Jeepers Den and Ricky Artes are synonymous with Florida wheeling. You’ll find Ricky everywhere. Check out how he got started and where he’s going from here in Episode 85 of Conversations with Big Rich.
5:56 – I need to get out of the sun
12:39 – the biggest thing was customer service and work ethic
20:56 – I’m still pulling sand out of my Jeep
30:51 – I was still painting the damn showroom
38:16 – I do a full rollover in the air, land on my tires, my Ray-Bans were crooked
42:13 – you can’t DQ me if he beats your ass
50:43 – there’s always room for people behind me in the line
1:06:24 – is this supposed to be a secret??
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[00:01:20.170] - Big Rich Klein
On today's episode of Conversations With Big Rich. We have Ricky Artes. Ricky is an old mod stock competitor back in We Rock and also the owner of Jeepers Den and does a lot of social runs in the offroad industry. And we're going to talk to him about his life, early life and how he got into offroad and about Jeepers Den in Florida. There Ricky, thank you for coming on board.
[00:01:48.490] - Ricky Artes
Thank you for having me, Rich.
[00:01:50.070] - Big Rich Klein
Let's just jump right in like we always do and say, hey, where were you born and raised?
[00:01:57.370] - Ricky Artes
I was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and lived there until I was ten. And then we moved to the US with my mom and have lived here since. And the rest of my family is all down there.
[00:02:10.340] - Big Rich Klein
Okay, so a little West Side story going on.
[00:02:14.050] - Ricky Artes
Yeah, there you go.
[00:02:16.570] - Big Rich Klein
So what would yours like in Puerto Rico? I'm sure you remember it since you were there until ten.
[00:02:24.850] - Ricky Artes
Well, I was there until I was ten, and then I went back a lot. Anytime I was off of school, I went back and stay with my dad. Early life in Puerto Rico. Man, it was good. We did all the things that you think about we should have done when we were kids. It would rain and you get a leaf off of a plantain tree or something, and you ride that down the gutters. And then you go ride your bike through the water and you run around barefooted and all the stuff that all the kids should be doing, right.
[00:02:56.340] - Ricky Artes
And we just played. We just went out and did stuff. Not much. School was good. I learned English because my mom was adopted. So when we went to my grandparents house after school, you spoke English there, then you spoke Spanish at home, but it was just fun down at the beach all the time. And then I moved to the US. And when I went back, it was just fun times because I didn't have to go to school. I didn't have to work. I didn't have to do anything.
[00:03:25.570] - Ricky Artes
So I went back quite a bit till I was 15. And then after that, I just kind of went back a couple of times a year after that.
[00:03:33.460] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. And I've never been down to Puerto Rico or any of the Islands in that area. The Caribbean. I guess that is.
[00:03:45.230] - Ricky Artes
[00:03:46.970] - Big Rich Klein
I know it's a US territory and has voting rights and all that kind of stuff. But what is it like compared to the other Islands down there?
[00:03:58.610] - Ricky Artes
Puerto Rico is nice. The bad areas just like anything else.
[00:04:04.620] - Big Rich Klein
[00:04:05.470] - Ricky Artes
But as long as you're a tourist and you go to the tourist areas, you're usually not going to get messed with. But it is a beautiful island. It's got a lot to do there. Rainforest, it's got beaches. Man, you got anything we off-road like crazy down there. So there's just everything you can think about. You can do there. But it's definitely a beautiful place.
[00:04:30.590] - Big Rich Klein
So were sports. I would imagine soccer was probably pretty big.
[00:04:35.450] - Ricky Artes
Yeah. Soccer was always big. Basketball, baseball. Okay. Those were usually the three main ones.
[00:04:42.500] - Big Rich Klein
So when you were in school, were you Scholastic or did you play sports or were you just did your own thing?
[00:04:51.870] - Ricky Artes
In high school, I've always been in choir and stuff like that. And I played soccer, did some basketball. But I was always a big time into singing. And then soccer was my main thing. And then from the time I was 14, I had to get a job. So I always worked, played sports and did my thing. But then school wasn't for me after that. So I did a year or two of community College and then decided to get out.
[00:05:18.890] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. And when you said you needed to work, what kind of jobs did you have or was there one specific job?
[00:05:26.390] - Ricky Artes
Oh, no. I worked at Hardees. I worked at Dunkin Donuts, then finally went to work for Publix and stayed there. And then about the time I turned 18, I had said, Man, I don't really ever want to work for anybody ever again. So I quit most of my jobs and started my detailing business and detailing. Got into accessories and from accessories, it got into where I'm at now.
[00:05:49.970] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. Detailing. So you had a detailed shop where you just did car polishing and cleaning and all that kind of stuff?
[00:05:56.550] - Ricky Artes
Yeah, we actually did window tending for a while and then ended up becoming and then I went to Mobile. And then after mobile is when I decided this isn't for me anymore, I need to do something different. I need to get out of the sun.
[00:06:17.190] - Big Rich Klein
Let's discuss those early jobs. I've never been one that works really well for another company or another person. I've always wanted to be the boss or always became a boss really quick. Was that what you found?
[00:06:32.440] - Ricky Artes
Yeah, man, it was at 14 years old at Dunkin Donuts. I mean, it Hardees at the time. I remember, I think a weekend I was already in managerial positions but couldn't be called a manager because I was too young. Same thing about a year or two later when I went to Dunkin the same deal. And then I was working at Publix at the same time. And I think I became a bagger at first. And I don't even think I was a bagger for two days. And they moved me up to stock clerk.
[00:07:00.390] - Ricky Artes
And then from there ended up just taking over a whole aisle and stuff that the other guys would do. But I'm like you, man. I just couldn't always gave it too much. So I just decided that's why I decided when I was 18. I'm like, man, I can't work for other people. I might have to do this on my own. So I decided to go on my own and do other. Like I said, I started with that. I did neon lights for a while. At the beginning, I was still in high school and got into neon lighting, which was under the cars.
[00:07:31.810] - Ricky Artes
Back then. It was the tubes. It wasn't like all the Led stuff is nowadays, right? So you have to figure out how to hide the tube under a car so you couldn't see it back then, it was still illegal in Florida. So we were fighting the state to get them approved. And it was a lot of fun. And then, like I said, I started detailing and then stayed at Publix for a little bit at the same time to have a part time side gig just in case.
[00:07:56.870] - Ricky Artes
But it was just easier to do my own thing.
[00:08:02.130] - Big Rich Klein
This was in Florida, I'm assuming. And was that in the Orlando area?
[00:08:07.410] - Ricky Artes
No. I actually lived in Naples, Florida, at the time.
[00:08:10.210] - Ricky Artes
[00:08:10.570] - Big Rich Klein
[00:08:12.480] - Ricky Artes
My mom was down there. And then when I turned 18, I thought I'd conquer the world and go out on my own. And mom said I had to pay $100 a month in rent. And I was like, Man, in the hell of that, I think I can do this on my own. What are you talking about? So I decided to move up to Virginia, which is where we first moved when we came to the US was in Richmond. Okay. So I moved up there and started since I didn't have the detail in business going up there.
[00:08:38.860] - Ricky Artes
I started at a grocery store up there and worked night shift and then detailed and went to school during the day.
[00:08:44.610] - Big Rich Klein
And the schooling. Was that just a general education?
[00:08:49.170] - Ricky Artes
Yeah, man. It was like going to high school for two more years. It was all the general stuff. It was like going to high school, but with a little bit more freedom.
[00:08:57.930] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. And how long did you stay? Did you stay in that area until you got done with that education? That part of the education. Or did you leave before then or stay longer?
[00:09:11.170] - Ricky Artes
No. I stayed there for a semester or two, and then my mom had moved to Michigan, and she lived in Shelby, Michigan. And right next to that is the Silver Lake sand dunes.
