I actually just bought last year, I bought my first Forerunner. I bought it back from the guy I sold it to.
[00:14:58.000] - Big Rich Klein
[00:14:58.460] - Russell Battles
So it's sitting in my driveway right now. I actually paid a friend of mine. I bought a donor body, and I paid a friend of mine to swap the body out. So it's got a brand new, used clean 85 four runner body on it now. And I'm going to make it a nice little rig. I'm going to give it to my son when he's ready to drive.
[00:15:23.910] - Big Rich Klein
That's awesome. That's awesome. So let's talk about your military days. What service are you going with? You said army.
[00:15:32.790] - Russell Battles
Yeah, I was in the army. Field artillery.
[00:15:37.410] - Big Rich Klein
Field artillery. That's cool.
[00:15:40.170] - Russell Battles
Yeah. For about the first ten minutes, and then it's just lobbing more rounds again. Like I said, I didn't have much upbringing from parental advisors, should I say? So when I went in, I just walked in and said, hey, I want to join the army. And they're like, what do you want to do? I don't know. What can I do had I known? And this is what I tell all the young guys and girls going in, know exactly what you want and don't let them tell you can't, because those recruiters are going to fill slots that they have open that they need personnel for, and they're just waiting for a person with an unknown future just to walk in so they could fill those slots. So when I went in, had I known, I would have definitely chose something that converts to the civilian world. It computer programming or construction or just something that would have transferred a medic. But they gave me two options for slots they had to fill. It was a truck driver or field artillery. And I told myself I was like, well, I didn't join the army to drive trucks.
[00:17:06.890] - Russell Battles
I can do that. So I joined Phil Artillery, and it was quick. Maybe like two months later, a month and a half later, I was in Force, Oklahoma.
[00:17:23.610] - Big Rich Klein
And that was boot camp.
[00:17:25.660] - Russell Battles
Yeah, I did boot camp and AIT, both at the same place. And I was actually stationed there for my first duty station.
[00:17:33.750] - Big Rich Klein
And then you did four years?
[00:17:36.570] - Russell Battles
Yeah, I did four years on paper, but realistically, it was three years. I did what they called the delayed entry program. Okay. So after my junior year of high school, I went to basic training, and then I came back, did my high school year of high school. And during that time, I was doing once a month with the Army Reserves locally. And then when I graduated, I was on a plane back to for Sale to do AAT. And that whole year of high school counted as my first year of service.
[00:18:18.240] - Big Rich Klein
Well, that seems like a pretty sweet deal.
[00:18:20.730] - Russell Battles
Yeah. So it's pretty good. Not to mention I was in really good shape going into my soccer season on a senior year, I would imagine. Yeah. On paper it says four years. But really, from what I did, it was three years.
[00:18:39.410] - Big Rich Klein
So you don't find a need for field artillery work.
[00:18:43.370] - Russell Battles
Yeah, I got I started shopping for jobs, and they just weren't there. Yeah, it seems like it's very lucrative Google search jobs and field artillery. That's right. Yeah. I got pretty lucky when I dig it out. Like I said, I was doing the Rocksland Motorsports wasn't making a ton of money there. And my dad was working for this. He was doing some sandblasting for this oil field company and they needed a welder. And just like any good welder, I lied on my resume about what I could do and they threw me right into the show. And I learned real quick that I was little in over my head. But they hired me on and I worked in the oil field all the way up until this last summer, almost 19 years. Worked all over the world as a mechanic and a Superintendent for an oil company. And it was really good to me. And I got to experience a lot. Traveled all over the world and lived in multiple countries and it was pretty wild.
[00:20:11.550] - Big Rich Klein
So kind of list some of the countries that you were in.
[00:20:15.910] - Russell Battles
Yeah. So Bahrain, Tunisia, I went to Oman. I spent most of my time in Waffield, abroad, was in Abu Dhabi. So I did about five years in Abu Dhabi. And then it was just a really unique situation over there. We were doing something that had never been done in the world before. All the gas in their country is sour. And by sour, I mean it's poisonous. It has H two s in it. When we encounter H two s, the United States, we flare it off.
[00:21:03.500] - Big Rich Klein
We burn it without all the stuff that we see burning.
[00:21:07.590] - Russell Battles
Yeah, most of it.
