By Mike Garrison
Welcome to LiveRC's weekly column, "Talk-It-Up Tuesday!" Here we spend a little time talking with industry icons including racers, manufacturers, team managers, developers, promoters, and everyone in between! Sit back, relax, and go behind the scenes as we interview them all!
For this week's Talk It Up Tuesday we sit down with Travis Hill, the man behind the famous Instagram page @RC.DAD - a positive influencing R/C racing page reaching nearly 20,000 fans!
LiveRC: Welcome Travis to this week’s edition of Talk It Up’ Tuesday! Let’s start at the beginning. Who, what, when, where, how, and why did you get started in R/C to begin with?
Travis: Thank you for having me. It’s an honor to be on. I remember a fun childhood filled with RC memories. Growing up in Huntington Beach, I had collected the smorgasbord of Tyco and Radio Shack RC’s. My Dad would take me to Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley to run them on the weekends. This was the early 1990’s and I was in elementary school. My Dad would take me to the Hobby Shack in Fountain Valley for supplies. As I got older I would ride my bike from HB to SoCal Raceway in Costa Mesa just to watch guys like Jay Halsey, Cliff Lett, Eustice Moore, and BK race. I watched Mike Reedy mentoring and jolly Gene Husting sharing kind words with the “good guys’ at the track. I was 11 yrs old and didn’t have the finances to club race yet. That was until I traded my Surfboard to a buddy (Jeff Bartusick) for his RC10T. I was at the track twice a week for years after that. The track vibe was just like it is now. The comradery was much the same. Even still, I drifted away from the hobby through high-school and my twenties. After marriage, when we started having children, I made the decision to get back into the hobby. I was at a clients house one day and my customer happened to be a 6th grade school teacher. This dude was cool, he was happy. He showed me a room in his house that was dedicated to Star Wars with multiple life size figurines along the wall. He had a massive collection. His wife was a roller derby girl. She was happy too. As I begin to leave that day this man asked me a question. He said “so.. what’s your hobby?” and I couldn’t answer. Sure I go snowboarding in the winter and fishing in the summer but really that was it. I envied this guy more than he knew. Not because he had all this stuff but because he was content and seemed to get a glow when he spoke of his hobby, which was collecting Star Wars stuff. Less than a week later I had purchased a Traxxas Slash, than a Stampede. Within a month I had converted both trucks to LiPo/brushless combo. WIthin three months I had an X-Maxx. And Within six months I was building a vintage RC10. Within a year I was building a RC10b6. The rest is history.
LiveRC: You are among some of the most famous R/C enthusiasts on social media, with a following of 19.3k on Instagram alone! How and why did your Instagram page @RC.DAD get started?
Travis: The Instagram is famous. Not me. I’m just one of the Dad’s on club night trying to break out of the Sportsman class. I started the @rc.dad Instagram one day about 1.5 years ago when I was backflipping my X-Maxx. My 10yr old daughter (now 12) came up with the idea. She recommended that I put up an RC video on my personal IG. I told her that I’d rather not because I had just posted a picture of my RC’s the day before on my personal page. She said, “well, make a new IG and call it RC Dad”. The first few months I was trying to go bigger and bigger when bashing. I was hydroing the X-Maxx over ponds, backflipping the trucks over my 1:1 full size truck, FPV at the mountain bike tracks, etc. I began to feature vintage cars on certain days along with scale crawler builds. I’d highlight friends during track sessions. I even posted a couple drone vids early on. One day I was contacted by AE to visit the headquarters. When I stopped by AE the first time I met up with Cliff Lett. He was kind, hospitable, and down to earth. That day we spoke of his world record attempts, past races, and product technology timeline. He mentioned my posts in detail. I could tell that although Mr Lett does not have an IG account, he had reviewed my stuff. The shock of that has still not worn off. I had maybe 2k followers at the time of that meeting. Since then, I’ve kept it fun and informative, retro but modern, and at all times positive. It’s been the formula for growth. I’d like to think that the increase in followers has a bit to do with the growth of our hobby.
LiveRC: What is your goal and motive behind the RC Dad page?
Travis: My goal is to entertain our people. Like minded friends really. I’ve got almost 20K of you on my IG side. It’s incredible. My motivation is community growth. Most of my followers are from the “ backyard bashing” side of RC. It makes sense due to the fact that Traxxas sells more RC’s in one month than the entire industry does in one year, put together! Read that again. The realism of how big Traxxas has become is unreal. It’s a good thing for our hobby. Traxxas definitely has their place in RC but the racing community knows, there is so much more than owning a handful of bashers. The track experience has become a lack of knowledge for the common Traxxas consumer. The goal is to change that. I’d like my posts to cross paths with an off-road or moto enthusiasts and encourage the idea of visiting a track or building a car. I’d like to see the grand opening of more RC tracks throughout the world. I’m hoping to encourage a racer to possible build a crawler or maybe the other way around. I’d like to stoke the fire for a Dad that’s been thinking about getting into the hobby with their children. The @rc.dad IG rides on the shoulders of our people now. It’s grown beyond me and has no signs of stopping. Because of this growth, I now have a responsibility to maintain the good flow. Other than my ‘Live’ stuff, the IG is structured. I wake up early (4am), I lock-in a post or two for the day, and that’s it. I let it go and go on about my daily routine.
