AAZCD
AAZCD Reader
5/12/19 1:04 a.m.

Reading mazdeuce - Seth's write up about the Texas Gambler 500 last year got me thinking that a Gambler would be good family fun and an excuse to take on another project car. About the time I started looking for a car and local event, a 2000 VW Beetle showed up at my house for free other than the cost of the towing fee. More on that story is on page 3 of this thread: No, this is not a build. I want it gone

The last week of April I went to the Gambler 500 Kansas Rally, Spring Sling 2019. My wife came along as co-driver and we had a great time. Our car, the 'Dung Beetle', was perfectly capable of making the three hour drive to the venue, but considering our comfort and having a back-up in case something did go wrong, we decided to trailer it there with Pepper. Friday morning we dropped off the dogs at the pet resort for the weekend and we headed out to Fall River Lake, Kansas in the early afternoon.

We arrived at our motel (Mrs AAZCD is not a tent camper), had a nice dinner and went to the lake for a recon of the area. The organizers had rented an entire campground. I didn't actually look up the address of the campground. It's a small lake and we were looking for a large group of cars. Probably some banners and signs for the event. How hard could it be? With the loaded trailer in tow, we went around the lake on gravel, then dirt, then some mud, looking for the campground. As it got dark and we were driving into places where turning around with the trailer presented a challenge, we decided to go back to the motel. Taking a corner about a mile from the motel, the trailer started to wobble. I slowed to about 40 and it smoothed out, so I nursed it the rest of the way. When we arrived, I found that the left rear tire was completely shredded. Luckily there was no damage to the wheel. Back at our room, Google maps showed that there was a tire place nearby that would open at 8:00 in the morning and that we had driven within ¼ mile of the campground and missed it before circling around the lake.

Saturday morning. I got up early, unloaded Dung Beetle from the trailer, and pulled off the bad tire. The continental breakfast at the motel was out of coffee and unattended at 7:30, so we left (a little grumpy) and hit up a gas station convenience store on the way to the campground. A couple other Gamblers were there, the first we had met, and we had a nice chat. This was their first Gambler too and none of us knew what to expect. Loaded up with a couple breakfast burritos and sugary snacks for the day, we arrived at the campground at 8:00 to complete registration. The briefing and start was at 9:00 so I took some time to walk around and check out the other cars. Some were creative and highly modified, some were just rusty junkers straight from their life as a daily beater. There was no official check of the cars, or care about budget, or roadworthyness. I think that the (unread) waiver I signed covered all that. Over 200 people had showed up with probably about 100 cars for the event. The only real rule was “Don't be a Dick.”

Event start. A short briefing followed by handing out a sheet of paper with about a dozen checkpoint coordinates on it with names like “creepy bridge to nowhere” and “two men in a bathtub”. It's not a race, but I felt rushed. I still head to deal with my flat tire 20 miles away and didn't want to fall too far behind the main group. We rushed to the tire shop. They quickly set us up with a new tire, while I answered a local ranchers questions about my odd car and entered coordinates in the Google Maps app. I was worried about falling behind, but it turned out that the first checkpoint was a big US flag and overlook on a hilltop that was only 1.5 miles from the tire shop. As I was leaving the tire shop, the main body of the group was just getting to town. Awesome.

AAZCD
AAZCD Reader
5/12/19 1:26 a.m.

Continued:

For the day, we basically followed Google Maps, or the cars ahead of us from checkpoint to checkpoint. Mostly gravel back roads, with some mud and a few water crossings. Some checkpoints were crowded and congested, but as the day moved on Gamblers spread out and became more sparse. We spent about a half hour at a checkpoint in downtown Chanute, KS., where the organizers had a checkpoint designed to crash a car show.

It was a long day in a beater car on rough back roads of Kansas, but we had a great time. Dung Beetle was flawless except for one of the mud tires occasionally rubbing the edge of the tread on a strut. Saturday night an 80s rock band, “The Banned”, played at the campground and Jello shots were passed around.

Explaining the Gambler to a local at a gas stop:

Awesome outfits to match their car. Their clutch gave out and they had to be towed:

Video from the road, both days combined:

 

AAZCD
AAZCD Reader
5/12/19 1:49 a.m.

Continued:

Sunday had more checkpoints than Saturday and was more wild and scenic. I got my checkpoints in the wrong order on Google Maps and showed up at a deep water crossing with just one Gambler on the other side. We both got out and walked to the waters edge.

Me, “You know how deep it is?”

Him, “Nope, but it looks pretty deep.”

I grabbed a rock and tossed it in for perspective.

“Yup, it's deep.”

Me, “Are you going to try it?”

Him, “I don't think so. I've got my wife with me... I really don't want to get stuck.”

Me, “Me too.”

Long pause.

Me, “I have a tow strap, can you pull me out if I get stuck?”

We worked out a plan. The wives were game. We both made it across fine, but a third Gambler that showed up soaked his distributer and died out as he reached the edge. By then others were showing up and there was plenty of help to get him towed out and back on the road.

We ended up cutting off the two westernmost checkpoints on Sunday. They were 40 miles further west and would have added over two more hours to the day and we still had a long drive home and an early morning on Monday for work. In doing that we missed the final ceremony, but still had a great weekend and made it farther than many.

If you have the chance to do a Gambler, I'd say do it. The people were all great. Any time I pulled off to take a picture or check a route, any Gamblers passing by would always wave and slow down to make sure there wasn't any problem. Lots of cool cars that the builders were happy to talk about and plenty of people asking about mine. There were also some locals that heard about it and just showed up with whatever they had, nice pick-ups and Jeeps to follow along for some of the fun.

Patrick
Patrick MegaDork
5/13/19 7:26 a.m.

Excellent 

TopNoodles
TopNoodles New Reader
5/17/19 4:12 p.m.

Thanks for sharing the experience. I didn't know about any of this existing in Kansas. I want to explore more of the local area this summer.

spacecadet
spacecadet HalfDork
7/3/19 10:58 p.m.

just saw this thread... need to do texas gambler 2020....

AAZCD
AAZCD HalfDork
7/4/19 1:37 p.m.

In reply to spacecadet :

I'd love to do the Texas Gambler. It's still too far out for me to plan for, but it's on my 'want to do' list.

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