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August 2004 Notes From The Dirt

Posted in Features on January 3, 2007
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When it came time to pick a photo location for this month's cover, I got the bright idea to drive Off-Road's Ford F-350 Super Duty 4x4 to Moab. I'd never been there, but knew Moab would yield a backdrop for the cover photo, which would include a bright-blue sky and some beautiful red slickrock. I could see the picture in my head, and the delusional state I was apparently in prompted my brain to think that it'd be no problem to make happen. What I didn't know once I'd committed to making this insane trip was that Moab was often plagued by inclement weather, was 13 hours away, and our truck, at that time, had only one bucket seat in the cab because the interior work was still in progress. This meant that I'd be driving across the Southwest alone, with only my CD collection to keep me company. No problem, I thought. But I had smaller fish to fry first.

I returned home to Orange County on a Sunday evening from a long weekend of work covering the Truckin' Nationals show in Lost Wages. I wasted no time and headed over to Stitchcraft Interiors to see owner Steve "Revo" Reeves about stealing the Ford back, even though he wanted me to leave it so he could finish the new interior. Against his wishes, I took the truck and headed over to IMZZ Industries to mount up a new set of tires. The old tires were a bitch to dismount, and it took three of us a solid three hours of work to switch out the old meats and install the new Toyo Open County MTs. It was 2 a.m. before I crawled into bed and set the alarm for my 8 a.m. departure time.

Naturally, I was so tired that I slept right through the alarm's annoying buzz. It was 10 a.m. by the time I loaded up my clothes and camera gear and hit the road. Dj vu set in immediately since I was taking the same route I'd driven twice within the last three days, and it wasn't long before I began banging my head against the Ford's side window glass out of boredom. It wasn't hard to think of better things to do than backtracking up I-15 for the third time in less than a week.

I rolled into Moab late that evening and was floored by the number of Jeeps parked throughout the town. There had to be at least a thousand of them in all shapes and sizes, with some pretty darn impressive suspension setups. I spotted coilovers and long link bars on most of the high-end rigs and not a cop in sight to rain on anyone's parade as the custom rigs rolled down Main Street.

The next morning I grabbed a ride in 4Wheel Drive & Sport Utility magazine's yellow Jeep TJ, with Christian Lee behind the wheel. This was the first time I'd ever been in any vehicle with Christian, and going on a rockcrawl with him driving was a bit unnerving. I can handle flying through the dirt in my own truck at a breakneck pace because if I wreck, it'll be over before I know what hits me. Strapping into the MasterCraft bucket seat and harnesses on the passenger side of the yellow Jeep was scarier than anything I'd ever done in my young life. You'll just have to imagine us following a line of other rigs climbing across an off-camber 8-foot-wide rock ledge with a 50-foot drop-off on both sides to figure out why I was on the edge of my seat. White-knuckling the rollcage for the next three hours proved to me that the rockcrawling crowd is every bit as hard-core as the desert-racing crowd; it just moves at a much slower pace.

My last day in Moab proved to be the most productive. I spent the first two days dodging rain storms and not getting much accomplished in the way of photographing trucks for the magazine. That day, though, I cleaned up the Ford and found a beautiful location to shoot the cover image. I also stumbled onto something I never thought I'd see in Utah - a prerunner-style truck. According to the T-shirt Josh, the owner of the truck, gave me, Holeshot Off-Road Performance is Utah's "first and only desert-racing and prerunner-fabrication facility." Surprise, surprise, surprise! It seemed the disease was heading further east and had made its way into snow country. I finished my trip to Moab with a photo shoot of Josh's Ranger, then headed home in the Ford, driving through yet another rainstorm. It was a satisfying trip that introduced me to new friends, new ideas, and a whole new look at off-roading in general. Keep one eye open for Holeshot's super-clean Ford Ranger in an upcoming issue of OR, and until next month, go climb a rock and get a better view of the world.

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