Editor’s Note: A Giving Thanks Installment from our good friend, Tom Severin.
I was well into my second day of a four-day trip through Death Valley.
Suddenly, after bumping over a rut, the left front spring broke in half. I looked at it in disbelief — the rut wasn’t that deep. (The spring may have been cracked prior to hitting the rut.) The body hadn’t collapsed on the tire, so I knew I could drive on it for a bit. It would not survive the terrain the next day.
Approximately two hours later I was within cell range. I determined there was a replacement spring in the Compton, California, warehouse of 4-Wheel Parts and called a friend. He graciously agreed to buy the replacement spring and deliver it. He stopped what he was doing and headed out the door.
This Good Samaritan drove all night long to meet me in Death Valley, arriving at our campsite just as the sun was poking its nose over the mountains. I installed the spring, and was able to continue the trip. A true friend indeed.
Thinking of that incident reminded me that we four-wheelers have a lot to be thankful for besides really good friends. In the spirit of the season, I offer these thoughts just in case you are caught in one of those dreaded “Let’s go around the table and say what we’re thankful for.” Perchance these ideas will save you from some lame comment.
Vehicle-related aspects for which we’re thankful
- Discount Tire’s great warranty (also known as America’s Tire on the west coast). If they can’t repair the tire, they’ll replace it. The warranty adds 10% to the cost of the tires, but is well worth it. Tires take a beating off road.
- I’m thankful for having 200-mile AAA towing coverage. It provides peace of mind, particularly while in remote areas. I have used it many more times than the cost of the premium. At $10 a mile, that’s $2,000 in savings for just one tow.
- People who buy four-wheel drive vehicles but don’t go off road. When those vehicles are traded in, they’re in good shape. Four-wheelers can count on a good selection of used vehicles to choose from when they need a replacement. Or in the event they don’t want to take a new vehicle off road. They can simply buy a used one for that purpose.
- Four-wheel drive fabrication shops that do lifts on independent front suspensions. Without that service, it would be difficult to install bigger tires on our vehicles.
- Good friend Obie Dee. Haven’t heard of him? Obie Dee is formally known as Onboard Diagnostic or OBD. We’re thankful for having OBD because it helps us diagnose engine problems. We’re especially thankful for the latest offspring of Obie Dee, OBD II. Coupled with an inexpensive OBD code reader, we can quickly determine what the “check engine” light is telling us. Some situations, such as those related to smog, aren’t that significant and we can continue driving.Other cases, say a failed crankshaft position sensor, can be addressed off road. Just remember to pack a replacement.
- The $5 Harbor Freight packing blankets. Inexpensive and so versatile. We use them as padding for the bottom of a tent, or placed on the ground while working under a truck. They’re also used as a ‘parachute’ over a recovery or winch line. And if one rips or becomes heavily stained, you simply replace it. Another $5 won’t bust the budget.
People for which we’re thankful
- One of my associates said he’s thankful for having a group of fun people to spend time with while four-wheeling in the mountains. In addition to the camaraderie, he gains peace of mind knowing that help is nearby (like right behind him) if it’s ever needed.
- Another friend is thankful that someone usually cooks with a Dutch Oven during his camping trips. The cook always prepares more than needed and has some to share. Meaning, this guy gets to enjoy the great cooking too!
- As mentioned at the beginning, I’m thankful for friends who bring spare parts to me on the trail, sometimes involving a significant effort on their part.
- The stories, jokes and lies told around the campfire. And how they get embellished as the night progresses. Four wheelers know how to tell the tall tales.
- Zoom. Unheard of just a few months ago, the software allows us to meet in between our off-road trips. And continue time-honored traditions like Tequila Tuesday.
- Spouses and significant others who like to go four-wheeling and camping. The outdoors is much more enjoyable when experienced with a loved one.
Outdoors-related aspects for which we’re thankful
- Four-wheeling itself. Amazing as it sounds, four-wheeling was designed for a pandemic. We’re essentially quarantined. Inside our vehicles, we’re isolated and practicing social distancing. We’re also thankful for the two-way radios that allow us to stay in touch while on the trails. We can talk about trail conditions, the landmarks we see, and the history of the area. Four-wheeling allows us to see parts of this nation that few people can. We take a step back in time while visiting ghost towns, closed mines and old railroad beds. Talking about these experiences via radio allows us to experience a richer and more enjoyable outing.
- That the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) didn’t close its lands due to the pandemic. (It was a different case with state and national parks.)
- Propane-fired campfires. We can enjoy a relaxing campfire even when fire restrictions are in place.
- That the Rubicon Trail is a county road. In addition, the county doesn’t try to maintain the road. The result is a four-wheeling experience like no other. And no permit is needed to drive the Rubicon. We’re very thankful for that.
- The great outdoors: the incredible scenery, majestic mountains and wide-open skies. For the amazing, star-filled skies we witness at night – something that’s just not possible in the city. And we’re thankful for the comfortable weather in the desert in April and November. Without that, we would not be able to experience the uniqueness of the desert.
As you can see, we four-wheelers have a lot to be thankful for. (I’ve just scratched the surface here. You will have your own list.) The next time you hit the trails, take a moment to acknowledge all that four-wheeling offers.
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