The office of OFF-ROAD magazine is located in beautiful downtown Placentia, California, which is a suburb of Orange County. It's a nice, clean city with lots of cops and lots of shops. Orange County used to be filled with, you guessed it, oranges. Years ago, there were orange groves as far as the eye could see and plenty of dirt to go along with them. But as with most things in life, change came swiftly and urban sprawl overtook the orange groves, turning them into freeways and shopping malls. The oranges went the way of the buffalo, and now I think my orange juice comes from Florida.
Urban sprawl is a big pain in the ass, and at the same time, an incredible convenience. There's a gas station on every corner of my neighborhood, and an off-road fabricator and parts supplier almost as frequently. In fact, if I had Roger Clemens' arm, I could throw a baseball from my office and hit a sandrail builder, a truck accessory shop, a dirt bike shop, and another lift shop all in the same strip mall. Talk about convenience.
On the other hand, Roger Clemens couldn't throw a baseball from my office far enough to hit a patch of dirt large enough to dig a swimming pool in. It's a Catch-22. Orange County has all the tools, know-how, and fabricators to build an incredible off-road machine, and yet we have to drive several hours away to use it.
For me, having no readily accessible dirt playground on which to test my truck and all the modifications I've made to it inevitably turns my daily commute into a game of urban on-road warfare. Since I live so far away from the dirt, I actually drive out of my way to find new obstacles to run over on my way to the office. I have several lines that I routinely take, each of which offers its own level of fun and potential for incarceration. The first one sends me through several industrial parks, where the driveway entrances feature steep 40-degree inclines. I like to pretend that these inclines are the whoop section on the old Mickey Thompson Stadium truck race in the LA Coliseum. Security guards be damned because I take this line at least three times a week just to keep my commute (OK, it's only 5 miles from my house to the office) entertaining, and I finish it off with a lively jump across the railroad tracks around the corner from the office.
My last line on the way to work is one that I rarely use. This one only grabs my attention directly after we get some rain, which happens maybe twice a year. The line takes me directly through an undeveloped plot of land, which is an even rarer occurrence in Southern California. This super-small section is the only source of mud that I can ever subject my truck to, and in all fairness, is nothing compared to the giant mud pits that our readers routinely send pictures of their truck stuck in. It's risky to even attempt to enter this plot of land because it is, after all, private property and the owner lives in a trailer on the premises. I'm not the only guy in a lifted truck who tries to do donuts in the mud after a rainstorm, so driving through this area is a sure-fire way to get into trouble. The owner actually came running out and locked me in the gate once after I followed another guy into the mud and did one too many donuts. I think God was on my side that day and enabled me to barely escape through a hole in the fence before the local sheriff arrived.
I guess living where I do is the reason why I enjoy photographing trucks in the dirt so much. I try to schedule photo shoots in remote locations as much as possible, in order to find time to run my own truck through the dirt. I don't ever take my time in the dirt for granted because I have so little of it to enjoy. The rest of the country should count its blessings because although California has all the sunshine, we miss the other little things in life that make it all worthwhile. See you next month.