Simply put, I like to go four-wheeling. That’s no surprise to anyone familiar with this magazine. It is one of the reasons I’m the editor. If I could get away with it I’d be wheeling anywhere, anytime, anyplace, regardless of how much real work I had to get done. But that also means I end up going wheeling by myself, a dangerous practice we’ve all been guilty of one time or another. Fortunately it seems that I always end up with likeminded people when it matters most.
Recently I had a new product to test, a spray-on shield from Armor All. I slathered the new spray sauce all over the XJ I had entered in our Cheap Truck Challenge (“Cheap Truck Cherokee,” Oct. ’13). I didn’t care about the paint on the Jeep, but I knew that taking it into the depths of the mud would be the best test of the product. I figured if I kept to the easy areas at Azusa Canyon in SoCal, I would be fine and not get stuck in the gloppy mud the area is famous for.
Of course, that tactic changed when I got to the water’s edge and met a group of wheelers. I asked how the mud was, and they said, “Not bad,” but they had just pulled a truck out that got mired. I asked if they would mind helping me if I got stuck. As any good wheeler should, they said, “Of course!”
With my newfound safety net of friends waiting on shore I dunked the XJ into the slop and wallowed a while for the cameras and cheers. All was well with the world until I took one final victory spin at the mouth of the creek—and lifted way to soon. By then I had the XJ buried past the not-framerails into the sandy sloppy slime of Azusa Canyon.
Now, if you’ve ever had a rig fully engulfed in such terrain you know how the suction of the mud and the flowing of the creek can make a rig sink to China if you struggled too much or don’t get a winch or strap on it quickly. A 5,000-pound 4x4 quickly becomes a 10,000-pound land anchor when you count the suction and drag from the mud as you are pulling two solid axles through it.
Luckily my new friend Ruben Dominguez in his ’01 F-350 tried to pull me out while his kids Dominic and Lauren cheered him on. But the Jeep was so buried that Mike Neuer in his CJ-7 had to hook on as well for a train of yanking straps, spinning tires, and flinging mud. With more encouragement from Joe Gill and Art Lucereo, the Jeep finally popped free and was beached on semisolid ground to begin the cleanup.
In the end, I couldn’t have tested the sauce without my new friends, and I sure as heck never would have gotten my rig out by myself. Thanks, guys! You all showed how real wheelers are when one of us, whether by inexperience or just dumb luck, needs help. See you next trip!