The elusive Harry Wagner, he’s here in the heart of off-road, and then he’s off finding unexploded bombs in places the rest of us would never think to look. I’m glad there are geophysicists, like Harry, out there looking! With an early history in the Jeep market, Harry has moved through many vehicles through his editorial marching orders. Today he drives a Tundra and an F150 most days. Follow him at @harrysituations
4:45 – I was a nerd
8:19 – Busted! There was still mud
10:59 –Overlanding was just what they did
14:02 – UXO – unexploded ordnance
18:53 – pre-blog writing to mom
20:26 – the start of freelance work
21:43 – you caught me off guard
25:33 – favorite journalist story?
28:40 – going to Baja
31:17 – Ultimate Adventure is pretty squared away
33:58 – future Harry
38:13 – What attracts you to an event?
42:41 – editorially dead
51:42 – Off-roading still remains fun
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Welcome to the Big Rich show, this podcast will focus on conversations with friends and acquaintances within the four wheel drive industry. Many of the people that I will be interviewing, you may know the name, you may know some of the history, but let's get in depth with these people and find out what truly makes them a four wheel drive enthusiast. So now's the time to sit back, grab a cold one and enjoy our conversation. Whether you're crawling the Red Rocks of MOAB or hauling your toys to the trail Maxiss has the tires you can trust for performance and durability.
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[00:01:20.570] - Big Rich Klein
On today's episode of Conversations with Big Rich, we have Harry Wagner, I first met Harry through the media side of our sport, we'll check out everything that Harry has to talk about his history, how he got involved in Off Road, and we'll see if he remembers when we first met. Anyway, Harry, thank you for coming on board. And I think I'm going to enjoy this conversation.
[00:01:45.500] - Harry Wagner
Yeah, me too. I'm looking forward to it. I'm really flattered that you asked me.
[00:01:50.150] - Big Rich Klein
Well, you are a big part of one of the events that we do every year, and we'll get into that. But, you know, you've been around for a while with the magazines. But before we get into involved with your media side of things, let's start in the beginning. Where did you grow up?
[00:02:07.910] - Harry Wagner
Yes. So I was born in Sacramento, California, and lived there until I was eight. Orangevale to be specific. And then my dad actually opened up an off road shop in Yuba City, just like a farming community north of Sacramento. We lived there through junior high school and then I went to high school in Vacaville, California. So all kind of northern California in my childhood. And then I went to college in Colorado, which was like as far east as I had been at that time in my life.
[00:02:40.550] - Big Rich Klein
Well, in Colorado, I saw that that was the School of Mines, I believe it is called. That's in Golden, correct? Yep. OK, cool You've done your homework.
Well, I've been to Golden a couple of times to the brewery, Coors Brewery. And then yeah, I was doing some homework and doing a little little LinkedIn search on your name and to see what else you know you came up with.
But so let's let's talk about that time growing up especially, you know, eight and before. That's some of that is is hard to remember.
Exactly. But, you know, let's talk about those other years.
[00:03:19.730] When did you when did you or how did let's say let's go here.
What kind of activities did you do as a youth that helped lead you into what you're doing now?
[00:03:35.710] - Harry Wagner
My family was really active in the outdoors, as I mentioned, my dad had an Off-Road shop, I can't remember a time of my life when we weren't on trails like the Rubicon, but also even just fishing and camping on the coast and in the Sierras, where common activities for me and my extended family, my cousins and my aunts and uncles. So I spent a lot of time outdoors growing up. I was a Boy Scout, so I was actually an Eagle Scout and went to Glacial Trails Scout Ranch, which is located adjacent to Fordyce Creek Trail, actually.
[00:04:12.580] - Big Rich Klein
Congratulations on getting your eagle. It's it's something I'm proud of myself, but I probably did it a lot earlier than you did. I mean, in on calendar dates. Sure not.
[00:04:27.970] - Harry Wagner
I didn't realize that about you. So congratulations to you as well. Thank you I'm learning things here here today.
[00:04:33.130] - Big Rich Klein
Yep. That's what this whole thing is about. So when you were in, say, high school, what kind of activities were you involved in besides going off road with your dad?
[00:04:45.190] - Harry Wagner
I mean, I was a nerd, I don't know that that's a shock to anyone that knows me.
But, you know, I was involved in my community service, things like Key Club and an organization called Odyssey of the Mind, where you have to do these different Problem-Solving exercises and things like that. I was never super big into organized sports or I mean, I'm not the most athletic person. I was more into snowboarding and skateboarding and things like that, individual activities than team sports team sports. But but I also. Yeah. Was pretty active in school and extracurricular activities that were more, I guess, civic minded.
Well, that's awesome. You had mentioned the Eagle Scout or that has come up. Funny story there. So I actually my first vehicle was a Jeep CJ7 and that is something that my folks bought for me when I got my Eagle Scout.
I was like many kids, I think, you know, in junior high school, high school, and self-conscious and felt like I didn't really fit in and Boy Scouts wasn't cool. And I wanted to drop out, but I had gone quite far through the program at that point. My parents were like, you know, we think you're going to regret that. We really think you should get your Eagle Scout and continue in this program. And I was like, oh, I don't want to.
And they said, well, what if we motivate you? What if we, you know, put a carrot out there for you to help you achieve that goal? And I mean, I thought it was going to be like a new Nintendo game. I didn't know what they were talking about. So what if we buy you a car? And I was like, oh, yeah, the Eagle Scout.
It is. That's the motivation. Yeah, right.
I'll say. So I drove that CJ7 through high school and then through college as well.
Well, that added to your cool factor right there. Yeah, I mean, it was fun, you know, that was definitely before I had done much off roading, it was my daily driver and I didn't know a whole lot about how to turn wrenches or anything, but my father helped me put a small lift on it and had 33s and regeared diffs. And it just had a limited slip in the back. It wasn't super capable or anything. But, you know, this was we're talking like mid 90s, too.
