Mike Bishop - Off-Road Magazine's Person Of The YearPosted in Features on October 10, 2013
In choosing our Person of the Year, we spotlight those who have contributed to the overall well being of off-roading. Quite often, that contribution is an innovative product or service. It's usually something that makes our trucks perform better or our lives easier as we drive the trails, turn wrenches, or fabricate metal.
An underlying truth is that if we didn't have any place to go with our trucks, there wouldn't be much point to building them. No place to go means we'd miss out on the fun, adventure, and memorable times in the dirt with family and friends. There's more. No place to go also means new products can't be developed and tested. The great mechanism of off-roading would grind to a halt.
Most of the time, off-roaders are on the defensive when it comes to land access. New enemies of off-roading seem to surface from multiple corners, filing lawsuits, and generally trying to quash our type of recreation. Most of the time, we're fighting to preserve access to places we've always gone.
This year's Person of the Year did one better than preserving land access. He created a new off-road opportunity. Mike Bishop, president of the Azusa Canyon Off-Road Association, conceived the idea for a rockcrawling obstacle course within the Azusa Canyon OHV area in 2001. Opening day was July 2012. What happened to the time in between those dates? It was filled with planning, meetings, studying governmental and environmental regulations, and other things that can be lumped together under the blanket heading "red tape." Physically constructing the course was hard work, to be sure, but the red tape was the biggest obstacle by far.
The final hurdle was conquered with creativity. A natural drainage channel cut right through the course, and regulations dictated the channel still must maintain a normal flow. The solution not only satisfied the environmental requirement, it also made the obstacle course more challenging. The drainage channel was integrated into the course by installing a concrete culvert and then stacking rocks on top. Concrete fill keeps the stacked rocks in place.
During the opening ceremony, Mike could have talked about the herculean effort it took to plan and build the course, or he could have talked about the strain it had put on his personal life. But he didn't. Mike quipped, "My wife and I are down to 51 minutes of marriage counseling a week." But he then focused on the point of it all: Fun! Calling out several dignitaries in attendance, he told them they were all getting the chance to go for a ride on the course. After cutting the ceremonial ribbon, each dignitary was treated to the thrill of big tires, big articulation, and big rocks.
The Azusa Canyon Obstacle Course not only benefits off-roaders, it also benefits the city of Azusa and other nearby towns. Off-roaders need food, gasoline, and other supplies before they head up the canyon. This need generates income for the communities.
Because he didn't give up in the face of daunting odds and because he persevered for over a decade and because he created a new off-road opportunity that benefits off-roaders as well as the surrounding community, we've chosen Mike Bishop as 2013's Off-Road Magazine Person of the Year. Please accept our thanks and congratulations.