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LiveRC: You have R/C content of all sorts, including some EPIC old school flashbacks. What inspires your content, and where does it come from?
Travis: Honestly, it’s the community as a whole that inspires me. From the Nitro guys, to the on-road guys. From the drifters to the scale crawlers, I’m intrigued by it all. The friendships at the track keep it consistently real for me. I have friends from my local tracks who know me, know my wife and children. Those friends are some of the best I’ve ever had and those friends are who motivate me. The thought of club racing with my boy Max one day is a huge excitement as well and he goes into most thoughts of my future within RC. I wake up early. Always have. Most days, I’m up at 4am researching an idea I’m running with. I like to laugh. Who doesn’t? Humor and positivity in social media is key. Think about the people you enjoy being around for a second. In general, people want to be around positive people and the same applies on social media. Gene Husting. Gene is my mentor. I was a “latchkey kid” with a massive inventory of Gene Husting vids. I know most of them by heart. If I have an idea or a funny ‘one liner’ I’m running with, I can match it up with a memory from a Husting video within minutes. Pinterest for sure. The internet is littered with vintage stuff. What I’ve just done is built a collection of public posts overtime. Much of the time I just replay a classic. Let me explain. Chris Stapleton did not write the song ‘Tennessee Whiskey’. Hall of Fame songwriter Dean Dillon wrote it more than 35 years ago. ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ has been recorded by David Allan Coe (1981), George Jones (1983), and Brad Paisley (2015). My point being is that all I’ve done is put my spin on many of the classic retro photos. It might be a meme or a funny tag line that I’m thinking of, I picture it in my head and try to run with it. I’m motivated by research, development, and modern RC technology. Having been able to be an ambassador for many of the top companies has been a humbling experience. I don’t take any of this to serious. That’s the benefit of being on the media side of things rather than a high profile racer. My race standings don’t matter much, only the quality of my IG posts. That’s what I mean when I say that it’s a community motivated IG page. It’s for us and by us. I make the posts but generally it involves all of us.
LiveRC: In addition to be Instagram famous, you are also behind RCTradeUp.com. What is RC Trade Up?
Travis: RCTradeUp.com is much like a Craigslist for RC Cars, Trucks, and equipment. Created by Jesse Tessmann (Ty’s Sister) and myself, it’s a free site to post items up for sale or to find a good deal on something preowned. Free RC Classifieds. It’s a service that I hope will make this hobby more affordable. It’s a place to sell your expensive radio when it’s time to upgrade to the M17. It’s a place to sell your iCharger when you want a duo port. It’s a place to sell your wheeler when you want to run a mod 2wd class. Ideally, I’d like to see some of these track cars go to some of Traxxas guys. I’d like to see crawlers going to race guys. It’s a way into club racing at minimal costs. We’ll be highlighting current inventories of used cars and trucks from various tracks in the USA. It’s another option for the consumer other than starting a brand new build. RCTradeUp.com is a tool that can help bridge the gap between track and backyards. I encourage anyone with a car that they’d like to sell, to put it up on the site. I need your help to build the inventory so that we have options for the Traxxas consumer. It’s a free site that I believe will help grow this amazing hobby of ours.
LiveRC: What inspired you to start RC Trade Up?
Travis: A talk with Jared Tebo. About a year or so ago, I was talking to Tebo while overlooking the Paris Speedway. It was him, myself, and Max (my son). He was taking a break from the DNC going on nearby. In his cool, kind, Tebo demeanor he explained a bit about how the stresses of competition sometimes saturates the fun of at his level. A week before, JT had thrown his drill in the pits at a race. We spoke of the slow disappearance of tracks throughout the US. I left that day thinking of ways that I could use the RC.Dad IG for a good cause. I’m passionate about this community and the people involved in it. RCTradeUp.com is my way of giving back to the hobby that has given me so much.
LiveRC: Over the year’s R/C racing has evolved, and some believe it has become to difficult for new enthusiasts to get involved. Do you believe this is true, and if so, how can we change that?
Travis: It’s expensive no doubt. In order to get into club racing at a Sportsman level you have to spend well over $1k on equipment. That’s the barrier right there. Not many kids or adults have that kind of money to spend on RC. If more tracks started running a ‘Traxxas Only’ class or a 25T brushed motor class than that would lower the initial cost of racing. If we brought back kits like the ‘Club Racer’ that came partially ready to race than I think that we would see an increase in numbers. More outbound interaction. Invite a friend or coworker to the track. Build a car or truck for your significant other. Bring them to the track on date nights. Include your family. Invite the neighbor. We need to be proactive when talking RC. Consider yourself sharing the good news about something really great. That is RC.
LiveRC: If you could change/improve one thing in the R/C industry – what would it be, and why?
