Where Are Your Off-Road Whoops?
Stories of Failure and Glory
We haven't had a Whoops! issue in a long time. That's mostly because the reader-driven columns are increasingly difficult to get submissions for. So here's the part of the show when I get down on bended knee with hat in hand and ask the audience for a ducat or two in the form of your anecdotal Whoops submission. Go ahead and email them to email@example.com and don't forget to include a high-res jpeg image, a description of what happened, and your name, city, state, and (if you want) contact information just in case we have some swag kicking around to send your way. Don't worry—nothing that's sent to that email address is shared with shady marketing companies or sold off to mailing lists. It's just the inbox of the 4WOR staff, and we hate that crap just as much as you.
Until we get some reader submissions coming we'll keep using the field fixes, flops, and funnies we generate on Ultimate Adventure every year. For now, enjoy a couple stories from my personal files that my staff and I have shot over the years.
I was driving to Moab Easter Jeep Safari in 2005 in a borrowed Volkswagen Touareg with my 1953 DJ-3A on a trailer. I had gotten a late start because the LED VW taillights didn't wanna play nicely with my Carson trailer's wiring. As I climbed the grade on Interstate 15 North approaching Cedar City, I spotted a pall of black smoke. By the time traffic passed by, the square-body Chevy Blazer had all but burned out and the occupants were unloading their stuff off the trailer. A Utah State Patrol pulled up behind them right as I did, so I continued on to EJS.
I was the tech editor of Jp Magazine in 2005 when my then-boss, John Cappa, entered and was voted into Four Wheeler's Top Truck Challenge event. Back then the state of Commiefornia didn't impose restrictions on how much water the event could use, so the Four Wheeler staff brought in load after load of water to create the most awesome mud pits you'd ever want to try your luck in. One of the event sponsors and our wheeling buddy, Mac McMillan, showed up in a very clean borrowed CJ-7 and parked it precariously on the lip of the mud bog pit. Somebody (we ain't saying who) disengaged the e-brake and bought Mac a gooey extraction followed by a trip to the local coin-op carwash.
It was sometime in either late 2000 or early 2001 and I'd just slapped a set of big 'ol 42-inch Swamper TSLs under my 1985 Ramcharger. As the tech editor of 4-Wheel & Off-Road, naturally what followed was a hands-on test in Johnson Valley. I got a bit carried away with the big truck's ability to go almost wherever I pointed it, and I got cocky. Ignoring washing machine-sized boulders right in front of me, I started pushing rocks around like I was piloting a dozer. It was all well and good until I used the tie rod to shove one such boulder out of my way and severely deformed my tie-rod end. Without any welding rod, spare tie-rod end, or trailer, I limped the Ramcharger very slowly the 120 miles back home, the whole time telling myself, "I am not a heavy equipment operator."
At Tiera Del Sol's Desert Safari around 2012 or so, Tech Editor Verne Simons happened upon one unlucky participant who had failed Flex Test at the Ocotillo Wells SVRA. Thankfully the Jeep suffered only a flop onto its side and stopped before going all the way over on the roof. The driver emerged unharmed and, with the help of a fellow 4x4er's strap, had the Jeep back on its tires and wheeling in short order.
Shortly after he left his stint as feature editor at 4-Wheel & Off-Road, Jerrod Jones landed in the editor's chair at Off-Road magazine. In doing so, he inherited the magazine's Super Duty project truck, less-than-affectionately known as the STD. A bunch of us magazine folk were heading from the Vendor Area of the 2007 TDS Desert Safari over to the notches when the sector shaft inside the STD's steering box thought it was a great time to snap. Somehow during the ensuing "rescue" the STD broke an axleshaft trying to turn around in a tight wash. Between my flatfender and John Cappa's FSJ pickup we got the STD down onto the flat part of the wash and towed it back to camp to be loaded on a trailer, the whole time with the front steering flopping full lock one way and then the other.
Shortly after I rehired Verne Simons to be my tech editor at Jp magazine we were out at TDS Desert Safari. I was riding shotgun with Verne in his little tan flatfender. We were both yapping away while working through the notches and gullies towards the hill housing the infamous "phone booth" when Verne forgot to look where he was going. He proceeded to pitch the 80-inch-wheelbase flattie over a 100-inch drop. The bumper hit first, then the front tires. I yelled, "Floor it!" but Verne had beaten me to the punch because my voice was drowned out by the sound of a little Buick 231 V-6 screaming at redline. The Jeep clawed forward for about 10 feet on the front tires before the rear finally came slamming down, fracturing the rear axlehousing in the process. We chained the housing back together and drove 20 or so miles back to camp with the rear housing pivoting at the break like a suspension link.