The global community of automotive journalists isn’t particularly huge, so when something happens to one of our own, it gets our attention. When it happens to one as well-liked, respected, and well-known as Davey Johnson, it’s a big deal. The last anyone heard from Davey was last Wednesday, and there is currently a large search and rescue operation happening to try and find him.
Davey was testing a Honda CB1000R motorcycle, and drove it from Los Angeles to Las Vegas on June 2, then from there went to Mammoth Mountain, and on June 4, headed to the Sonora Pass.
The Sonora Pass is a difficult stretch of road, and can be icy even into the summer. Davey appears to have made it through the pass, and Davey’s girlfriend, fellow automotive journalist Jaclyn Trop, received a text from him around 5 a.m. on June 5 saying
“I’m so sorry I worried you. Yes, I’m okay and alive, but I am wiped. I love you very much.”
Later, Davey texted another friend to let him know he’d stopped at a rest stop in Calaveras County, and was sitting by a creek, relaxing and just enjoying himself.
That was the last anyone heard from him. His press motorcycle was found, unharmed and with no evidence of damage from a wreck, at the rest stop. Then, this past Saturday, his clothing, laptop, and backpack were found by a nearby riverbank, but no wallet:
Since then, 45 people, two helicopters, and a number of dogs have been looking for Davey, with no luck. The river is mostly snowmelt and would have been very cold and fairly difficult to swim in. So far, there’s no clue as to where he ended up.
I’ve only met and hung out with Davey in person a couple times, but I feel like I knew him better because of his work, especially his early work at Jalopnik. He was here while the site was really still in its infancy, and was a major factor in developing the site’s voice and unique perspective.
You can look through Davey’s old posts here, and you can see that so much of what makes Jalopnik what it is today—the irreverence, the fascination with obscure and often unloved old cars, the humor and sense of community—were all things that Davey helped to establish.
I always enjoyed running into Davey, and I’m going to be determinedly hopeful that such runnings into will happen again in the future, and he’ll have a really great and baffling story to tell.
While there’s not that much most of us can do to help, some of Davey’s friends have set up a GoFundMe to donate money to the Calaveras County Search and Rescue volunteers, in hopes that some extra support may make their jobs easier and more effective, since they’re the ones on the ground looking. If you want to contribute, here’s the link.
Come home, Davey.