Behind the Gold Rush: A Day in the Life of Juan Ibarra
At CONEXPO 2023, we had a chance to talk with Juan Ibarra, star of the hit TV series Gold Rush: Freddy Dodge's Mine Rescue, on the Discovery Channel. We have been partnering with him for the last few years on his recent mechanics truck builds, ensuring he has precisely what he needs on the job. He pulled back the curtain and gave us an inside peak at what happens behind the scenes.
Let’s start with who I am. I'm Juan Ibarra, but I come from a family of five. I'm the only boy of five. I have four older sisters. So growing up, I had my mom, but then really, I had four other moms, and to this day, I still do. My sisters always loved to tell me how to do things and what to do.
I started my career off early on as a plumber with my dad, and I've taken that, and I've evolved a little bit; now I have my business, Ibarra Industries. It originally was Ibarra Plumbing, but in about 2010, we changed it to the name Ibarra Industries because now we encompass a lot of different things, not just plumbing, although we still do plumbing to this day. The majority of the work we do now is a lot of repairs, a lot of welding and so on and so forth.
I started out as a one-man band with a little, tiny service truck that I put together. Now I look back at what we started with to what we have now. It's been a huge transformation, and honestly, it's been a good transformation. I'm very humbled to be able to have what I have and do what we do, and to be able to work with partners like PALFINGER and everyone else; it’s been amazing.
How many years have you been in business?
I've been in business since 2004. I started my business in 2004; only it went with a different name back then. But what we have as Ibarra Industries, we renamed it in 2011, right in there.
What does an average day on the job look like?
An average day for me it completely varies whether I'm at home or on the road. When I'm on the road with the show, we try to put about a 12-hour day in seven to seven. A lot of times, what you think you can get done in a 12-hour day, you cut that in half because with cameras around, they slow you down that much.
When I'm at home, it's a completely different schedule. I come and go as I please— I try to get up a little later so that way I can stay up with the kids and spend more time with my family because there are that six months where I'm not there. So I want to try to take advantage of it when I'm at home.
What challenges do you face?
For me, in the work I do, the biggest challenge I have is trying to balance family time and work time. There's so many times where work can just encompass your entire life—so trying to find that healthy balance where I can spend time with my wife and kids and enjoy them and be able to enjoy the fruits of our work. So it really is a balancing act.
This is the second PALFINGER upfit that I've done, and honestly, after my first truck, my 72 that I bought with my 12,500 crane. I decided to get the second truck, and we absolutely love them. When it comes to durability and usability, you can't beat them. If I ever build any more trucks in the future, they're definitely gonna be PALFINGER trucks.
What is your favorite part of your mechanics truck?
My favorite part on my mechanic’s trucks, it's really hard to say everything is just so well integrated. I love it all, but if I had to pick one thing, it'd probably be that crane. That crane's a back saver, and it's a time multiplier is what it is.
How did you get into Gold Rush? Did you audition?
So I started out in Gold Rush in 2015, and it was a fluke. My brother-in-law is a huge fan of the show, and he actually saw a post that they were looking for a mechanic. So he told me, "You should apply for the job." At that time, I was working in Alaska, had a great job. Actually had a contract up there with, with my business, and I really wasn't looking to make a change. So he bugged me for about a week, and then he actually applied for me, so he started the whole thing for me. He got the ball rolling by sending my application out, and then I got a phone call back, and it was kind of a, I don't say it wasn't a, I can't say it wasn't an audition, but it was kind of like it was a tryout. They wanted to make sure that I knew what I was talking about, how I acted in front of the camera. So on and so forth. But yeah, that's how it started.
Was it hard to stay focused during filming when you first started?
Yeah, it's always hard to stay focused during filming. You've got a lot of things going on in your mind. You're trying to deal with the repair, you're trying to figure out what your next steps are, and then on top of it, you have somebody asking you a bunch of questions. Then just your nerves when you have a camera on you at all times; it’s tough. Even to this day, I can't say that I'm used to it because it's still not who I am. But we deal with it, and we just move on.
Do you have a favorite episode, and if so, which one and why?
Yes, I definitely have a favorite episode. If I have to pick one, it's the one where we actually had a special, where we were at my house, but it's because I got to show my kids and my family. At the end of the day, that's what I'm most proud of is my family, and so it was kind of nice to be able to share that with the folks that watched the show.
What is your most memorable experience on the show?
I guess if I have to pick one thing that was most memorable on the show. It would probably be when Freddy and I helped a family, the Dickinsons, and Freddy actually got really choked up. The young girl gave us each kind of a thank you card, and it really struck a chord with Freddy, and then he got really emotional, but it was with good reason. So I would say that was probably the most memorable.
What do you like to do in your downtime when you aren’t filming?
I like to do a lot of things. I love to go four-wheeling. I got a couple machines at home. We live on 40-some-odd acres just outside of Reno. But we're backed up to BLM, so we go out riding my side-by-side all the time. I got a couple CF Motos that I love to take out and just enjoy in the hillsides, take my kids out and then also shooting. I love to do a lot of shooting.
Do you have any upcoming exciting projects?
I guess the most exciting project that I have coming up right now is we're hopefully gonna start breaking ground on my new house. That's gonna be in the next probably six months or so. But that's kind of exciting. All these years, we've always built custom homes and helped people build their dream homes, and now my wife and I have the opportunity to do that for ourselves. So it's kind of nice.
What is your favorite thing about PALFINGER?
If I have to pick one thing about PALFINGER, it's the engineering. At the end of the day, any company can build any one of these boxes and cranes, but to build it in such a manner where it's properly engineered as strong as can be. They make it strong but light. That's really what you want, and that's what PALFINGER does, and it shows in everything they build. It's strong, durable, yet lightweight, and that's, in my industry, what you want.
PAL Pro 72 w/PSC 12529 & PAL Pro 86 w/PSC 14029
"Big Mack" and "Mack Daddy"
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