[00:09:23.860] - Big Rich Klein
[00:09:24.540] - Ricky Artes
And I went up there to visit. I don't remember when it was. It was probably like October, November, and decided that that area was pretty awesome. So I needed to get up there. So I packed up all my stuff and got the moving truck and hauled butt to Michigan. And my mum at the time had just bought a cottage with a little Mexican restaurant up in the front, right there on Silver Lakes Sand Dunes, right on the Strip. And I lived in the cottage and started a detailing business in Whitehall at the time.
[00:09:57.030] - Ricky Artes
And then kind of did that. And I couldn't even get to work at one point. So I ended up going and buying a snowmobile so I could get to work. Well, that ended up being too much fun. So I wanted a snowmobile more than I wanted to work. So I'd get out of the job whatever time I could and go sled in the whole rest of the day. And then in April, I think it was April. I went one of the storms. I ended up buying my first Jeep, which is the red YJ that I still own.
[00:10:26.830] - Ricky Artes
And I thought, hey, this is brilliant for the snow. This will be awesome. Yeah. Doesn't, a YJ doesn't do very well in snow. So decided to go back to ride my sled. And then when April came around, the dunes opened up. So I started going up and playing on the dunes. But that lasted till July of that year. Man, I didn't stay there very long. It was July, and I took the top off the Jeep, and I still had to have a sweatshirt on. And I just decided I'm not from up here, man.
[00:10:55.440] - Ricky Artes
I'm from Puerto Rico. I need some warm weather. I ended up moving back to Orlando in 95.
[00:11:01.760] - Big Rich Klein
Okay. And so then you're somewhere about 19 or 20 at that time.
[00:11:07.630] - Ricky Artes
Yeah, I was 20 at that point.
[00:11:09.400] - Big Rich Klein
20 at that point. Okay. And when you went to Orlando, what drew you to Orlando, please don't tell me Disneyland.
[00:11:23.770] - Ricky Artes
I should have said that, but no, my brother was here at the time, and I needed somewhere to go and stay. And just kind of that attracted me to this area. And I stayed with him for a bit and then kind of went and did my own thing again and started detailing heavy. And then in 96, my uncle had called me and said, Why don't you move to Jacksonville and work with me on my fruit business and help me run. That better. So I went up there, he distributed fruits and vegetables to all the restaurants in that area up in front of Indiana Beach and Ville Island.
[00:11:56.750] - Big Rich Klein
[00:11:57.790] - Ricky Artes
So I went up there and did that for a year and then decided Orlando was going to be home. So I came back here and did everything I could, got an apartment, kept my business going and all that good stuff and then been here since.
[00:12:17.030] - Big Rich Klein
With all those different types of jobs that you had, the grocery stores, the fast food transportation of fruits and vegetables, I would imagine to the restaurants, what did those job opportunities give you? What did you pull from them now that you can look back on it?
[00:12:39.590] - Ricky Artes
Oh, man, the biggest thing you pulled out of that was just customer service. And then your work ethic. I was having to be on time. But more than anything, I figured out that it almost feels like you weren't ever appreciated enough in those kind of companies. So I was giving it my all, and I wanted more. I've always wanted more. And it just makes me want to go after more all the time. And I don't even know how to explain it. It's just one of those things where you went to work and then you busted your butt.
[00:13:16.260] - Ricky Artes
And at the end of your when you're going to clock out, you still want to appreciate it. It was one of those things where just kind of made me just more and more just want to get out, right? Figure out how to be my own boss and make my own times and then be appreciated for what I had for what I gave in every day. But I learned a lot, man. I mean, my uncle's business was the funnest one I think I had. It just sucked because you had to be up at, like, four in the morning and go to the warehouse, pick up all the stuff.
[00:13:48.270] - Ricky Artes
But just going to all the restaurants, meeting all the people. It was just fun to do that. I drove around, had my own schedule. If I wanted to leave early, I just worked faster. But it was a lot of fun. I had a lot of free time. So I ended up getting a job at Blockbuster at the time. I always laugh when I see all these Blockbuster, memes and all that stuff. But that was a fun job. I had it for fun. I didn't care what I got paid.
[00:14:11.490] - Ricky Artes
I didn't care about anything. It was cool to go there in the afternoon and work part time.
[00:14:16.310] - Big Rich Klein
Was it cool because of the people that came in or was it the clientele or was it fun because you got free rentals?
[00:14:26.150] - Ricky Artes
No, it was fun because you got to get all the free rentals you wanted, anything you wanted to do. I've never been into video games. But that was a big thing. Back then. All the kids would come in and they'd get them. But no, that was a fun job. That was a job that you look forward to going to in the afternoon because it was just a blast. The customers were always pretty happy and people were bringing it was just a good time.
[00:14:48.830] - Big Rich Klein
I think it does make a difference being in some kind of retail environment where the people are coming in, are there to have fun or to at least pick up and take home their fun. Whereas so many other retail people are in there, you're dealing with so much of their baggage and their attitude.
[00:15:14.390] - Ricky Artes
[00:15:15.370] - Big Rich Klein
Do you get that feeling at times?
[00:15:18.110] - Ricky Artes
Well, I've always said I have a couple of friends that have transmission shops and mechanic shops. And man, I don't know how they do their job. I'll be honest with you. We all have our time in our businesses where it's not a fun day. But at the end of the day, when I go and have lunch with those guys and just to hear their stories and hear their attitudes and how their days are going, I don't know how any mechanic wants to have a mechanic shop. I don't know how anybody in a diesel business or transmission shop, every person that comes in your door, like 99% of the people that are walking through that door already pissed off at you and that's rough.
[00:16:01.190] - Ricky Artes
You're just dealing with miserable stuff every day. And it's just a Downer. I don't know how people do it. I'm in a great business. I love my job. I love what I do when a person walks through the door. It's 1% of my customers are pissed off because most of the time they broke it while they were having fun. So we're fixing it or they're buying something that they really want. It's an extra add on. So we don't have to deal with the negativity right when they walk in the door already mad at you because their car didn't start this morning or they were driving down the highway and their transmission blew apart.
[00:16:40.430] - Ricky Artes
It won't shift into gear. It's always a problem. And for me, I don't know, man, I look at that. And I just think I'm glad I'm in what I do right now.
[00:16:51.960] - Big Rich Klein
I get that having worked in repair shops and everything, I saw that same thing, people would come in and they were mad, not necessarily at you as the employee of that establishment because their car was destroyed or not working functioning properly, whatever you want to call it. But because of the situation that they were in, they knew it was going to cost them money. They knew they were going to miss work, they knew they were going to miss something and they had to deal with broken equipment.
[00:17:26.570] - Big Rich Klein
So I totally get it. That doesn't help. You said you liked the snowmobiling. So that was probably pretty much your first taste of offroad. Or did you ever have any motorcycles or what kind of things did you do as a kid for entertainment? Besides, that had to do with mechanized, whether it was motorized or pedal power.
[00:17:51.830] - Ricky Artes
Yeah, it started in Puerto Rico. My dad was always in Jeep clubs and Suzuki clubs. We had a VW Manx. He was always into Beetles, so it all started there. We used to go to the beach in the Manx and all that good stuff. And then when the Suzuki first came out, which I don't remember the models of them all. But I remember he had a Brown hard top one before the Samurai was the first Suzukis. We always used to go out. I remember going to our property.
[00:18:23.110] - Ricky Artes
We had seven acres on the river and the club would come out and they'd be climbing up the mountain in front of the property and just all that stuff. The same stuff that we do now with our Jeeps. We used to do with the Suzuki. And then he got a Suzuki Samurai, a black one hard top also. And we kept going from there. And then after that, I came in and went into we moved to the US, so I didn't have an off road vehicle. I didn't have anything.
