In this issue, there's a recovery equipment guide, as well as a feature on winch maintenance. Since we've always advocated going off-road with a friend so if anything happens everyone gets home again, why would a winch matter? Well, you or your friends might get stuck (we all have). Alternatively, you might run across someone else who's in trouble and could use some help. If you're a member of the fire department or search and rescue in your area, this equipment can save lives.
There's another reason to have a winch and recovery equipment. Sometimes you end up on the trail alone. I originally got interested in backcountry forays by going to the Alta Loma High School library and researching where ghost towns were located, then finding them on the weekend. I always relished the solitude and beauty of these places. While I sometimes took a friend along in my '61 Chevrolet truck, there was never another vehicle with us. Since I had rebuilt the beat-up Chevy myself, we always had plenty of opportunities to perform trail repairs, as something was always failing, usually far away from any assistance. We obviously made it back every time, but there were a few times when I was a bit concerned (have you ever tried snow chains in deep sand?).
There's safety in numbers, but many think they can go off-road only at an event where hundreds or even thousands of people are participating. When you're around so many people off-road, you're going to encounter “Big Talkers.” You know them — they're the ones who know everything about building vehicles, driving them, and spotting. They're especially knowledgeable, loud, boisterous, and blustery as they imbibe alcohol. The Big Talkers have always been annoying, but our sport used to have a “big talk stops when the hubs get locked” safety feature. Once the Big Talkers put their wheels in the dirt, the louder they were, the harder they fell. These people are always the least competent drivers. Our sport was self-policing.
Today, it no longer matters if drivers make it from point A to point B. All they need to do is get their vehicle in the dirt and roll it over for someone to yell, “That was sweet! Do it again!” At which point the person who just performed the rollover wipes the blood from his or her alcohol-sodden features, flashes a lopsided grin, and proceeds to do just that. Rolling over, breaking an axle, or hoisting a can of beer takes no skill at all. I don't like Big Talkers. These “experts” can ruin even events run by responsible organizations. They make going out alone attractive.
Therefore, there are times that I find I like to go off-road by myself or with a friend to enjoy the beauty and solitude of the backcountry. If there happens to be challenging trail obstacles on the way, so much the better. I wouldn't like to be out there by myself without a winch or recovery equipment, and I certainly wouldn't be tackling challenging obstacles, washed-out roads, rocky canyons, or muddy, snowy trails without the proper equipment. Recovery equipment is important to have.
Leave the Big Talkers behind. Get equipped and get out there, even if you're out there alone.