So it was. Pretty good back then for high school kids, absolutely, in high school, I drove 54 Volkswagen Beetle. Oh, wow.
Yeah, well, you can take those off road, as we've seen, right?
[00:07:13.790] - Big Rich Klein
Oh, we did all over. I grew up in San Bruno, California, and the the mountain there, Mt. San Bruno, the big one between San Francisco and San Bruno, the rest of the peninsula.
We drove there used to be dirt trails all over that thing that you could just get off the pavement, go. And we drove all over that mountain. And then the first time I went down into went into some mudflats down in like the Foster City area. And I instantly regretted and ever since have hated mud I got home and and my dad said, OK, you know, you need to clean your car. And I said, OK. So I started to pull it in the driveway. And he goes, What are you doing? And I said, I'm going to hose it off. And he goes, Oh, no, you have to go do that somewhere else. And so I don't know how many dollars in quarters it was back then, but it was way more than, you know.
I mean, it was like at least a tank of gas. And I was like, all right, no more mud, right?
[00:08:19.310] - Harry Wagner
I was what I was in high school. They were we lived in like a new subdivision and they were building adjacent to us and they had cut the pads, but they hadn't built any houses yet. And I went out there and was doing donuts in the mud in my jeep and washed it before my folks got home. So it would be clean and there was no evidence.
And then surprisingly enough, shortly thereafter, the brakes weren't working very well.
And my dad brought it in the garage, took off one of the rear drums.
He's like, oh, that's weird that this is packed full of mud.
So busted learned that.
Got to clean the undercarriage, not just the body.
[00:08:55.250] - Big Rich Klein
There you go. There. Yeah. So from that first CJ7 is that's a vehicle that lasted very long for you.
[00:09:04.160] - Harry Wagner
Do you still have it or is it still around. I don't know where it is, I don't still have it after college, I lived in Houston for a year and then I moved to Venezuela and at that point I sold the CJ7, the F.J. 40 that my dad had when I was a kid is still in the family. I actually with a friend of mine, Brad Davidson, we got it running recently and that's a 66 FJ 40. My dad bought new and it's a 67, rather.
He bought new in sixty six. So that's still in the family, the CJ. I don't know where it is at this point.
[00:09:39.850] - Big Rich Klein
OK, well that's cool it the history that that first vehicle, you know, your dad's Land Cruiser is, is still around. That's, that's awesome. Yeah.
So let's talk about out of high school then.
You said college and you in the school of mines. What's what was your would you do that way.
[00:10:01.920] - Harry Wagner
Yes, so I went to school at Colorado School of Mines, I have a degree in geophysics and I mentioned Houston out of school, I went to work in the oil industry. That wasn't necessarily for me, but that college experience was probably atypical. I would say it's a very small school. It's all engineering. It's like 80 percent guys, but it is in Golden, which is a gorgeous place.
I was really into snowboarding at the time, so my CJ was transportation, but I, I wasn't super into off roading at that point in my life. I was more focused on school and then snowboarding was my extracurricular activity that I was really interested in. It wasn't until I got out of school and had a little more disposable income that I took more of an interest again and off roading.
[00:10:47.960] - Big Rich Klein
Interesting. OK, the School of Mines from there, you mentioned Venezuela. Well, Houston, so you're working in the oil industry and then. Right, Venezuela?
[00:10:59.720] - Harry Wagner
Yeah, I lived in Venezuela for two years working in the oil industry. And it's kind of nuts at that time. This was like 99, 2000. So down there, I'm overlanding wasn't popular yet, but everyone drives FJ40's, FJ45's, F.J. 70s, they call them Machuitos that are so popular as imports here now. But they were everywhere down there. And overlanding is just what they did. I mean, that's you know, they had dirt roads and you're going into the jungle and like around Angel Falls and that part of the country, which was pretty cool.
But it's also when the Internet was getting popular forums. Right. At first, I was on like offroad dotcom forums and then pirate four by four started up. So I was keeping track of what was happening back home at that time as well.
[00:11:51.890] - Big Rich Klein
When did you get involved with pirate? I mean, what was your first handle?
[00:11:56.180] - Harry Wagner
You know, whatever. It was Dirty Harry and I think I was member number like twenty one something, so, you know, not very first, but fairly early on.
And yeah, I was just trying to absorb as much information as I could from back home regarding things like, yeah, rockcrawling. I didn't have a vehicle at that time. So I was when I came home, I bought a Toyota pickup, but I spent a lot of time researching what am I going to get? What do I want to build? And following competitions, too, I mean, that was when that first event of Bob Hazels in Las Cruces, I think was 98 and then was tracking all of that as well.
[00:12:47.500] - Big Rich Klein
Yes, that was the that was the first event that everybody has, that one in common, pretty much with the people I've talked to, they were either in it or wanted to be there or followed it afterwards, or it was the hook factor, you might say. Right. I know it was for me. I had heard about it. I didn't get a chance to go to that one. I went to the Warn national event that he did was the first event that I went to in Johnson Valley and then from there went to ARCA events.
And then, of course, ARCA came into Cedar City.
So then after Venezuela, would you do when you came back?
[00:13:29.040] - Harry Wagner
I moved back to the States, but actually lived in New Jersey for a year. I was home. I was pretty young at the time, and I was homesick for the United States. But New Jersey didn't really satisfy my homesickness. It was different enough in the West Coast that it didn't feel like home, but it wasn't exotic in the way Venezuela was. And I only lived there for a year and then moved back to the West Coast and started doing work in environmental remediation work that I still do to this day, cleaning up old bombing ranges.
[00:14:02.040] - Big Rich Klein
Let's let's talk about that. So sure. The cleaning up bombing ranges. Yeah. So unexploded unexploded ordinance or just correct.
[00:14:14.490] - Harry Wagner
UXO unexploded ordnance. Yep. And.
[00:14:18.640] - Big Rich Klein
You know, you go out there with, like, you know, the metal detector, I'm sure it's much more, you know, not something strapped to your arm, but so how to how how do you go about doing that?