[00:18:50.970] - Ricky Artes
But when I used to go back, I remember I used to steal my brother's little Honda free scooter and ride around on that and all that good stuff. But off roading wise didn't really start back up for me until 95, when I got my Jeep and got back onto the dunes. Snowmobile was a blast. I only got to do that for a couple of months in Michigan, but it was still a great time.
[00:19:15.690] - Big Rich Klein
So the time in Michigan, you're living at the front of the sand dunes along the strip. You said you were working and you were taking a snowmobile to work because of the winter. That, to me would suck at least the idea of having to ride an open vehicle to work. I know what Michigan weather can be like. What was it like going from that winter and into spring and then seeing the sand dunes opened and everybody out there wheeling. What's that transition from winter to spring like.
[00:19:55.950] - Ricky Artes
Man, it was weird because it was like a fast transition. You were on the sled, and then all of a sudden it just stops. And then, well, now a lot of people don't have that. They're not fortunate enough to have you off the sled. Now, hell, we can go on the dunes. I remember the first week on the dunes we were riding along, and I'm not familiar with the dunes. So I'm just going along, man. And there was like a six or eight foot drop, just a wall.
[00:20:24.840] - Ricky Artes
And I didn't see it. And I remember coming off of it with my Jeep. And I mean just endo-ing and the front tires hit all of a sudden, my buddy is like, hey, stop, stop on the four cylinder YJs in 1993. They had an aluminum motor Mount on the passenger side, right where the oil filter is now. The driver's side was steel. They had a steel upgrade, but they decided to run the aluminum one on the passenger side. So the motor Mount breaks in half.
[00:20:56.790] - Ricky Artes
The oil filter catches, and it's all that's holding my motor up. Well, there's oil everywhere. So the first thing you're trying to clean that up before everybody gets there. But I learned my lesson on that. And that's when I started tinkering with it. I just wanted to do stuff with it. After that, I remember a guy hooked up to me with paddle tires on a Jeep, and I will tell you that I think that was back in 95. I'm still pulling sand out of my Jeep.
[00:21:24.540] - Ricky Artes
That was from the sand dunes from that day because he had to pull me up over all the dunes because it's a one way where I broke was right on the other side of Test Hill. Well, then the rest of the way is one way, like, you can't turn around. You can't get off of there. So he had to pull me up. All the dunes, either that or he was just doing it on purpose. But either way, I had no top on my Jeep. So when I got back, I bet I had three inches of sand inside the Jeep.
[00:21:50.970] - Ricky Artes
Then paddle tires will pull out a Rooster when they get on it. But it was a good time, man, the things that we did up there, but to go from that. And then, like I said, in July, you're trying to ride around town and you got to wear a long sleeve shirt. I was like, Man, I don't know about this.
[00:22:09.210] - Big Rich Klein
I think I got to head south so that YJ was it how stock was it?
[00:22:18.030] - Ricky Artes
It was bone stock. Back then, it was a 93 YJ. It's still a 93 YJ 2.5 liter bone stock. It was some old couple owned it, and they only drove it in the summer. So I bought it at a dealership. And it was a blast, though.
[00:22:40.630] - Big Rich Klein
And what was Besides the motor Mount? What was your first upgrade?
[00:22:46.330] - Ricky Artes
Oh, after that, I think I put tires on it right away. And that was it. I didn't do anything else to it. I had that thing for 95. I moved to here late 95, and then I went to Jackson, 96 to 97, and then came here to Orlando in 97. I still hadn't done anything to it. I think it was still on 31 inch tires and started detailing again. Heavy. And I met a buddy of mine, Chuck, and I was at his house one Friday. I used to go over there every Friday and detail all of his vehicles and all his friends cars and all that.
[00:23:21.520] - Ricky Artes
And then one Friday, I'm like, hey, man, do you mind if we lift my Jeep up out here? Because he kept telling me that we needed to lift it. We needed to lift it. So ended up lifting the Jeep up. We did a spring over on it and put some 33s on it. And from there, man, it just started the builds.
[00:23:39.310] - Big Rich Klein
And how did that was it doing your own work that got you into doing the Jeep business into Jeepers den? Or did you start that from the ground up, or did you buy it, or did you work for them? Give me some history there.
[00:24:00.070] - Ricky Artes
That was on me in 98. I lifted my Jeep, and then I remember probably about a month later, I met a guy out of what they used to call the SeaWorld Mud hole named Barry. And Barry had a Jeep just like mine, four cylinder older one. It was like an 89. So he had the old carbureted throttle body injected or whatever. That thing was a turd. And we used to go out there and have a blast. And then he had a Toyota pickup truck on 44, like a 1985 or 86 on 44 inch Super Swampers.
[00:24:36.380] - Ricky Artes
So when we used to go down to the mudhole and he bring the Toyota, we used to just hook up a tow strap to my Jeep, and he'd go through. And then if I couldn't make it, he just pulled me the rest of the way through. We just played. So one day I told Barry I was like, Man, I said, we think we should start a Jeep club in Orlando. And he's like, Whatever, dude, you do whatever you want to do. And Barry's quiet. He doesn't really get into all that.
[00:24:59.450] - Ricky Artes
So started the Orlando Jeep Club got everything done corporate, did the bank accounts, did everything. How it's supposed to be done? Because I went up to Ocala Jeep Club and really learned from them on what I should do down here. I spent about a year with them, just shadowing and learning about the club. So on October 24 of 98, that was the actual first day of the Orlando Jeep Club here in Orlando. And it was Four Wheel parts grand opening here with the Orlando store. So I went set up a little table, had my Jeep park there.
[00:25:34.480] - Ricky Artes
And before I knew it, I think we had, like, 30 members just from that day, just at their store. And that was pretty much the beginning of it. And I kept going with that, still doing my detailing stuff. And about some time around then I had met my wife at the time. Well, we weren't married yet, but I met her in 97. I think it was July 97. She was like, You're crazy? I don't know. But it was just us doing everything. I mean, we had to do all the positions, Secretary, treasurer, everything.
[00:26:08.380] - Ricky Artes
Nobody was wanting to step up. So we had a party at my house. I remember December of 98, and at that point we had a group of guys that were older gentlemen, well off called the Gator Crawlers. Well, they joined our club and Bill Austin and a couple of the other guys that were in that club. They helped me get through to getting VPs and getting everything set up to where they stepped up and helped. And we had a newsletter and all kinds of stuff, and it worked out really well.
[00:26:36.720] - Ricky Artes
And then 99, the club just grew like crazy. I think we were already at about 100 members at the time. And then in about 98 99, I had figured out that I didn't want to be in that sun that I was talking about. So I went over to my Jessica's stepfather, John, and I told him, what do you do for a living? He said, I do real estate appraising. So I'm like, Well, I need to do it because you sit in an office all day and you're doing pretty well for yourself.
[00:27:05.470] - Ricky Artes
And I can't do this sun stuff anymore. So I went and got my appraisal license and did that till 2002. But I also detailed at the same time, still kept detailing club was growing. I don't remember what year it was, but around sometime around 99, I remember I had a house right off of I four in Winter Park, and we had a carport with pebble 57 57 Rock, which is crushed concrete. And I'd go out there and pull transmissions and work on people's Jeeps on my back.
[00:27:37.230] - Ricky Artes
And that crap. I don't know when it really started, but I started doing stuff for people on the side just for fun and working on my own stuff on my Jeep. I always worked on my own cars, but I didn't start doing the Jeep stuff till probably about then 99-2000. And then at the time, I was already doing the appraisal stuff. I bought a property out in Wedgefield and got an acre and a half. And then we built a house one. And that's when it really started getting heavy, because then I was able to work in a garage.
[00:28:08.190] - Ricky Artes
So we worked in our garage. I used to lift all kinds of stuff, and I did a long Arm Rubicon Express, and I remember I went to put the tires on the Jeep and I couldn't get it out of the garage. I had to put the damn thing on Jacks and roll it outside and put the tires back on it. You don't think about that stuff when the garage doors closed and you're going to open the door and the door won't open because the Top's higher than the door.