[00:21:09.720] - Big Rich Klein
[00:21:10.710] - Russell Battles
And it becomes so two, which is actually worse, but it evaporates. It dissipates real quick. H two s settles on the ground. It's heavier than air and you're talking parts per million to kill someone. I mean, it's very potent. Abu Dhabi Burns oil, so does Dubai Shaja to power their cities. Well, oil gets dirty to create power with. It takes more than gas to create the equal amount of power. And so what they did over there is they want to stop cutting into their margins. Their only export is oil. So every time they're burning oil to power, they're losing revenue, right. Also, this Swedish company came up with this plant. It's a scrubbing unit. They can take the sour gas through the scrubbing unit, have clean gas to power the country on the other side. And the byproduct is sulfur. And so now Abu Dhabi is one of the leading producers of sulfur in the world and they're not burning their oil, which is their revenue, to power the country. They have clean gas to do it. So we were actually drilling for H two S gas, like 26,000 parts per million. And mind you, it only takes 50 parts per million to kill you.
[00:22:51.420] - Russell Battles
So it was a joint effort by a lot of different nationalities. And I think at one time we counted like 40 languages on one location.
[00:23:04.430] - Big Rich Klein
How is that to work with people that are all speaking different languages?
[00:23:09.650] - Russell Battles
It can be frustrating. I learned a little bit in the military. I encountered a little bit. But you're so cocky and young when you're in the military, it is different. But what I realized really quick, as Americans, we do everything right. It's our way. This is how it's done. Why are you not doing it our way? Right.
[00:23:34.290] - Russell Battles
And you learn over there that they might not do it the same way, but they get the same result and it's not wrong. And I've seen so many guys that would come from the oil fields here and go there, and they didn't last long because they just couldn't wrap that around. So I feel like being able to work in these other countries and with all kinds of different people, I feel way more cultured. And I feel like I have a better understanding of the world really. But in particular, the guys I worked with just of how things work. And it really opened my eyes over there and I enjoyed it a lot.
[00:24:26.950] - Big Rich Klein
It's interesting. My son worked up in Alaska, the North Slope, and he ran a shop up there, a construction company, and he could almost tell you where guys were from, not by their accent, but by their attitudes when they'd come up to work on the North Slope, they were out of Texas, Oklahoma, wherever where they had what other areas they had worked oil.
[00:24:59.590] - Russell Battles
[00:24:59.940] - Big Rich Klein
Because of their holier than everybody else attitude. He cracked me up a lot when he was telling me those things.
[00:25:12.750] - Russell Battles
Yeah, it is. It's funny because the oil field is tight in it. It's the same people chasing the money all over the world. I go to any oil field in the country right now and I probably know a couple of dozen people. It's the same people. They just moving and chasing the money all over. But it's funny. You catch an accent here and there or the one that always caught me that I could always tell is what they're eating. You just look at what they're eating. It gives you a pretty good indication where they're from.
[00:25:43.230] - Big Rich Klein
There you go. True. Okay, so then you said, I know that you were working in the oil fields, but you said you're not working in the oil fields now.
[00:26:00.130] - Russell Battles
No. So I was mechanical Superintendent in West Texas for the last almost five years of my field career. And I still have my house up here in Colorado. But the big thing that changed is I'm getting a late start in life. But I got married just after I went to Texas. I got married and the little baby came. My son liked us, and it got to the point where I just wasn't home. I was here, I was there. And we had made a decision that West Texas isn't where we wanted to raise our family. And so we sold our house in Texas, moved back to Colorado, and I took a job with the Bureau of Reclamation. I draw electric plant about 6 miles from my house here.
[00:27:06.030] - Russell Battles
It was just an opportunity. I felt like it was my time to be home, be with my family more, and still make a decent living with good insurance. And so I took a huge pay cut, quit my career, which I could tell you is scary, where it was going to take or where I was going, but I did it. And in August will be one year at the Bureau. I work 410s. I'm home every night, and I have a little girl now that's two and a half months old. And it's awesome just being home with my family every night and not a young guy.
[00:28:04.970] - Big Rich Klein
[00:28:06.650] - Russell Battles
But I sure enjoy it. And I'm glad that I got to go live life and see the world before I had kids, because kids become your world.
[00:28:19.480] - Big Rich Klein
[00:28:19.880] - Russell Battles
And I'm just really enjoying that. Now.
[00:28:26.250] - Big Rich Klein
The Bureau of Reclamation, is that that's a civil service job, your government employee or.