Travis: I’d like to see more RC tracks opening up throughout the world and the current ones thriving. I’d like to see the continuance and growth of professionalism and friendship. At the Proline Surf City, I watched the Team Yokomo guys eating lunch and laughing with the Team Associated guys in between heats at that big race. It was truly awesome to see. Today, I got a tear in my eye watching Ronnie Rivkin carrying the American Flag for the USA guys while streaming the ifmar Worlds from home. Great Fathers like Ronnie give me that motivation to spread the good news of RC to other Dads out there, i.e. RC.Dad. And, let me ask you a question.. What if Traxxas dropped a mid motor mounted, high performing RTR track car on us. That would be a game changer, causing many Traxxas owners to find a track. That’s the key. Finding a track, going to a track. Once you’ve visited than it’s a good chance that you’ll be back. I’ve made it my job to get this information to the masses.
LiveRC: What genre of R/C do you enjoy the most, and why?
Travis: 1/10 offroad racing is my passion. I enjoy spending my free time at OCRC or Coyote Hobbies Raceway hanging out with my friends. I like 1/8 off-road, as well as scale crawlers. This year will be my third year participating in the Proline By The Fire event. I have RC boats and bashers but my favorite RC is a climate controlled clay track with good people in the pits. OCRC Army.
LiveRC: What is the greatest thing about the R/C hobby?
Travis: Friends become brothers. The RC Racing community is one big family and I am thankful to be apart. The like-minded people are my favorite.
LiveRC: Where do you believe R/C racing will be in the next five years?
Travis: I think we are going to see an increase in carpet tracks throughout the US over the next five years. Custom Monster Trucks are slowly becoming a thing. I believe that we will see an increase in race entrees throughout the US. Recession or not, everyone needs a hobby. No doubt the Scale crawler popularity will continue to grow. Nitro kits will inevitably decrease due to LiPo technology. And one day Jason Ruona will run for president.
LiveRC: Frustration is a natural part of any competitive hobby/sport, however, what positive words of wisdom do you have for racers that are facing burnout, constant frustration, and the feeling of quitting R/C?
Travis: Have fun. If you are not having fun than take some time to just practice with the local track guys. It’s not all about racing to win. Find the fun and usually that’s with a friend at the track. Talk to strangers at the track. My wife says that “you guys take something so serious that’s not really that serious at all, and that there is beauty in that with the hustle and bustle of today’s world.” Remember, we all want to win but winning isnt’ everything. I look forward to seeing my friends just as much as I do when I’m running my cars on the track. Truth.
LiveRC: When you aren’t enjoying R/C, what are some other hobbies and things you enjoy?
Travis: I live in a mountain community near Big Bear, California. I backpack, dayhike, trout fish, and trailer camp during the summer. In the winter I snowboard/ski. Before RC, I was involved with the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association (USFS) and the US Ski Patrol. I still volunteer when I can.
LiveRC: What is one thing most people don’t know about Travis Hill?
Travis: I owe it all to my wife, Catalina Virginia Garcia Hill. She is the reason I’m so happy.
LiveRC: Who is your favorite pro R/C driver and why?
Travis: So hard to choose one driver. I’m a huge fan of Spencer Rivkin, Matt Gonzales, Ron Devoll, Jake Thayer, and Mr Jake Mayo. I’ve personally seen each of these young men help out newbies at the track as if they were novice themselfs. Jake Mayo helped me out during my second visit to the track. I had no idea who he was, he didn’t know who I was, he just wanted to help a new guy to the track. I’ll never forget that experience. Spencer Rivkin is a class act. I could go on and on about that kid. Rivkin is way beyond his years of maturity much like most of the young men at the track. Matty Gonzales will one day give Spencer a run for his money in the A-Mains. Watch! And Ron Devoll is just like his Dad.. cool.
LiveRC: Travis, we sincerely enjoyed chatting with you today and we continue to admire the positive vibes and content that you put into the industry. Thank you for joining us today, is there anything you would like to add before we go?
Travis: Thank you Mike. I appreciate you featuring me on Talk It Up Tuesday. Truly an honor.
A big thank you to my Instagram followers. Thank you to all of my track friends. I’d like to thank my wife for allowing me to talk about RC all the time. Thank you Joe Pillars and Team Yokomo for supporting what RC.Dad is about. Thank you to Brad Geck from AE for much of the RC.Dad beginnings. Thank you to Jason and Allison Ruona for your support with this positive movement. Thank you to Coyote Dave and the Batta Family for genuine friendship. A big thank you to the OCRC Army for all the support. Robert Black, Nick Black, Jackie Thayer, Daniel, Richard.. you guys do way more for the community than you know. Ya’ll make my two hour commute to OCRC worth the drive, everytime. Nick Black from OCRC is one of my favorite personalities in this industry. Sometimes the partial intention of my posts is to see if I can get a laugh out of those guys. Trying to make people with a good sense of humor laugh is the constant target. RC Racing is about having a good time with good people not standing on the box after every race. Keep it simple, keep it fun. #HobbyToHappiness