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Remember When Every Wheeling Trip Wasn’t Digitally Documented

Posted in News: Features on September 19, 2019
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Contributors: 4-Wheel & Off-Road archives

You see it every day. Gaggles of phone zombies standing with their backs to epic scenery and well-known points of interest. Instead of soaking in the sights and noting the experience, they're staring at their screen and making a sideways peace sign while taking a selfie. It is what it is. Apparently nowadays everybody is "doing it for the Gram." But those of us born before Y2K might remember a time when we just went out and did stuff without a digital record of every waking moment.

Insert old man "back in my day" line here, but we had these things called film cameras that were expensive, cumbersome, and time-consuming. Outside of the SLR camera I used for work, I normally didn't bother taking film photos of my early wheeling trips, so when I recently stumbled across a long-forgotten CD a buddy gave me with some early digital photography of a September 2000 trip over the Rubicon, I was beyond surprised. Sure, the photos are grainy and the resolution isn't great, but they jogged dormant memories of my earliest non-work trip with work friends that I did on the Rubicon.

Back then I was the feature editor of 4-Wheel & Off-Road. I lived in San Diego and commuted 126 miles each way to the office. I did it five days a week in my 11-mpg Ramcharger on 35s. As such, I tended to pull many overnighters working at my desk rather than make the six-hour roundtrip commute to only sleep four hours in my own bed.

It was after one of those all-nighters in our Wilshire Boulevard building that then-Tech Editor John Cappa, ad sales guy Brian Cox, Art Director Alan Huber, and I hit the road early on a Friday morning for a weekend trip up to and over the Rubicon. We got to the trailhead around 10:45 that evening and I was so wiped out I just crawled on the floor between the front and rear seats of my '85 Ramcharger and passed out. Just before sunup Saturday morning I awoke with a screaming headache and a wet shoulder. Apparently I had been using a plastic jug of Octane Boost for a pillow, which leaked into a puddle under my head and poisoned me to the point of imagining Papa Smurf was my co-driver.

We hooked up with a few industry friends, including Jon Bundrant (All-Pro Off Road), Steve Sasaki (Power Tank), and a few others and hit the trail. By the time we got to Soup Bowl my headache was cleared enough for me to try the obstacle. Cappa snapped a photo of my Ramcharger climbing it that wound up becoming a cover shot for 4WOR, which sadly I didn't have the foresight to keep. Back then you could park and camp at Loon and Spider Lake along the way, but being a cannonball weekend trip we hightailed it for Buck Island and set up camp where, after dark, a couple drunks in the next camp over flopped their Toyota while screwing around on a big rock.

The next day we all motored through the Springs, where I blew not one but two tire beads and used Steve Sasaki's Power Tank to reseat them (thanks again, Steve!). I made it out right around sundown with just enough time to find a ratty hotel somewhere in Tahoe to grab a few hours' sleep before heading back into the office on Monday.

In the grand scheme of things it was a relatively drama-free trip and, compared to bucket-list trips like Ultimate Adventure, one that hardly registered on the rememory-meter. And were it not for these digital photos I probably wouldn't have thought of that trip for years, if at all. So I guess the selfie photo zombie generation might be on to something. Just as long as every now and then they put the phone down and take a gander at the surroundings with their own eyes.

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