[00:28:33.480] - Big Rich Klein
Have you ever made that mistake twice?
[00:28:36.150] - Ricky Artes
No. I never made it again.
[00:28:38.850] - Big Rich Klein
That's how you learn that's. Good.
[00:28:40.870] - Ricky Artes
Yeah. After that. In 2002, sometime around 2000 or 2001. I remember Jeepers Den was already like, a thing in my head, and I made a couple of stickers and it was Jeepers. And then Den was a separate word and no business. No, nothing. I didn't have any. It was just a name I came up with. I always wanted a shop that had a den where all my friends could come and hang out and have a place for them to hang out. And we could sit there and tell lies about our offroading and all that stuff.
[00:29:16.260] - Ricky Artes
Right. Right. So that was kind of my dream. And then in 2002, I came up with this wild idea that I was going to retire in June, and I didn't want to work no more. I wanted to just kind of do my thing. Well, that didn't last very long. It lasted about two weeks, and I was bored out of my mind. So then I went back to work till noon doing appraisals. And then I think it was January 1. But sometime in December, I told Jessica at the time that I was going to start a Jeep business.
[00:29:48.750] - Ricky Artes
Everybody thought I was an idiot and crazy, but honestly, what got me into it, man is, I just got sick and tired of how it's treated around town when it came to buying products. And I wasn't an Internet guy. So I didn't want to deal with quadratech. I didn't want to deal with those guys. I always liked dealing with the loyal shops, and it was always something. So I just decided I could do it better. In January 1 of 2003 is when I did everything on the Corporation, everything was done.
[00:30:19.380] - Ricky Artes
I opened the shop. I worked out of my house for a year, did pretty damn well from working from a house. And then November of 2003, we got this building that we're in now. And at the time, it was just Alicia's brother Travis was working with me and me, myself, him and Jessica at the time started remodeling this place. And we didn't open here until February 2 of 2004 was opening day. And we weren't even done yet. We just opened because people kept asking, when are you all open?
[00:30:51.310] - Ricky Artes
And when are you all opening? And we just finally decided to open it. I was still painting the damn showroom when they finally started coming in. And it hasn't slowed down since.
[00:31:00.630] - Big Rich Klein
Well, that's pretty good. And you weathered that. 2008, 2009, 2010 the depression that they called it a recession. But basically it was the depression. And how was that for you to get through those lean times where everybody, all the guys that were spending money, contractors and building people all of a sudden weren't doing their work.
[00:31:27.090] - Ricky Artes
But yes, I mean, we're heavy in the trucks, but our heaviest market was always Jeep, so I guess I didn't do too bad. Rich I was still doing we rock back then. So throughout those years when everybody else was hurting, I was having fun. But yeah, we noticed it. The contractors that every six months were coming in and getting a new truck and new wheels and tires. They weren't coming in every six months. That was about the only thing we noticed. It slowed down enough, but everything kind of always fell into place for me.
[00:32:03.940] - Ricky Artes
And around the time when that recession time was hitting around that time, the contractors that were every six months coming in, they weren't doing that. But the Jeep guys never really stopped doing their stuff. They still wanted to have fun. That market never really slowed down. But like I said, everything was always fallen into place. So around that time, 2008 was about the time that I had two techs that wanted to move on, and it kind of worked out because then I was able to keep one or two techs.
[00:32:37.650] - Ricky Artes
I think it was two techs stayed, two techs left, and then everything kind of worked itself. But we didn't notice it like other places did. I mean, I had friends go out of business. I had other friends who were losing their homes and all kinds of stuff over it. But we were fortunate enough and never I've been bad in business. I've never been in debt. So those kinds of times don't really faze me when you owe a lot of money and you do all that. That's when you get hurt on that stuff.
[00:33:10.850] - Ricky Artes
But I never got in those positions. So I never really felt any of it.
[00:33:15.000] - Big Rich Klein
Well, good. So what year did you get involved? I still can't figure out how you got involved. Rock crawling when there is not a single rock bigger than what a piece of crushed rock is in Florida.
[00:33:35.120] - Ricky Artes
So we started going out to I started wheeling out of state in probably about 98 late 98. I didn't even have a locker on my Jeep, and I was going to Tellico at the time with some friends from down here. And then in 99, I was fortunate enough to start kind of venturing off. And I was like, Man, I want to start going other places. We would go out of state 10-15 times a year at the time. And I started going over to Alabama and met Keith at Off Road Connection and started going to Gray Rock and all that good stuff.
[00:34:13.610] - Ricky Artes
And in 99, I went through a phase where we were up in Alabama and we lost a good friend of ours. No, he rolled his Jeep. And after that, I went six months where I didn't want a wheel or anything. So I didn't want to have anything to do with my Jeep. And finally some friends came over and they're like, we're going to go out. So we got back into it, kept going to Tellico, and we go to Alabama. And we started going to River Rock sometime in late, about 2003, 2004 timeframe.
[00:34:44.090] - Ricky Artes
So we were always wheeling out of state. And let me think I went to Moab in 2003. For the first time, we did our Moab Rubicon adventure, which that's a whole nother conversation. But we did that. And I think it was 2004 or late 2003. I went to when I watched the NeuRock race with Kyle up in Paragon. I think it was okay. And I met Charlie, which he did an interview with him, and I was hooked, and it was one of those things where I'm like, and I know I can do just as good as these guys and have a blast doing it.
[00:35:32.390] - Ricky Artes
So I started looking into it. And I remember Charlie's Buggy was just man. He just gave it hell, I think at the time, he had unimag axles even back then, but just meeting all those guys and everything like that was a blast. In 2004, I think I came to one of your runs and then went to a couple of new rock, and then there was E rock, wasn't it? Yes. So I think I went to one of those. And then I think I came up. In 2005, I came to watch one more.
[00:36:05.990] - Ricky Artes
So I had a customer, this girl that I did a YJ for, she wanted it identical to my red one. Hers was black at the time. I built it up. And a week later, she comes in with some black eyes, man. And I'm like, hey, what the hell happened to you? She's like, I rolled my Jeep last night. I was drunk and it's parked out on the road. I didn't report it or anything. So I want to know what you want to do. Nobody was hurt.
[00:36:29.990] - Ricky Artes
It was just me. So I went and picked up the Jeep, brought it here, called her up and told her, this is how much it's going to cost to fix it. She's like, the hell with that. Can you sell it? And I'm like, Well, I can try. So about a month goes by, and I called her, and I said, Listen, what do you want to do with this Jeep? Because nobody's biting on anything. It's pretty destroyed. She's like, Well, what can be done with it? I said, I'll tell you what, sell it to me.
[00:36:52.720] - Ricky Artes
I want to get into rock crawling, and it's a perfect Jeep. I don't need the cage off of it. I don't need the windshield frame. I don't need the fenders, all the stuff that was destroyed on it. I didn't need. So if you remember, that was the first rig. It was black with the red JD stickers on it. And I built that up. In 2005, I started building it, and I didn't kind of watching what you're spending and everything like that. I needed an Atlas. I needed a front axle.
[00:37:20.310] - Ricky Artes
I needed this. I needed that. Well, at the time, Rancho had just had the Buggy built, and in 2006, I came to one of your races in the Rancho Buggy when Rancho really didn't even know what we were doing, Shane just said, Just do your thing. Just I don't want to know about it. So I brought the buggy up. If you remember in the trailer and you put me in the unlimited class.
[00:37:48.350] - Ricky Artes
I had 40 inch tires, 39 and a half on Ram, and it was tube chassis. So you said I had to be in the unlimited class, so I have no clue what the hell I was getting myself into, man. And I remember you guys put us on the right in the middle of Jellico. There was the one course that had the big drop. And in the middle it had like a bundle of rocks. And Steve Kraft was my crew chief at the time. Well, he was my spotter, too, and we didn't have no headsets.
