Conversations with Big Rich

Nicole Johnson takes a Detour to talk with Big Rich on Episode 193.

December 14, 2023 Guest Nicole Johnson Season 4 Episode 193
Conversations with Big Rich
Nicole Johnson takes a Detour to talk with Big Rich on Episode 193.
Show Notes Transcript

YouTube star Nicole Johnson brings a load of experience to her channel, she’s on a mission to drive everything – but we shouldn’t be surprised she’s already mastered race cars, rockcrawlers, and Monster trucks! Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.

5:36 – Snow? People live in snow, that must suck!

16:20 – Frank would just…it was really cure, he would stand up and be like, “that’s my wife!”             

23:25 – we’re just enthusiasts, we love to target shoot  

29:04 – the buggy we bought was so capable, it out drove me every time

35:37 – that $400 is going to cost you how many hours to really get that relationship where it needs to be

45:48 – “when I lower my arm, floor it and go 20 feet.” when you floor it, it’s going to have some torque squat

1:00:51 – I was always telling my kids, you guys should appreciate me more, I’m super cool!

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Special thanks to 4low Magazine and Maxxis Tires for support and sponsorship of this podcast.

Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.

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[00:00:01.080] - Nicole Johnson

Welcome To Conversations with Big Rich. This is an interview style podcast. Those interviewed 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 past, present, and future Legends, as well as business owners, employees, media, and land-use warriors, men and women who have found their way into this exciting and addictive lifestyle we call Offroad. We discuss their personal history, struggles, successes, and reboots. We dive into what drives them to stay active in Offroad. We all hope to shed some light on how to find a path into this world that we live and love and call Offroad.


[00:00:46.150] - Nicole Johnson

Whether you're crawling the Red Rocks of 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.


[00:01:13.000] - Big Rich Klein

Have you seen 4-Low magazine yet? 4-low magazine is a high-quality, well-written, four-wheel drive-focused magazine for the enthusiast market. If you still love the idea of a printed magazine, something to save and read at any time, 4low is the magazine for you. 4-low cannot be found in stores, but you can have it delivered to your home or place of business. Visit to order your subscription today.


[00:01:39.820] - Big Rich Klein

On this week's episode, my guest is a wife, a mother, small business owner, rock crawler, monster truck driver, YouTuber, and Instagramer, as well as a long time friend. Everybody's already probably guessing who it is, but it's Nicole Johnson. Nicole, how are you doing?


[00:01:57.680] - Nicole Johnson

Hello. I'm doing really good. I'm super appreciative that you're having me on right now. I haven't talked to you in like 100 years, so.This should be fun


[00:02:05.090] - Big Rich Klein

exactly. I've watched some of the stuff that you've done. I got to admit, I don't get a chance to watch everything with everybody, but I try to keep track what everybody's doing a little bit here and there. I'm looking forward to this conversation.


[00:02:21.160] - Nicole Johnson

Yeah, me too. Ask away. What are we doing?


[00:02:23.520] - Big Rich Klein

 okay. First thing I want to know is where were you born and raised?


[00:02:28.090] - Nicole Johnson

I was born and raised in Oxnard, California, which is in Ventura County. If you're not familiar with that, it's on the Coast between LA and Santa Barbara. The climate is awesome. It's always like '60s and 70s. I lived there until I graduated high school. Because my parents divorced when I was really young, my dad was born and raised in Hawaii, and I got to split my time between California and Hawaii, which really rough. Yeah, that's not bad. Every summer and every other Christmas, I was in Hawaii. Pretty much three months out of the year, I never knew that California Coasts were overcast, June Gloom. I never knew any of that because I was in Hawaii on the beach. It was really rough. What's funny is my dad was from Kailua, which is a beautiful beach. But because I got so accustomed to that awesome beach when I'd go home to California and go to the beach with friends, it sucked. It was like seaweed and tar and freezing cold. And now I'm living in Las Vegas going, I should have appreciated the beaches more in California.


[00:03:41.240] - Big Rich Klein

Absolutely. I went to college in Santa Barbara, but we'd surf Rincon and then Ventura and Oxnard because there was a nice offshore break out there.


[00:03:54.810] - Nicole Johnson

Yeah. Did you go to Silverstrand? Yeah. So my husband, Frank, is from there, too. Okay. He's also from Oxnard. That's where we met, so that is where we met. Yeah.


[00:04:04.630] - Big Rich Klein

Those early days of school, got to ask, were you a good student?


[00:04:09.950] - Nicole Johnson

I was a good student. I've just always been a goodie two shoes. I was in honors classes. I wasn't like in the AP stuff, which was the Super nerd smart. I wasn't that level, but I was in honors and got I don't know what my GPA was. I was a good kid. I got into college, went to college, went to BYU, actually, in Utah, which is how I left California at 18, went up to BYU and studied construction management. It's a great school, really good education out of there. Frank and I got married really young. We were 19, so I had to drag his butt up to Utah. And when we left, we both got jobs in the construction industry in Las Vegas. So when I graduated college, we had three job offers: Salt Lake, Las Vegas, and LA. I thought, for sure, I want to go back to LA. I had never planned on leaving California, and I think those were the good old days of California before it became some of the issues that exist now. I never knew that growing up in California, we were a little snobbish, well, slash, Hawaii, about Four Seasons.


[00:05:36.700] - Nicole Johnson

Snow? People who live in the snow, that must suck. I didn't know that Four Seasons is actually cool because California is just so mild and I never really experienced any of that. When I got up to college, I was like, I don't want to stay here. This is really cold. Now I would totally live in a colder climate, and I think that'd be really cool to be up here some more mountains and stuff.


[00:06:01.830] - Big Rich Klein

So you had job offers in the construction industry? Yep.


[00:06:06.630] - Nicole Johnson

Okay. Yeah. I went and interviewed in L. A, and I realized it was the worst pay and the most traffic. I was like, I don't want to do that. In Salt Lake, I just didn't want to live in Salt Lake because my parents and everybody were still back in California. So it just wasn't attractive for me to stay there. We took the job in Vegas because it was halfway home. Initially, it was just this temporary move. That was 96. We were still here. I keep thinking it's temporary.


[00:06:39.100] - Big Rich Klein



[00:06:39.360] - Nicole Johnson

We have been here ever since.


[00:06:40.830] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah, I don't think it's temporary.


[00:06:42.600] - Nicole Johnson

I know. The thing is like now our boys are graduated from college. Our boys went to school in Utah, graduated from Utah State University, and are now they're stuck in Utah. So, of course, I think about, should we move? I don't know.


[00:07:01.270] - Big Rich Klein

I don't know. Your roots are there. They may end up back in Vegas.


[00:07:06.460] - Nicole Johnson

They're weird. They don't really think of Vegas with this attachment like you would think. Born and raised here, I think there's a lot of... How do you say it? I love Vegas, and I believe in Vegas, but there is a lot of transient. There's a lot of people moving in, and out and turnover and people who live in rentals and not necessarily in the same house for 20 or 30 years. So it's harder to have a community feel here. I think our hockey team helps. We all love our Golden Nights. Our hockey team.