[00:14:32.140] - Harry Wagner
So my degree in geophysics, they use in the oil industry mainly seismic work in order to try and find oil deposits and use geophysics as well for this unexploded ordnance work, because you're trying to find metal in the ground and in particular ordnance that's been fired but didn't function as designed. So ordnance has a lot of fusing components on it. You don't want it to blow up your ship or blow up your plane. But as a result, they don't always go off how they're supposed to.
And those are the ones that are really dangerous. They've been fired but didn't function. So there's bases all over the country where they're either closing or they want to turn over this land to the state, to an Indian tribe, things like that. And we the company I work for gets contracts from the Army Corps of Engineers to go clean these places up. And it's actually giving me the opportunity to go to some really cool places. I've spent four summers in the Aleutian Islands, which are the little tail off of Alaska.
Not a lot of people get the opportunity to go out there. And it's kind of combined with my love for off roading and for, you know, doing freelance work for magazines, as you mentioned, because I've worked in places like El Paso at Fort Bliss and my employer pays for me to get there. I usually bring my Rockcrawler on weekends. I'll go out and run trails and shoot photos and things like that. And I've worked at Camp Hale, which is in Colorado near Leadville, so not too far from Holy Cross or Carnage Canyon, and it's worked out nice.
I've got to travel all over the country and do some rock crawling on the company dime or company dime adjacent.
[00:16:17.920] - Big Rich Klein
At least that's awesome. So what how do you go about when you've identified the ordinance and it's in the ground? Are you the guy that goes in and gets it out of there, or do you just like put a little flag, somebody else comes along with a padded suit on or something.
[00:16:36.630] - Harry Wagner
Yeah, they don't have a padded suit, it's not like The Hurt Locker, but they do. It's not me either. It is someone who's specially trained, who is a retired EOD guy from the military.
They dig it up and tell me what they find. And nine times out of ten, it's, you know, barbed wire or it's a piece of a bomb that's gone off. But that 10th time when it's something dangerous in EOD, they'll do something they call render safe where they actually, like, disarm something, disassemble it. We don't do that. We just put explosives on something and then we'll make it go away and just consume the whole thing when we find something.
OK, that's that's typically also that sounds really intriguing.
It's kind of like a big treasure hunt. Yeah, of sorts, yeah, cool, so there's a lot of paperwork involved as well, so it's not all glamorous, but yeah, there's certainly worse jobs.
[00:17:33.930] - Big Rich Klein
So let's talk about how you got back to Nevada, California after being in New Jersey. Was that did you follow a job back this way or does your job allow you to just go where where you want to be?
[00:17:49.200] - Harry Wagner
Yeah, at this point, I work from home. I can actually report to an office in Omaha, Nebraska, but I only go there about a week, a year because most of my work is either on the road or I can do remotely. So even pre pandemic, I was working from home most of the time. And yeah, my family is here. These are where my roots are and I like it. I have lived in a lot of different places and visited, you know, places all over the country and all over the world.
I, I know enough about myself now to know what I need to be happy and it wouldn't have to be Reno, but I think it has to be mountains. And this area has opportunities basically 12 months out of the year in any given direction from Reno. So it's a great jumping off point.
[00:18:34.860] - Big Rich Klein
That's true. Let's talk about how you got involved as a freelancer. First, let's talk about your your passion for photography, because that'll lead into the I'm assuming that's what led you into freelancing.
[00:18:53.200] - Harry Wagner
Yeah, it did, and that actually goes back to Venezuela as well. This was pre blogs or social media, and I would send my mother these emails about, hey, I went to the beach with my friends this weekend or we went to the jungle and did these different things.
And she would forward them to everyone she knew. And so I thought, oh, I need to up my game here. So I like I had a GeoCities website that I created and I would post pictures from my trips and take notes and try and do a better job of writing. And then, you know, I grew up in an Off-Road club and when I came back, it was just natural to join a club again. And we had a newsletter and I'd write about the trips we went on.
And yeah, I just really enjoyed that. So I didn't I don't have any formal background in photography. All self-taught, but just. We'd been lucky enough to get advice from others, you know, people like Chris Collard, who have been instrumental in helping me get my foot in the door, or Ned Bacon is another one who helped me early on, which I'm sure came up when Fred's conversation as well.
Yeah, I just enjoy the photography aspect as well. And that opportunity to capture something on film or digitally these days. But you see it in person and everyone says, oh, you know, it doesn't do it justice how steep it is or how difficult it is. And that challenge to capture that is something I've always enjoyed.
[00:20:19.650] - Big Rich Klein
That's a good point. What was your first story as a freelancer?
[00:20:26.310] - Harry Wagner
Yeah, that's a great question. It was in 2004 I had pitched to at the time, I think Phil Howell was running Four Wheel Drive and sport utility? Rick Pewe was running. Petersens and John Thompson was running four wheeler. And the only one I heard back from was John Thompson. And I sent him a story on Sierra Trek, which is on Forydce Creek Trail, a Cal-4 wheel event that I've been going to my entire life.
So it was a very easy first article for me to write because I was familiar with the subject and I sent him a hundred pictures and I wrote it a short version and a long version and the version from the perspective of a volunteer. And looking back, it was a terrible story and the pictures were terrible, too.
But somehow he ran it and there were two pages in Four Wheeler.
And I was so excited. And that just really just kind of put everything in motion. And after that, I just the enthusiasm, I was like, all right, I'm going to buy a better camera and I'm really going to make an effort to make a go at this.
[00:21:30.980] - Big Rich Klein
Do you recall the first time that we met?
[00:21:37.290] - Harry Wagner
So I actually went to Lake Amador event. Oh, I don't know that we met there, but I was there.
I actually saw pictures from that event that I that are, again, terrible and blurry. But the first time I remember meeting, I think we met on the Rubicon and I came up to you and I was like, I'm really concerned about land use as it relates to. Competitions and you were you said, you know what, me too, and I was like, Oh, you caught me off guard. I'm like, this guy puts on events but he's out here on the trail doing it.
