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The Life of an Off-Road Magazine Editor

Posted in Features on January 19, 2017
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Even after almost 20 years in the business, I still find myself wondering how I got lucky enough to land this job. You won’t get rich doing it, but if you’re a true gearhead, being a magazine editor is a dream come true. It keeps you grounded. And then you’re visiting a world of fantasy. And then you’re grounded again. And then you’re off on another exotic adventure. And then you’re lying on your back in a pool of grease and gasoline realizing you haven’t eaten in nine hours and you kind of have to pee, but you can’t let go of the crossmember until you get the bolts lined up or three hours of work will be flushed down the toilet. Yup, the life of an automotive journalist is a real dichotomy: a mixed bag of extreme fantasy and unforgiving reality. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Take my last 12 months. I’ve had some epic highs and some crazy lows. While still the editor of Four Wheeler magazine, I had to fly to England to present the Four Wheeler of the Year trophy to Land Rover executive John Edwards at the Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations plant in Coventry. After a plant tour and the trophy handoff, I got to drive a diesel Land Rover Defender 110 off-road at the grounds of Eastnor Castle and then scoot around England in a borrowed $128,000 Range Rover SVR.

No sooner had I landed back in the States than I was vacuuming rat turds out of the interior of my 1971 CJ-6 to build a fuel system and filling the cylinders of the Buick 225 with ATF to try to break the rusted piston rings free.

Then it was off to Moab, Utah, for Easter Jeep Safari, where I got to pick and choose any trail to cover, drive the Mopar Underground EJS concept vehicles, and get behind the scenes of any party, press event, or gathering.

Then I switched from Four Wheeler and landed back here at 4WOR before realizing I had about six weeks to organize, plan, and execute the Ultimate Adventure. A frenzy of permit pulling, phone calls, hotel reservations, and meetings brought the suck.

I preran parts of the UA with one of my kids. And actually getting out and leading the UA was another amazing, unreal highlight. Busting through Jeep trials in a fullsize Super Duty on portal axles and an Offroad Design Magnum box for tractorlike gearing while scoping the most epic scenery on the West Coast? Awesome.

Back at the office grind to dissect UA into bite-size editorial bits, disseminate them through web and print, edit video with Mike Harrington, do voiceover work, and then . . .

. . . pack for the Paris Auto Show, where I finally had enough frequent flier miles to get bumped up to First Class from L.A. to France. Hit the ground in Paris and get shuttled from the spendy hotel to dinner on the Seine River and a behind-the-scenes preview of the newly redesigned Land Rover Discovery. Up the Eiffel Tower as a tourist and then . . .

. . . back down to earth to deal with new problems related to our integrated content management system that tracks editorial assignments, pays freelancers, and aggregates photos and story documents before . . .

. . . flying to Maui, Hawaii, and staying at a beachside resort before arriving on a private ranch via helicopter to test drive the awesome new Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro and then . . .

. . . rush home to get paperwork finished, edit manuscripts, and create staff assignments before . . .

. . . heading off to the SEMA Show for a weeklong orgy of expensive dinners with industry friends and to gawk at the over-the-top circus of automotive pornography that assaults the senses and . . .

. . . back to reality, realizing I missed most of my ship-to-printer dates and I’m now sitting at my computer trying to bang out this editorial last-minute while my managing editor, Craig Johnson, and art director, Alan Huber, not-so-patiently await my lagging copy.

To paraphrase the Bad Company song “Rock n Roll Fantasy,” it’s all part of my off-road fantasy. A nice blend of fantasy and reality that, when taken in the right ratios, makes for an interesting life without allowing your head to get too big. If it were a Yelp review I’d give this job many stars. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta pack to go prerun for our Of the Year off-road test of the brand-new 2017 4x4 vehicles. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

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