[00:28:31.760] - Russell Battles
Yeah. So it's a federal. It falls under the Department of the Interior. Okay. So I work for the upper Colorado region Bureau, so that would include, like, Flaming Gorge, Blue Mesa, San Juan, the Molinas. You got several in Wyoming. And then, of course, Lake Palace Mead. Glen Canyon is our main office for the upper Colorado. So they're all power generation dams. And so that's where I'm working now. I'm just a mechanic for the Bureau. We got two plants. They're the Molinas, and they're the two smallest units the Bureau has. But it's kind of fun. They're right here by the house.
[00:29:26.490] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. Can't beat a short commute.
[00:29:31.210] - Russell Battles
Yeah, that's nice.
[00:29:34.330] - Big Rich Klein
So then let's jump back into the wheeling. The Toyota, the forerunner.
[00:29:43.260] - Russell Battles
[00:29:46.410] - Big Rich Klein
Who are you wheeling with back then?
[00:29:48.870] - Russell Battles
So I got into wheeling with some of the best crawlers in the country. So addicted off road, put on what they called the Colorado Toyota Jamboree every year. And it was about 2010, I guess. I was doing a lot of local wheeling, but I wasn't traveling, and I got an invite, and I went over to Buena Vista and went with these guys, and they're all Toyota based, and it was a lot of fun. And I met some really good guys, like Michael Bresnel there and Cory Paul Ghani is there silly today. I mean, these are hardcore wheeling guys, probably wheel more than anybody in the country. Jason Crick and all his crew, they were all there. So it was really cool to meet those guys, found out some of them live closer than I thought they did. And so I was wheeling a lot with these guys. And the second year, I had built a shop Buggy. I'm sure you remember the top truck challenge, right?
[00:31:16.770] - Russell Battles
Hollister Hills, California. Well, I've been reading their magazine for years and I decided I wanted to build a buggy to go there because in 2011 they let buggies in and they were kicking butt and it was awesome. And so I decided to spend some of my shop money and some of my own personal money, I guess. But I built a big giant tube chassis buggy. And in 2012 they said, no more buggies in the competition. Great. I never even got to go in the magazine or anything, but I still have my buggy. It's my recreational buggy that I steal wheel around here and whatever. But it's a big buggy. It's on unimag, four axles, front rear steer, Atlas four. It's twin turbo, small block Chevy and twin through. Yeah, they're not compound there, each bank sequential. And I don't run a lot of boost running about £12 of boost and it runs good. It's on 49, it's four lanes Oris it's just a fun rig. It was a purpose built rig that I never got to see its purpose. One of these days I'm going to try to make it up to the west northwest and jump in some of those big rowdy competitions they have up there.
[00:32:58.830] - Russell Battles
But there you go. I just wheel it around here. I throw the 42s on it when I'm going to play in the slick rock and I'm just running around the canyons around here, whatever. I'll leave the 49s on there and it does good in the big stuff. What it doesn't do that is in the tight stuff. It's long 120 inch wheel base.
[00:33:24.410] - Big Rich Klein
Unimaginable, have great steering angles.
[00:33:27.890] - Russell Battles
Yeah. So it's fun. I enjoy it. And so anyway, I'll tell you a really unique story, and it comes from the second year I was down there at the Jamboree, we were hurting Toyota guys like herding cats. So we're all scrambling, trying to get in line and get ready to run Carnage Canyon. And this old man, he pulls up behind us in this tube chassis with part of a Jeep frame and no hood so we could tell it had an LS in it. And this crazy old man is wearing a World War II helmet. Military helmet. Is this Carnage Canyon? Yeah. He's like, Why have there been here? Do you mind if I run with you? Sure.
[00:34:32.450] - Big Rich Klein
With the accident you're given. I know who you're talking about.
[00:34:35.470] - Russell Battles
Go ahead. My name is Russell and he's like, My name is Charlie and I don't give a hoop. And that was the first time I met Charlie Vodka. And he will with us all day. He was a riot and we were climbing the exit and we all went up the main line and some guys made some winch. Whatever, we're getting up there and he was the last one. And I think he just. It's just in his nature, he has to do one better. And so he's climbing the face to the far left of the exit. It does vertical wall and he's getting up there, and his front tires are lifting really bad, like he's in bad shape. So he stops and we think he's just going to go around. He's like, you guys pull my winch up there. So we pull the winch up there and I don't know, he's four and a half feet up this rock wall with his back tires. And that winch line snapped and he went tumbling all the way down to the bottom. That LS was bouncing off the Rev limiter slammed into the rock. He was doing a four wheel drive burnout up against this rock ledge, and he was knocked out cold.
