Scale RC Trail Crawls Gets You Outdoors & Solving Problems

Traversing a creek bed

Walking is good for you regardless of your age. Trail walking is even better as it works more of the body’s muscles just a little (sometimes a lot) harder thanks to the uneven terrain. For those who like to get even more adventurous, take a hike not just along the creek or river, but IN it. Now add snow and ice and to top it all off…add controlling an RC car at the same time. Now we’re talking!

This is one of the things that make having an RC vehicle so much fun and challenging. In general RC Crawling is an exercise in problem solving. How do I get my RC over an obstacle or through a series of obstacles. Picking the right path through the terrain. It’s good for the brain because it really is a three dimensional puzzle that needs to be solved. Now…how do you get yourself through also? It’s probably a very different route. Your RC may be able to go under a fallen log, but you have to find some way to climb over it without dropping, or damaging your remote transmitter and without injuring yourself. With that in mind, it’s best to not go alone unless it’s a very easy trail with lots of other foot traffic.

Which RC to get is really up to you, your budget and preferences regarding body style. Redcat, Axial and Traxxas are some manufactures that make suitable 10th scale RC’s with a wide range of body styles with Ford, Chevy, Land Rover and Jeep all represented.

Video by Chronicles of Adventure

Another part of the fun is customizing and personalizing your RC to make it truly yours and unique somehow. Add some stickers, decals, lights, roof racks, etc.

Video by RC Wreck-creation

It’s important to keep up on the maintenance. It is after all a scale sized motor vehicle. Parts will wear out and need to be replaced. Some parts will break due to over driving the vehicle or crashing it too hard. Although they can take a beating far more than a 1:1 vehicle could against a similar 1:1 boulder. Just like full sized vehicles, you can take it to a mechanic (your local hobby shop has onsite technicians) or you can do it yourself, which you should really learn to do to save costs.

Regular maintenance is essential
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New Hope for 5th Scale RC Racing in Ontario

After the Canadian RC Nationals of 2018, the 5th Scale community fell into a slump. The Canadian RC Nationals are held at Walton Raceway, which is first and foremost a MotoCross track and only used by the 5th Scale RC racers that one weekend a year. So it’s not a venue we can just go and race at or practice on whenever we want. The only track we could use was RCAcres. The owner of that track had pumped up our hopes about doing an Eastern Championship but then…nothing. Without any announcement or other communication, he walked away quietly to follow other interests. He wouldn’t even entertain the idea of allowing the community to organize events at his track. Not even at a cost. And so, over night, the 5th Scale RC communitty of racers had nowhere to go. Once Winter was on the horizon, racers started selling their 5th Scale RC cars, trucks and buggys (mostly to people in the USA where 5th Scale racing is thriving and there are lots of tracks to race at).

Not only did Ontario now lack any tracks, it also lacks structure and organization. However, people are still interested and new people ask on FaceBook about how to get involved. They want to buy a 5th Scale but don’t know where to take it. So instead they buy a 10th or 8th scale because there are many tracks for them and they are organized.

Then along comes a post on our only online source of information (a FaceBook group), that a couple guys are willing to put in the work to build a small track at the Gore Road MX track. They already got the green light to do so from the property owner and it would make a nice addition for little kids to learn to ride on instead of on the main track. This was amazing news and more than enough people were willing to pay a membership fee which would cover the costs of building material and renting heavy equipment needed to build the RC track. After a couple months, word came that the track is ready for it to be tested.

HPI Baja ready to race

It was small and still needed some work but it was exciting to be out on a track again. Especially for this driver who is still a total newbie. There isn’t a timing system, or a PA system for announcements, the drivers stand is on some scaffolding and there is one port-a-potty on site but we don’t care. It’s a place for use to play again.

It was pretty muddy but we didn’t care

Unfortunately, out first day out, not many people showed up. The rain from the previous day was sure to leave the track very wet and likely unusable. Some of us though just couldn’t stay away but as expected, the track was wet with some standing water and was unusable until it dried up a bit. Eventually the sun came out and dried the track enough for us to try it out (although we did have to avoid some spots).

Once again, life is returning for the 5th Scale RC community. We really do need 1-2 more tracks though. With that and a bit of organization, we can build a proper racing series in Ontario…and drivers WILL come.

There were only nine of us out there but there were dozens more online, waiting eagerly, to hear about the new track and what it was like to drive. In short…it was awesome! What was great to see was that Andrew from SkyCraft Hobbies came out with his truck full of parts to support us. SkyCraft Hobbies has been a huge supporter of 5th Scale and we really appreciate it.

