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Firing Order: What’s Your Perfect Wheeling Weekend?

Posted in Features on November 21, 2017
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One of the coolest facets of my job is that I get to meet fellow wheelers. My first gig for a 4WD publication was in 1989, so the number of folks I’ve met through the years at various events probably number far into the thousands. A question I like to ask fellow 4x4 fans is: What do you consider to be the perfect wheeling weekend? The answers are always interesting.

As wheelers, our perfect wheeling weekend may be the culmination of years of off-roading that caused us to ultimately find that extra-special, drop-everything-and-go type of wheeling that lights us up. For me, four-wheeling was born of necessity. Living in northern Illinois farmland, a 4x4 was required equipment. In the springtime and after heavy rain, fields and pastures were surprisingly challenging, with grease-like mud that would often give way to tire-swallowing goo. In the winter, my truck would often be locked in 4WD for days on end as snow blanketed the property and drifts often made travel on our one-lane road a challenge. My 4x4 was a tool, and for a time I never used it for anything but work and commuting.

That changed in the mid-’80s, the first time I took my ’77 IH Scout to Colorado. I pointed my rig up a rocky two-track trail and soon got blindsided by the rush of knowing that my 4x4 was carrying me away from the known and into the unknown. Eventually I was in the “middle of nowhere” and I looked at my 4x4 differently. Instead of being simply a work truck I saw it as an escape pod of sorts.

This photo was taken on one of my many 4x4 forays to the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. This particular trip I was driving a rental S-10 Blazer during a fall snowstorm.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to experience a wide variety of 4x4 goodness. From 4WD truck pulls to monster trucks to off-road racing, and just about everything in between. I love ’em all, but quickly learned that I’m better at some aspects of off-roading than others. I can’t last a minute blasting down a winding, undulating trail in a desert-style race truck because I get motion sickness. I’ve had to settle for being a spectator when it comes to desert racing, and to this day I feel bad for people who puke in their helmets. Even though I spent the majority of my life in the boulderless northern Illinois area I thoroughly enjoyed driving the Rubicon Trail, though it seems I have a knack for crunching body panels on rocky trails. This propensity has decreased substantially as I have aged and my desire to show off has thankfully left the building. Monster truck driving was fun (Wow, are those things fast!), but it was quickly apparent that my body simply couldn’t take the abuse of hard landings.

There isn’t any type of wheeling I’d decline; but personally my perfect wheeling weekend is on a trail, exploring. I’m drawn to the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, to trails like Imogene, Poughkeepsie, and Black Bear. I love piloting my rig through the tight mountain switchbacks, the sound as my rig’s tires move the loose rock, the afternoon summer rainstorms that turn the trail muddy, and the feel of my seatbelt locking as I maneuver my rig on off-camber terrain. That’s my perfect wheeling weekend.

What’s your perfect wheeling weekend? Is it slinging goo at a mud park in Florida? Pushing through sand in places like Silver Lake in Michigan or Dumont Dunes in California? Exploring forest roads in Idaho? Drop an email to ken.brubaker@fourwheeler.com and tell me about it. Also include why it’s your fave. Oh, and include a photo of your rig during your perfect wheeling weekend.

—Ken Brubaker
ken.brubaker@fourwheeler.com

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