I had some great fun the other day, just like a kid in a candy store. And it was all because of a bone-stock 4x4, some mud, a good friend, and some helpful Jeepers. Being experienced wheelers, my buddy and I both knew better, so we set out on a little backcountry tour in a stock rig with no tools, supplies, or recovery equipment. We didn’t even tell anyone where we were going. Of course, we ended up being mired in the mud and having to walk back for assistance, in the rain. Light rain, mind you, but still rain.
It turns out that we all start wheeling the same way we start walking—from the beginning. Whether you started wheeling in the womb or when you were 90, or you’re starting today, you still had to learn the basics of wheeling one step at a time. In my mind that’s one of the things that makes wheeling fun: learning new skills and facts that you can use throughout your lifetime.
For instance, most experienced (or educated) wheelers know what can happen when you cross a stream or pond. Water can be sucked into the engine intake and hydrolock it, maybe even blowing a rod out the side of the block. Luckily many of these lessons and facts can be learned from the other guy instead of firsthand. In fact, half of the wheeling experience could be considered getting stuck and knowing how to save yourself so you don’t spend the night in the woods—or worse. But what’s really so bad about that? Lots of people like “camping.”
As a rule, a simple stuck isn’t that serious if you are prepared. Of course, we weren’t prepared so we tried our best driving techniques to get the truck even stucker. A little rock under a tire, a push or tug from your buddy on the side, or even a jack to get yourself back on terra firma will usually suffice, but not this time. Of course, you have to know these techniques and have some smarts for recovery gear, but that can be just as fun as wheeling. In fact, some guys go wheeling just to see who gets stuck and if they can help the poor souls out.
The same thing goes for mechanical breakdowns. Fixing stuff on the trail can be just as rewarding as wheeling if you can MacGyver a rig back to the barn. But even this you generally learn one step at a time, and then you upgrade your driving and mechanical skills as well as fortify your 4x4 with tires, lifts, lockers, and the like.
Once those goals have been achieved, many wheelers drift back to basics: stock truck wheeling, as it were. It’s finding out if you still know how to drive instead of relying on your equipment upgrades. Bald street tires, open diffs, stock suspension, and weak motors all make up for some real fun. Give it a try, and see how it used to be.
Luckily this time we didn’t have to experience the whole learning curve as the Emerald Coast Jeepers found us walking to camp and quickly winched us out of a simple predicament. Still, it was a whole lot of fun and sure beat a day in the office!