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Jerrod Jones' Career - Off-Road Rant

Posted in Features on March 1, 2008
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I've never owned a "normal" vehicle. In fact, I've only owned one stock vehicle in my entire life, and that was a '70 Pontiac LeMans that would do one-wheel burnouts for 300 feet down the neighborhood street my parents used to live on. I think I drove that car a total of less than 1,000 miles before it got sold. Since I didn't have a car anymore, I sometimes borrowed my mom's brand-new '94 Suburban, but that abruptly stopped at about 10:30 p.m. on my 17th birthday (off-roading on private property, helicopter with spotlight overhead, stuck in a ditch, cop cars waiting for me on the street, and worst of all, my parents were called).

My very next vehicle was a '74 Blazer that had already been hacked apart, and that truck was the start of the end for me (it was almost the end for my dad too - I thought my mom was going to divorce him when she saw what he let me buy and bring home). From then on, I would not live another day without some type of off-road truck in my driveway. And I immediately learned what price I would pay for my truck obsession: It cost me too much money, skateboarding and walking soon became my main forms of transportation, and I was always blowing off parties to work on my truck. I am still under the impression that it was worth it.

When I left Orange County, California, for San Luis Obispo, California, to become a professional student at Cal Poly SLO (you're a professional after six years), I did so with the intention of devoting 50 percent of my time to trucks, 30 percent to partying and girls, leaving the rest for eating, sleeping and, oh yeah, studying. I thought I had my time pretty well divvied up; too bad no one else agreed. I think I spent over half my college career on academic probation, and much of it in Pismo Dunes instead of in school. I quickly became very good at making split decisions and talking my way out of things, as there are more times than I can remember when I should have been arrested, dumped, punched, or dismissed from the university. Funnily enough, I always came out pretty squeaky clean. During that time, I had mostly grunt jobs - moving beds, delivering furniture, and even spending a couple years as a bouncer at a local brew company. Nothing that strained the ol' brain too hard, but it gave me enough chump change to dump fuel in my truck's tank.

I mention all this, as this is where my life in off-road magazines started. I was studying for finals late one night (actually I was reading an off-road mag) when I saw the e-mail address for the editor of Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road. I knew studying for that final I had in six hours would have been a waste of my time, so I started an e-mail to the then-editor, Cole Quinnell. It was a long shot, but maybe he'd actually respond.

Cole hired me a week later, I spent a summer learning the ropes of magazine work and then went back to college for another couple of years of the good life.

Two years later, I was on my fourth major, five years deep in school, when I got a random call from the current editor of Petersen's, Rick Pw. I hadn't talked to him in two years (he took over as editor from Cole during my summer stint), and I knew there could only be one reason he was fishing about what I was doing in life. Three months later, Rick called back and made me an offer to take on the role of feature editor at Petersen's. I think I might have actually said yes before he even asked me.

I left school (prior to graduating), and spent the next four years working with Rick Pw, Fred Williams, and the current editor of Diesel Power, David Kennedy. To us (at least to me) it was a dream team. We all had our own specialties, and we worked our asses off to make a magazine we were proud of. I owe almost everything I learned about the magazine business to the time I spent with those three.

But my off-road love was never really for slow-going trail-riding. Sure, it was fun once in a while, but I like my knuckles turning white and my eyes watering when I'm off-road. There is no stopping and waiting to watch someone else in my perfect off-road world. Foot down, bumpstops slamming, and passengers praying is how I like my off-road. As much as I loved working at Petersen's and with Rick, Fred, and new guy Ali Mansour, I knew there was somewhere else I should be.

When they offered to let me steer Off-Road the way I thought it should be taken, I realized I had found my place. And here I am: 30 years old, maybe a tad more responsible, back in college, and already scrambling to finish my editorial to get this March issue out the door before it's too late. It's 2:30 a.m. right now, and I haven't even cleaned the dirt out of my truck from the last three trips out. But it's cool; I love my life. This is the best job in the world.

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