[00:35:53.410] - Big Rich Klein
His first or his last.
[00:35:56.410] - Russell Battles
And we couldn't figure out how to shut this rig off. We're just pulling whatever we can find. Someone gets it shut off, and he's coming, too. And he doesn't know where he's at. And we've been best friends ever since, but he's been probably more of a father figure to me than my own blood. I've just been wheeling with him forever. And that's how I got into we rocked, Charlie.
[00:36:33.180] - Big Rich Klein
Good old Charlie. So talk about your first competition.
[00:36:38.630] - Russell Battles
Yes. So, see, the first competition that I did was in Rangeley, Colorado, just running a Sportsman B class, and we're running a little Toyota based Buggy truck, I guess you could say. Really? It was leaf sprung and just tubed out bed kind of thing. And we did all right. And Jason Crick ended up winning that class that year. And I'd never been to even watched a rock calling event before that. I'd just only done recreation willing. And so when I heard Rangely, it was going to be back the next year, I told Charlie, I was like, hey, you should come up for this. This was really cool. And he did. He brought this brand new buggy bit fabrication. It just built him and had his old LS and everything out of his old Buggy in it. And the second course of the day, he was second course of the day in Sportsman A class. He got up on this rock and I was spotting for him, and he was pretty high centered. And I told him to stop, and I was going to go to the other side and look at what his options were.
[00:38:13.360] - Russell Battles
And as soon as I turned my back, I heard the LS wind up. And next thing I know, he's on his lid down at the bottom. That was the first experience there. It was all good. And we continued. And I ended up spotting for him for quite a while, and we did pretty good. We were always competitive.
[00:38:48.450] - Big Rich Klein
And then that's why you were in there in Grand Junction. And then how long were you in West Texas?
[00:39:01.030] - Russell Battles
I was in West Texas for about four and a half years, five years. And so, yeah, I was in West Texas, and Charlie called me. He's like, hey, are you going down to Mason yeah. I was thinking about going and watching at this point. He had been with the Reeves for probably close to two years. Right. And everybody knows Jason Reeves an excellent spotter and has the patience to go with it. And he worked wonders with Mr. Charlie, but he wasn't going to be able to make it. So Charlie's like, would you mind spotting me? Yeah, of course. I'll come down and spot you. I drove down to Mason about 2 hours, two and a half hours from Midland, and I got there and the first person I saw was Jason. I was like, oh, yes, I'm not spotty. So we were at the driver's meeting that morning, and this little guy piped up in the back and said, hey, anybody's not busy, I could really use a spotter. And I was like, I drove down here. So I volunteered, not knowing who he was, what Riggy drove, what class he was in. I was just like, yeah, sure, I'll do it.
[00:40:32.810] - Russell Battles
Come find out. His name is Steve Marcort and he is a driver. And so I've been spotting for ever since. We ended up winning Mason in Sportsman that year, the one I met him. And then we made it to two other events, and one, the East Coast Sportsman A. The following year, we got Eastern Championship and second behind Michael in Cedar Championships. And then last year, we decided to make a change. We kind of been top of the sportsman a class in our opinion, and he'd been wheeling some really tough and technical trails just for fun. And so we stepped up with the big boys last year and went into the unlimited class. And we found out real quick what those guys are made up. We got beat up a little bit. But if anybody knows Steamer Court, we kind of go into every run as an underdog. We're playing the pro level guys with a homemade rig. And we're running Toyota axles and a transaxle buggy that has no disconnect. Right. So we are so limited by turning radius that I think a one time truck might turn sharper. Yeah.
[00:42:28.380] - Big Rich Klein
And no dig.
[00:42:32.530] - Russell Battles
Can unlock. The best we do is we unlock the lockers. He does have air lockers, so we're able to unlock the lockers. Sometimes we can wedge. We play a lot of the drag axle games, wedge a tire into a rock and hope it pivots, unlock the axle and just see if it'll kind of burn or push itself around. And we're always testing the limits of those Toyota axles. It's a weak link and whatever, but his buggy is super light. He absolutely knows how to drive it. I love spotting for him, but I don't know that I'd have any more fun if I was behind the wheel. I just love watching him work and point him in the direction. And I feel like, you know, I'm definitely a large part of that success. You know, we just competed in Mason a few weeks ago and we got second and unlimited this year. And it was a lot of fun. And I know Skip was filling our pressure there for a little while. Yeah.
