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Off Road Clubs - Straight From The Jachmann

In The Desert
Posted June 1, 2006

What's Wrong With This Picture?

It was a another typical morning. I was watching the Fox morning news as I was frantically getting ready for work when a headline caught my attention. "Off-roaders lost in local OHV area." It had begun to snow and these guys were out having a good old time. Whamo! These guys have mechanical difficulties, make the news, and draw out the search and rescue teams who eventually find them.

Two days later, I receive a disturbing phone call from my brother Mike. First off, let me tell you a little about my brother: He is a die-hard enthusiast who loves his Jeep, working on it constantly, and belongs to a 4x4 club in Las Vegas.

The story goes something like this: An ex-member of the club, now president of his own club, was putting together a run outside of Baker, California. My brother called this guy (we'll call him Mr. X) and asked him how tough the run was and if his Cherokee would make it OK (his YJ was down). Mr. X replied, "No problem." Mike loaded up, picked up his buddy Dave Browning (first-time off-roader), and they were off. Happy-go-lucky Mike offered to be tail gunner out of 14 vehicles, watching and working with the stragglers on the run. Mind you, all this time he's on the CB informing the drivers in front of the haps. About halfway through, Mike encountered a terrible knocking sound from his Jeep - it turned out to be his motor mounts and then a torn transmission cooling line. He radioed the others and informed everyone he had problems. At one point, a couple of guys were staying behind waiting for him.

To make matters worse, Mike lost his CB antenna, and his rig was inching slowly through the terrain. His friend Dave was frantic - and not sure what would happen to them (who would blame Dave?). Through all this, my brother was calm. He took a tie-down and strapped the engine down best he could. Next, he tied off the leaky transmission cooler line and checked out the path of the sun and proceeded in the direction he thought was right.

Three-plus hours later, they hit a road (no one waited at the road) that wasn't marked; after a while, they could see a small town - it was Baker. They limped into Baker and saw the other club members just finishing up dinner as Mike went to an auto parts store to assess and repair the overall damage. After doing all he could, Mike and Dave slowly drove home, which took another three hours.

Needless to say, Mike dropped off Dave (who swore he'd never go off-roading again) and parked his Jeep and didn't unload for two weeks out of sadness and frustration. The club members he had entrusted left him without a second thought. On top of that, Dave had a terrible first experience in the backcountry and couldn't understand what happened. At his next club meeting, Mike brought up the experience, but the other club members didn't want to hear about it - and not even one apology to Mike about leaving him behind. No explanation, no regrets - just the president's wife saying it was Mike's fault for not keeping up. There you have it. What is going on with people these days? Are they just short on common sense and responsibility? I've been fortunate enough to go off-roading with passionate and responsible friends, where a scenario such as this would have never happened. A leader always makes sure every one gets back or they wait. Isn't that why we have 4x4 clubs anyway - safety, friendship, and help when you're broken down or lost? Needless to say, Mike isn't with the club anymore. Who could blame him? I don't.

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