Off-Road Unloaded - Letters to the Editor - October 2011Posted in Features on October 1, 2011
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Unloaded, OFF-ROAD Magazine
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Irvine, CA 92606
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Letters of the Month
Everyone who wrote in really took some time to recall how they came to be off-road junkies. Therefore, we’re hooking up our published letter writers not only with some genuine OFF-ROAD shirts, license plates, and stickers, but also with a DVD copy of Mud, Trucks, & Beer: Story of the Yankee Rebels to get you in the mood to go and get down and dirty. You can find the DVD at www.trucknight.com or you can write into OFFROAD for stickers and plates at Jerrod.email@example.com
In the July 2011 issue, we asked you to tell us how you got into off-roading. Funnily enough, a lot of the stories weren’t too different. Sure, everyone had his own tale to tell, but it seems that most of us got bit by the 4x4 bug early on and were never quite able to shake it—no matter how much time, money, jobs, or women it cost us!
START ’EM YOUNG
My love for off-roading comes from my childhood. I distinctly remember driving to local state and national parks in my dad’s bright red ’86 F-150 4x4 on the way to camping weekends. While listening to cassette tapes of Judas Priest and Autograph, Dad would drive us down the dirt roads and trails to our destination. Even though we were going camping and fishing, my favorite part was always getting there. Getting out to engage the hubs in shin-deep mud became a memorable past time.
In high school I worked with a man from California who introduced me to prerunners. Being in Wyoming, it was something I had never heard of but quickly began to love. I soon bought my fi rst truck, and started driving off-road as fast as it would go. After Dust to Glory came out (which I watched alone in the theater), I started making random trips after school or on my days off to anywhere with trails or dirt roads where I could quench my thirst for dirty speed.
Off-roading is a wonderful sport. I hope more people can enjoy it in the future. Thanks guys for doing such great work on an incredible magazine. I love reading it every month!
IN THE SANDBOX
Some of my earliest memories are of playing with Hot Wheels, being fascinated with monster trucks, hauling loads of sand with my Tonka Trucks, and helping my dad work on his F-150. I remember as a small boy going out to work on my dad’s truck and thinking it was just the coolest thing to hand him wrenches and to get my hands dirty.
This, of course, all culminated when I was turning 16 and had saved up enough money to buy my dad’s old truck. It was at this very moment that I felt proud and excited to be an owner of a 4x4. The fi rst thing I did (well, just after I purchased my fi rst set of 31x10.50R15 mud-terrain tires) was hit the local seasonal roads and two tracks of my native northern Michigan.
As we have all experienced, one stuck and broken part lead to another; the fi nal result being a continuous build-up of lift, rims, bigger tires, engine/trans rebuilds, and of course the most important thing of all— knowing that this was something more than just a hobby. It was in my blood.
I read all of my OFF-ROAD magazines front to back, always thinking about what I want to do next to my offroad truck (’91 K5), my wife’s Jeep (’04 WJ), or my daily driver (’06 Mega Cab).
Off-roading is something that is just a part of me. I honestly cannot explain it. If I am having a bad day all it takes is a quick spin in my K5, slinging some mud, to settle me down and make realize again that it is the small things in life that mean the most.
As for what got me into off-roading, nothing specifi cally stands out. Off-roading was in me even before I knew what it was, and the fact is that I love working with my hands and am a tried and true gear-head who cannot get enough of the off-road lifestyle!
VEHICLE PERFORMANCE ENGINEER
My experience with four-wheeldrive trucks started in 1984. I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, so off-road adventures were few and far between. Anything with 4WD in that area did (and still does) command a premium price. In order for a “po-boy” like myself to be able to afford one of these trucks, I had to get creative.
I was on the bid list for buying vehicles from Commonwealth Edison (our electric supplier) for some time when I fi nally won a ’73 Chevy K20 with a pair of the heaviest-duty axles I have ever owned. The truck was little more than junk, but I was now in the four-wheeling family. Not fully realizing what I had, I regretfully sold the truck two years later!
A year after (1987), I bought a ’69 F-100 with factory 4WD. With its Armstrong steering, and four-wheel (nonpower) drum brakes, you had better have your “A game” on to drive this truck. After 24 years of misadventures (I’ve nearly died twice in this truck), I am still proud to have it in my fleet.
Now I live in the foothills of the Ozark mountains where I have hundreds of miles of gravels roads at my disposal. Because of where I live, my list has grown to include more Fords, Chevys, 19 FSJs (including parts cars), and one CJ5. So, as you can tell, once the bug has bitten, it’s hard to cure (if you would ever want to).