[00:43:57.300] - Big Rich Klein
I mean, Skip is driving a portal car with all the weapons. You guys are bringing a knife to a gunfight.
[00:44:07.230] - Russell Battles
Yeah. And we hold our own. I know that the West Coast is a lot more technical and there's a lot of guys that spend a lot of hours and their buggies out there. But down there we really did well. We were knocking out some of the lines that other people weren't even making, and it was a lot of fun to watch and do that. And people ask what it's like spotting, and you can go watch Trailbreaker and stuff and you can see some of these really well known guys who struggle with lines and they make it. But a spotter changes the game and I don't. A lot of guys I see new spotters, they're yelling, they're saying, hey, turn this much, do this, do that. And I've always really just tried not to do that. If I could give advice to other spotters that are starting out is put your faith in the driver. They are the driver. They know their buggy, they know their limits, but feed them the information that lets them make the choices that they need to do. I don't tell Steve every little decision that he needs to make. I feed him the information of where his tires are at, what it looks like, what I think he needs to do, he makes the decision.
[00:45:50.250] - Russell Battles
He drives the car. A perfect example. In Mason on day two, there was this side where the bonus drop was. And because we couldn't make the corner, we were coming into it at an angle. And it was a pretty nasty four and a half, five foot drop with the left front. And he's already tipped up on this bank. To me, it looked like he was okay. I was feeding him the information. He got to a point and he told me, I don't like it. I didn't argue with him. I didn't say, oh, you're fine, keep coming or no, you're okay. Come on. Just a little more. As soon as he told me I don't like it, I shifted my mindset to okay, what's his options? And we turned the rear wheels, we took a one point backup, and we cleared the bonus line. Right. So we really work in tune together. And I really enjoy dealing with him a lot.
[00:46:59.210] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, I noticed that there's a lot of different styles with spotters. Some of the best teams in the old in the past, they would tell their spotters, don't tell me where to go. I'll tell you if I need a rock stacked or I ask you where account is at. And then I see guys that really drive the vehicle from outside the vehicle. And then I see guys that work really well together and have that communication, whether the driver is making the decisions or the spotter is. But it's like good communication.
[00:47:45.030] - Russell Battles
[00:47:49.090] - Big Rich Klein
So as a spotter, I'm going to put you on the spot here.
[00:47:53.350] - Russell Battles
[00:47:55.210] - Big Rich Klein
Who do you think is one of the best spotters in the game right now?
[00:48:00.190] - Russell Battles
That's easy one for me. I think it's Jason Reeves.
[00:48:03.080] - Big Rich Klein
[00:48:03.940] - Russell Battles
Very good. Definitely someone I look up to. He keeps his calm. There's no argument in the radio. Keeps his calm. He makes decisions. And even sometimes I've seen like, why is he doing that? No, that's not the right line. Why is he doing that? I'm thinking to myself from the other side of the rope, and then all of a sudden there's a plan, and you're like, wow, that worked. That's amazing. And then not just what he does with Jacob. I mean, his son, you see a lot of father figure spotters, and it doesn't generally work out so well, in my opinion. But this one, he just has this patience about him and he thinks about the line, the mission, and they go out and they stick to the game plan. But even more so, what he's done with Charlie. Charlie is difficult to spot for because he can't hear. And so you got a guy that can't hear and he's Charlie kind of just does his own thing most of the time. But Jason just being able to go spot for Charlie and have to negotiate himself and do things in a certain way and then run over to another course and spot for Jacob and then just absolutely kill it.
[00:49:45.970] - Russell Battles
Yeah, he's great.
[00:49:48.310] - Big Rich Klein
Awesome. And where do you think your team, you and Steve are going to go in the future? Do you think you're going to keep competing? I know he's in the military.