[00:38:16.280] - Ricky Artes
We didn't have nothing. I had my carbon fiber turtle caps on, no fire suits, Ray- Bans on, and we went out and had an absolute blast. And I came down that Hill, and I remember I floored it because I was going to roll it. The driver's tire hits. I do a full rollover in the air, land on my tires almost into the crowd. Ray-Bans were crooked. I'll never forget Ray-Bans were all crooked. Helmet was about to come off. I looked over Steve. I said, Are we in?
[00:38:42.330] - Ricky Artes
And the judge? He looks over at the judge and the judge says, You're good. And I remember front digging that baby over and just trying to hit those rocks in the middle. Man, I was hooked after that. That was it for me.
[00:38:55.350] - Big Rich Klein
And Rancho never figured it out, right?
[00:38:59.310] - Ricky Artes
No. Rancho heard about it right away, and I got a phone call from them. And the only thing Shane said to me, he says, Are you okay? And I said, I'm good, man. He says, Perfect. I'll see you when you get back. And I said, you don't care about the buggy. He says, no, I just want to make sure you're okay. And I said, the buggy is good. I rolled it, but I never touched the roof. And he started laughing. And after that, man, we've been buddies since we've been hooked, and I've done so much with that buggy.
[00:39:25.350] - Ricky Artes
I own it now fully, and it's been great. I still have it. I just put a new motor in it, putting a new motor in it. Now rewiring the thing because it was built in '05 by Rob Bonney and Buggy's been awesome, but I still have my we rock rig. I did that. And let me see. I started in the stock modified class just after that '06 run with the buggey because I finally figured out that buggy was way out class, and I had no business being in the unlimited class anyways.
[00:39:58.470] - Ricky Artes
At the time, what was his name? Dean was in there, and Dean, who had the Maxis buggy at the time. It was a moon buggy. One seater.
[00:40:07.510] - Big Rich Klein
[00:40:09.510] - Ricky Artes
No, it wasn't Jesse, because Jesse was still in. I think Jesse was in pro mod when I was in stock mod. Okay, but all these guys that have been around forever, we're all there. And here I am in their class. I'm like, man, I'm out of here. I got to finish my stock mod rig. But being in the business from the beginning, I decided that the pro mod class, it was nothing for me. Anyways. I like the rigs to look like they were real cars and my customers to be able to relate to it.
[00:40:44.000] - Ricky Artes
And then I like the technicality of it, too. You, like, had to really use your vehicle. But my rig was hell. You remember? It was a YJ was as stock as they come. Had a Dana 44 from a Cherokee in the back, and I had a Dana 30 in the front for a long time and stick shift. It was a blast, that's for sure.
[00:41:13.550] - Big Rich Klein
So you had your spotter back then when you were doing we rock. Was Scott. Was that correct?
[00:41:21.950] - Ricky Artes
Yes. Old Scott Pitts. He still gets on me about getting back into it.
[00:41:27.220] - Big Rich Klein
Really? So you guys come out and be team Burger King?
[00:41:33.170] - Ricky Artes
Yeah, that's about right, man. Him and him and the Burger King guy that always cracked me up. Oh, yeah. No, I don't remember where we were at one time. And Little Rich comes around and I had a King, Scott Pitts hates the Burger King guy, right? Yeah. He's terrified of it. So we'd always mess. When we put the mask up on the wall under his bunk bed, we did all kinds of stuff, and it would terrorize them. Well, Little Rich comes around. I know. We were at Grand Nationals in Texas, and Little Rich came around and I had that mask, and he's like, let me have that mask.
[00:42:13.080] - Ricky Artes
And I told Little Rich. I say, hey, man, I'm going to let you in on something. I'm not responsible. What happens to you? Like, don't kick me off the race. I looked at Rich, and I told him I said, I'm not going to be responsible for anything that happens to you. You can't disqualify me. I have nothing to do with it. You're doing this on your own. Give me the mask. So he comes around the side of the trailer, man with that mask on. I remember Scott ran and, man, we laughed our asses off, but I just remember telling Rich, you can't disqualify me if he beats your ass.
[00:42:42.470] - Ricky Artes
I'm not responsible. I'm just letting you know that was Grand Nationals that was right there in Texas. I remember that one.
[00:42:53.190] - Big Rich Klein
So what were some other stories like that from you guys competing? You did all stock nationals in Hannibal, correct?
[00:43:05.830] - Ricky Artes
Yeah, we did Allstock we did a lot of stuff. I mean, we ran from 2005 to 2006 to 2010. I'm sorry. I ran to 2010. But, man, I could. Oh, God, the stories. Dustin was the best at announcing. Man, that guy would have a blast with me shifting through the gears. If you remember, I'd get on an area, and I used to shift from 1st, 2nd, 3rd, fourth and fifth. Man, he would go wild over that. Oh, man, he would just go wild. He's like, look at him, shifting through the gears and squirrels are getting tired.
[00:43:36.530] - Ricky Artes
I mean, I just remember him yelling all the time. We had a blast, and all the guys you look at, looking back, you look at Derek West and watching us progress together. He moved up to the promod class, and I think at the end of the day, I hope he hears us, but I think at the end of the day, he moved up to the promod class because he knew I was coming after his ass. But we'll never know, right? I love Derek. He's a cool cat, but we had.
[00:44:05.290] - Ricky Artes
Oh, God, Kurt, he was awesome. If I had to say they pushed the damn stock modified class to the limit. I never cheated at all. I never did anything, not saying that they cheated, but they would push your rulebook. I mean, they knew how to do that. I never learned how to do that. I wanted to stock my Jeep. It was identical to my other Jeep. It just was meant it was lighter because it didn't have all the seats and all that crap in it. But I'll never forget.
[00:44:34.700] - Ricky Artes
We were in somewhere in Tennessee, and you had to come up to me and you go, hey, man, I got to measure your fenders and your hood because they're claiming that it's lowered. And I was thinking to myself, like, man, I'm the most stock vehicle in this whole damn group. But do what you got to do. And I'm thinking to myself, I wasn't that guy, but I was going to say something to you. Like, why don't you go check Kurt's hood?
[00:44:56.750] - Big Rich Klein
Oh, we did. We did.
[00:45:00.110] - Ricky Artes
And I remember that. You know what I'm saying? But I never was that guy. So I never said anything back then. And you always said something to us that has always stuck with me from the days I started racing with you. And it was always, if you were in that position, would you be bitching about it? Because I came to you one day, and I was saying something to you about somebody hitting a cone or something. And he said, you said that to me. And ever since then, I was just like, you know what?
[00:45:23.870] - Ricky Artes
This is what it is if you didn't see it or the judge didn't see it. I didn't say nothing about it because it's just a bunch of bitch, and it's not going to work, right?
[00:45:32.470] - Big Rich Klein
And it's a Karma thing is what I see.
[00:45:37.170] - Ricky Artes
[00:45:38.390] - Big Rich Klein
It always comes around to get you.
[00:45:40.540] - Ricky Artes
Well, it was funny because you said that to me. And like I said, I say it to my kids. I say it to my kids. Now I'm like, hey, she'll be barrel racing, and she'll say something. She'll say something to me. I'm like, if that was you, would you be bitching about it if you were doing that? No, I'm like, okay, well, then drop it. But no, I remember Eric Miller. Do you remember we were at Saquatchie? Oh, God.
[00:46:11.430] - Big Rich Klein
I remember that nightmare event.
[00:46:14.570] - Ricky Artes
So we're there. I had to pull a super duty from behind my trailer and my spot because they blocked my whole damn spot, and I broke my rear axle, and I had to go back down the side with a broken axle. I'm sitting here yanking on some dude super duty. He comes back after I'm working on my Jeep at the time because I slid the things sideways. You can't get through the drive and he comes back pissed off because I yanked on his truck. But either way, I remember Eric showing up Eric and ran a couple of runs with us at the time.