[00:07:46.100] - Big Rich Klein

Really helps. Well, now you have The Raiders.


[00:07:48.650] - Nicole Johnson

You like The Raiders? Come on, man.


[00:07:52.120] - Big Rich Klein

No, I'm not a Raider fan. I'm a Niner season ticket holder. I have no love for The Raiders or Dallas Cowboys.


[00:07:59.070] - Nicole Johnson

Well, ditto. A lot of the locals are not thrilled that the Raiders are here. Sure, it brings revenue. And it has with all of, especially, F1 is here. We've got the Raiders, the Oakland A's are coming. We have a lot of things that are just going to continue to build our economy here, but not everybody likes the Raiders.


[00:08:23.510] - Big Rich Klein

It's that prison mentality.


[00:08:26.520] - Nicole Johnson

I don't know what it is.


[00:08:28.010] - Big Rich Klein

I don't know why it is.


[00:08:28.890] - Nicole Johnson

When I grew up, though, in Oxnard, the Raiders would practice in Oxnard. Right. And so it was really common to see them running around.


[00:08:38.270] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah, the Raiders were really transient with their practice facilities. At one time they did it Napa. And when Little Rich was growing up and playing football in Pop Warner, our practice fields was their practice field, where we played our games as well. Home games. And I mean, it was the greatest grass I've ever been on. But besides that, the town of Napa really didn't like them there because there was always so many problems around them.


[00:09:13.190] - Nicole Johnson

I don't know what it is. I don't know what it is. Maybe because they're raiders. Raiders are not nice people. They raid you. Right. I don't know what it is. It's not a very friendly. It's all about tough guy stuff. So whatever, you would think I'd be more drawn to them, though, because they were the local team. They were practicing in the summer right there, but whatever. I don't know. I still see Vegas as there's a lot of benefits to living here. I mean, anywhere in town, you're 20 minutes from the airport. We have so many people that come in and visit that it's nice. We get to see a lot of people. It's easy for me to get to L. A. I mean, I'm four hours to L. A. It's easy centrally located around a lot of really great cars. We got a lot of car culture in the Southwest. True.


[00:10:02.350] - Big Rich Klein

Very true. So when you were in school, grade school, you were a good student. Did you participate in drama or band? It is hilarious. -or sports or any of that? It is hilarious.


[00:10:18.530] - Nicole Johnson

Dude, the first thing out of your mouth was drama. And when you started saying, did you participate in? I was going back to my mind, junior high school. I was in drama. I was in drama. It's hard to believe, right?


[00:10:32.170] - Big Rich Klein

Not really.


[00:10:35.190] - Nicole Johnson

It's not my fault. I was in drama, and I was in this... There was a speech competition, and it wasn't like debate. It was like you would prepare, I don't know, have these monologs and you could go to these competitions. I did good at that. I think I fast forward to college. I took a public speaking class. I think between all of that, it's probably helped set me up for being able to talk to just about anybody now and large crowds. I can address an audience and not feel nervous by that. A lot of people would rather be in a coffin than giving the eulogy. You know what I mean? Yeah.


[00:11:23.930] - Big Rich Klein

I've never had that problem.


[00:11:24.220] - Nicole Johnson

 right. Yeah, I was in drama in junior high, and prior to that, I wasn't really in sports or anything. I wasn't one of those kids that started playing soccer at six or anything like that. And once I got to high school, though, it was really fun. You didn't have to have any sports background to be able to go try out for the volleyball team and softball and tennis. And so I played all of those in high school. Just not very good. We always got our butts kicked by Santa Barbara in volleyball and tennis, if you can imagine, obviously. Santa Barbara is really good at that stuff. But it was fun and it was all just like low key, nothing super competitive. But I did go to high school with a couple of people who ended up being very famous athletes. I don't know if you recall Marion Jones. She was an Olympic runner and she was in high school with me and she went on to do very, very well in the Olympics. And my buddy, Dimitri Young, went on to play professional baseball, and he lived across the street from us.


[00:12:42.320] - Nicole Johnson

So it was cool. We had some really cool athletes in our community.


[00:12:45.560] - Big Rich Klein

Awesome. What about in college? Was it just strictly school?


[00:12:51.340] - Nicole Johnson

I took a class that was outdoor rec, like rec management, recreation management, and we got to go spalunking. Does that count? We did some hiking and spalunking. No, I was just a nerd. In college, Frank and I, being married really young, had an opportunity to buy a house in Bountiful, Utah, which is like 114 miles round trip to get to Provo to go to B-Y-U. But we bought this house because he had a job about 15 minutes north of there in a little town called Farmington, Utah. I mean, look back in this house was $107,000. It was nothing by comparison, right? We all should have kept it. But I commuted and I went to school for year round. Fall, winter, spring summer, fall, winter, spring, summer. Fall, winter, spring, summer. I could graduate, so I didn't have time for a lot of extra stuff. I drove every day for two years from the time we had bought this house, 114 miles around trip every day to get down in the fall, winter, spring, and summer through bad weather and everything in a little red 89 Dodge Colt. It seems dangerous now. We didn't have cell phones.


[00:14:12.580] - Nicole Johnson

I was really focused on getting through. I graduated in four years. And most people... It's in the engineering program. Construction management is part of the engineering program. And most people, it's about a five-year degree. I did it in four. And a big thing for me was finishing as a married woman because when I decided to get married at 19, my stepdad was like, Is this the right thing? Are you making the right choice? He said, Statistically, girls who get married young don't finish college. That was 100% fuel for me to prove him wrong. It wasn't that he wasn't a supporter. He was absolutely a supporter. He was super proud of me and completely I couldn't have gotten through without my parents' support. But he's right. He wasn't sugarcoating it. The statistics, odds are against you when you get married at 19. I was hell I went on that, and I did it. Don't forget that.


[00:15:20.620] - Big Rich Klein

That's a great accomplishment. It really is.


[00:15:23.480] - Nicole Johnson

Yeah, it's a lot of work.


[00:15:25.500] - Big Rich Klein

Then when you got to Vegas, you went to work for construction company?


[00:15:31.830] - Nicole Johnson

Yeah. Martin Harris Construction, which is now a pretty good size contractor here in Las Vegas, was building some casino additions. I got hired as a project engineer, and we were on the Fitzgerald's casino, and there was a job trailer out in the alleyway, and I would run around the job site with a hard hat and a clipboard, and they hired Frank too, and he was a union carpenter, so I'd walk around the job site, take notes, whatever, look important, I guess. Sometimes the guys wouldn't know that Frank was my husband, or I should say that I was his wife. As I would walk past, sometimes the other guys might start to make a little catcall. Yes, exactly.


[00:16:18.680] - Big Rich Klein

Construction workers.


[00:16:20.350] - Nicole Johnson

Yes, exactly. Frank would just... It was really cute because he would stand up and be like, That's my wife, and shut them down really fast. He would protect me, I guess. We did that for a couple of years, and we always wanted to go out on our own. After having enough supervision experience under our belt, we took the contractor's license tests and have had a general contractor's license since the year 2000, actually, in Las Vegas. Initially in Las Vegas, when you're taking the examinations, there's a law exam, like a construction law exam, and a trade exam all about the field. Being 50-50 partners here, he took the trade exam. I took the law exam, and we were on the license jointly. Since then, he's actually recently gone to work for one of his clients and had a reason to be on another contractor's license for that builder. That meant, in order for us to have our contractor's license, if he left the license, remember, he was the trade qualifier, then I had to take that examination and qualify as well. I'm now full fledged. I'm the person on our contractor's license. I've passed the.


