John James, D-Toy, on Episode 221.


Meet the Desert Rat in his Desert Toy, John James, D-Toy in the old Pirate days shares his history in rock-crawling. Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.


3:57 – We learned how to fight early, and we were little guys, so if one us got in a fight, both of us got in a fight.

15:09 – one of the best things I did, not just going to school in Phoenix, but just moving to Phoenix, it was literally the biggest city I’d ever seen, and living there on my own with my parents six hours away, life lessons!

21:05 – the most awesome part about Pirate 4×4 was the diverse amount of people I met

29:28 – my brother still talks about Lion’s Pride Park, holding on to a ski rope and being lawn darted over the top of this rise

38:20 – it was an off-road race with these clapped out Toyotas all the way to Wrecking Ball

49:42 – Marlin was good at a lot of things, but competing in rock crawling wasn’t one of them, I think his mind just went too fast – I thought, I could drive that rig for him!

58:49 – Back then it was such a foreign thing to do all the Hammer trails in a day, I had an advantage, I knew where they all were.

Special thanks to 4low Magazine and Maxxis Tires for support and sponsorship of this podcast.


[00:01:39.470] – Big Rich Klein

On today’s episode of Conversations with Big Rich, my guest has been a friend for about 24 years. The first Tin Benders Club member that I met, he helped me locate and secure our first Cal Rocks Season event site, known as Lion’s Pride Park. He competed in the F-Toy class and known on pirate 4×4 as DToy or Desert Toy. Jon James, so happy to have you on the podcast. How are you doing?

[00:02:07.960] – John James

I’m doing great, Rich. Thank you for having me.

[00:02:10.550] – Big Rich Klein

And the handle was Desert Toy, right?

[00:02:13.880] – John James

Yes, Desert Toy.

[00:02:15.100] – Big Rich Klein

But I remember everybody used to say DToy.

[00:02:18.590] – John James


[00:02:19.660] – Big Rich Klein

Cool. So let’s start at the very beginning. And where were you born and raised?

[00:02:28.010] – John James

I was born in Fontana, California, Kaiser Hospital. My dad had just became a San Bernardino County Sheriff. So by the time I was one year old, we moved to 29 Palms, where my dad was a resident deputy.

[00:02:45.370] – Big Rich Klein

And you have a brother, but are you the oldest?

[00:02:49.030] – John James

No. My brother Mark is ten and a half months older than I am.

[00:02:53.350] – Big Rich Klein

Wow. Not a whole lot of time between those.

[00:02:56.740] – John James

No, they got with it.

[00:02:59.920] – Big Rich Klein

Ten and a half months. Okay. And that’s Mark, right?

[00:03:04.600] – John James


[00:03:06.500] – Big Rich Klein

And from 29 Palms, how long were you there?

[00:03:12.300] – John James

29 Palms, I think we migrated to Yucca Valley because it’s one area in the Morango Basin over there. My dad was a resident deputy and I think a detective. In, I think, 1979, he got promoted to sergeant in a place called Lucerne Valley, which I had never heard of at the time. I was 12. And so we moved to Lucerne Valley. And that’s where my parents, my mom, still lives. And I live in Apple Valley, which is an adjacent town. Right.

[00:03:48.220] – Big Rich Klein

And what was it like growing up in that high desert area? I mean, it’s wide open.

[00:03:57.530] – John James

It’s wide open. I mean, It’s easy to say there’s nothing to do, but my brother and I were of similar age and similar interests, so we just became desert rats. My dad was a local cop, so that was a little rough at times. We had to learn how to fight early, and we were little guys. And so where one of us had gotten a fight, we both got in a fight just to keep things going. And naturally, we became off-roaders. My dad had a FJ40 Toyota Land Cruiser that he’d put a small-block Chevy in. And so when he wasn’t being a cop, we were fishing and hunting and going to the river. And my dad loved going camping. We spent a lot of time in Baha. So growing up, that’s what we did. We literally rode vehicles from our We didn’t have a trailer to to them around with, because we can just write them from the front door.

[00:05:06.950] – Big Rich Klein

Right. And was him being a cop more of an issue when you were in Yucca Valley, 29 Palms area?

[00:05:17.860] – John James

No, because we were pretty young then. When we moved to Lucerne, like I said, I was 12. So we went to junior high in high school when we lived in Lucerne Valley. And that was when it was rough, because there was kids our age that was getting into trouble, and we were the local cops kids. And they took it out on you. And it was a small town. Yeah, and it was a small town, so everybody knew everybody.  READ MORE


Follow Big Rich

SHare this article

This site uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. By browsing this website, you agree to our use of cookies.