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May 2013 Firing Order - Editorial

Posted in Features on May 1, 2013
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I've been spoiled like a rotten little kid most of my life. I don't mean that my parents coddled me like a temper-tantrum reality TV kid, or that they gave me everything I could ever wish for. Oh no, it was quite a bit different than that under the roof of the Cappa household. I was like most kids growing up in my suburban neighborhood during the '70s and '80s. Of course I pouted when I didn't get what I wanted, got the belt when I was bad, and had to work for the money to buy and build my first 4x4. What I mean is that I have been spoiled in a different way-spoiled by open space. Having lived near the vast deserts of the southwest most of my life, I am accustomed to a certain kind of off-roading. Oh sure, I have spent plenty of time on, and enjoy the personal challenge of conquering relatively short, difficult trails such as the Hammer trails in Johnson Valley, California. But what I really enjoy is having a destination, a place to go, a "B."

I've been to several privately owned and state off-road parks over the years. Most have done a great job with the land they have available to them. You can do quite a bit to "improve" the trails with heavy equipment, a couple of boulders, and a few logs. But at the end of the day you still sort of run into the same problem, no matter what park you are at. You run out of trails. Yeah, you could go round and round a few times, but once you've mastered all the obstacles and seen all the scenery, it can get a little mundane.

what I really enjoy is having a destination, a place to go, a "B."

Even in my early wheeling career I had an appreciation for A-to-B wheeling. It was common for my buddies and me to go on 20- to 50-mile adventures. Along the way we might find a few obstacles to test our skills and vehicles, trying to make it look as easy as possible, hoping that the next guy through the gauntlet would struggle, get stuck, break, rollover, or catch on fire. It was simply a common unspoken friendly rivalry that my small group of buddies and I embraced. And maybe that's why I have such an aversion to spotters, I feel like it's someone helping me, like I'm cheating.

Anyway, some of my favorite wheeling trips involve a variety of terrain in one outing. Rocks, sand, mud, snow, elevation changes, and more are all possible in my home state and are a welcomed challenge. Lately, I've spent even more time traversing long distances in the deserts and mountains. None of the trails have been all that difficult. In fact, I have had the transfer case in two-wheel-drive much of the time and I'm usually rolling on tires that are 32 to 37 inches tall. Does that make me a boring four-wheeler? Maybe to some people, but how extreme can we really get?

Today there are purpose-built off-road buggies that can hit 100 mph or more over a whoop section and climb some of the nastiest rock outcroppings on the planet. In the south, the emerging "rock bouncers" are making their own mark with criminal amounts of horsepower and monster-truck-like trail antics. They look like a lot of fun to drive. Personally, however, I don't really have the desire to own either of these types of vehicles. First and foremost I can't afford them, but more importantly they have become so purpose-built that they really don't serve much of a purpose at all aside from filling YouTube hard drives and entertaining spectators. I need and want my 4x4s to be able to do everything, including conquer obstacles, act as a daily driver, haul things from the home improvement center, and take me on a four-day desert adventure/camping trip. Fortunately, the same 4x4 that does all that just so happens to make the best A-to-B off-road rig, at least in my opinion.

So am I spoiled? You bet, I prefer owning a 4x4 that does everything well, including the kind of wheeling that I'm enjoying most at the moment. Don't get me wrong, though. You'll still see me at Moab Easter Jeep Safari, only I won't be in a trail-specific rig. I'll be the guy prodding my do-all 4x4 over trails that it probably doesn't belong on, trying my damndest to make it look easy to the chagrin of my buddies, all while I'm warm and dry inside with the heater a-blowin'.

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