[00:17:40.820] - Big Rich Klein

Trade exam. You were able to find the box of toenails in the construction trailer.


[00:17:46.620] - Nicole Johnson

The box of toenails? What does that mean? I know what a toenail is in construction terms. I do know. But that's a funny statement. The box.


[00:17:58.590] - Big Rich Klein

Of toenails. When I was a contractor here in California, I'd come out of the job. I normally have three job sites going at once, and I'd walk out and inevitably somebody would be in the supply trailer, typically the new kid, Summer Help or whatever. And the other guys would be going, Oh, Rich is here. And I'm like, All right, what's going on? Well, we sent Johnny in to find the box of toenails.


[00:18:28.610] - Nicole Johnson

That's funny.


[00:18:29.580] - Big Rich Klein

That was great. Board stretchers, too?


[00:18:32.370] - Nicole Johnson

That's right. That's funny. That's pretty funny.


[00:18:37.180] - Big Rich Klein

You're full-fledged now.


[00:18:39.880] - Nicole Johnson

Yeah. We don't operate the company to the level that we did prior to the economy crashing. All the way up until that point, we were completely, that's what we did. That was our full-time job together. Run our own construction company, built high-end custom homes, tenant improvements. And then the economy crashed. All of our subs went out of business. All of them went bankrupt.


[00:19:08.220] - Big Rich Klein

And you're talking 2008, 2009?


[00:19:10.820] - Nicole Johnson

Yes, exactly. That was a tough time. So 2008, those banks collapsed, and we had forecasted pretty good. We had jobs under contract that we're going to be breaking in 2009, and we had some pretty good forecasts. Our gross income was reduced by 90 % by the time 2009 ended. And it was just really hard to continue to hang on. By 2012, we actually opened up a gun shop. There wasn't a lot of construction going on. And Frank had the skills of fabricating because of our rock-crawling days. He knew how to weld. He had actually worked as a certified welder for many years, and he had a mill and a lathe. He was a hunter. It seemed perfectly natural for him to study some gunsmithing. He started gunsmithing, and we did that for a while until about 2019, and had a gun shop? I can only tell you, retail gun stuff sucks. Don't go into retail in general, stinks, man. If you want some freedom in your life, do not open a retail store because you have to be there. That's the hardest part.


[00:20:32.230] - Big Rich Klein

Right. Then the other part is you have to deal with walk-in customers.


[00:20:36.870] - Nicole Johnson

If you're in the gun business and you're close to California, who shows up on a Saturday? People who can't buy your guns because they're from California. They just want to come in and touch the product, look at it, whatever, and then you don't actually sell anything. And there's so much online competition. I feel online sales has really destroyed small mom and pop brick and mortar stores.


[00:21:01.220] - Big Rich Klein

Walmart ruined Main Street, and the Internet almost ruined Walmart. But did destroy a lot of companies.


[00:21:11.900] - Nicole Johnson

Yeah, it's really hard. If you ever wanted something, needed something right now, something very specific that you knew there used to be. We used to have a fries electronics. You could run in there and get anything nerdy you needed for your computer. Now we don't even have that. So good luck trying to get whatever you need right now. There's not stores when you need them and forget about if you want to go shopping. There's no clothes. Come on, Big. I know you're like shopping all the time.


[00:21:38.590] - Big Rich Klein

Oh, yeah, that's me.


[00:21:41.890] - Nicole Johnson

Yeah. Anyhow. Yeah. Frank is a very skilled craftsman and like an artist. I think his ability to repair and customize and really do some great work on firearms is awesome, but very difficult to try and make a living doing that. So once construction came back into full swing, he was just getting pulled by so many people that were like, Hey, come run this job for me. Come run that job for me. Finally, it just made more sense. We went back into construction and probably about 2018-.


[00:22:19.720] - Big Rich Klein

Did you guys close the gun store down or did you.


[00:22:22.480] - Nicole Johnson

Sell it? We didn't sell it. No, we just closed it. It was just like, I just want to out. We had no debt, which is great. We didn't owe anybody anything, and we just wanted out. So shut that down and moved on and I do not regret it at all. There's also a lot of liabilities to owning a gun shop, as we see every time there is a tragedy out there, some a mass shooting. Do you recall the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012? Oh, yeah. I don't specifically know the details about the lawsuits that ensued after that, but apparently there was a judge that had ruled it was okay to sue the manufacturers. That's not okay by me because we were a manufacturer, and that's one of the things that we said, we just want out of this. We don't want the liability.


[00:23:18.130] - Big Rich Klein

Blaming the gun manufacturer is ridiculous.


[00:23:25.190] - Nicole Johnson

Yeah. We're just enthusiasts. We just love to target shoot. And Frank's a hunter and law-abiding citizens. I don't want to talk too much about the politics of it, but I just know that that was a major reason for shutting it down and not even intending to sell it. Just close this beast down. We're not interested. And move on. But we did have a lot of fun, and we did go to target shooting a lot, and so I actually learned how to break down and clean a gun. It's fun to target shoot. I don't have anything against any of that. That's really fun. Cool.


[00:24:03.090] - Big Rich Klein

Still doing it? Yeah.


[00:24:05.510] - Nicole Johnson

Lately, the ammo is expensive, so we horde that thing. Don't use your ammo.


[00:24:11.350] - Big Rich Klein

Let's talk about getting into offroading. How did that all come about?


[00:24:18.930] - Nicole Johnson

So going back to when I met Frank and we were married, his daily driver was a '72 FJ40 with a Chevy 350 in it. And he had big curly hair and he was a surfer and a land cruiser. Really? That's it. We're getting married. We moved to Utah, obviously really good wheeling up there. And then when we moved to Vegas, we met the folks in the Land Cruiser Club. Frank became the President, actually, of the Southern Nevada Land Cruiser Association. That's where we met Dustin Webster. Dustin and Becca, their son Chase, was four months old when we met them, and that was before our kids were even born. And as you and I know, Dustin and Becka were awesome competitors in We Rock and very well known on the Red Bull rock crawling team. And we all became really good wheelin buddies. I think just by being exposed to people who also wanted to go wheeling, it just... Frank and Dustin, actually, Frank often would just take off and go break trails around Vegas. And that's how he actually met Dustin was out on a trail one day. They're both in land cruisers trying to break a new trail.