[00:46:48.970] - Ricky Artes
And I remember that gold Rubicon he had and I came to you and I said, Man, like, should we let this guy run? I mean, that Jeep is dangerous. If this spotter gets near it, it's going to get cut just looking at it. And you're like, you know this. And I remember you made him put some tape over some cuts or something like that because it was so bad. Yeah, but that guy he had destroyed. I mean, the first race he came through, that Rubicon was like, brand new.
[00:47:18.270] - Ricky Artes
I think he wheeled, like, every day because by the time he came to the next race, it was just one of those things where you're just, like, what the hell happened to your Jeep? It was destroyed. I mean, he must have rolled it over 50 times, but I remember saying that to you there. And then I remember his spotter got cut that one day on his arm, if you remember that.
[00:47:36.730] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah. I think that was the Jellico when he got cut. I thought it was Jellico is where he got cut. But I could be wrong.
[00:47:47.490] - Ricky Artes
Yeah, but I remember he got cut really bad from the Jeep. And I came over and I'm like, I told you this shit was going to happen.
[00:47:54.150] - Big Rich Klein
And that's when we changed the rules.
[00:47:56.730] - Ricky Artes
Yeah. And just to see all these guys, all of us have progressed, and some have moved on and done more with it. It's just been really cool, man. It was a cool time. I ran for a while and look at Tennessee at what's her name's? Place.
[00:48:15.910] - Big Rich Klein
[00:48:17.370] - Ricky Artes
Julia's Place. Those are some awesome times, man. Just to watch the progression of the sport and then to see it, I'm just amazed that it's not where it was at back then. Like, you would think that the rock crawling part of it. And I see Jessie doing some stuff and some other stuff going on, but I've been out of it pretty good. I know. I've been trying to come back and come see you and run with you guys a couple of times a year, but our shows fall at the same time.
[00:48:45.730] - Ricky Artes
So it's been kind of tough to figure that out, but I still got my rig. I did the XRRA, too. Rancho was the main sponsor of it for a while. If you remember that, correct. So they had asked me to say, A man, we'd like for you to go up to Indiana and race up in Badlands. I'm like, Sounds good, man. I'm on my way. No problem. Loaded up. A couple of buddies jumped in with me. We haul ass up there 19 hours drive, and I got to race a total of 1 minute and 21 seconds in two days.
[00:49:18.760] - Ricky Artes
And I remember calling Shane on the ride home, and it was miserable. We had to sleep in the trailer. We couldn't find a hotel room in that town. We couldn't do anything cold. Mike was right. He makes me go through tech, and I had to add a ball valve and all this stuff, and it was just hell. And then I get done, and I remember calling Shane on the way back, and I said, hey, I don't care if you're a sponsor or not or what is going on, but I'm not ever going back.
[00:49:46.490] - Ricky Artes
I'm done. And he's like, Well, what's going on? I said, Dude, I said, I can go to my we rock stuff, and I get to run 40 minutes if I screw up and run ten minutes in every course. I'm still running 40 minutes that day. Like, I'm having a blast. I'm sitting behind the wheel for a while, and then I get to watch all my buddies do stuff and all that. Now I told him, I said, I'm not doing this XRRA crap again. And then the next time I went up as they called me, and they said, hey, Rob Bonney needs a car for XRRA Nationals, and it was in Jellico.
[00:50:17.660] - Ricky Artes
So I took the buggy up to Jellico, and I told Rob I said, do not ruin because you know how Rob Bonney is. I said, do not destroy my rig. He did destroy my rig. He destroyed a wheel and a caliper and some other stuff. He was ahead of Shannon for a bit. And then that happened. And after that, I was like, stop because Rob would have kept driving until the wheel came off and would have just kept going in three wheels, right? Yeah, he is.
[00:50:43.580] - Ricky Artes
But speaking of Shannon, we were at Sequatchie, and I knew who Shannon was. I knew who Nick were, but I didn't know them. We were hanging around our RV at the time, and he had parked next to us, and I remember him coming out. We were at our campfire, and this guy walks up behind me. He goes, hey, man, I think I may build a car for the stock mod and get into your class. It looks like it'd be fun. And Shannon was just running promod back then, and he had that black was, like a TJ or something he had built for that.
[00:51:17.710] - Ricky Artes
And Nick was a spotter. Those guys are a trip for sure. And Shannon, this guy is standing behind me, and he said that. And I said, Well, there's always room for people behind me in the line. And I turned around and it was Shannon Campbell. And I'll never forget that day because after that, I can call Shannon. We've always been buddies. We see him in Moab or whatever, and we've always been cool, you know what I mean? But he laughed and just kind of hung out with us and drank a bunch of beer that night.
[00:51:45.250] - Ricky Artes
But that was just when he had signed. I think he had just signed with Monster, if you remember.
[00:51:52.370] - Ricky Artes
So he used to drink some other kind of beer, and then he had to switch to the beer he had to drink from there on because of Monster or something. I remember him telling the story about it, and he was like, yeah, I'd like this beer now because they're paying the bills. But I remember telling him that I was like, yeah, there's always space for you behind us in the line or something like that. I turn around and it was him. I was like, oh, hell, because I like you already.
[00:52:16.630] - Ricky Artes
And then him and Nick are standing right there. But they've always been cool. Like I said, man, just watching all of us going to Julia's Place and watching Jesse Haynes do that shoot out. I've watched that video probably 15 times, because remember at that time I had Chris coming out recording everything. So that was part of our we rock videos that we used to put out. Those DVDs we used to do just watching all that stuff back then. It'd just be cool to see it take off and come back and do that.
[00:52:47.380] - Ricky Artes
I mean, the spectators just love that kind of stuff.
[00:52:50.050] - Big Rich Klein
I think a lot of it has to do is that people aren't driving the old rigs as much new guys get into it because they've got A. Jk. And then they end up buying A. Jl or A Gladiator, and nobody wants to really beat the piss out of those coming out to an event. So it's the buggy guys. We tried to push the mod stock and the pro mod classes for so long that it's now become truly unlimited. That's where the car count is at that end, sportsman, where guys can bring their trail rigs out and beat on them and compete.
[00:53:32.570] - Big Rich Klein
Sometimes they're more of a handful than the pros are because the cars are all built pretty similar the driving skills or styles they're more experienced, I guess the best way to put it. So the competition typically is a little closer, although there's still two or three guys that are always going to be on top, but it is different. The sport is different now, and I don't know if it will ever get back to those early years until people decide it's time to start bringing out JKS and beating on them.
[00:54:12.390] - Ricky Artes
Yeah, that's going to be a fun time to watch, man, because even my little short wheel base and some of the pro mods the wheel bases, we still have trouble going through the courses that you all would set up. I can't imagine trying to take a four door school bus through there. I have every model Jeep and every one of them have. I do certain things with all of them. Like you said, I'm not going to take my Gladiator and do that, but I will take my Gladiator and go over landing and go enjoy nature and go enjoy trail riding and all that stuff.
[00:54:43.920] - Ricky Artes
But I'm not going to go and rock crawl with it, right? I don't have any interest. I got the buggy. I got the LJ, I got the buggies, the other buggy. I got the YJ. I don't need to take a $60,000 plus car and go beat on it. And that's just doing a lift kit. That's not even doing axles on them. You're spending 15 grand more just to do axles on these things anymore.
[00:55:05.990] - Big Rich Klein
Exactly. And I think that's part of why the sport is slower to grow now. It's trying to get those guys that have built buggies, get involved into that, into the sport and taking their trail rig, buggies truckies, whatever you want to call them and moving that direction. But it's happening. So that's good. I don't know if it'll ever be. You know, it's like NASCAR. Nascar is not the same as it used to be. Definitely not as big. And I think that the mentality or the interests of everybody has not everybody, but there's interest swings.