He's an enthusiast like me and he's listening to what I have to say. And on the same page, do you remember that?
[00:22:20.290] - Big Rich Klein
I do not remember that conversation, but I have heard that you would at the time you recall first meeting me.
I thought it was possibly one of the Donner events.
[00:22:36.210] - Harry Wagner
No, I don't, I don't. I went to your CalRocs event out at Moonrocks, too. Oh, OK. But I don't. Again, you know, at the time I wasn't you obviously were very busy and I was just some guy walking around taking blurry pictures.
[00:22:51.960] - Big Rich Klein
I'm looking at a blurry picture right now that Del Albright sent me of that first Amador event. Yeah, yeah. And it's blurry. It's all you know, the colors are all kind of washed out. But it's it's interesting to see those old pictures. I don't have any from those days because I didn't take any pictures at that point. Not until sure. Not until probably about 2009 or 2010 did I pick up a camera again.
And I, I put my photography away back in like to ah, 1980, probably 1984.
19, yeah. 1984 is when I probably locked my cameras up in case and just said, forget it.
Anyway, you had your hands full, you were pretty busy anyway, even without the camera. That's true. That's true. That Amador event was was one for the books that's for sure. If anything would have made me quit doing what I'm doing, it would have been that first event. But I saw a picture whenever you saw potential.
I mean, obviously it did make you quit.
No, but I don't know if you've ever heard the story. I tell it in the first one that we the first conversations with Big Rich. I ended up in court on Friday night during tech and registration. Oh. With the county of Amador and their planning department and the sheriff's department. They tried to hit me with a cease and desist order and we ended up beating them in court and put the event on anyway. Is the long the the short version of the law of a very long story that actually lasted about four years after that.
But at that point, I saw how much fun everybody was having, how much how much the drivers I mean, everybody involved in the event, except for those that I had to turn away at the gate on Saturday because I was under the control of the mass gathering permit, not having one when we should when the county said we should have had one. And the judge says, well, if you if you don't have over nine hundred and ninety nine people, then I don't see why you can't do your event.
So I kept the gate at nine hundred and ninety nine people and I'd let people in as people left and I saw the potential of the joy that everybody had, how much fun I had, you know, the need for more events just outside of what was being already done. And, you know, with 42 cars there that first time and every day, the two days having an average of at least a thousand people a day was pretty cool.
You know, it was it was fun. Talk to me about what your favorite story that you've done,
[00:25:41.740] - Harry Wagner
huh? That is a good question. It probably be one of the road trips I've done with my friends. The summer of twenty nineteen, I drove my old Ford truck up to Alaska with my buddy Brian Bryans, the guy I met when I lived in Albuquerque, and he's one of my closest friends. We do trips together every year to Baja and he goes, We've been going to King of the Hammers together for the last 13 years.
And we did this two week road trip in a 77 Ford with 42's on it up to Alaska. I drove that truck with Vern Simons down to Cabo San Lucas to chasing the Mexican 1000 one years. So those sort of things are the ones that I that immediately come to mind that I enjoy the most.
[00:26:27.700] - Big Rich Klein
Have you considered putting together a book of your own adventures at some point?
[00:26:34.680] - Harry Wagner
I'm not really I'm revamping my website with a friend of mine right now and. It's a lot of work, I guess maybe I should consider it, but I, I have everything archived, but I hadn't considered writing a book.
[00:26:54.930] - Big Rich Klein
I think something like that would be interesting, people people nowadays want experiences, right? And what I've noticed is, is most people, they want experiences, but they they they don't feel that they either have the time or the wherewithal or whatever to go out and do those experiences themselves.
So being able to live somebody else's experience to them is almost the same as doing the experience.
So, you know, I think with all the stuff that you've done, just what you've talked about so far, you've got potential there. So something to think about, so let's talk about the the trip trips into Baja that you've done. Were they all for the media driven or were some of them just for fun?
[00:27:47.020] - Harry Wagner
Yeah, they haven't all been media driven, but it's typically associated with an event in some manner. So I actually I've raced in the thousand a few times and gone down for that, but not not necessarily covering the race, but being a navigator in a vehicle.
And then the Mexican one thousand I chased one year in my Ford. And actually Brian Ariah from Twisted Customs built me a Class 11 tribute bug. And a few years ago I went with a friend and drove a bug all the way to Cabo and back too Nice.
Yeah, I mean, it's I really enjoy it down there, I, I the people, the scenery, the food, just all of it is is wonderful.
[00:28:34.790] - Big Rich Klein
I agree. I love Baja. The it's it's still the Wild West without being too wild.
[00:28:43.720] - Harry Wagner
Yeah, absolutely. And the nice, you know, if you go with an event. It it really is less intimidating because there's going to be other you know, if you're at a military checkpoint, the guy in front of you or the guy behind you is also down there for an event. And it just is a good introduction if you want to dip your toe in to go during the Baja 1000, during the Mexican 1000, some of these other events that take place down there.
[00:29:12.310] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, I agree. And always bring stickers.
[00:29:15.980] - Harry Wagner
Yes, I have a big bag that I just fill up all year when I take it down there and hand them out.
[00:29:21.430] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, I have, I have a satchel that has a bunch of stickers in it as well. The thing to do is remember when you go to those military checkpoints is to make sure your gloves, especially if you have a pair of like mechanics, wear gloves or something like that or flashlights, any of that kind of stuff is not out in the open. Yeah, because they'll look at it, they'll pick it up and they'll look at you like, can I have this?
And, you know, if you say no, they're just going to keep searching things, you know.
Right. Yeah, that's a good point.
It's like we always used to make sure we had extra Mexican Cokes so that we could hand those to the guys, because if we had energy drinks that we purchased as well, they always wanted the energy drinks. First, let's talk about the people that you have met through the media. You talked about Ned Bacon and Chris. What are some of the the other characters that you've interacted with?