[00:25:36.400] - Nicole Johnson

Yes, okay. Yeah. And that, as you and I know, turned into just years of competition. Frank started competing with Dustin. Dustin has his Red Bull sponsorship and pitched the idea, Hey, would you sponsor our Jeep? And that was like '98, perhaps. I'm trying to remember exactly. It was probably around '98. Frank was always the spotter, really good on the outside of the car, looking at the suspension, understanding if it was going to unload or if it would hold. And after a little while, of course, we trail wheeled as a family, we camped, we went to Moab, we did all of these things. But primarily, I was on the sidelines during those early years. And if you recall back from the Pirate 4x4 days before everybody moved over to social media, and my handle was Spotter's wife because I was Frank's wife and he was the spotter, made sense. And by 2004, I was asked to drive in an all women's competition and won that event and was like, Hey, Frank, this is so much fun. Let's go compete. I eventually pulled him away from Dustin and Becka's team, and we just started our own thing.


[00:26:55.750] - Nicole Johnson

And I recall going up to Chris Bolger, who at the time was the rep for ProComp Tires. And Dustin and Becka had been running ProComp Tires and they had these stickies. And I was so jealous because they were so much better than just a DOT tire. I remember coming up to Chris Bolger one day. It's probably 2006. And I said, What's it going to take to get a set of these stickies? I mean, these are really expensive tires. I go, What's it going to take to get a set of these stickies from my buggy? And he goes, You got to just run a whole season. I'm like, Really? And that's how I started. I'm like, Okay, I'll go run a season if I can get some tires. And that's how it started. I don't know. It's easy to let it become an addiction.


[00:27:52.640] - Nicole Johnson

Let's see. How old was Little Rich back then?


[00:27:56.760] - Big Rich Klein

Little Rich graduated high school in 2002, I believe.


[00:28:02.750] - Nicole Johnson

Okay, so he was pretty young. I remembered seeing him when Frank was spotting whatever, when he was younger. But anyway, it seems like a hundred years ago, man. It's so long ago. And we were getting our butts kicked. I have this 91 YJ that was still running the framerails from the YJ, but Frank had we bought it from Brandon Gillen, who in 2002 it was a winning car. But by 2006, trying to compete with it seven, it was getting... It was completely outclassed. Yeah. And Frank had turned it into a four seater so we could take the kids to Moab. They were still pretty young. In 2006, they were six and eight years old. And it just was getting... We didn't place any better than 14th.


[00:29:02.600] - Big Rich Klein

But that's.


[00:29:04.870] - Nicole Johnson

Probably what sparked us really looking at Shannon Campbell's buggy. And that buggy that we bought was so capable. I mean, itout drove me every time. It was easily capable of winning every single time. It was a very, very good car. And Shannon would always call me because he would forget measurements on it and he wanted to try and recreate it. He never wrote anything down, which is hilarious. Right. He would just whip out a car and like, oh, 20 minutes and it would win.


[00:29:37.230] - Big Rich Klein



[00:29:38.250] - Nicole Johnson

Such a skilled dude.


[00:29:40.020] - Big Rich Klein

I know that when Walker Evans had him build a car, he brought up all these parts to Shannon's shop, and Shannon was like, Well, okay, where's the engine? Where's the transfer case? I'll bring those up next time. He goes, I don't know. I need them now. Because you haven't even started bending to him. He goes, I don't need them now. He sent Walker back to L. A. By the time Walker got back, he already had the chassis done. Oh, my gosh. And was ready to put that stuff. I mean, that's how fast they could work.


[00:30:14.680] - Nicole Johnson

Incredible. Yeah, Shannon's ability to whip out a car is incredible. Just amazing. Amazing. So that car was... You know, it was not an inexpensive purchase, yet by today's standards, it would be super cheap. But it was what really changed how people were looking at what we were trying to do, because it was a competitive car, and we were now nipping at the heels of some of the best drivers on the planet. I was never super top in the game, but we were getting some podiums, and we were consistently... I think I beat everybody, at least on one day. I could never always hold it together for two days in a row. But it was what helped get us some good media. And that media press kit that I eventually ended up building was what helped launch me into Monster Trucks, because we had already gotten some good eyeballs on us. I guess if you're listening to this and you don't know this, I don't want you to think is, Oh, she only got a lot of attention because she's a girl, because we worked our butts off to get any bit of attention that we had.


[00:31:42.100] - Nicole Johnson

And that goes back to making sure that our team always looked professional, that our car was clean. I worked hard to repair that car and make the car look good. Frank was always in charge of the mechanical stuff. I was in charge of what I said, the bling, the body, the paint. I did all of.


[00:32:03.020] - Big Rich Klein

That myself. Right. Do you think that your time around the Websters helped with that, to get the understanding? Because Dustin and Becka were truly consumate professionals. They were always prepared. They always looked to the nine, for sure. And other teams would come out there and couldn't understand why they pulled in so much media when they were not winning, and why they could get the sponsorship when they were not winning.


[00:32:41.150] - Nicole Johnson

All the time. 100 %. So my example was that they showed up in team uniforms and everybody was branded. They put out press releases. They reached out ahead of time to journalists to say, Hey, would you like to come to this event? We're going to be there. So it isn't any accident that they got good media. You have to go seek that. You could just show up and hope somebody will take your picture and hope it'll land you on the cover of a magazine. Or you could reach out to that journalist and say, Hey, we're going to be at this event. Would you like to come out and see what it's about? Absolutely. Who do you think they're going to take a picture of?


[00:33:23.160] - Big Rich Klein

That's lacking now.


[00:33:25.190] - Nicole Johnson

Well, true. But this is back then. And this is when you were still putting out press releases, and a lot of teams weren't putting out press releases. So 100 % of that example absolutely was what they did. And if you see something that works for somebody else, mimic what they're doing until you can figure it out. I think that was a massive... We just leapfrogged into what we thought was the right way to do it because we had an example shown to us.


[00:33:57.300] - Big Rich Klein

And it was.


[00:33:57.890] - Nicole Johnson

And a lot of people on the subject of sponsorship think that it's just, Hey, pay me this. I'll put your sticker on my car. There are a lot of obligations to massaging that relationship and trying to bring a return on investment to a sponsor, understanding that and going out of your way for them and really working with people you want to work with is important. It doesn't always make sense if, let's just say, you could get a free whatever for your car and it's like a $400 item. Now, this isn't to say like I know not everybody is just made of money. $400 might be a massive amount of money to somebody. But what is the obligation? If you get a free $400 item to try and give a return on investment to that sponsor, it might be cheaper to just buy the item and not have the obligation. Think about who you really want to align with because you're going to go put a lot of time into that relationship, hopefully, if you're doing it right. True. But I think that because they did put a lot of time into their relationship, we saw that.


[00:35:04.260] - Nicole Johnson

We always tried to look probably bigger than our britches. We always tried to look like we were a professional team. People didn't know we were just wrenching in our garage. They thought we must have had a shop somewhere. No, we're just pulling all nighters and ordering pizza for the kids because we're still in the garage at 11 o'clock at night and they got school tomorrow. They didn't know how we were doing it, but we worked really hard and none of it just fell in our lap.


[00:35:33.100] - Big Rich Klein

True. You had one of your big ones was Kicker, wasn't it?


