Governmental control is a hot-button issue right now, but I'm not too concerned with the New World Order and black-helicopter conspiracies. While I could rant for hours on that subject, it would be to no avail. I'm more concerned with local control increasing to the point where our sport comes into jeopardy. Such control was recently observed near Moab, Utah, where possibly well-meaning but misguided peace officers tried to enforce vehicle code violations. While attending the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab last April, one of our fellow wheelers was pulled over four times in two days. To be sure, his rig is on the close side of legal, and he never received tickets for that, but anyone with a clue wouldn't think twice about it or the hundreds of other rigs in the area. There is a difference between enforcement and harassment, and both can cause any 4x4 area to be less frequented by wheelers.
In this case the Utah Highway Patrol was actively stalking wheelers. They went to specific trailheads off the main highway as well as to where the trails ended. Yes, I said "stalking," as in waiting down the road with binoculars drawn and ticket books ready. Working in teams, they stopped hundred of vehicles for alleged violations and effectively harassed the 4x4 population like nowhere else. Should some of those rigs be legitimately stopped? Yes, absolutely. In fact, my own flatfender had a broken windshield, tire tread sticking past the fender, and an expired tag, but I wasn't stopped even while next to a UHP car. True, my windshield was down, the tread only sticks out an inch on the tiny 31-inch tires, and the tag was paid for and in the mail. But regardless, I was as flagrant a violator as the big flattie that got popped, but I wasn't stopped. I guess I didn't look the part of the big bad illegal wheeler tearing up the town, highway, and countryside. Of course, in my opinion, neither did our friend.
Will we return to Moab after this type of welcome? Of course. I've been stopped in Utah before in similar situations, such as for modifications that were legal in my home state. Reciprocity laws don't always carry much weight when someone wants to take control. You just suffer through the consequences and deal with it later.
One would think that fighting crimes against humanity would rank higher than wasting time harassing wheelers while we contribute grandly to the state economy. I almost wanted a ticket so I could fight it in court and stop the madness that prevails.
Don't think it can't happen around your area either. It only takes a few people to complain loudly enough that we are as bad as "outlaw" bikers (who aren't), and we get carted off to jail for nothing. Remember that next time you whiz past your local gendarme on the way to a trailhead: It can happen to you too.