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April 2011 Trail's End

Posted in Features on April 1, 2011
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Photographers: 4-Wheel & Off -Road Staff

Some people think that you ought to eventually outgrow your favorite sport, that things should change in your life, and you should want to move on from your hobbies and passions. Those are activities for kids. You need to do the responsible thing. As if knowing and embracing your passion for off-roading is a bad thing. I have a completely different perspective.

I've been into off-roading far longer than I've had a driver's license. I have owned motorcycles, trucks, Jeeps and some fun cars. When I was a teen, I would go off-roading on my way home from school. I remember people telling me that eventually, I'd trade them in for a minivan and outgrow these big-boy toys. So far, I've managed to dodge that bullet.

Since you are reading this magazine, I'm probably pretty safe in making the following assumptions: You have a better understanding of your vehicle than most people. You know how power transfers from your engine to your tires. You know what tire slip is, and you don't need a light on the dash to tell you that there is low traction. You probably also know the joy of pushing a vehicle into a corner on a dirt road and steering with the slide as you accelerate out of the curve. You know how to use your 4x4. It's a tool. It's an extension of you. You've built it the way you want it, and improved its performance according to how you like to use it. There's a connection between you and your machine every time you hit the ignition switch and pull the transfer case into four-wheel drive.

Giving up this part of you would be like Roy Rogers trading in Trigger for a kinder, gentler mare that could pull the family wagon, or King Arthur returning Excalibur for a set of kitchen knives. Practical, yes, but not what legends are made of. I think of the great heroes and what they would be if the tools of their passion were exchanged for more moderate equipment. They'd be pretty frustrated. Deflated. They would not able to do what they were meant to do.

I don't think that driving boring cars is a requirement in life. You'll probably need basic transportation some times. But who's to say that a cool 4x4 isn't basic transportation? I remember driving a sewer-lobster orange Chevy on 39-inch Swampers to work in Los Angeles. I took the truck over the Sledge Hammer tail in Johnson Valley and many other hardcore trails. The body was beat, and this thing looked like a six-car pile-up waiting to happen. For a couple of years, I made the 20-mile, one-hour trip to the office every day in this vibrating handful of a truck. And I wouldn't have traded that experience for the smoothest, highest-mph econobox!

Today, my daily driver is a Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon on 35s. It's a bit hard for the kids to get in and out of, but they beg to go in. You don't hear that when you drive a Kia Rio. The lifted Jeep gets miserable mileage for a late-model vehicle, but I drive it an average of 2,000 miles per month.

Sure, you're priorities will change as life progresses. But there's no need to abandon your off-roading activities or your favorite truck.

I guess I have become more moderate as I age. After all, I did get a four-door Jeep, and I opted for 35s instead of 37s. And heated Corbeau seats were added along with Mickey Thompson tires and a Warn winch. But I'm quite happy to put up with the extra noise and vibration of my modified Jeep rather than drive a boring commuter car.

As a parting comment, I'm not suggesting that people be irresponsible. I'm not saying the kids should go hungry because you want a new front axle. What I am saying is that growing up has nothing to do with abandoning the things that you enjoy. Ultimately, you'll spend a lot less time in therapy if you continue to enjoy the hobbies and sports that you're passionate about.
-Cole Quinnell

About Cole Quinnell
Cole Quinnell is a freelance writer and photographer based in the Midwest. When he's not on the trail or shooting photos for articles, he can be found on Facebook, continuing the conversation..

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