[00:35:37.600] - Nicole Johnson

Kicker came on board, and this is a very good example probably of choosing a sponsor wisely, because I think that their reputation is very high. They came on board very early, probably around 2007. It was before, it was probablyfor my Campbell buggy? I totally can't remember. It's not like I wrote it all down exactly what was happening. But initially, they gave me product and a little bit of money, but we worked really hard to try and build a partnership with them. And to this day, people still know that I was with Kicker, that I'm still with Kicker. They have supported me on my channel. And though none of it is like life-changing dollar amounts, I do have to say that when the economy crashed and so much of that construction tanked, we were not doing very well for a time financially. There was a time when we could not buy groceries and Kicker came to the plate. I wasn't competing, and they came to the plate and still helped us out. I forever will appreciate them. They don't necessarily have to pay me for me to say great things about them because there are many years where all I had was a relationship.


[00:37:10.240] - Nicole Johnson

It wasn't all about money, because they came to my aid when I needed it.


[00:37:17.610] - Big Rich Klein

And that's why I don't like the term sponsor, I like the term marketing partner, because it truly is a partnership on them helping you and you helping them.


[00:37:28.750] - Nicole Johnson

Yeah, for sure. It's a relationship. That's why I say pick who you want to work with wisely, because hopefully all the effort that you put into it will be worth it. And it's not that you're... Don't get me wrong, free parts are awesome, and sometimes that's what you got to do to just get started. But eventually you'll have to weigh, is that worth it? Or should I just free up some of my time by omitting that obligation and maybe it's worth it to just pay for this part and not take on that obligation, because I certainly don't want to take on a part that I can't give an ROI to somebody. Right. Yeah. And I don't think a lot of people talk about that part of sponsorship.


[00:38:11.780] - Big Rich Klein

They don't.


[00:38:12.530] - Nicole Johnson

They don't talk about maybe turning something down because you're going to just take on another obligation and you don't have time for that to do it properly. True. It's like.


[00:38:24.260] - Big Rich Klein

Buying another job.


[00:38:26.850] - Nicole Johnson

Yeah. That $400 is going to cost you how many hours to really get that relationship where it needs to be just by the part.


[00:38:35.500] - Big Rich Klein

Yeah. What's your time worth? Exactly. So then from rock crawling, you went racing.


[00:38:43.880] - Nicole Johnson

Well, we were all dabbling in K-O-H in those early days, and those years are all blended together. It wasn't like a distinct go do this, then go do that. It was all concurrent. So did King and the Hammers for 2008, '09, and '10. And that's when it was just in its infancy, of course. And it just really started changing super fast. And we knew we could not be competitive without building a specific car. Today you have to have a purpose-built car. And it was just getting that way very quickly. So what I did want to do, though, was I loved the short course racing. I loved watching the Lucas Ola short course racing, and it was televised. I was really jazz to try and go do that. And so we bought a 1,600 buggy and only raced it a couple of times. I, a couple of times went out and drove one of those little Superlights, which you could rent from John Harra, and went up to Renau area and played around on track with Ricky Johnson a couple of times, him mentoring me a few times, but never really did the full series. I was trying.


[00:39:59.570] - Nicole Johnson

It's just a lot of money. And I think that was... Fast forward to 2010, when I was at Cima, and I was really trying to find enough sponsorship to go run. I really wanted to try my hand at a full season in a televised class at Lucas Oil. And that's when everything changed, because I met Dennis Anderson, and he's a gravedicker, driver, and creator. I met him and his son Ryan. Dennis had said, Hey, they're looking for female drivers. You're probably not too late. They had tryouts like two weeks ago. I said, Dennis, if they had tryouts two weeks ago, I'm two weeks too late. They made a special test session for me within about two weeks of meeting. When I say they, it wasn't that Dennis did this. It was the bosses. Monsterjams, owned by felt Motorsports. The bosses invited me to come out and test drive, and it was me and Todd Laduk at a private test session. We were driving one of the grave digger trucks. My first truck I ever drove was a grave digger, which was cool. We test drove for two days and they offered us both jobs. I had never really considered that opportunity.


[00:41:29.570] - Nicole Johnson

It was literally just wow. I passed the test and they offered me the job. I was excited and nervous and terrified and regretful and all these things that go on in your head after you say yes to something like that, because I had six weeks to stew on that. Six weeks from the time I test drove until I was in a show. I only had ever driven for two days in a huge field in North Carolina, at Dennis's property. And then my very first show, which is day three of driving, is in a teeny, tiny little arena in Trenton, New Jersey, and they're sitting in the driver's meeting and they go, All right, the hockey dashers are going to be up during this show. I didn't even know what that meant. I'd never been to a show. I'd never been to a hockey game at that point. And the dashers are like the little four-foot wall that goes all the way around the ice skating rink. And they've got sponsor logos and sometimes they're LED. Sometimes they light up, and those are very, very expensive. So in the driver's meeting, they say, Okay, in this building, they're going to keep the dashers up.


[00:42:36.430] - Nicole Johnson

Don't hit a dasher, or it's a very, very expensive repair. One of those monster truck tires, 67 inches tall. Do not tap a dasher. What do you think Nicole Johnson is going to do on day three of driving, having only driven in a giant field in North Carolina?


[00:42:53.620] - Big Rich Klein

Did you mash?


[00:42:55.380] - Nicole Johnson

I might have hit a dasher, but hey. Live and learn, right? There's no way I.


[00:43:03.230] - Big Rich Klein

Knew- That's what you meant by a dasher.


[00:43:05.670] - Nicole Johnson

Now I know what a dasher is. Well, you're turning your rear steering. You got to know where that rear is. It's going to kick out like a forklift. I don't exactly recall which tire hit it, and no, it wasn't massive damage. But the point is, if you tap it, you're in trouble. But I won racing, so I felt like it made up for it. Right. Yeah.


[00:43:30.060] - Big Rich Klein

What was the test consist of? It was to just get out there and drive the thing around and try to do some jumps and stuff and see if you could hang?


[00:43:43.220] - Nicole Johnson

Kind of. But they've got an instructor with you. I remember when they called me a couple of days after Cima, they said, Hey, we'd like to get you out to North Carolina. Are you interested in test driving? I said, first thing I said is, Are you going to teach me how to drive this? I've never been in one. It's not like I have one in my backyard. Are you going to teach me how to drive it? They said, Absolutely. You'll have an instructor. To describe the inside of the cab, you sit in the center of the chassis. You're not to the left like you would be in a normal car. And you have a steering wheel, which you're going to operate with your left hand. And you have an upright piece of tubing with a little toggle switch on the top of it that's right about where your right-hand is going to be adjacent to the steering wheel. And the little toggle switch is going to operate the rear steer. Now, you and I have been around rear steer for a really long time, but typically in competition rock crawling, if you push the little button to the left, your tire is going to kick to the left, which means you're eventually going to turn right if you're on flat ground because it's a forklift.


[00:44:49.990] - Nicole Johnson

In rock crawling, it's all about precision. I need my tire to go this direction. In a monster truck, they just set it up backwards. What's cool is you don't have to think about, Where's my tire going? If I want to turn to the left, I push the button to the left, the tire kicks to the right. The very first thing you're going to do is just maybe do some figure eights with only rear steer and maybe then adding in some front steering. You're just going to feel how that is. Youand it's a toggle switch that's self-centered, there's a pump. And so if you push it and just need to do a turn, then you just let go and it self-centered right back and auto-corrects. Well, if you're going to do a doughnut, there's a little switch that you can turn off the pump. You would just turn it to full stop, turn off the pump so that you don't burn up the pump, and just set it and forget it and just hold it and floor it and you're doing a doughnut. It's just holding it open. And then you could either manually control it if you really wanted to or just flip back on the auto center.