[00:55:54.190] - Ricky Artes
Yeah, I think the sports alternate for sure. I would agree with that. I mean, look at Koh, look at Ultra four, look at our we rock, look at NASCAR. Like you said, it's all going to change. I mean, I left in 2010. It was time for me to focus on the business. I spent a lot of years where I was gone and I'd come back and this and that I wasn't doing events, but, I mean, we go to offer an impact in Vegas. We do SEMA, we do Expo and Pomona, whatever we could find to go do and do seminars and learn more.
[00:56:30.410] - Ricky Artes
We were just a wealth of knowledge at that point, just trying to. Soak it all in not a wealth of knowledge, but learning it for Alicia came on board here, probably about February or so. She came on board and started working here and took over it was just her and I at the front counter and her brother. And the hell I was turning wrenches back then. So when I left in 2006 to go run, I'd leave. I was still a mechanic, too. So when I leave, I was hurting the shop in a way.
[00:57:07.240] - Ricky Artes
But, man, I needed it. You know what I'm saying? I needed to do it. And it was a blast. We bought the trailer and all that good stuff. And then in 2010, I stopped running, and I wanted to focus on the business. So I spent two years. I still had the race trailer at the time. So in 2012 is when I decided it's time for us to start doing events. And then you talk about evolving. I mean, it's just everything changes. And we're back to not doing as many.
[00:57:35.870] - Ricky Artes
But I think in 2012, I think I did 42 events or something. And then in 13, I did 37. I think it was. And I dwindle them down because you figure out which ones are worth it, which ones are not worth going to. Because once you're setting up a 44 foot trailer at the time with a big canopy, NASCAR style canopy, you set up a whole showroom. They have to be worthwhile. I mean, it takes six, seven, 8 hours to set up 3 hours to tear down.
[00:58:02.190] - Ricky Artes
But you got to make sure that all these events are worth it. So when I was wanting to come back to We Rock at the time, I was doing too many events, so I couldn't schedule anything out because do I go make money or do I go race?
[00:58:17.670] - Big Rich Klein
No. True. That's making the money. You need to make the money before you can go out and race.
[00:58:24.370] - Ricky Artes
Yeah. And still wheeling. You're still going out wheeling, going to Moab, going to Rubicon for me, going to the Rubicon is 50 hours. Going to Moab is 34 to 38 hours. So still wanting to do all this stuff and having to do events and all that good stuff. So a lot of things changed, but yeah, I've been looking at it heavy. And when I say I got the rig, man, I got the rig. Nothing has been done to it. It's sitting there with four flat tires and about once every three months, I've put air in the tires and I run it around the property and run it through the citrus go, just hauling ass, bouncing it around and enjoying it.
[00:59:06.610] - Big Rich Klein
Awesome. So I noticed you've been doing a lot of social runs like you just got back from doing Death Valley talk about those. Are those to help build the business as well?
[00:59:24.730] - Ricky Artes
No, not really. I mean, like I said, I've started dwindling the shows down the last couple of years. Last two years ago, I bought the property here about 30 acres in Christmas, Florida, and we got Citrus Farm and all that stuff. So wanted to dwindle down the shows but then I also wanted to be able to keep doing the events, the fun events that I call them. So what I do is where I open it up to our customers. And we'll go, I'll take a bunch of customers and we'll go to Georgia, we'll go to Tennessee, we'll go to Moab, we'll haul twelve vehicles out to Moab, and then some people fly out.
[01:00:08.800] - Ricky Artes
Some people ride with us, and then we go out and have a great time. But more than anything, man, it's just I do them because I want to do the event for a long time there. I was just putting on events, and then anybody was allowed to come. If you found out about them. And I don't know, maybe four or five years back, I ran into a situation where we go out to this place and we're wheeling and gentlemen, breaks 10ft into the trail, and he's not my customers.
[01:00:37.560] - Ricky Artes
So I just stand back and watch the other shop guys that are there that are his customer. They're not doing anything. So finally we jump in there. We fix it. We get him back on the trail. He gets the wheel the whole weekend. And a Thursday after that, we come over to our social place. We used to hang out at Sonic. And on Thursday, I come over and I'm looking at looking at leasing. I'm like, Does he have any steering on his Jeep? She's like, yeah, I said, Did you buy it from us?
[01:01:05.270] - Ricky Artes
No, I was like, okay, so that changed my whole after that, I got sour on that. And I just said, you know what? From now on, if you're not my customer, you're not going to be invited. So we got back into that. And now we'll do all kinds of stuff, man. We do overlanding, we'll do wheeling trips, we do stuff. But it's mostly just we just invite the customers, and there's just something for us to do. And I like doing it with other people, not just me going out one guy or something.
[01:01:35.210] - Ricky Artes
You prefer just to be the one guy that you hang out with all the time. But most of the time, we invite a bunch of people and have a good time. We just got back from Death Valley. We'll link up with people like this trip we did with modern Jeeper adventures with Corey and Jesse and Dale. Albright came out in March, and we did a Death Valley trip, and he was there. And I'll tell you what that guy knows Death Valley like, no other.
[01:02:02.210] - Big Rich Klein
No, that's very true. But then again, they're both about the same age.
[01:02:07.130] - Ricky Artes
Oh, man, I'm sure, you know, from Corey on that one.
[01:02:13.550] - Big Rich Klein
Not from Corey, from Del.
[01:02:18.090] - Ricky Artes
Del. He's been going out to Death Valley once a year like that for 35 or 36 years, right? He knows that area like nothing. Man. It was awesome just to learn, because last year, when I went in March, I had no idea where I was going. I had no idea about Death Valley, and I've never done any research on it. You just learn a little bit here and there. So Corey's, like, hey, man, why don't you come out and hang out with us? So I went out there in March, and, man, he talked about every time you turn a corner, it's just something else is amazing.
[01:02:53.930] - Ricky Artes
Just when you think you saw something awesome, you're just going to see something else that's better. In 2ft, it was exceptional. I mean, I've done a couple of years back. I like doing stuff with my daughter. And now I got a five year old and a two month old. So with Kayla, my oldest, she's 17 now, but I started doing stuff with her, and we did a Colorado trip for two weeks where we just live out of the Jeep. We don't get hotels. We don't do any of that.
[01:03:24.390] - Ricky Artes
So I did that with her in 17. I think it was. And then an 18 Jeep Jam Marie invited me out to rebuke on. I did that with her, and we did the mantras trail. Man, I like getting out there. I love wheeling. I love going fast. I love all that part, but just going out there and putting out a tent and camping like we did when we were younger is just something I want to make sure my kids get to enjoy and see the area.
[01:03:52.570] - Ricky Artes
She went out to Death Valley with me in March, and it's just awesome to get them out. When my five year old gets to be old enough, I'll take her and do the same thing.
[01:04:02.430] - Big Rich Klein
That's great. That's cool. So is there any place in the United States? It's on your life list that you want to wheel that you haven't yet.
[01:04:14.070] - Ricky Artes
Yeah. Do. I got to quite a few of them this year. In September, I always go on a birthday trip, and unlimited LG Adventure decided that they were going to do their adventure the week of my birthday. So I was like, okay, well, I guess I'll do that one. I've always sponsored those guys. I always stand behind them. I got an LJ, so went with them this year, and we went from Oklahoma to Missouri, and that took a bunch of places off my list. I think that the YouTube video comes out this Thursday.
[01:04:46.930] - Ricky Artes
If I'm not mistaken, I'll have to pull out the date. But they did a five part YouTube video that they're going to do. What's his name from 320. I think it's called Blake, and all them guys came out and did a whole recording on it, but we got to do, oh, man. S'more. That was a place I always wanted to go to, and I got to do it. And let me tell you, that place will tear up some tires. But it was a blast. We had a great time.