RC racing is by the most affordable form of motorsports and the 5th Scale racing community, although small, is quite possibly the most welcoming. If a driver needs help, advice, even a spare part, other drivers are willing to assist.

A mantra that I’m learning that all RC racers go by is:
Drive it, jump it, break it, fix it…repeat!

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Where Men in Black go to train

Hidden deep in the hills of West Virginia is 750 acres of awesome. Until recently it was a secret place known only to the clients who go there. The locals of the nearby town have many stories and theories to share about this place. They hear the gun fire, they see the explosions and the mushroom clouds, they see the helicopters come and go with men in black clothing inside. Some think it’s a training facility, some think it’s some kinda government BlackOps site, I even heard a tale that this place was a super secret submarine base and there is a tunnel leading out to the Ocean.

It’s not a submarine base. Nor is it a BlackOps site. It is however a training facility. It’s one of the best in North America. How do I know? Because I’ve been there…and I know who does their training there.

For many years this place has been used as an elite training facility and finally…they opened it up to civilians. This was a test and I was selected to be a part of it. The owners of the facility joined up with a contact of mine and made a plan to bring in civilians to experience this facility. The word went out online and hundreds of people applied. Only 12 were selected.

We came from all over North America. A few from Canada, but most were from the USA (from as far away as Seattle and Miami). Some of us had some military or police background. Some members of our group used to work for various government agencies (I can’t say more about that).

We all had a great time though!

Day one started off with a briefing about explosives and IED’s….then we got a demonstration of them out on one of the shooting ranges. On a 1000 yard range, riddled with destroyed cars, we saw first hand the effects of blasting caps, pipe bombs, DetCord and Slurry sticks (used to take down buildings). Our demolitions expert, and one of our instructors throughout the weekend was a former US SEAL  but I can’t say more about him. Actually he was just one of many instructors that I can’t talk about.

From there we moved on to a day of driving exercises. High speed driving skills, in-class lessons about the physics of driving, weight transfer, etc. We also practiced PIT maneuvers, J-Turns, and racing around their 1.5 mile long race track. As an advanced driving instructor, day one was easy for me but a tad alien for the other participants.

Yes they have their own paved race track, as well as a dirt-road course, and an off road course designed to get you stuck so that you can practice self recovery (you can’t call road side services in the combat field). They also have a large skid pad that can be used for autoslalom and advanced driving drills, as well as a “Kill Town” which replicates a small town to train in urban warfare tactics and hostage training. And they also have the most advanced live-fire Shooting House in North America.

It’s no wonder this place is used by agencies like…oh look…shiny thing!

Day two…I was out of my comfort zone. I haven’t fired a gun in over 20yrs but if you’re a gun nut…it was like Christmas. We started the day on the gun range with Ar-15’s (semi-auto and full auto), MP-5’s, Tommy Guns and a fully automatic AK-47 where on the table to use.

In the afternoon, we moved to the Shoot House. This building is the most advanced training house in North America and can be set up for nearly any scenario. Its a two story building and even has cat-walks overhead for observers and instructors to take note of the action below.

We were all issued modified Glock 19’s that could only shoot non-lethal rounds. Various scenarios were set up and the teams had to take each other out. It may have been non-lethal rounds but that stuff hurts! Non-lethal my ass! Get shot in the head or face at close range, without the protective gear on and it could be your last day! And there is nothing like being shot in the back by your own teammate…yes Scott…I’m talking about you!

This was the first time they allowed civilians into their facility but it won’t be the last. Future weekends are being scheduled at the time of writing this. Lots of driving, smashing cars, shooting guns, tactical shooting, good food and new friends to be made.

I even got a couple gifts from a former ‘agency guy’. I can’t say who or what agency he worked with but I guess I made an impression with him and earned it.

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Canadian Nationals – 1/5th Scale Offroad Racing

I’m a total newbie when it comes to RC cars. I’ve owned a couple toy ones as a kid but earlier this year, I saw some friends driving their 1/5th scale, gas powered RC cars, and took a liking to it big time. Before I knew it, I found myself owning a used and hugely beat up HPI Baja 5B SS 2WD buggy with a bunch of spare parts.

The outdoor, off road, racing community is pretty well established but needs some serious organization. There aren’t a lot of venues to race at and running an event takes a huge amount of work and lots of volunteers. Even just practice days takes a lot of effort by the land owner to make sure the track is in race ready condition.