[00:45:48.610] - Nicole Johnson

It takes about 1:1,000, 2:1,000, 3:1,000 for it to go from full stop all the way back to center. So you learn how much time it takes you for the car to center back up because you can't see those tires. You're really driving by field when you're using rear steer. So it's good. The first thing you do is just play around and do some figure eight. Okay, you got that. And then we're going to do a whole shot. And so your instructors are just standing there and you're just going to pretend you're drag racing. And he goes, all right. So when I lower my arm, he's just going to have his arm in the air. And he goes, When I lower my arm, floor it and go about to there, 20 feet. Well, 1,500 horsepower. When you floor it, it's going to have some torque squat. It's a rear engine. It's just going to squat down, and it's going to feel different than probably anything you've ever done if you've never done that. And I think that's probably a little test right away, because people who lift and don't get through that first 20 feet are probably not quite set out for it, because your instinct might be to go, holy crap and lift off that throttle.


[00:46:58.480] - Nicole Johnson

So just floor it. Just drive it 20 feet. Okay, cool. Do that a couple of times. Okay, cool. That would just simulate a drag race in an arena, straight-line drag race. Well, but a straight-line drag race with a monster truck would be awfully boring if there wasn't an obstacle, right? Right. So your next thing you're going to do is they have a little mound of dirt about only two, three feet high, just a little bump, like a speed bump. You're going to do a whole shot. But 10 feet in front of the truck is a little bump. Now, Florent going right at that bump. Do you know what happens?


[00:47:35.830] - Big Rich Klein

It lifts up.


[00:47:37.220] - Nicole Johnson

Your truck will be 10 feet in the air right now. It's awesome. Boom. You just jump into the air. Now you got to land it without breaking all your gears and everything. You just got to get through that. And if you can handle that, now we're going to put you with a few more stunts. And by the end of the second day, we learned to go diagonal off of the big ramp. The big ramp that's more than the length of the truck. And you're driving up this huge thing, getting some big air and going diagonal off of it and landing one, two, three, four like that. Not just straight on too tired or two, four tires. So that's it. You just do that for about two days, and then you go get into the confines of a tiny little arena and try not to hit the dash.


[00:48:29.950] - Big Rich Klein



[00:48:31.660] - Nicole Johnson

Well, okay. Everybody's got to learn somehow. I eventually learned where the corner of that truck was, but I certainly didn't know it with a six-week gap in between two days of driving in a field. But you learn the only way you can do it is just to do it. And those days was very expensive to practice. They didn't get drivers to practice. By the time I left, like that last year or so that I was there, we would go take an entire week and go out to Chicago to Tom Menz's place, the driver of the max D truck. He lived in a big cornfield. He had a huge track at his place. And so we could go practice for a week and you'd really hone your skills and come out of that going, Well, I had more seat time in one week here than I'd get in an entire season. So you'd come out of it a much better driver. And now they absolutely do that with the drivers. You can see it because even the brand new rookies are able to do some really great stunts and tricks that we just never had an opportunity to practice or try because we were just...


[00:49:32.160] - Nicole Johnson

The only seat time we got was in a three-minute show. You're driving for three minutes. That's it. You go do racing, you might whip off some donuts, you have Freestyle, that's two minutes. You're driving for maybe three, four minutes a show. It takes a very long time to feel proficient in a monster truck at that pace.


[00:49:54.740] - Big Rich Klein

Well, anything.


[00:49:56.480] - Nicole Johnson

Yeah, anything.


[00:49:57.480] - Big Rich Klein

Just a rear-steer buggy on a rock-crawling course, just three minutes at a time is not going to get you very much. No.


[00:50:05.280] - Nicole Johnson

It was like you get thrown into the fire. You are a lobster in the boiling water. You know what I mean? Just figure it out right now. It was violent. You learn how to dial in your safety gear. Sometimes some hits were better than others, and you got flipped around like a ragball often. Eventually you go, Wow, my body. I don't know if I want my body to be all destroyed. I did it six years, and I got to travel the country. I got to go all over the world, and it was cool.


[00:50:44.080] - Big Rich Klein

Sign autographs, get pictures taken? Yeah.


[00:50:47.180] - Nicole Johnson

You know, it's funny. Part of the job is signing autographs. Honestly, you can't let it go to your head. Because one time I took my son with me to a show, he was in high school, and we put a crew shirt on him. He's running around with the Scooby-Doo crew shirt. I was the original driver of the Scooby-Doo truck, and people were coming up to him to get his autograph. It's not personal. You wear the crew shirt, the little kid wants you to sign their stuff. One thing you can't let it do is go to your head. You're there to do a job. Part of the job is to sell merchandise. If you're signing something, parents are more likely to buy the merchandise for their children, because that's what the whole point of the show is. I didn't ever let it go to my head, but I've literally signed. I could never, if I tried, figure out how many autographs I signed. Thousands and thousands. You would just be signing for an hour during a pit party, an hour post-show, and sometimes you were doing three to five shows a weekend, and every single weekend going to show you.


[00:51:56.730] - Nicole Johnson

It's impossible to know how many we've ever signed, but it wasn't personal. Nobody was running up to me at Costco and asking for an autograph, you know what I mean?


[00:52:04.540] - Big Rich Klein



[00:52:05.970] - Nicole Johnson

No, nobody. So it's just part of the gig. Right.


[00:52:14.370] - Big Rich Klein

So what was it like doing the back flip for the first time?


[00:52:18.610] - Nicole Johnson

Well, it's funny, because prior to that, I had never had the green light. No, Monster Jam is not staged. However, if out of 16 drivers, every single driver is going to attempt a back flip. The show is going to get pretty stale fast. So during the drivers' meetings, they would typically say, Hey, there's three of you authorized to do a back flip, and you know what order you're going out, and that's it. So maybe somebody early on, maybe somebody in the middle of the show, and certainly by the end of the show, somebody's going to do a back flip. And that's entertainment. But it was world finals in 2014 in Las Vegas. It's my hometown. My dad had died of cancer four years earlier, and my husband's dad, Frank's dad was in hospice about to pass from cancer. And it was the first time that during a driver's meeting they said, Hey, you guys all have a green light to do whatever you want. We all quickly shot eyes at each other, looking around the room like, Oh, my gosh, we can do anything we want? We've never been told that. I was teammates with Dennis Anderson at the time, and I come up to him before the show, and I said, Hey, we're in our trailer.