[00:50:05.090] - Russell Battles
Yeah. He's got obligations. I'm not going to let too much out of the bag, but it sounds like his last duty station before he retires. And it does say how long he's been in there, but his last duty station is probably going to be California. So I will say that he's probably coming for the West Coast guys safe to say. I think he's probably going there next year. And yeah, I think we're definitely going to keep competing. I'll spot form as much as we can get around and make it to the events. And I think you put him in the right rig and put me spot. I think we might be able to do something cool.
[00:51:06.890] - Big Rich Klein
So what do you think is the most important aspect that makes a good spotter?
[00:51:19.410] - Russell Battles
Two things for me, really. I think the most important is patience. You've got so much going on. You're watching cones, you're trying to guide, you're trying not to fall and stumble and fall down the side of a Hill. Trust me, it's not fun. And then you got this clock you're calling out to the judges, you got this time you have to beat. And it's really easy to get wrapped up in the competitive side of things. A lot of us are type A guys, and we want to be the best and we're pushing ourselves. But I think you have to have that patience and discipline to not let that bother you, to just concentrate on what you're doing at the moment. It's one gate at a time. You can't let all that other stuff bug you. It's always going to be there. It's always going to be in the back of your head. But I think patience is a virtue of a spotter and then have fun. It's easy to get caught up in that competitiveness and take it too seriously. And I know on the pro level, these guys, they're making money off. At the end of the day, people are buying their chassis.
[00:52:49.770] - Russell Battles
They're buying their parts because of how well they perform. So they have that extra drive to do better. But any time that it becomes a job and it's not fun for me, that's probably when I'll step out, I just enjoy every minute on the rocks. And I think you have to have to keep it that way.
[00:53:17.950] - Big Rich Klein
I agree. So then what would you tell a guy that is looking to be a spotter the first time? Say he's going to come out with his buddy. Both of them are brand new. What do you think is the first thing they should do?
[00:53:37.670] - Russell Battles
That's a great question. The first thing is you just got to come do it. Just get out there and do it. Don't worry about placing. Don't worry about his rig. Isn't that good or the money? Just come do it. Have a good time. I guarantee you'll be hooked, and then it's just on from there. But as far as the spotter, the first thing you need to do is walk the courses with your driver. Hang out with your driver if you're able to, before a competition, go wheel in with them. Spend as much time learning the rig and the driver. But I think if you're just coming into competition, maybe you don't know the driver. You just volunteer. Walk the courses. We enter almost every course with a game plan. Not almost. We enter every single course with a game plan, except for when Cam spends five minutes rearranging the course.
[00:54:45.370] - Big Rich Klein
Cameron Beesley. Yes, but.
[00:54:50.830] - Russell Battles
Walk the course, talk. The driver is going to have ideas of what his rig can do, and you can get ideas of what he thinks he's capable of doing. And most importantly, just go have fun. Just do it. There's no way that you're. What am I trying to say here? You're never going to know how much fun it is, I guess, or what you're capable of if you don't ever try it.
[00:55:20.430] - Big Rich Klein
Right. That's kind of the same lesson that Skip Scott was talking about.
[00:55:29.110] - Russell Battles
Yeah. I mean, Skip started last year. I was at his first competition. We competed against him last year, and he had never been in a competition. He had very little to no seat time. He had an awesome buggy, but hardly any seat time in it. He did all right. He did pretty good. And then he came back this year after a year of wheeling and setting up his own tones. That's what people don't understand is when you make it up an obstacle, you go drive an obstacle and it's cool. Now put two cones in the most inconvenient spot and climb that same obstacle. It's not the thing.
[00:56:08.410] - Big Rich Klein
The most inconvenient spot. What are you trying to say?
[00:56:14.750] - Russell Battles
And you see it the pro levels. I've seen videos of Jesse Haines out there with cones and just driving them. One of the best rock crawlers I think that we have right now. Day long, he's out there in San Jose plane all the time, but he's not doing the normal lines. He's thinking outside of the box, like, where are they going to stick these damn cones? And he's doing these unbelievable lines out there and just crazy stuff. And that's the mindset that you have to do and get used to to be competitive in the bigger classes. And ten years ago, eight years ago, whatever, when Ultra Four really hit, you know, our sport kind of took a backseat for a while, and I'm really excited of where it's coming the last four, five years, it's really blown up. There's way more competitors at just about every event. There's more people coming back to the sport. And it's really exciting, especially when you got fabricators like Jesse, who are changing the game of rock crawling, and Caleb chassis, too. These guys are pushing the limits of what these rigs can do, and it's really exciting.
