The next SoCal Gambler 500 off road rally is just around the corner, so now seems like the perfect time to reminisce on the insane Gambler event we experienced earlier this year. Let’s just say it was an adventure I won’t soon forget.


In a previous post, I recounted my utter disappointment and shame as I managed to purchase a ‘98 Subaru Legacy that contained an unfathomable stench of urine. My brother and I ripped out every last bit of the pee-soaked interior, threw on some taller struts, and made ourselves a sweet little battlewagon—perfect for a Gambler event.

Just a few short days later, the Gambler 500 was upon us. There was no time to shake down the “Poobaru” to see if there were any hidden gremlins. It was go time—so we set out on a 200 mile trek to the starting line just outside the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Upon arriving at the beginning point behind a dusty desert truck stop, we were greeted by an assortment of awesomely absurd vehicles. There was a badass lifted Porsche 911, a Nissan truck in full-on Roger Mears Budweiser livery, a beat-to-hell PT Cruiser, several ex-cop Crown Vics, and one brave soul that dared to gamble his cherry 1956 Chevy truck.

And then we were off! We were hitting checkpoints like pros. The Poobaru traversed some beautiful desert terrain—places that we would have never thought of visiting. The course wandered through areas with absolutely no cell service, so we came prepared with extra fuel, two spare tires, recovery ropes, a ham radio, and an assortment of cheap Harbor Freight tools—and hoped to not use any of it.

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After several hours of successful navigation, we scratched our heads as we tried to figure out how to get to waypoint #13. We conferred with several other teams and made the decision to head down what appeared to be the most direct route, right past the sign that clearly advised against passenger cars. Maybe now is a good time to check out the video of our experience. Let’s just say things didn’t go exactly as planned. Not even close.


So there you have it—we certainly gambled. We never made it past waypoint #13 out of around 100. Apparently the section down to the valley now known as Gambler’s Gulch was not pre-run by the organizers. However I don’t blame anyone for our predicament—nobody forced us to drive our terrible cars down a black diamond Jeep trail.

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To be honest, it was a stressful experience—we spent the better part of a day not knowing if or how we were going to get out. But as we all came together, moved rocks, shoveled dirt, and rebuilt the road by hand, we could start to see the light at the end of the boulder-filled tunnel.

In the end, we made the best out of a sketchy situation and ended up having an unforgettable experience. And I even had the chance to dig a hole and poop in the forest. If you dare head into Gambler’s Gulch, follow the trail of Crown Vic parts at your own peril.