[00:53:38.800] - Nicole Johnson

I said, I'm considering doing the back flip tonight. I really wanted to dedicate it to our dads because I knew Frank's dad was about to die. I just felt like, if I'm going to do it, I want to do it. It's for the dads. I said, You have any advice for me? I'm thinking of doing the back flip. He said, Commit. It's like this huge life lesson ever since then. He said, Commit. He didn't elaborate. He didn't say a whole sentence. He said one word. I knew what it meant because I already understood, or I thought I understood by watching a couple of guys who'd already done it like what the mechanics were. And here's how you do it. At the time, they had a Connex box, a metal shipping container. Today they're building the ramps out of dirt. But back then there was a shipping container, and they had a very small dirt transition so you can get your tires up on it. Maybe a little two feet of a 45 degree angle. Right? Right. And I watched guys doing it, and they didn't approach really fast. You have to approach slow. And then when the tires would get on the wall, I would just watch the throttle, listen, watch what they're doing, and they would floor it.


[00:54:48.320] - Nicole Johnson

Okay, they're flooring it. And then you'd watch. And what happens is every wheel and tire is 700 pounds. So all that rotating mass, you better light it up and don't lift the throttle. That's what commit means. Don't lift the throttle because it's now going to climb the wall. The box will cave in a little with the weight of the truck and become an arc and keep going because it's now the rear is climbing. Keep going. And all those wheels and tires are floored. You're in second gear and just floored. And they are just pulling that truck around in a circle in an arch. And you just look for the ground and you're still floored and you're in the air and you can hear the motor come up higher because you're not on the ground anymore. It's trying to over rev at this point. And then when you see the ground, when you're about to hit it, you just hit the brakes and it'll stop the truck from bouncing and lending you on your lid. That's it. It was like eight seconds.


[00:55:59.230] - Big Rich Klein

Sounds easy.


[00:56:00.440] - Nicole Johnson

It's very easy. It's submental that's not-.


[00:56:04.140] - Big Rich Klein

As long as you commit.


[00:56:06.000] - Nicole Johnson

The only thing it is, I mean, it takes zero physical ability whatsoever. It does not matter what gender you are. It is push the throttle, look for the ground, push the brake. That's it. It's not about... It has nothing to do with gender or physical fitness, and it's wrapping your head around doing it. Because I have seen guys who didn't land correctly and they broke their neck, because if you land on your roof, who knows what's going to happen? There's no suspension. It might cave in. You just don't know what's going to happen. It's just wrapping your head around it and don't lift. It's crazy.


[00:56:47.460] - Big Rich Klein

So you went in and didn't lift?


[00:56:49.730] - Nicole Johnson

I didn't lift. There's a video out there that was a GoPro on me in the inside, and there's a video showing my eyeballs, and they're enormous. Because your whole universe is moving around you. You're stationary in the truck. The crowd is now upside down. You can see it in your peripheral vision that the crowd just went upside down. It's really weird. And now you're looking for the ground. Oh, there's the ground. At one point, you're 100 % perpendicular to the ground, vertical nose down at one point in that arch. And that's crazy, too.


[00:57:29.180] - Big Rich Klein

So you had a little bit of experience with getting vertical and inverted rock crawling, didn't you?


[00:57:39.740] - Nicole Johnson

At your events. Dude, this is the funniest thing. The first time I rolled a monster truck, I get out of the truck, and we walk back stage and chatting with other drivers. This older dude, I don't even remember who it was. He was an independent monster truck driver, and he was older, gray haired, whatever. And obviously he'd been doing this 100 years, and I'm totally rookie. And I rolled it. And I get out and he goes, All macho. And he goes, So what did your first rollover feel like? And I go, You have no idea, but this is not my first rollover. I have rolled over so many times I can't even count. You know what I mean? It was nothing to me to roll a truck because I actually thought of you. I thought, You guys have no idea. I have burst into flames. I've been vertical. I've been upside down. I've done all these things, so it didn't feel any different being in a monster truck. And being vertical is just I think wheelies are cool. Wheelies are like trying to get that truck as vertical as you can. And I've popped it up and sat it on the tailgate before.


[00:58:51.170] - Nicole Johnson

That's cool. Right. And you just tap the brake and it'll come down. That's a weird feeling because you're literally just laid back, vertical.


[00:59:02.230] - Big Rich Klein

Looking sky.


[00:59:03.870] - Nicole Johnson

. Yeah. Looking at the sky. One time I jumped, and I remember at the driver's meeting, they said, Hey, just so you guys know that after racing, we're going to push up one of the racing lanes and make it a little steeper, like a lot steeper. So when you guys hit that in free style, be aware that it's going to be a lot steeper than it was during racing. So what did Nicole do? Forget all that and hit it really hard during free style. And that truck went so high in the air and was hanging in the air for so long. When you're jumping, just like if you're in a motorcycle, you're going to wrap the throttle to keep the tires moving so that when you land, you match the speed. You're not going to break all your gears. If the ground is moving below you and you land and the wheels are moving at the same speed, everything should be okay. You jump up in the air and you go wrap or you go wrap, wrap. Well, usually we would go wrap, wrap. I get up in the air and I was like, Oh, yeah, I remember they said they were pushing up that race ramp.


[01:00:14.890] - Nicole Johnson

That was a really big jump. I'm in the air and I go, rep, rep, rep, rep, rep, rep, rep, rep, rep, rep, rep, rep, rep. Then I landed. I was in the air for so long. I was like, Can I be hanging for any longer? Everybody was talking about it. It was nuts, maybe a little big. But I get to tell stories for days when I'm an old lady. That's the good takeaway.


[01:00:44.360] - Big Rich Klein

There you go. I mean, when you become a grandmother, you're going to be the monster truck driving grandmother.


[01:00:51.950] - Nicole Johnson

Yep. That's all I ever want is one day I just want to tell cool stories. I was always telling my kids at the time, You guys should appreciate me more. I'm super cool.


[01:01:03.500] - Big Rich Klein

I'm not like the mom down the street that just brings sliced oranges to soccer practice.


[01:01:09.870] - Nicole Johnson

Right. I always had to tell them I am so cool. And they didn't believe it even at the time. It didn't matter what your job was, you were still going to be like, Mom.


[01:01:20.770] - Big Rich Klein

Right. Did you ever have a chance to go to career day at school and say, Yeah, I'm Nicole.


[01:01:30.800] - Nicole Johnson

I'm trying to think if I ever did that. Probably not. I don't know. But I do remember, though, dropping my son off at the bus stop or picking him up. Maybe I was picking him up. Anyway, my son's friend waved to me, and I didn't even know this little boy. He waved to me and said, Good luck this weekend at Monster Jam. That's when I knew my kid was actually proud of me because he was telling his friends. Like, How did that kid know? And I was like, You can act like you don't like me. I know you think I'm cool. Awesome.


[01:02:11.170] - Big Rich Klein

So let's talk about after Monster Trucks, you're a YouTuber and Instagramer. Yeah. And you still work in construction?


[01:02:26.710] - Nicole Johnson

I have a real estate license I've had since 2017. I do real estate, and I use my contractor's license when I need to remodel or flip a house. I don't do it except for through word of mouth. I don't advertise any of it. If you're somebody that knows me or knows somebody that knows me, I'll do it for you. But I'm not like... I wouldn't say it's my full-time thing because I do put a lot of time into cars these days. But of course, I still do all that stuff. But yeah, I mean, YouTube is a funny little universe. And I really wish I'd started it sooner because we've been doing it for about three years now, and it is a slow progression. And just as anything, you just wish you had had some time on your side. I wish I had started it sooner because there's a lot of competition out there now. But Nicole Johnson's detour is a professionally-produced show, and in every episode, I get to drive something new. And the way the show came about is I've always loved to drive cars, anything. I used to pester my friends all the time, Let me drive your car.