[00:30:18.970] - Harry Wagner
Yeah, I mean, we talked a little bit about Fred Williams, too, who's a good friend of mine. Vern Simons is another guy that. I think really highly of and is a good friend, he lives in Phoenix, so not super close, but always enjoyed the time I spend with Christian Hazel on the media side. Those are the guys that I, you know, go on ultimate adventure with and. Have worked with and really enjoy their company and think highly of you mentioned ultimate adventure.
Let's talk about that. How many times you've been on Ultimate Adventure five now?
I guess out of 21, that's good. What for us that that have never been on one. Yeah. What is that, what is that like day to day besides what you see in the videos or the the, you know, the stuff that the media typically provides us.
Right. Yeah. No, and I guess I'm the guy who's you know, we're trying to make it look extreme. I think the thing that surprises me or the most is just everyone is really squared away on that trip. So for, you know, Trent McGee has put the itinerary together the last few years and he says it's herding cats. But I mean, he does a great job, you know, keeping twenty, twenty five vehicles moving at any given time.
And if someone has a problem, if that vehicle peels off and they send one cronie with them, like guys that come on the trip for the love of it. And are people like Dave Chappelle, who now is gaining prominence through Dirt every day and people know who he is, but not this isn't a knock on Dave, but I mean, there's half a dozen guys there just like Dave who are just as competent as he is and can fix basically anything.
And I really appreciate the opportunity to spend time with those guys and see how creative they can be about getting things running again. And honestly, we have as much or more problem on road days where they're covering a bunch of miles than we do on trail days, I would imagine, because the the vehicles are all built to do trails.
Right. So they're going to hold up there.
It's it's when you have to drive it at 45, 50, 55, 60, whatever the highway speeds are. That, I would imagine, is where things get interesting.
And Trent likes to go faster than Rick Rick, Rick Pewe. It was always like 55 and Trents like we got we've got to make up time. We got to get to this next stop. And he's doing 65. And yeah, people in flat fenders are struggling to keep up.
I did a a dirt and drive. The very first one. Shelley and I went on it and we went from Vegas to Moab with Rick leading the way. And what I noticed is that as soon as Rick turned off the pavement, it became a race and he was out in front and then the guys that wanted to go really fast tried to keep up with him. There was the rest of us. Luckily, we had road books that we just kind of went, OK, well, we'll catch up at some point because.
Yeah, you know, when you get I don't know, there was like at least 50 vehicles at that first one and it was dusty going across that that area outside of St. George and across that Arizona open area. So let's discuss what you feel like is the future for for Harry. Oh, wow.
Yeah, that's maybe the hardest question. You know, I've honestly transitioned back to doing geophysics as my primary focus. I kind of had one foot in that and one foot in the freelance world for nearly a decade. And my job was. Very understanding, I was lucky I could just take off, you know, they're not pay me when I'm not there, but I could take off nearly as much time as I wanted as long as I wasn't in demand at work.
And I would work about half the year at my day job and I would write the other half of the year and. The writing was kind of on the wall as far as, you know, the Petersons publishing empire. Times have changed that model of we've got a bunch of people that work in marketing and we've got this big building and we've got this editorial staff just doesn't really work in this day and age. And it went away. And so as a result, now I'm back to doing my day job most of the time and just kind of dabbling in the offroad world.
I mean, I still it's something that I'll always do. I still go rock crawling with my friends. I've been doing a bunch of backcountry trips with my girlfriend recently. I got a SLIDIN camper for my truck about a year ago. So we've just been going and basically camping and not necessarily having to document it, just going and doing it. And that's been a lot of fun. But I don't quite know what the future holds. I feel like it's an interesting time in the industry.
I mentioned Trent McGee earlier. He's another guy that has a lot of experience and expertise and no one's really paying him for that at this point. And I feel like I'm in that in that same boat. I you know, it's the age of influencers and we're not really influencers. I guess I feel old in that regard. But like you said, I mean, I feel like I've done a lot of things and. That brings knowledge, right, experience, so I don't quite know what I'll be doing with that in the future, but the good news is I don't have to worry too much about it.
I feel very grateful for that. I've been able to slide back into a more prominent role in my day job, and that's for now has been fined. Excellent, excellent answer to let's talk about events that you you still attend. I know I've seen you every year, like you said, 13 years now at KOH.
And with that, you're part of the media, are you freelancing there or are you working with Emily on her part of the media down there?
[00:36:44.170] - Harry Wagner
I am working for Emily Miller, who you and I both work on the Rebelle Rally for. Right. And Emily has been doing the media for King of the Hammers for a number of years. And so she brings me in for King of the Hammers, like for the Rebelle Rally to write press releases and assist with social media and photography and whatever else needs to happen. And I'll be in that role again this year. So those are two events that I never miss, the Rebelle Rally and King of the Hammers, although I didn't get to make it to the first Rebelle rally.
I'll always be jealous of you in that regard.
I know you've been every year with Shelley and that's an event that is just top notch.
I really appreciate and enjoy. And Emily, actually, she has ties to Reno. She did work with Rod Hall for years, and that's where I first met her. There's no one in the offroad community, certainly the desert racing community in Reno that doesn't have some sort of connection to Rod Hall. And I mentioned racing in Baja. I've done that with Sam Cothryn, who has a shop in Reno, Samco fabrication. He has a 6100 truck.
And he was the one who introduced me to desert racing. And he was also a protege of Rod Halls and actually was Emily's co-driver when she soloed Vegas to Reno. Well, or drove the whole way, I should say. Right.
[00:38:13.120] - Big Rich Klein
That's that's awesome. What is it that attracts you to an event?