[00:57:41.670] - Big Rich Klein
I agree. Absolutely. I'm almost sad that I'm getting too old to be setting up courses anymore.
[00:57:50.770] - Russell Battles
That's the fun part. Now Jake can do it and you just sit back and watch. Yeah.
[00:57:54.780] - Big Rich Klein
Now I just get to deal with all the drivers. There you go. That's okay, though. After Mason, it was really nice to have to not be completely worn out on Saturday morning from setting everything up. And then come Sunday night, I felt good. I didn't feel like I'd been run over by a truck.
[00:58:26.410] - Russell Battles
Yeah, I can understand that. I did feel like I had been run over by a truck. After Mesa.
[00:58:34.850] - Big Rich Klein
The courses were interesting. Jake had opened up all new areas and a lot of brush cutters, a lot of stuff cleared. And the one thing that happens with those kinds of courses is that you don't know what's going to move until it's been driven on a couple of times and starts to settle out. And everything moved.
[00:59:00.660] - Russell Battles
[00:59:02.210] - Big Rich Klein
Stuff that I didn't think even would move. There was stuff that was moving. So I think it was a good lesson for Jake as well, getting an idea of not only where to get cone placement, but to think about. Okay, now if that moves, how am I going to replace that cone in the right spot?
[00:59:21.360] - Big Rich Klein
That's one of the things. That's why I'm still sticking around, of course, to make sure that he has a successful start to taking over. We rock so that the events are still.
[00:59:37.610] - Russell Battles
[00:59:38.030] - Big Rich Klein
No lapse, there's no slack in what's happening. I want to keep the continuity. Of course. It's up to him what he decides to do with it. He can wholesale change the rules or whatever he wants to do, designs anything because he's the future.
[00:59:54.530] - Russell Battles
But he did a great job.
[00:59:57.330] - Big Rich Klein
I thought so. Yeah, I did, too.
[01:00:04.410] - Russell Battles
I didn't think they were too much different in the way they were set up compared to what we're used to, other than I felt. His were bigger, the obstacles were bigger. Had more of a presence to them, I guess.
[01:00:25.670] - Big Rich Klein
More of a national spiel.
[01:00:27.530] - Russell Battles
Yeah. More of a nationals field where yours were more technical in the past, but it was familiar, and I think he did a great job. Like you said, a lot of rocks really moved. I watched Skip move like a VW size rock off the edge. Yeah. There was plenty of rock movement there, and it definitely changed the course, especially on day two. Like I said, we always go in with a game plan, and then when the guy before you move the rock or things, you've got to really think on the fly. And sometimes it works out, sometimes it don't, but it's always fun.
[01:01:12.530] - Big Rich Klein
So then you guys have an idea of coming west. Is Steve going to try to do one or two of the Western events?
[01:01:26.210] - Russell Battles
Not this year. So him and I will both be in Cedar. He's actually going to be spotting himself for a skip. He's going to fly in and spot for Skip. I'll be there. Whatever Jake needs me to do, I guess. But I'll be there to watch or root on or help out whatever I need. And then we are not going to make any of the Western events ourselves as far as we lean next year. Once he gets transferred to California, I believe that will probably, hopefully be a full season for us. Makes it a little easier for me. It's easier for me to get to all that kind of stuff in the west. But he is making Glenco, so we plan on doing Glenco, and Tennessee is a huge possibility as well.
[01:02:24.110] - Big Rich Klein
Excellent. Excellent. And have you been to Tennessee?
[01:02:28.810] - Russell Battles
That's the one I haven't been to. I have not made it all the way down there.
[01:02:33.340] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. That's an interesting event site. With it being a night event under the lights, it's pretty cool.
[01:02:41.530] - Russell Battles
Yeah. Everybody says it's a lot of fun down there. I don't know. Fat Boys and Heat. I don't know.
[01:02:51.010] - Big Rich Klein
That's why we do them at night.
[01:02:53.530] - Russell Battles
[01:02:54.320] - Big Rich Klein
We don't get started until like, 7730 and then work our way into the evening and done by midnight or so. And it makes it a lot more pleasant.
[01:03:06.130] - Russell Battles
Yeah. So Tennessee is maybe for me, probably for him. And then I think we're both going to meet Glenco, and then they said we'll be in Cedar next week or two weeks, whatever here. Very shortly.
[01:03:23.500] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, very shortly.
