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Firing Order: Wheeling Bucket List, Do You Have One?

Posted in Features on March 20, 2018
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Photographers: Michael Rudd

I’m 54 years old as I’m tapping this into a computer, and there are so many places I’ve yet to explore in a 4x4. Places I want to explore.

My first 4x4 magazine gig was in 1989, so as of 2018 I’ve had the privilege of “wheeling for a living” for almost three decades. By default, I’ve had the opportunity to damage 4x4s in just about every discipline of off-roading, and along the way I’ve explored trails in just about every state in the U.S. I’ve been off-road on sand in Michigan, North Carolina, and Oregon; in the woods of Maine, Iowa, and Wisconsin; in the hills of Arkansas and Missouri; on the rocks of California and New Mexico; in the mud of Florida and Michigan; on the rocky trails of Texas, Utah, and Arizona; in the snow of Idaho and Wisconsin; and just about everywhere in between. You’d think that would about cover it, but alas, ’tis not so.

I’ve always had the urge to explore off-road. My wife and I got married in 1983 and traveled from our home in Illinois to spend our honeymoon in Colorado. Once there I simply could not drive by a trailhead without pointing my vehicle up the trail. This was not ideal because my vehicle at the time was a ’80 Chevy Citation. I guess the V-6, manual transmission, manual-crank windows, and vinyl seats had the young me convinced it was a truck. And yes, many of those trail forays behind the wheel of the Citation did not end well. Damage ranged from an injured transaxle to rock-scuffed whitewall tires.

We all have places we want to wheel but haven’t yet. My top choice is Alaska. I’ve been there, but never had the chance to explore the incredible backcountry. It’s on my list for the summer of 2018.

But even after all these years there are still so many trails I haven’t done. Admittedly, I find myself boomeranging back to trails I really like when I could be exploring new ones. I’m a sucker for the more remote parts of the Outer Banks of North Carolina and just about any high-altitude trail in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. But now it seems that the older I get the more I’m thinking I better get to some of those new places I haven’t been.

One day, while sitting in my office pretending to work, I used the Social Security Administration’s online Life Expectancy Calculator to, well, you know. At my present age it said that I had an additional life expectancy of 27.8 years. This was good news! I assume the Life Expectancy Calculator knows that my body aches from two past motorcycle accidents? Or that an off-road 4x4 crash caused my head and windshield to violently connect leaving me with a scalp that looks like the Grand Canyon? Or that I routinely eat bacon? Maybe the Life Expectancy Calculator gave me bonus years for surviving thus far, especially when factoring in the really stupid stuff I did in my younger years.

Whether or not I see another 27.8 years I plan to get to that off-roading I’ve been wanting to do. I’m going to make a list, I guess it would be called a bucket list, of my top three wheeling spots that I’ve never done. I want to chalk ’em up. Anywhere in Alaska is tops on the list. Been there, but didn’t have the chance to really explore the incredible backcountry. Hoping to do that trip in the summer of 2018. Also on the list is the 72,000-acre Windrock Park in Oliver Springs, Tennessee. I spend quite a bit of time in that region of the U.S., but strangely have never been to Windrock. Finally, I want to spend a week or so wheeling Nebraska, overland-style. I like the wide-open terrain and I think there’s more there than meets the eye.

I know I’m not alone in my desire to wheel new areas. Every wheeler, young and old, has a few trails or areas they really want to do. What are yours? Send your top three, and why they appeal to you, to the email address below.

—Ken Brubaker
ken.brubaker@fourwheeler.com

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