We are just about a week away from what I consider to be the worst day of the year: Tuesday, June 20th, the day we run Droptops & Dirt 2017.
Droptops & Dirt has been my baby since its inception as Trail Day, and you would think that after all these years, I’d have it down pat. Nope. If anything, experience has made the anxiety even worse. In the beginning, I worried about forgetting things because I didn’t know what I was doing. Nowadays, I worry about forgetting things because I’ve gotten complacent. I have dreams about the event—for example, there we are at Calamigos Ranch, and the MPG president walks up and says “Everything looks great, Aaron, but, uh, where are the convertibles?” Oh, no, THAT’S what I forgot! (This dream was even more surreal when I was the MPG president.)
I stress about the logistics. Will the food be good? (And on time?) Did I hire enough staffers? Do we have enough water? Did we rent enough walkie-talkies? Will people like the T-shirts?
I stress about the routes. Will the trails be challenging enough? Will they be too challenging? Will there be construction on the roads? Will the attendees get tired of driving The Snake? (Strike that. No one ever gets tired of driving The Snake.)
I stress about the venue. What has Mother Nature done to the trails? Were they groomed properly and was the foliage cut back? How much construction have they done at Calamigos Ranch, and how will it affect us? (This year they’ve changed the entrance to the North 40. Getting the convertibles in and out will be… interesting.)
I stress that the event will give you, the journalists, what you need—the unique opportunity to compare convertibles and off-roaders back to back, and to test the nuances of everything from predictive all-wheel-drive systems to power tops.
And, of course, I always stress about attendance. I probably shouldn’t; MPG is the largest organization of its kind in the country, and what we consider to be a small crowd would be regarded as a major turnout for some other press association events. Still, having as many faces as possible at the event is important, because the automakers aren’t just supplying vehicles for the fun of it. They want butts in seats and stories, stories, stories—in print, online, or over the airwaves. For them, events like DnD are all about R-O-I. And that’s where you come in. (Remember to tell your associates that you’re not just bombing around in convertibles and off-roaders for fun—you’re supporting the organization and conducting important journalistic research!)
So if Droptops & Dirt is so darn stressful, why do I keep doing it?
Because running the event is also one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever experienced.
For me, there is no finer felicity than sitting up on the plateau in my Jeep Wrangler (er, technically, it’s Jeep’s Jeep Wrangler), watching the off-roaders pounding around the trails and catching the occasional glimpse of a convertible zipping past on the roads below. People are smiling, the vehicles are circulating, and everything is humming along like a big, intricate machine that I have had the pleasure of setting into motion. I felt it for the first time when we ran our inaugural Trail Day event, and I’ve been hooked on the feeling ever since. And when 4:30pm rolls around and it’s time to close the trails and head for the miss-the-traffic afterparty, I always feel like the whole thing has ended too soon.
The event has become well-regarded among MPG membership, and while I usually get the credit—for which I am grateful—I don’t deserve to keep it to myself.
The event couldn’t happen at all without the automakers who bring cars (this year: Acura, Fiat-Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo, and we’re hoping to add a couple more). It wouldn’t be a financial success without our sponsors (this year: Automotive Touchup Paints, Haartz, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Volkswagen). There are the OEs who pitch in when asked: Jeep supplies me with my Wrangler and Land Rover supplies us with instructors who set up the trails and keep things running smoothly in the (rare) event of a problem. Overstreet Events does a lot of the legwork, as does MPG’s own Brandy Schaffels and the small platoon of staff we hire each year.
And, of course, there’s you—the members who attend the event. Without you, Droptops & Dirt is nothing but a grass field full of cars.
If you’ve never been to Droptops & Dirt, come join us this year. You’ll see why people rave about the event. If you’re a veteran, I hope to see you back—the trails and the vehicles are never the same, and this year is no exception.
So come join me on June 20th at Calamigos Ranch. For me, it’ll be the worst day of the year—and I’d love for you to enjoy it with me.
– Aaron Gold