A couple months ago, RC Acres finally opened for a practice day so off I went. Up until then, I was only running my buggy in the parking lot at my work trying to get down some basic driving skills. 2WD cars are the hardest to drive but that’s what I had and if I can get good with that, I can drive anything. The practice day at RC Acres was my first time driving at a purpose built off road track. I crashed a lot, broke some stuff, fixed the car and learned a lot. My next time out was the Canadian Nationals at Walton Raceway. I knew I was going to be way out of my league but hey…it will be fun. My goal was to just learn the track, work on technique and stay out of people’s way who have had years of experience doing this.

My HPI Baja 5B SS Buggy ready to race.
My HPI Baja 5B SS Buggy ready to race.

Friday was practice day and at first things went as expected…I crashed a lot and broke stuff. Easy repairs but there seemed to be an underlying issue with my buggy…It wouldn’t turn much. After some trouble shooting, it seemed that my steering servo was pretty worn out and it was time for a new one. Thanks to some help from Andrew at SkyCraft Hobbies, I bought a new servo and installed it. Then a new problem popped up. My receiver kept browning out. Tried different servos, checked the wiring, tried different receivers. Some of the most experienced drivers around were helping me find the problem and we were all left scratching our heads. In the end, it turned out the battery I was using couldn’t keep up with the load of my new set up. Once again SkyCraft came to the rescue and provided me a new battery. It looks the exact same but was made by a different company and problem solved…after 5hrs of troubleshooting. My Friday of practice was a write off and I only got 15min of track time.

Got hit by a Losi 5b Buggy and waiting for the ambulance.
Got hit by a Losi 5b Buggy and waiting for the ambulance.

Bring on Saturday. Time for practice, qualifying and some racing…but not for me. Since I hadn’t done any marshalling on Friday, I figured I would spend as much time doing so in the morning that I could. So when the first practice session started I went out on the track to marshall and I was the only one out there with about four cars were on track. That’s when things went wrong for me. A driver made a big mistake on a jump that I was standing near and his 5B Buggy came flying at me at well over 40km/hr. I had about half a second to react and tried to protect my ribs from the impact. My right arm and hip took the hit and it was a whopper.

I was helped off the track and the pain was intense in my arm. A huge thanks to everyone who came to my aid and tended to me and my injuries but it wasn’t long before they realized that I needed some proper medical attention and called an ambulance.

It wasn’t long before the paramedics showed up and they took me to a local hospital convinced that my arm and wrist were broken. The paramedics were great and so was the staff at the local community hospital 10min away. I spent half the day there waiting for x-rays and a final verdict from the doctor. The x-rays didn’t show any obvious brakes but they weren’t sure about my wrist. The choice was made to splint my arm & wrist and release me. The owner of Walton Raceway was nice enough to drive to the hospital to pick me up and bring me back to the track.

From here on out I was just a spectator, although I did still go out and do some marshalling, even though it wasn’t a smart idea considering the condition I was in.

The rest of the weekend was amazing…as a spectator. I couldn’t race and I couldn’t safely marshall, so I sat on the sidelines and watched. Buggys, trucks and…what the hell is a Horrman? Well it looked kinda funny but it won the 2WD class and the driver came all the way from Germany to do it.

We had drivers from all over Ontario, Quebec, several from Germany as well as the USA come to compete this weekend. Although I didn’t get to do any racing, I’m glad I stayed after I got hurt. It was a great weekend of camping, making new friends and watching some cool racing. I’ll make sure I’m ready for next year.

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Bucket List – Item Checked

We all have  things that we would like to do before we kick the bucket but some people actually have a proper list, at least in their mind anyway. Not everyone gets to check off every item though. Actually, most people don’t despite their best efforts. Hey, life happens right?

A friend of mine is one of those people who has a proper list in her head and I had a way to check off one of her items…flying in a glider. 

I’m fortunate to have a very diverse pool of contacts and one is very active in a glider flying club. After a few conversations, I knew how to make this happen; where to go, the costs, etc and I wanted to do it on her birthday as a surprise. 

Now we had previously gone on random country drives before so when I made plans with her to go for a nice drive, she didn’t suspect a thing. After a couple of hours, she brought my attention to a field of gliders “Oh look Shaun! Gliders!” to which I replied “Oh ya, look at that. Very cool”. Then she noticed me slowing the car and signalling to turn onto a small road heading to the air-field. That’s when the penny dropped and a lump built up in her throat. 

After making the arrangements and paying the fees, she got the ride of her life. Check one off the bucket list.

A big shout out to the SOSA Gliding Club

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