I got to thinking about this the other day. I had just returned from a couple days off road. I was sitting in my favorite chair, with my feet up and my left hand occupied with some of nature’s golden nectar. While relaxing (meaning, the tequila was kicking in), I had the chance to reflect. It dawned on me that, yeah, this is a pretty neat hobby. Four wheeling allows us to escape the grind of urban life for a few hours and become immersed in Mother Nature. Just can’t beat it.
Over 40-plus years, I’ve enjoyed some pretty good times on the trails. As I sipped away, I began to dwell more seriously—good tequila does that to you—on what constitutes a successful 4WD excursion. A number of important components came to mind.
Good companions: Those who show up on time, stocked up on gas, wood and all the appropriate gear so you can leave before traffic and stop at a familiar donut shop. The guy with the new truck who says, “I wanna get it dirty and dented.” (That’s my kind of 4-wheeler.) Good companions bring important skills, too. They can fix vehicles, cook great meals, know first aid, and can spin a yarn like the best of them. Yep, a good story teller is always in demand. You know, it can get a little boring sitting around the camp fire if no one has any good stories or jokes to tell. Do you really want to make an impression? Offer to cook for the gang. You’ll be everyone’s buddy. Are you any good at donuts and Dutch oven peach cobbler? Just icing on the cake, as we say.
Perfect weather: We marvel at the striking sunrises and sunsets. Every day is dry and sunny, mid-70s. No wind, rain, snow, sleet or hail to deal with. Nights are perfect for campfires (calm breezes) and sleeping—high 50s or so. Somehow you managed to pitch your tent so sun hits it with the first ray to dry it and wake you up nice and warm. Someone has already made a pot of coffee and offers you a cup as soon as you get up.
Trail: The perfect trail provides a certain amount of 4WD challenge but is still doable. But there is that anticipation of the unknown challenges ahead. It’s not too far away—we don’t want to waste valuable time getting there—and offers great scenery, historic features (old mines and ghost towns are favorites) and lots of fresh air. Driving is part of the fun, but we also like to explore and learn while off road. At the end of the trail there’s the perfect campsite with an epic view. See – Perfect Base Camp. You spot someone through a difficult obstacle and they don’t get stuck. No story to tell here. You get to use your tools or that new winch to rescue someone (not in your group) – hero! And no broken parts. You see a new accessory on a buddy’s vehicle that will make your life better – maybe complete! You must have it!
Great camp fire: The smoke goes straight up, not into your face. You enjoy those dancing flames without your clothing smelling like a furnace. Everyone brought wood, so we don’t run out. The wood is cured properly, too. None of that just-cut crud that hisses and foams without throwing any heat. Nope. Real campers like their fires clean and mean. The temperature is just right, though: hot enough to enjoy, but you can sit close by. And to make it more perfect the campfire ring is pre-built and someone left wood.
Story telling: The heart and soul of every great camp fire. Lies, jokes, good-natured ribbing, crazy stories—they’re what make the evening special. You’re sitting back and relaxing after a hard day of four wheeling and your buddy Jim opens up about the time when…well, like the fish story that gets more outlandish with each telling. The bigger the lie, the better. Though we’ve heard ‘em all before—about the lost dog, Larry’s rock or the Rubicon trip—we patiently listen to these stories once more. And when someone tosses out a bad joke (you hear the one about flying geese?), everyone chuckles.
Tequila: Very important out in the desert. After a long and dusty day, there’s nothing like tequila to quench your thirst or clear your throat. Heck, that’s why it was invented. But there’s a proper technique to consuming this fine liquor. Because we four wheelers are a cultured lot, we sip our tequila. None of this chugging stuff. We’re not college kids on spring break–we’re sophisticated. Thankfully, most of the tequila is pretty good stuff. If you want to make a margarita, that’s fine. But, boy, it’s tough to beat a shot of tequila at the end of the day. Especially while sitting around that perfect campfire.
Sitting there, you don’t want the trip to end, but console yourself with the thought of that great burger place on the way home.
Every four-wheeler has his or her idea of what makes a perfect 4WD trip. These are my top elements. Of course, not every trip is perfect. But we enjoy ourselves nonetheless. What’s important is that we get out on the trails, and frequently. As I like to say, a day on the trails beats a day at work any day. Wouldn’t you agree?