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January 2010 Off Road Rant - Editorial

Posted in Features on January 1, 2010
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Wednesday morning started like most other days. I woke up, showered, threw on the same pair of jeans I'd worn the day before, and found a clean OFF-ROAD T-shirt (re: free shirt) to wear to the office. There was a lot to do, but not so much that it couldn't be done. I should have known that the lack of chaos left open a window for something.

By lunchtime, my ex-publisher, Jeff Dahlin, and I had figured out that we needed to head to Arizona that very night. We both had business to take care of out there, and mine included getting our company Super Duty working. Upon looking out the office window and seeing how bad the traffic was in all directions, we realized that we were traveling with only what we brought to work. But that was all right; we had our sunglasses, some CDs, Jeff had his Black & Mild cigars-and deodorant, toothbrushes, and extra pairs of socks were only a grocery-store stop away.

Of course, we were driving our company Ford diesel truck. The last time it moved under its own power was sometime in January 2009. Seven months later, it was still hurt, but our friends at Diesel Tech had at least gotten it running. By midnight, we hit the road towards Mesa, Arizona. As I told someone who asked what we could possibly be thinking (risking an all night drive across state lines in a truck like that), "We don't have to worry about the truck breaking if it's already broken."

Amazingly, we made it to Arizona, problem free; the truck sputtered like Daffy Duck. The next morning we dropped the STD off at Bulletproof Diesel in Mesa, Arizona.

Fast forward to three days later and our Powerstroke had some wonderful new parts and was working better than any stock Powerstroke ever could (read about it in March 2010's issue). "Luckily" for us, we picked one of the hottest weekends in months to start our return trip. I was so happy-the engine had turned over almost immediately and it ran so smoothly that it felt like some stupid hybrid instead of the dump truck it normally emulated.

It was about a thousand degrees outside and we were cooking down Interstate 10 when the truck started to shudder. I looked at the engine rpm's and they were holding steady. The "whirring" noise and white smoke cinched the deal that was obviously a turbo failing. We were still smiling-just all part of the game with this truck. About five minutes later that whirring sound got louder and suddenly came to a halt as the turbo froze. After a few minutes of baking on the side of the road, figuring out the best course of action, we hopped back in and rolled about 30 mph down the side of the interstate until we hit a place known as Quartzsite.

Since I'm such an excellent (re: frequent) client, AAA has allowed me to become a 200-mile tow member, and Jeff has 100-mile towing on his AAA membership. The wait time for the tow truck allowed us to see the fine sights of Quartzsite (the McDonald's, the gas station, the tent hardware store, the rock museum...). I was starting to get restless in the 100-plus-degree weather, but Jeff didn't mind at all. He had his slushie, his Black & Milds, and he was content.

A couple hours later, we were glad to be picked up by Adrian, our tow-truck driver, who was also a reader of this mag and even knew about our unlucky '03 Super Duty.

But like some bad B-movie, the surprises weren't over. Adrian informed us that the A/C in the tow truck had broken. It's a strange feeling when you want to keep the windows partly up because the air outside actually burns your skin at speed.

Towards Los Angeles we drove-Adrian, Jeff, and myself-110 degrees; no A/C; and Adrian's generosity of stopping at his house for a cooler to keep beverages on hand.

We drove 200 miles with Adrian before he dropped us off at some gas station I don't remember, and Dahlin got on the phone calling the next tow truck. We were hoping to get our truck back to Diesel Tech. The problem was that it was 10 p.m. on a Saturday.

As luck would have it, we unknowingly drove passed David Briggs from Diesel Tech. He saw us, knew we could only be in town, in the middle of the night, on a trailer, for one reason. Thanks again, David, for turning around and coming after us!

Our trip, though maybe a little unconventional, had been what I'll call a success. Though we need a new turbo, the actual engine of our truck is now running perfectly, we made it without any broken bones or cuts, and we didn't have to pay for fuel on the way home.

What can I tell you after all of this? Get AAA and keep that membership paid up-always! We would have paid more than $1,000 for the tows we got, and AAA is just another form of good insurance.

This Month:
We explored the racing scene a bit. We normally stay on the enthusiast side of the off-road world, but just in case you've been itching to take a ride in a helmet with numbers on the side of your truck, make sure to check out this month's special racing section.

We also managed to get our entire staff together long enough to figure out our top four favorite trucks of 2009. We hope you like them too.

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