[01:03:25.870] - Russell Battles
But he'll be with us, and I'll just be watching. And then I'll make Rangely, kind of hoping that maybe I'll be competing myself in sports Monday.
[01:03:38.800] - Big Rich Klein
Oh, that'd be cool.
[01:03:40.390] - Russell Battles
So we'll see how that goes.
[01:03:42.620] - Big Rich Klein
Excellent. So what's on the future for you? Just more kids.
[01:03:48.790] - Russell Battles
No more kids. We're done. This is it. I got a boy, I got a girl. Get experienced both sides. That's it. I'm working on something. Starting a new career is never easy. Bottom of the totem pole. So I'm getting that figured out. Getting life straight. But I am working on little something. I found out in Mason that someone else is working on the same project, but I am trying to build an electric Buggy.
[01:04:37.650] - Russell Battles
I don't know where Jake is on his, but I have chassis. I've been working with an EV company, trying to figure out power plants. Mine is not going to be a traditional electric vehicle like a Tesla or something. I'm going to use traditional drive train powered by an electric motor. Okay. So basically I'm doing an adapter plate to a traditional transmission, running a tea case and standard axles.
[01:05:13.080] - Russell Battles
So right now it's a matter of trying to figure out the converter and batteries. Batteries are the big one. How many batteries do I really need? How fast can I charge them in between rounds? I don't want all that weight, but I need enough to. If I have to go straight from one course to the next course, I don't want to run out of battery in the middle, of course.
[01:05:39.030] - Russell Battles
So Where's that line? Where's that at? I may be a little underpowered. Maybe I'll have to get more power hour later on, but I'm going in the lower horsepower range just because I feel it's going to be gearing and weight that make the Buggy better, not the actual horsepower. And the electric motor has so much torque. Right. So, yeah, we're playing around with that. Still haven't done axles or anything like that. I'm at the pre beginning stages, so working on that and seeing where that's going to take me.
[01:06:19.790] - Big Rich Klein
Excellent. And anything else you can think about? Any stories about some of the guys you've wheeled with or at competitions?
[01:06:33.910] - Russell Battles
There's so many stories, I don't even know where to start, but probably some of them shouldn't be discussed.
[01:06:40.330] - Big Rich Klein
Oh, come on.
[01:06:42.730] - Russell Battles
No, I agree. I've had the pleasure of dealing with some really good guys. When I was first getting into the Buggies, I met Kevin Carroll. This was before he had the red dot buggy and got to meet him and spend a little bit of time with him. And then his company blew up and he got me into aviation, became a pilot and I'm happy that I got to know him, call him a friend. Some of the other guys I wheel with, I would say my friends are the guys you see on the internet who are wheeling almost every weekend. I don't think anyone wheels harder than some of my really dearest friends. I've just been blessed that I can hang out with these guys and they're always pushing me and I'm pushing them. I truly believe that you're only as good as the people you hang out with and that's in all aspects of life.
[01:08:01.970] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, absolutely. Yes, I agree. The thing that they say is like look around and see who the people you're with. If they're all successful in business, More than likely you're going to be as well. If you're hanging out with a bunch of drug dealers or druggies well, guess what? The same thing happens with the wheeling. If you're hanging out with the guys that are going big, more than likely you're going to be going big, too.
[01:08:35.210] - Russell Battles
Yeah, I agree. Yeah. Future looks bright. I'm spending a lot of time with my family. I know it's probably going to take away from wheel a little bit while they're young, but we'll be back and we have big plans. And my son, he's just a little guy now, but he really likes getting out and maybe we'll see a little like the battles in the ranks here pretty soon.
[01:09:08.620] - Big Rich Klein
That would be awesome. That'd be great. Get him into a little kid's buggy.
[01:09:13.610] - Russell Battles
Yeah, that would be a lot of fun, I'm sure.
[01:09:18.820] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, absolutely. Well, excellent. Russell, I want to say thank you so much for coming on, spending some time and talking about rock crawling, talking about your life and the plans you guys have for the future. I appreciate it.
[01:09:35.890] - Russell Battles
Yeah. Thanks for having me on the show. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it.
[01:09:42.230] - Big Rich Klein
Excellent. All right. Well, we'll see at the event.
[01:09:45.490] - Russell Battles
All right. Thanks, rich.
[01:09:46.590] - Big Rich Klein
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