Like first, let's let's talk about King of the Hammers. Yeah, you know, I think from a media perspective, events like Easter Jeep Safari and King of the Hammers have always been an opportunity where you get to shoot a bunch of features. So I think of magazine stories as either like a vehicle feature, a trip like we talked about earlier, or technical. And the features are probably my favorite part. I really enjoy the photography aspect and people always have a story about their vehicle and it's some emotional connection whether their dad had one when they were a kid or, you know, their big brother had one and they always wanted one, two or whatever it may be.
And you you get to meet people from all over the country at these events and they have really cool vehicles. So that's been the appeal of everyone congregating in one place. I've had the opportunity to race in King of the Hammers a few times, too. And so that's fun. I mean, it's such a challenge and that's part of the appeal as well. Great.
Now, let's let's talk about what the appeal of the Rebelle Rally is for you.
Honestly, it's the staff. It's people like you and Shelley. You know, we. Emily is handpicked everyone that works on that event, and they're the best people, I mean, they just everyone is. Happy to help with whatever you need in a good mood, pulling in the same direction. It's the best of the best and they feed us really well, we get to go to cool places. You know, I don't I don't know what more you could want.
[00:40:04.970] - Big Rich Klein
True. True. I, I think one of the things that besides those things that you just mentioned, one of the things that I like about the event is, is watching some of the transformations that go on with the competitors. Yeah. That very first year, it was probably more evident because all the teams, even those that were experienced, rally participants, had not done something like this one. The emotion was just a roller coaster for everybody as well as the staff.
I mean, I remember Emily always tells us at the staff meetings, remember day four, you know, day four.
Right. It was it was actually like day one or day zero day or. Yeah, pretty much. But those are the things that that really intrigued me about. The event is watching the transformation of of personalities amongst the the ladies that are competing as especially the staff, the new people on staff every year. It's it's always watching them realize what they just got themselves into.
You know, and that can happen like right away or it can happen all of a sudden, you know, like on day four, day five, when they're, you know, I don't know how the people that do base camp operations can do that.
But, you know, I got an easy job. I just drive around.
Right, no, they definitely have the toughest job out there, and I my understanding is that first year basically moved base camp every day. So they wait till the last car leaves the line and they wave to them and they tear everything down and rush down the road to the next camp and try and set everything up before they get there. And I think Emily's gotten wiser in terms of. Loops and marathon stages to make it easier on the base camp, but Terry and Riley and Lily have done an amazing job, too.
I mean, she's got a great crew now, and I'm just always amazed that they have smiles on their faces because they seem to never stop working.
I agree 100 percent. So what kind of vehicles have you had? We talked about the CJ and then you said you got a Toyota pickup truck and then now I know that you have. Do you have an early tundra or is that a Tacoma?
[00:42:30.800] - Harry Wagner
It is a tundra. Yeah. You know, and that's something. Yeah, I had a Toyota pickup for that. I actually just recently sold after 20 years.
But going down this magazine rabbit hole, it's like, well, what are you working on? Well, what do you need parts for? And you know, you have a truck that's done and the term is editorially dead because you can't write about it anymore if it's done. So what are you working on next? And this is the bad influence of people like Fred and Vern that have, you know, I don't know, a dozen, two dozen vehicles.
And so I have at the moment the tundra you mentioned that I take on the Rebelle Rally. That's my daily driver. I'm really fond of that truck. It works really well. It's got ADS shocks on it and total chaos, upper arms. So kind of mid travel kit. Deaver's in the back and yeah, it's super comfortable off road. It's been really reliable for me. I've got a Jeep Wrangler LJ that has an ATV Highline kit on it and I've got a tracker that Jesse Haines built, I've got this seventy seven F150.
I mentioned before that has a big block and forty twos and I'm sure I'm forgetting things. My dad's Land Cruiser, I bought an early Bronco that I probably need to get rid of now that I'm not doing a bunch of magazine stories.
[00:44:03.710] - Big Rich Klein
Well Broncos are becoming more fashionable. I mean, they've always been they've always been an iconic vehicle, but it's been a small group of of individuals that, you know, it real niche market, I would say, as opposed to Toyotas or Jeeps.
And now I'm seeing everybody, you know, the two vehicles. I see everybody jumping on board with are Broncos. Everybody's trying to find that early first gen Bronco and then also Flat fenders.
[00:44:37.980] - Harry Wagner
Right. Yeah, the flatlander seem to be a lot more economical than the Broncos and uncute early broncho these days, and you never really see like you see them on the trail anymore because they're just too expensive to even take wheeling I. Yeah. You know, I in writing for magazines, the reason I have an oddball vehicle like a geo tracker or even a you know, my F 150, if it was an early Bronco, it would be worth 10 times what it's worth as a Ford truck, but.
I think that a lot of people that are younger are just getting into this or don't have a ton of money are often saying, you know, oh, I have an old F 150 or my folks gave me a tracker. And, you know, I always thought it's more important to inspire these people and give them ideas for what they can do to their vehicle than me going out and buying a new Jeep Wrangler and saying, oh, I put this ten thousand dollar suspension under it or these crate axles.
That's not particularly helpful to people reading a magazine, in my opinion.
I the the flip side is I have a bunch of money tied up into a tracker that I always joke the Venn diagram between the people who think it's really cool and the people who could actually afford it don't overlap at all.
[00:45:59.960] - Big Rich Klein
And being in the magazine business myself now, while I believe that the JK saved our four wheel drive industry at a time when we needed an influx of people to come in to save the aftermarket, but I rarely put them in the magazine. And JLs and gladiators are on that same list because most everything that's done to those vehicles is I hate to use this term, but cookie cutter. Right.
And I understand that because the people that are buying them for the most part, are people that are brand new into the sport. So they look at what the neighbor down the street has who is brand new into the sport. And, you know, they they open up the Internet. And the first thing that they search is, you know, a bumper.
And, of course, 4 Wheel parts or, you know, there's just certain companies that come up and bang, you know, that's what they're buying instead of going into, you know, somebody that that's a fabricator that can say, hey, I can build you a one off bumper, that's going to be really kind of cool and different. You don't see that, but you don't see that anymore with those vehicles or you're starting to see it more now with the JK's.