[01:05:14.240] - Ricky Artes
Good group we went over to. I always wanted to go down to Disney and do the waterfalls and all that. So I did that next year. I'm going to do Burris Valley. I want to do that next. Still my favorite place I think so far, man, is when you took us to Grand Nationals, Steve Kraft and I took off and decided to go take the Buggy and his TJ and his wife's TJ and go to Clayton, Oklahoma, right when it was open and Slim, I got to go over to Slim's house, got him off the couch.
[01:05:47.900] - Ricky Artes
We went and played, and I still so far that's been my favorite place that I wield when it came to being horribly hard. I like a challenge. So that's one of those places. And then next year I'm going to plan Burrs Valley. And then I'm going to go up and see Corey in Colorado. I want to bring the Buggy in the LJ, and I want to hit all the hard stuff in Colorado that he can put me on. I like both, man. I like both sides never been interested in Koh.
[01:06:24.710] - Ricky Artes
I remember when Rachel was the main sponsor of it at the beginning. They had asked me if I wanted to run, and when you tell them that they got to spend 30 $40,000 on the buggy to update it, that kind of slows that whole idea down. But I don't know. Tony Pelogrino called me the other day and asked me if I was still interested in Koh because a couple of years back when he had gotten out of the Buggy, we talked and it was an option for me to get the Buggy and get behind the wheel of that one.
[01:06:58.830] - Ricky Artes
But I decided against it. Just being from Florida to run Koh is just tough. We don't have anywhere to practice here. We don't have. So I'd have to be out, away from home and away from the business for so long, doing pre runs and all that stuff that it's never really interested me from that aspect of it. I like the racing part of it. I love to do it anyways. It's in our blood, right? But I don't know. And Tony Polarno called me their day and said that I didn't really get to talk to him too much because of where I was at.
[01:07:34.440] - Ricky Artes
But he asked me if I still was thinking about it, that they were thinking about doing another class. I don't know if you know anything about it, but I'm sure something will be said soon about it, but there was going to be another class. It was more of a stock market class type of racing.
[01:07:49.670] - Big Rich Klein
Interesting. No, I hadn't heard anything yet, but.
[01:07:54.410] - Ricky Artes
Maybe it's not supposed to be out, but I'm sure we're going to hear of a new class coming out. It's sort of on the EMC side, but more of a stock.
[01:08:04.430] - Big Rich Klein
Even more stock than the $4,600.
[01:08:09.780] - Ricky Artes
Yeah, and he knows how I am about that stuff. I really do. Like you said, man, we all want to have Shannon Campbell and all the bad stuff, right? But I'm not going to sit here and tell you that we all can't afford it. We're not going to do it. I'm way smarter than that. I'm not going to spend that kind of money on a rig. And for us on the East Coast, it's even harder because 99% of my customers don't even know what Koh is true.
[01:08:44.290] - Ricky Artes
So for us over here, for me to promote it and for me to focus and spend a bunch of money on racing in it. For me, it doesn't do anything for my customer base, so I have to really think about that because ultimately, that's what's paying to be there.
[01:08:59.600] - Ricky Artes
So I got to make the wise decisions. Now, do I want to load up in my truck and trailer and bring my LJ. A. Buggy and go out there and have some fun that week? Of course. But that doesn't mean I need to race in it. So I don't know. I mean, I've watched some of the stuff that Derek was doing on the East Coast going out and running his rig and the rock bouncer stuff, and that all looks fun, too. And I thought about going out with him a couple of times when he was doing it in the buggy, but just have fun.
[01:09:32.190] - Ricky Artes
And my stuff is all mostly set up for fun. The only thing I got set up that could race is like you said, get in the sportsman class, and we rock. And I may do that again this year. Who knows?
[01:09:43.370] - Big Rich Klein
Well, cool. So what's on the horizon? What's the future look like for Jeepers Den?
[01:09:50.390] - Ricky Artes
Man? I don't know. We're just going to keep doing our thing. I've never been big on the Internet, so we don't do stuff online. We're just a brick and mortar, and we'll just keep doing what we're doing. Hopefully, future always is. Hopefully somebody else wants this place more than I do, and we can retire and go do more overlaming and more wheeling, get everything loaded up behind the tower home and ride out.
[01:10:19.790] - Big Rich Klein
Yeah, because you're like, real close to 50 now, then, right?
[01:10:25.010] - Ricky Artes
[01:10:26.110] - Big Rich Klein
45. Well, that's getting closer.
[01:10:28.500] - Ricky Artes
Yeah. Actually, you know what? I'll take that back. I'm 46.
[01:10:31.980] - Big Rich Klein
[01:10:34.730] - Ricky Artes
Once you get 40, does it matter?
[01:10:37.610] - Big Rich Klein
You'll say that when you hit 50 and then when you hit 60, 58 is when I realized I was starting to get old. And it was because everything started to hurt when I got up in the morning. Whatever happened the night before or the day before started to hurt the next day.
[01:10:54.820] - Ricky Artes
Yeah. I feel like I'm 30 or 28 somewhere in that age. But when you do something, it kind of reminds you you're not 30 years old anymore.
[01:11:03.300] - Big Rich Klein
[01:11:04.550] - Ricky Artes
But no, I mean, just go go, man. Like I said, I have the citrus now. So that's a focus. I've been doing way better with that. And when we got it, we broke every record since every year, we just get more and more production out of the trees. We do all the work ourselves, so that keeps us kind of busy. And then the shop obviously is slammed. We never slowed down through any of that. So we've been fortunate enough to I think people were spending more money.
[01:11:38.520] - Ricky Artes
We're actually busier than we were before coven. But I think people just wanted their stuff down. They're not driving them to work anymore. They're working from home. So they're big jeeps. We're just sitting there so they would call us and go, hey, you know what? Let's just do that lift kit I've been wanting to do, and I don't need the Jeep. So let's just go ahead and do it now. So it's been fun. And to see the change in our business, a lot of people think Florida, we're not building rock crawlers.
[01:12:05.460] - Ricky Artes
We're not building this, but we do everything. We build mall crawlers. We build rock crawlers, we build whatever anybody wants to do. We're doing a bunch of Overland vehicles for people now, and we'll put solar panels on them. We'll do whatever they need.
[01:12:19.670] - Big Rich Klein
Cool. So you're changing with the times staying current.
[01:12:25.670] - Ricky Artes
Yeah. And if you don't do that, I don't think you have much of a future if you don't stay current.
[01:12:31.480] - Big Rich Klein
True. Well, is there anything that we haven't touched on that you think is important?
[01:12:38.750] - Ricky Artes
No, man. I'm sure we haven't touched on a bunch. I guess we don't get caught up enough anymore, but now we're doing good, man. Just keep rolling and hope to see you out there sometime at We Rock, and we can get out there and run again. I'll try to bring the Burger King man out with me if he can. He's old now, too. He's not young, like he was jumping around the rocks. I don't know if he can do it anymore.
[01:13:03.180] - Big Rich Klein
We're all getting that way. Trust me.
[01:13:08.130] - Ricky Artes
He hits me up all the time about going out. I keep telling him, I don't think you can run around the rocks like you used to long in the tooth and Gray hair.
[01:13:15.970] - Big Rich Klein
Jeez. Yeah, well, Ricky, I want to say thank you for coming on board and sharing your life and your history and off road with our listeners. And I hope that everything that you do in the future is solid and prosperous and keeps you doing what you want to do.
[01:13:38.910] - Ricky Artes
Awesome. Thank you for having me, rich. It's been fun, man.
[01:13:41.580] - Big Rich Klein
Okay, we'll talk to you later. Bye.
[01:13:44.490] - Ricky Artes
[01:13:45.870] - Speaker 4
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. That brings this episode to an end. Hope you enjoyed it. We'll catch you next week with Conversations with Big Rich thank you very much.