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From Estacada to the gold mines

Discovery Channel reality show leans on Estacada company for help
by: Julius Kuziemski, (From left to right) Eric Ford, a shop tech at All-Ways Towing; Pat O'Malley, owner of All-Ways; Todd Hoffman, "Gold Rush" leader; and Jason Otteson, one of the crew's investors; pose for a picture at Buzzard's in Estacada.

Gold, Discovery Channel and big rigs. Add those three things together, and Buzzard's Equipment got the break of a lifetime.

After making appearances on seasons one and two of Discovery Channel's 'Gold Rush' (formerly 'Gold Rush Alaska'), Buzzard's Equipment is back involved for season three.

'Gold Rush' tells the story of six guys from Sandy who lost their jobs during the economic downturn and began searching for a new career path. The answer they came up with? Gold mining.

The group is led by 41-year-old Todd Hoffman, who got the idea of mining while remembering his father's gold mining adventures in the 1980s. With a new dream born, Hoffman assembled his crew and began collecting the equipment needed for success in Alaska.

That's where Buzzard's comes in.

The first piece of equipment that Hoffman ever purchased was from the Estacada outfit, which specializes in buying and selling large equipment. The piece Hoffman was after was a '400 excavator,' which is typically used in construction or mining.

With his team and a number of other pieces of equipment assembled, Hoffman needed to find a way to get his large equipment all the way into the Alaskan wilderness.

Once again, it was Buzzard's that could solve Hoffman's problem.

Under the umbrella, Buzzard's owns 'All-Ways Towing,' which helps people transport specialized and over-dimensioned equipment anywhere they need it to go.

With a relationship already formed through the purchase of the excavator, Hoffman called upon All-Ways to take his equipment as far as Seattle, where it was loaded on a barge and shipped to Alaska.

While all of this selling and shipping sounds rather ordinary, the fact that the whole thing was being filmed by the Discovery Channel is what made it so unique. Because of the show's notoriety, the Estacada business was getting a ton of unexpected exposure.

'It has been a great opportunity for us,' Mike O'Malley, operations manager at Buzzard's said. 'It's the kind of notoriety you can't even put a price on.'

The show made its debut in Dec. 2010 and season one ran all the way through the end of Feb. 2011, when it had become the highest rated show on Friday nights among males 18-49.

While the miners themselves didn't find much success in Alaska, the show's success meant they would get another shot if they were willing to give it a go.

So in May of 2011, the guys decided to go for round two with the help of some new investors. Having left most of their equipment in Alaska, All-Ways was called upon to drive a few new pieces of equipment from Sandy up to Seattle again - giving them their second bit of national exposure.

Fortunately for everyone involved, season two went much better. Having set the goal of coming home with 100 ounces of gold, the crew fell just short, but still managed to come home profitable.

'It's really inspiring to a lot of people,' O'Malley said. 'They banded together and did this crazy off-the-wall thing because none of them were experience minors or equipment operators or any of that. Season one was the first time they had ever been.'

In total, O'Malley estimates that Buzzard's and All-Ways got a total of 10-20 minutes of exposure in the first two seasons, but with season three just a few months away from premiering, more screen time could be in the future.

Having los his claim in Alaska in the middle of season two, Hoffman and his crew are headed into the Canadian Yukon for season three, with an even loftier goal of 1,000 ounces of gold.

With a new location, All-Ways Towing is among the biggest benefactors. When the group left for Canada and the filming of season three just a few weeks ago, All-Ways was called upon to bring all of the equipment clear into Canada.

'That was the most cost-effective way to do it since they switched spots,' O'Malley said. 'We got a little notoriety from season one and two from trucks flashing on the screen but we have high hopes for season three, we think it will be a little more exposure than we've gotten in the past.'

So as the Sandy natives give gold mining one last shot before giving up, there are surely a number of people across the world rooting for them. You can be sure that O'Malley and the rest of the crew at Buzzard's is among them.



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