Sitting at my desk writing this editorial for the April '06 issue of 4 Wheel Drive & Sport Utility, I just realized the first issue of the new year is about to hit the newsstands. This led me to think of this past year's windfalls, mishaps, edit I wish I didn't print, adventures, great times, and the wonderful people I have met in the industry and out on the trail. It also made me think of when I purchased my first four-wheel-drive vehicle a little over 20 years ago.
My quest for adventure and exploring this great country's wilderness is somewhat of a mystery. Maybe it comes from the good old wholesome adventure shows I used to watch on TV. My second vehicle had to be a four-wheel-drive so I could get out and see the country. I 'wheeled the you-know-what out of that first rig. The amazing part is that it never left factory form, except for the aftermarket shocks and tires. Some of you may scoff at this, but choosing the right line on the trail helps, and a dependable, well-maintained rig keeps you moving along. What I'm getting at is that if you own a stock vehicle, don't be afraid to use it; just exercise a little common sense.
It doesn't take an extremely built 4x4 to enjoy parts of America that two-wheel-drive vehicle owners will never see. If you're already exploring by 4x4, then you know about the jaw-dropping splendor you can find off the highway. If you're a new 4x4 owner or thinking about purchasing one, then you and your family and friends are in for a great time. The key is using it; do it and you will be hooked for life.
For the majority of my four-wheeling life I have explored alone or with a select group of friends. This wasn't always the safest thing to do, but it was very always exciting. However, since I've been working for off-road enthusiast magazines I have to say that I'm very sorry I never joined a club or participated in organized trail runs or adventures way back when. The time I've spent with these people and clubs in recent years has been absolutely fantastic. From San Diego, California, to the northern parts of Maine, I can honestly say I have never had a bad experience.
For some folks, these events are once or twice a year get-togethers with some very close friends. I've heard them say they look forward to these events as much, oreven more so, than they do Christmas or any other holiday. I've watched genuine friendships grow through the sport of four-wheeling. I've witnessed complete strangers help one another out of extremely difficult situations with smiles on their faces. Then I've watched them chat around a campfire or even dinner like they were lifelong friends. The camaraderie is phenomenal; this sport definitely brings people together.
The great part about most four-wheel-drive clubs and organizations is that they educate; they teach proper off-road driving and safety skills, and trail etiquette. This is great for the newcomer because they can get experienced off-road driving tips and training. Help on the trail by friendly folk always builds confidence. If you are proud of the manufacturer's emblem adorning your rig, then look for an association that's vehicle-specific. Most clubs also get involved to help fight for our right to use public lands. This benefits us all and keeps our public lands open. We owe them a debt of gratitude. Because of their efforts we are able to explore areas that would have been closed to all vehicle travel long ago.
For the new year, if you haven't ever experienced a club or organized event, check out the local organizations in your area or state and see what they are all about and what they have to offer. Outside of the clubs, one of my personal favorites for a great time on and off the trail is Jeep Jamboree USA (www.jeepjamboreeusa.com). Their events are held across the country. If you can't find anything in your area that suits your needs, shoot me an e-mail and I'll try to point you in the right direction. No promises, but I'll try.
Here are a couple of associations for information I highly recommend: United Four Wheel Drive Association (www.ufwda.org), the BlueRibbon Coalition (www.sharetrails.org), and Tread Lightly (www.treadlightly.org). We should really thank these folks for all their efforts in keeping what is rightfully ours open. I'm sure they can recommend some local clubs, too.
I can't mention everyone here, so if I have left anyone out, I apologize ahead of time. I'll get ya next time around.
As always, it's a pleasure...firstname.lastname@example.org