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Trail’s End: Wheelin’ For A Living

Posted in Features on September 24, 2016
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Four - wheeling for a living is a heckuva deal, and there are some who are lucky enough to clock - in behind the wheel of a 4 x4.Back in the Apr. '82 issue of Four Wheeler, we published a story about some time we spent with an Inertial Survey crew in the middle of nowhere. This survey crew was using a trio of vehicles that consisted of two Ford F-250s and a Pathfinder-converted four-wheel-drive Ford van that was stuffed with "guidance equipment, computers, and monitors."

The story began on the top of a "naked 9,000-foot mountain 40 miles from the nearest human being in the dry high country of the Wyoming Rockies." Some "major energy resources" had been discovered, and the survey crew was tasked with mapping a route to the resources before winter.In all, 37 miles of surveying was required, all of which was through jagged, untouched mountain terrain between 6, 000 and 9, 000 feet of elevation.

The use of vehicles was important.We wrote, "Inertial Surveying equipment employs accelerometers, gyroscopes, and computers, which locate any spot on earth to an accuracy of one-in-20,000. And most important in this case, it allowed the entire 37-mile survey to be completed by driving over it in a four-wheeler rather than walking it with transit and elevation rod. And considering the 3,000-foot elevation differentials, it meant survey time could be cut from months to days."

We wrote that there was plenty of wheeling. "Dave Brown, the driver, jammed the automatic transmission into Low and we dove off the road into a ditch at a frightening tilt and churned up the far bank. These guys were more than engineers. They were hairy-chested four-wheelers who flat knew how to put a four-by through the back country." Brown noted, "We always run with the hubs locked because, when we're doing an actual survey, we always need four-wheel drive."

In all, we reported that the survey crew "explored virtually every square foot of this beautiful, untouched land, stopping at more than two hundred points to record their locations. They were in every type of terrain possible: in deep ditches, atop rocky peaks, on sides of gulleys, in sandy prairie, submerged in thickets, halfway up mountains, even at their crests..."

Along the way, the crew counted eight antelope carcasses, a reminder of the ruggedness of the terrain and the natural predators that roamed the area. "Halfway into the second day of the Inertial Survey, it became even more evident that four-wheelers were saviors, not only for this engineering project, but also for human survival. Where we had finished the surveying job within hours after we had begun by bounding effortlessly over this formidable wilderness in air-conditioned comfort, a conventional survey crew would have been agonized, stressed, and exhausted from battling these elements for another two months," we wrote.

Reading this story made us wonder: Do you wheel for a living ? Is all or part of your day spent traversing off - road terrain ? If so, drop an email to and tell us about it. And if you can, include a photo of the rig you pilot.

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