RONALD A. POKRACKI
MARBLE HILL, MISSOURI
For me, it was the summer of ’83 in small-town Wisconsin. While a buddy and I were working our high school jobs, we talked about what would be a cool fi rst car. We both agreed that a Jeep would be killer transportation. The following week we decided to take a road trip to search for Jeeps. We got on Honda Nighthawks and hit the road. We came across a few prospects, but neither of us could touch the asking prices. We didn’t come home with any Jeeps that day, but we got the bug.
By the time school started in the fall, we both had Jeeps. We tinkered with our CJs and explored local logging roads that senior year. Snow wheeling at night was probably the most fun we had. I sold my ole’ ’56 when I left for college, but since then I’ve owned three more CJ-5s, an ’86 Toyota P/U, a ’93 Toyota rockcrawler (which I took on the Petersen’s Ultimate Adventure in ’05), and now I own a Toyota-based rock buggy.
I think we love off-roading because of the total package. The rigs, the trails, the off-road community, the exploring, the obstacles, and even sometimes the carnage all make it appealing. I don’t think you decide to become an off-roader. It just happens.
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO
Was it the exploration aspect of it?
Yep. Truck camping is the best. Trips like snow wheeling near Caliente, Nevada, for a bachelor party/ camping trip, or doing the Mojave Trail with my wife and a couple buddies— fi nding our own little camping spot near Las Vegas—have been some of the best times of my life.
Was it the mechanical side of things and the way you can modify your truck?
Yep. I have a degree in mechanical engineering. My brother, buddies, and I have all modifi ed our trucks for the dirt.
Maybe your dad was into it?
Kinda. My dad was into muscle cars, street rods, and Harleys. He recently bought a Jeep Rubicon to wheel with us—someone’s gotta bring up the rear! My uncle has been into dune buggies for about 30 years. Learning to handle a dune buggy with a manual transmission long before turning 16 years old was awesome!
The rest of the story . . .
I got a ’65 Mustang Fastback GT (Shelby look-a-like) when I was 15 years old. My brother got a ’69 Camaro at 16. We both still have our cars, but I actually walk past the Mustang to work on my truck most weekends. Pavement simply cannot compete. My new son has also been off-road and even tent camped at 8 months old!
Tread lightly, keep it rubber side down, pack out more than you pack in, and keep our public lands open!
As a 23-year-old Arizona transplant via Colorado farm-raising, I am completely immersed in off-roading. Everything from dirtbikes, ATVs, rockcrawlers, and even R/C wheeling.
I wheel a typically-built ’79 ’Yota, and I’m building an ’88 XJ that won’t be quite the normal XJ. I’ve got a garage full of bikes and quads and all the tools necessary to build and fi x pretty much everything I want.
I never really grew up around off-roading or building cool cars or any of that. My parents worked a lot and I spent a lot of time growing up around my grandparents’ farm. I really look up to my granddad. Us kids started out driving when we were real young, on Grandma’s old snapper lawn tractor. I always enjoyed riding with Granddad in the tractors, and it always seemed like we would have to go through a ditch to get to a fi eld at least once. When you’re young, that’s pretty cool.
When we started getting a little bigger we got some dirtbikes and ripped up the dirt roads, ditches, and fields every day. Not to mention the mud we’d get into in the pickups when irrigating time came along.
My first truck was a big lifted GMC 4x4 that I took everywhere (even though I was supposed to “keep it out of the river” and “not be screwin’ around”). From then on I was pretty much hooked. I’m not sure there is any one particular reason I love offroading. It feels more like it’s just in my blood. I want it and crave it and do anything I can to get it. From the thrill of building something with my hands and seeing it come to fruition, to the challenge of pushing the limits of my creation, I enjoy it all.
Thank you for bringing up a lot of great memories in writing this.
IN THE DIRT
Growing up in neighborhoods with houses being built left plenty of varied terrain to ride and learn. As I went to college, I would even take my ’78 Oldsmobile 88 off-road, but usually in winter when I had the lugger-style snow tires on.
My first 4x4 was an ’84 Bronco, with an inline-six—plenty of grunt in low range, and decent mileage on the highway. Next I bought a ’96 Ram on 33-inch Swampers. I even became president of a small 4x4 club. Yellow Creek and Wellsville, Ohio, was my favorite place. I loved seeing people’s faces when I drove that big Dodge up hills and through places they never thought it would go. Long live Jinxy!
My current ride is an ’07 suburban, but it has been on some cool logging roads and dirt roads in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont—and with the family this time!
Thanks for a great magazine!