[01:03:49.890] - Nicole Johnson

And I've always thought cars are cool. I would drive my dad's truck when I was 12, you know what I mean? I don't know. I just always like to try new things. And so every single episode, I could drive whatever the subject car is. And I've gotten a chance now to drive some pretty spectacular cars. And because I spent so much time in offroad, I didn't know a lot about the rest of the automotive planet. I didn't understand that there was a whole what classic cars are orrestomods or Japanese classic cars or rat rods. I didn't know what any of those things really were. I knew my dad was into hot rods, and I didn't really understand or appreciate what I was looking at back then. I get to explore all of these things. And every single time I drive a car, it's like, I've never driven that particular car before. It's really fun. And I've driven, even to go do an episode with Cody Wagner, believe it or not, I had never driven a rear-steer rock buggy before. I had driven a rock buggy and I'd driven a rear-steer monster truck, but I had never driven a rear-steer rock buggy, and that's actually really cool.


[01:05:09.360] - Nicole Johnson

They're super capable. Really fun.


[01:05:14.110] - Big Rich Klein

So do you get to search the vehicles that you want to drive? Or is there a team that helps with that?


[01:05:21.030] - Nicole Johnson

Oh, yeah. Yes, we definitely have several of us that are constantly scouring and looking. Sometimes it's just nerding out on Instagram and finding somebody who's really cool, or it's like going to a cars and coffee or networking, simply asking somebody, Who do you know with great cars? We found them all different ways. Sometimes we find cars because people will send us an email right in and say, Hey, I got this. You want to check it out? They don't always meet the criteria, but sometimes we get lucky and have found some really great cars just because they've come to us. But it is a lot of networking. If you're listening to this and you know something totally mind-blowing that we should know about, hit us up. Send me a message. Because we're always looking for something great. What I love is when we find the guy that nobody's ever heard of, who's got something totally crazy in his garage, and he's just a one man band. We love finding that guy. Right.


[01:06:22.090] - Big Rich Klein

So what's next?


[01:06:27.340] - Nicole Johnson

What's next? You mean on the episode list or on the Nicole Johnson Life Tour?


[01:06:32.380] - Big Rich Klein

Life tour.


[01:06:35.110] - Nicole Johnson

Total world domination.


[01:06:38.130] - Big Rich Klein

That's a nice goal.


[01:06:40.000] - Nicole Johnson

Yeah, I figure if I fall short of that, maybe something else I'll be.


[01:06:44.670] - Big Rich Klein

Happy with. Just the country or two?


[01:06:46.900] - Nicole Johnson

Just the country or two would also work. Yeah. I think that right now I'm super focused on having a variety of driving experiences. I went, I've spent some time on track recently, and we actually have a Porsche Boxster that Frank has caged and turned into a track car specifically so I can have more high-speed performance driving experiences because having off-road experiences don't necessarily translate. I'm trying to get as much seat time as I can in a variety of things. I spent a couple of days driving on an Oval, like in a NASCAR-style vehicle, just turning left, liking out, spinning out, turning left. You know what I mean? And learning, understanding that and understanding that throttle control. And one of the other things that I'm super, super dying to do, it's on my huge wish list. We're trying to figure out how to make it work. I'd love to go to Dirtfish Valley School. I want to go do some private training up there and really come out understanding car control. I've never actually done drifting. I have drifted on dirt. That is not the same thing I would like to do. There's so many things I want to do that what I'm concentrating on is having such a variety of experiences under my belt that I'm going to be the go-to.


[01:08:08.710] - Nicole Johnson

Call Nicole. She can drive everything. It doesn't mean I have to go be a perfect driver or be the world's best driver, but I want to be a driver of various things, having all those various experiences under my belt.


[01:08:22.390] - Big Rich Klein

Sounds great.


[01:08:23.750] - Nicole Johnson

It's also a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun.


[01:08:27.900] - Big Rich Klein

And you got a birthday coming up?


[01:08:29.880] - Nicole Johnson

Oh, yes. I'm going to be 29.


[01:08:31.880] - Big Rich Klein

Twenty-nine. Perfect. And how old.


[01:08:35.540] - Nicole Johnson

Are you kids? Three and five, and they're college graduates. Smart kids. They're very smart. They're so smart. I do have to tell you, though, my youngest, Kainawa, won an Emmy this couple of months ago for one of his work. Really? Yeah. He graduated in broadcast journalism at Utah State University. And one of his projects over the summer, he graduated in August, but over the summer, his professor submitted for a student Emmy award, and he won. Additionally, his girlfriend in the same major won an Emmy for one of the pieces she produced. We're really, really proud of them. They're just great. Matching the Emmys. Yeah, and he helps us on our show. He edits, he helps us shoot, and he's just great. I'm really proud to say that my son wanted Emmy.


[01:09:27.440] - Big Rich Klein

There you go.


[01:09:28.510] - Nicole Johnson

Excellent. I'm a proud mama. I'm a proud mama.


[01:09:30.650] - Big Rich Klein

Should be. That's excellent.


[01:09:33.150] - Nicole Johnson



[01:09:34.720] - Big Rich Klein

Well, Nicole, I want to say thank you so much for spending the time and talking more about your life. A lot of this I knew from the rock crawling days, the earlier stuff, but I love the description of the back flip and the racing and stuff. It's just awesome.


[01:09:57.770] - Nicole Johnson

Yeah, I appreciate it. I'm so grateful that you reached out. I hope that you also get to total world domination from the podcast land. That's the goal.


[01:10:12.110] - Big Rich Klein

Just total world domination. I'm just having fun doing it.


[01:10:14.770] - Nicole Johnson

Yeah, me too. Excellent. Well, it's awesome. I appreciate it. Big hugs to your whole family. Love you guys. I really hope that I get to see you in person sometime soon, because it's been a really long time.


[01:10:28.380] - Big Rich Klein

Absolutely. We need to hook up. Sounds good. Yeah. Okay, well, thank you so much. Say hello to Frank for me. It's been a long time to talk to him, too.


[01:10:36.250] - Nicole Johnson

I will. I'll give him a big kiss.


[01:10:37.580] - Big Rich Klein

For you. There you go. All right, Nicole.


[01:10:40.710] - Nicole Johnson

Thank you so much.


[01:10:41.500] - Big Rich Klein

All right. Bye-bye. Okay, bye-bye. Well, that's another episode of Conversations with Big Rich. I'd like to thank you all for listening. If you could do us a favor and leave us a review on any podcast service that you happen to be listening on, or send us an email or a text message, or a Facebook message, and let me know any ideas that you have or if there's anybody that you have that you would think would be a great guest, please forward the contact information to me so that we can try to get them on. And always remember, live life to the fullest. Enjoying life is a must. Follow your dreams and live life with all the guts that you can. Thank you.