But it's always it's like the guys that have stepped up from their their TJ's or CJs. Are now being used JKs that somebody else threw some money at and now they're personalizing it more as a as a hardcore trail rig instead of a, you know, a show car type. Does that make sense?
[00:47:44.090] - Harry Wagner
Absolutely, yeah, yeah, I mentioned earlier how when I was in college, I was super into snowboarding and I actually worked in a snowboard shop and I would go through several boards a year and like the more obscure the company, the better.
And obviously in Venezuela, I wasn't snowboarding. And when I moved back to Reno and I was near Tahoe, I went to buy gear. But this was I've been out of the industry for over a decade and I ended up getting all Burton stuff. And, you know, a decade earlier, I would have laughed at the guy with all Burton stuff.
But it really a light bulb went off related to like the Jeep and the JK market because I'm like, I don't live and breathe this stuff. You know, I just want to go snowboarding on the weekends. Now, it's not my identity. It's just something I want to do.
And I think, you know, if you're into off roading and you got a jeep, cool. And, you know, if you went and bought a lift kit from four wheel parts, great. You know, I bet I don't have anything against that. I just, you know, for people that live and breathe it, you want it. It's a natural progression, I think, to, OK, what can I do? That's a little different than that.
[00:48:49.760] - Big Rich Klein
Exactly. You know, I I've just gotten in, you know, the last two Rebelles. I've driven a Ford Raptor. And, you know, I started looking at what everybody else is doing to their Raptor's. It's the same thing that happens in the Jeep world. It's the same thing that happens in, you know, Mustangs or Camaro world or, you know, the the the five series BMW or, you know, any of the rice rockets out there.
You know, that that whole thing is you know, it's here's like what everybody is doing. And then you find the guys that are, you know, out there doing it themselves. And that's where I gravitate toward because of the history of being in the Jeep world. But it's it's amazing how they're it's that way everywhere, I guess, is what I'm trying to say.
[00:49:40.700] - Harry Wagner
And I think the Internet's changed things. Right. I, I mentioned my dad had an off road shop when I was a kid and he put Saginaw steering on his Land Cruiser in 1980, the early 80s. And I mean, if he had the opportunity to make a kit and sell it around the country probably would have done very well. But there's two other people in Yuba City, in Marysville that have a Land Cruiser that he's putting Saginaw steering boxes on.
It's not enough to keep the lights on.
[00:50:13.280] - Big Rich Klein
So any other events that you that you look forward to every year besides, like you said, Easter Jeep, KOH and Rebelle, is there anything I mean, are you still doing the Sierra Trek?
[00:50:27.260] - Harry Wagner
Yeah, I like to go to Sierra Trek, Winter Fun festivals and other events, I'm a life member of Cal Four Wheel, I think their events are great. I like to promote them as much as I can and I always enjoy attending them. I went to the Chili Challenge for years. I think that's a great event. And the Dakota territory challenge up in the Black Hills is one that I really like. Yeah, I guess there's kind of events all over the place.
One that I've never been to is all for fun. That's an event I'd like to go to Colorado that the mile high Jeepers put on.
[00:51:00.710] - Big Rich Klein
Right. That one I don't think I'll ever be doing. Shelley doesn't doesn't do altitude real good and so many of their their trails are above that nine thousand 10000 foot level and she she gets altitude sickness.
So I'd love to do some of those, but. I don't think those will be on my list because of that I have to stay a lower elevation. So is there anything else that that you've done that I haven't mentioned or we haven't talked about that that you think our listeners would be interested in?
[00:51:42.880] - Harry Wagner
You mentioned at the opening about talking to people about how I got involved in this. And if you're an enthusiast and you want to make money at this, I think you just have to be realistic. I always did it because I loved it. And I had was fortunate enough to make money doing this. But it hasn't been my primary income. I didn't hang my hat on off roading. It still remains fun. And I think that was important. And honestly, these days in the age of social media and YouTube, you don't need an outlet like a magazine in order to reach people.
If you're doing something interesting, people will. You can go directly to them and that will resonate with them, so I think that that's really exciting and just keep doing what you're doing and it'll be successful. I mean, I think people know when you're authentic and that really resonates and people know when you're faking it to. And we you and I both seen a lot of people come and go in this industry over the years. And the people that are still around are the ones that enjoy it just for the love of it.
Not trying to make money necessarily. If you do, great. I don't begrudge anyone for making money, but you've got to love it at the end of the day.
[00:52:54.950] - Big Rich Klein
I agree 100 percent. When I started the podcasting, Shelly had had been trying to get me to do a podcast for a couple of years and I'd been guest on a number of podcasts. But it was always like and it seems like a lot of work and, you know, I do enough of that. And then we got to covid and it was like, OK, I got all this time, I got three months now that I'm not doing anything.
So I thought, OK, I'll do this. And I just talked to Wyatt about the Talent Tank while we were at KOH and he said, yeah, go for it, you know? And so I sat down and and just did it. And then I got involved with a couple of social media sites that podcasters go to to ask questions and, you know, that kind of thing, like all social media sites, our groups are. And one of the big things there is everybody trying to monetize what they're doing, but new people coming on and going, OK, I'm going to start this podcast.
I don't know what I'm going to do yet, but what's the easiest one to monetize?
And I'm thinking you're not going to last long.
Yeah, you're approaching it entirely the wrong way. Everyone wants to be the next Joe Rogan, right? Yeah, exactly.
And I've never even listened to Joe Rogan. I just know that he just signed a hell of a big deal for a lot of money.
Yeah, but yeah, it's an off road, you know, like I always told everybody, if I if I got into into putting on events because I was going to become a millionaire, I would it was if it was about the money, I would quit after that first event because with the county coming in and shutting the gate on me and the lawsuit that I was fighting with the sheriff's department for four years in Amador County and everything else, it was like, you know, there's got to be an easier way to make money.
But to me, it was the lifestyle.
