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April 2011 Column Shift

Posted in Features on April 1, 2011
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My favorite extracurricular activity lately seems to be joining the trend of chasing down gourmet food trucks here in Southern California and sampling all the great offerings. Trucks like Kogi and Grill 'Em All create huge buzz for their food, and a line forms wherever they show up. I remember when I worked in the shop that eating off the "roach coach" was a daily necessity because there wasn't enough time to go out somewhere, but now eating from them is cool. I think it all stems from shows, such as Top Chef, that have made innovative good food accessible to anyone.

So maybe I should have been a food critic. I enjoy discovering good food as much as exploring new trails. No one is trying to shut down eating, so the job security must be better, and with meals as part of your job, that saves on monthly expenses, right? Don't misunderstand me, because I love wheeling. It is definitely is my passion, but the more I think about it, the more I see how central food is to wheeling.

For example, when I planned the itinerary for Four Wheeler of the Year, I chose a specific city to stay in because of a BBQ joint that is a staff favorite there. In fact, I had staffers double-checking with me to make sure our annual pilgrimage to devour piles of fire-kissed meat was going to be on the agenda. Day trips and hotel accommodations are based as much on the nearby trails as they are on the quality of food in the vicinity. All wheelers know that the trip is always a little sweeter with the anticipation of a good meal at the end of the day.

So if eating is the grand finale to a day of tail riding, nothing is worse than having empty stomachs in camp. A few years back, I was on an overnight wheeling trip with a manufacturer and their new 4x4 model that was about to be released. The representatives were as proud of their new vehicle as they were of the Brontosaurus-sized steaks they brought along for the journalists to indulge on.

The trail day was incredibly fun and the vehicles weren't bad either, but we talked all day long about the juicy, succulent, top-quality slabs of beef that we would be consuming that night. Finally the time came for our steak dinner in the mountains when disaster struck. Someone forgot to plug in the ARB Fridge Freezer that was holding our dinner bounty, and the weighty New Yorks were spoiled. After much grumbling, we made due with beef jerky and some dinner sides to get us through the night.

Disaster aside, everyone has their favorite meal on the trail, whether it is someone's secret-recipe chili or a fully outfitted burger. Me? I like a tri-tip soaked for a day in Stubbs marinade, slow-cooked over open coals with a loaded potato on the side, and a bottle of cold Dr. Pepper or beer to wash it all down.

When it comes to food, wheelers are just as interested in the smells coming from your campsite as they are with how your rig is set up. It never ceases to amaze me that once you start cooking, people come out of the woodwork to hover around your fire. Usually it is one of your buddies that was too lazy to put together more than a dry sandwich and who are hoping to get a better meal than what they were willing to prepare for themselves. We all know "that guy," and if I am cooking, you can count on the fact that I've brought extra for these moochers. No one should ever go hungry on the trail.

That brings me to my next idea. Maybe our next magazine project should be a 4x4 food truck. We can Tweet what trail we'll be on and dole out manifold burritos to the hungry masses. Project Trail's Kitchen-I can see it now.
-Sean P. Holman

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