What Not To Do (the infamous Ford Explorer incident.) I hear my friends laughing now…
Many times in life it is the case that knowing what not to do is just as, if not more important, than knowing what to do. Sometimes in life, it is also the case that (for whatever reason), certain lessons have to be learned the hard way… While I grew up off-roading ATVS, four-wheeling trucks was at the time very new to me. I had been off-roading only once or twice, only on guided rides, with similarly equipped vehicles, and similarly experienced drivers, at pay-to-play off-road parks. The trips were great, positive experiences. Had fun. Learned a ton. Loved it. That was the right way to do it.
Then one day, against my better judgement and because he didn’t want to take the time to drive two hours each way to the neatest legal off-road park, I let a friend with even less four-wheeling experience (which is to say no experience) talk me into going somewhere local, of “questionable” legality, on trails neither of us had ever run, or even scouted. (The red flags should be jumping out at you. The alarms bells should be sounding.) It was a very risky ide and I knew it going in. I’m usually much smarter than that.
Yet I wanted to so badly get one of my friends into the sport that I went completely against all better judgement. While most of the trip was generally ok, we got hung up on section of trail we never should have been on. There were a few moments we weren’t entirely sure how we’d get out, or if we’d be coming back to retrieve my vehicle the next day. In the end, we both made it back to pavement, by my otherwise pristine daily driver incurred some minor body damage. As upset as I was about that, the major blow was both to my ego, and to my off-road “cred”. (Though the annual Petersen’s 4Wheel & Off-Road “Whoops!” issue just showed up in my mailbox. Man, did that make me feel better! Apparently I’m not the only one to learn an off-road lesson the hard way. I should send copies to my friends. )
To this day, though many years, many hard trail miles, many towing adventures and many positive off-road experiences later, my buddies don’t let me live it down. They probably never will! (Who can blame them, isn’t that what friends are for?! Hell, even I’d think it much funnier if it wasn’t me…) While I laugh about it now, it gave the guy who came with me, and all my non-wheeling friends a very bad intro and overall impression of what four- wheeling is all about, what the typical trail ride is like, and what an overall positive experience it usually is.
The real damage is that I’m still trying to convince a couple of them that riding shotgun now will be prove to be a much better experience, and a guaranteed great time.
So, there it is…learn from my mistake. Take it as a lesson. When it’s your first time to hit the trails…take the time to do it right… consider riding shotgun instead of taking your rig…know the trails or go with someone else who does…go with a much more experienced wheeler or best of all, find a guided ride for beginners at a dedicated off-road park or OHV.