It was people that I wanted to hang out with. It was something I wanted to do, you know, to be involved in the industry. And I guess I just decided to do something at the right time. But I think it was for the right reason also. And that's why so many other people have tried to do this but are not not still doing it is because they were looking at, you know, creating the next NASCAR or creating, you know, the next monster truck racing or whatever.
And I never thought of it that way. I mean, sure, I would have loved to see it go that way. But, you know, it's not it wasn't the driving force, the driving force, because I love the people that are involved in it.
Yeah, no. And I think that is why you're still around and. Pretty much every other rock crawling competition or sanctioning body has come and gone. Yeah, and now the magazines, but I think. Right, yeah. Do you think the magazines, everybody says, you know, Print's dead or. A lot of people say that. And I, I totally disagree with them. I believe that print got too top heavy and the editorial staff wasn't the important part at the magazines.
It was all those people that were feeding off of what the editorial staff was doing got too big and it just devoured itself.
Does that sound like a fair assessment? I would agree with you on that, yeah, I think, you know, it was a real shame to see Petersens four wheeling off road that I worked with for years, they just kept kind of trying to chase the market down.
You know, the paper's getting worse every year, every year. And the number of pages are going down. And I think people value high quality photography. They want to if you're spending your money on something, you want it to be nice, not just a throw away. And that seems like what they had become. But I would agree. I mean, I think there is still a market there. It just is different than what it looked like traditionally.
I agree. I think that my idea for the magazine is what? Is what is what it is with 4low, but also, you know, Crawl is there. Yeah. Tread, you know, and it's over Overland Journal, those those kind of magazines, Overland Journal. I mean, that thing is that's incredible. Right.
But, you know, it's also. What I don't know if it's bi monthly, maybe it's quarterly, but, you know, it's got so much content and it's so big and it's so I can't imagine what it takes to produce that thing.
I mean, it's it's tough on us doing what we do and getting the magazine out as well. But, you know, it's the ones that are still surviving out there. You know, they are quality driven. They're not. But I think that comes from the people that are running them and not the big corporate.
They're not big corporations, right? No, you're absolutely right. And there was always this disconnect between management and the editorial staff. I think, you know, what was Ten publishing or Primedia or the different publishing houses that that owned these off road titles over the years.
I agree. Well, cool. At the beat it before we got on, I said, think of something that you might want to ask me. Is there? Yeah. Is there anything that you want to ask me?
There is. Actually, I want to ask you, you've developed so many event sites all over the country and built all these different courses. And I want to ask you, what's your favorite event site for Rock crawling competition?
Who and what?
That's that's kind. Yeah, it is. There's I can't say that. There's just one that has been. That is that I look back to and say, oh, this is my favorite spot ever, because all of them come with with some kind of. Trials and tribulations and in using them or maybe why we don't use them anymore, they come and go, I would say that for me personally, let me break it down this way. One that I enjoy setting courses on are Farmington.
Chokecherry Canyon. Sure.
Except for the fact that you start to run out of you don't run out of lines because you can just move cones over six, eight inches and create a completely different line. But it's you know, when the spectators look at it, they don't see that part of it. Donner Ski Ranch was one of those that just the whole event itself. Everything that that happened during the event from, you know, starting on Thursday night to Monday morning was just was just it's always it was always crazy things that would happen in the parking lot and in the in the bar and in the, you know, people's cabins and all the stuff that was around the event as well as the event.
And then one of the events that was just totally off the hook. And it wasn't even something that that we were the primary during or I guess we were the primary part of the show. But the event itself, we were just part of it. And that was the Reno Roc's event that Barbara Rainey put together at the casino there. That was that was just off the hook. We we have found a new site in Oklahoma that I'm really looking forward to setting cones on.
And I guess that's one of the things that I really enjoy about.
The the job that I have or have created is that I get to go into areas and then create something, it's almost not like I don't want to call it art because art is something different.
But it's it's creating taking what nature gives. And figuring out a way to to screw with the competitors, either mentally or even physically, for them to try to conquer. And doing that is it's like a chess game, and I think that that's the driving force in why I keep doing this besides the just the love of the people.
I mean, there's always been competitors that that are a handful to deal with, just like there are in life with anything but those. Those are far and few between, because the 99 percent of the of the rest of the competitors and their families and our marketing partners and the property owners and the media are just you know, it's just such a cool.
A cool group of people to be around. And I think that's what's kept me doing it for so long, because there's been times I've wanted quit in 2009, at the end of the season I was I was calling it quits and Shelly convinced me to keep going. And I'm glad she did, because we've really we've really seen, especially the last couple of years, a resurgent resurgence in the sport, especially on the West Coast. And it's it's gratifying to see that come back after knowing what it was before.
And, you know, more spectators are getting involved in it and more teams. And, you know, it's it's kind of like the new age. So we're we're happy to see that happening. So I don't know if that really answered your question.
You know, I can't pick just one site.
I mean, there's Goldendale. Washington has always been special. You know, Cedar City, Thompson's ranch down there in Arizona, the new Baghdad, Arizona site up on the mine. You know, it's just they all have different things that make them special. And then there's sites that I hope I never see again and I hope I never deal with with with whatever it was that was that we did when we were there, except for the competitors. But, you know, there's though even those sites are few and far between.
That's my story. And I'm sticking to it.
So I would like to thank you, Harry, for coming on board and sharing your history with our listeners on conversations with Big Rich, and I am hoping that we get to see each other during Easter Jeep Safari this coming 2021. I don't believe I'm going to make KOH this year, but I will be at the Rebelle for sure.
Excellent. Well, whenever I see you next, I'm looking forward to it. All right, Harry, thank you so much for spending some time with us. Thank you. All right. If you enjoy these podcasts, please give us a rating, share some feedback with us via Facebook or Instagram and share our link among your friends who might be like minded. Well, that brings this episode to an end. We enjoyed it. We'll catch you next week with conversations with Big Rich.
Thank you very much.